March 9th, 2015


We Made It...

... across another rift in the space-time continuum (DW) on Sunday. We think we're all right, but by the evening it was clear that the sun had moved and was higher in the sky than it was on Saturday.


One thing about not teaching this semester, I don't have to deal with the vernal equinox. Or more specifically, the east-west sunrise/sunsets. Despite my working part-time, given nearly three hours of commuting, there are many semesters where I get to deal with heading east on roads dead into the rising sun. And some schedules I have had to also deal with heading west on roads dead into the setting sun. Oh, I have a clever system to defeat the sun from searing my eyeballs, using an old library catalog card stuck under the lid to the vanity mirror on the driver's sunshade to hang down as an extra shield, but there's a week or two of low sun to deal with in both the Spring and Fall semesters.

It always amazes me that (a) people still drive at full speed directly into the sun and (b) there aren't more terrible accidents.

But... there is sun today. In fact, we're in the middle of a week or more of sunny days. And over the weekend the highs hit 42°F. This week the highs will be from 45°F all the way up to 52°F -- actual temperatures will likely vary from forecasts. (grin) Realize that the low Thursday morning was 0°F and Friday was 8°F. We're likely to have lows than don't get below freezing Real Soon Now.

All this means that there is a great deal of melting going on. I haven't checked the snow totals between last winter and this, but the big difference between 2014 and 2015 was when the extreme cold and snow hit. This year it has been more February than January. So the snow totals have snuck up us. Same with the Great Lakes ice coverage. Subzero weather in February, especially a few nights below zero with little wind, has just sucked the heat out of the lakes. The percentage of ice coverage had jumped from 50% to over 80% in 2½ weeks. "The entire Great Lakes is at 88.8 percent ice coverage, with the highest totals coming from Lake Huron and Lake Erie at about 96 percent ice coverage, according to NOAA. Mar 1, 2015"

That was a week ago.

This week, you can really see how this warmup has affected Lake Michigan:
                  3/8/2015  3/8/2014
Great Lakes        78.5%     90.8%
Lake Superior      89.3%     91.8%
Lake Michigan      48.6% **  92.9%
Lake Huron         91.9%     94.7%
Lake Erie          93.3%     95.3%
Lake Ontario       44.9%     52.1%

** Two weeks ago they were talking about Lake Michigan 
freezing over completely.

Data: The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory
It's too early to declare this Spring, for sure. And a few days of 40s and 50s do not mean we've seen the last of the weather. But compared to the incessant drubbing that places like Boston have gotten this winter -- or Buffalo when it was still called "autumn" -- West Michigan doesn't have the same level to complain about.

Certainly not the worst in Michigan. The Northern Lower Peninsula has seen lots of sub-zero temperatures. And MLive is circulating a story from the Lansing State Journal marveling about Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie:
You're the president of Lake Superior State University in the U.P., home of the mascot Fog Horn the Sailor. The thermometer outside your ivy tower office reads minus 40. Not wind chill. An actual number of 40 below zero.

Well, a normal person would send out an email blast to the 2,500 hearty souls on campus: Stay Home. No school today.

Not Tom Pleger, who is the president up there in Sault Ste. Marie. He kept the doors wide open open and he reports, with a smile, that students survived. In fact he attests that many of those students come there for the U.P. outdoor experience.

But 40 below? Are they that desperate for that kind of experience?

"Students safely made it to class. Business continued, and we're in the U.P. and we are tough." And that, he indicates, applies to students and faculty alike, including the president.

"I walk to work," the native of Wisconsin reveals, and after telling everyone to wear mittens and bundle up, he crossed the windblown campus and encountered a "student in shorts." Pleger figures it was an athlete just leaving the university gym.


In fact one of those students confided to the president that when he came home from spring break, the temp swing was 130 degrees.
Yeah. Almost forgot. It's Spring Break week for Western Michigan University. (grin)

Oh, and kids? Remember you don't have to specify the temperature scale at -40°. Same for Fahrenheit and Centigrade -- can't happen in the absolute scales of Kelvin and Rankine.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal

Speaking Of Clocks

One of the annoying things about the incessant and unnecessary need to "upgrade" operating systems, rather than fixing them so they work right, is that you also have to constantly change programs. It's not as simple as just getting the next iteration of Office/Word or PhotoShop, though Microsoft and Adobe thank you for your business. For those of us who actually use their computers as, well, computers, over the years one collects a lot of useful little programs. (Note that I am talking about programs -- not apps, not widgets, not plugins.)

Microsoft's desire to no longer support 16-bit programs or all the myriad functions and programs usable on an MS-DOS Prompt really bugs me. Because, seriously, there aren't always alternatives you can go to. I mean, after having years of problems, Microsoft is finally doing a better job of having Word 2003/2010/2013 be able to at least read, but not write, Word 95/6.0 files. But Norton Utilities 4.5 and Advanced Edition? This is an ancient PC program and up through Windows XP I have used NCD, FS, TM and other functions forever in an MS-DOS box. Doesn't work in Windows 7. Thanks, Microsoft. And thanks, Symantec, whose current Norton Utilities doesn't include anything like these old useful command line programs.

So... the latest thing is that I used to have a program called ZULU.EXE which displayed a small rectangular box with either GMT (Zulu) or other specified time zone, separately from the clock. It was handy a few times where I was actually doing correspondence overseas, astronomical use and just being nosy. Pretty sure I couldn't install it in Windows XP, let alone Windows 7. So I did a Google search, when in a forum I found:
You can actually accomplish this using the system clock.
-- Click on the tray clock
-- At the bottom, click Change date and time settings
-- Click the Additional Clocks from the top menu bar
-- Tick Show this clock and modify the time zone to suite your needs.
-- Hit Apply
Huh. I vaguely remember seeing the Additional Clocks tab, but never paid it any mind. And, lo and behold, it works. You can have two Additional Clocks. I already have 24-hour time enabled, so it gives me day of the week and time. And you can make your own title for each Clock. For my purposes, right now, I decided not to put up GMT (Zulu), but one for Central European Time and one for Japan.

Anyway, as you can see from the inset photo, it works. Not quite the same as ZULU.EXE, which was always visible, but it's not so hard to mouse over the clock display in the Taskbar and display the 1 or 2 additional clocks. This is in Windows 7 Home Premium. I assume Windows 7 Enterprise, which I have on OUEST at the office, will be similar. But all these Win 7 versions have annoying differences. Right now I am displaying time and date on ZEPPELIN. On OUEST, so far I can only display the time. You get the date if you mouse over the time. I need to fire up KATNISS, the Windows 7 Starter Asus EeePC netbook and see what it can do.

Anyways, I'm sure this is old hat for some of you, or even obsolete if you've moved on to Win 8 variants. But I've only slowly been moving onto Windows 7, so I have to figure out this crap as I move along.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal