October 1st, 2015


Fall Has Fallen... Finally

So, it's the One-st of October -- and we've had a full week of autumn now.

Took a while for the weather to sort itself out. The week before the equinox, summer ended on a cool note. But for most of the first week of fall, we had maybe three days with highs in the 83° to 89°F range, then days in the 70s which were just putrid. High humidity, with air you could shovel. Everett's air conditioning has been irregular since before the semester started and it was brutally humid in the buildings. Not only was there no point in trying to do a Van de Graf generator demo in E&M, my hands were sticking to the wrist rest on OUEST, the university's Dell laptop... Ugh.

Wednesday morning the temp was about 41°F. Today it was clear and 39°F. Ah-hhh, this is better.

There are leaves down in some places, but not a lot of color yet. It was funny that on the 23rd or 24th, as I drove up to my handicapped parking space, there are these two relatively recent maples in the lawn by Everett Tower. The one on the right -- half the big leaves were green and half were sort of beige. The breeze was blowing a snowstorm of beige leaves onto the ground. It looked like something you'd see on a cartoon, or maybe the pine needles falling off all at once on Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. (grin) We're talking about knocking off all the beige leaves in minutes, not hours or days or weeks. Very odd looking.

Maybe October will bring some pleasant cool jacket weather -- and some great leaf color. We shall see.

No pictures yet.

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal

Ruh-Roh -- Danger Ahead...

Gas prices have been wandering around in the mid two dollar range for weeks. Strangely, there was quite a stretch in the beginning of the semester when the Kalamazoo stations were running all the way down to $1.99.9/gal for regular, even while Allendale was running at $2.24.9.

I believe I remember that gas on Tuesday was $2.41.9/gal. Wednesday it was $2.38.9/gal. But I got the tank filled at the Shell in Wayland on the way home last night. And that's when I noted something odd.

For years, the differential between grades (regular-midgrade-premium) was about 10¢/gal. Then it crept up to 15¢/gal. With the freefall in gas prices to way under three bucks a gallon, they finally pushed the differential to 20¢/gal/grade.

Yesterday the Shell was selling midgrade -- what the 1996 Blazer prefers -- for $2.68.9/gal. But regular was $2.39.9/gal. That's a differential of 29¢/gal. And the differential to premium was even more. Yikes.

We'll have to see how this shakes out. For a while, even after everyone else had gone to 20¢, Shell in Wayland had still been running at 15¢/gal differential. And I see today that Allendale has jumped up regular to $2.58.9/gal this morning. So... maybe it was just the first parts of the pricejacking.

Or maybe Shell had decided to recoup some of the billions they just lost by deciding to close down their off-shore Arctic drilling in Alaska. (evil-grin)

Would be really sad to be talking about missing the "good old days" when the differential was "only" 20¢/gal. Oh how soon we forget. How soon we get used to the new normals...

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal

End Of The High Stress Part Of The Week

Whew. Thursday. October. Made it.

Both my classes had their Exam 1s on Wednesday. So Sunday I had to write four exams -- both classes get a Form A and a Form B and we alternate exams and seats. Monday I had to write up the solutions. That was complicated because some of the MathType blocks I needed to edit were 10-15 years old -- and MathType 6.9a and Word 2010/2013 sometimes crash on some of these older blocks. Sigh. I finally ended up doing screenshots of the PDF of an old solution, and edited the equations in Windows 7 Paint and pasting them in as graphics. (!!) The kluges we do for love of Physics -- and hatred of Microsoft.

Arranged to get the exams copied and numbered on Monday.

Monday afternoon, my office hours were less lonely. Tuesday was a zoo. My Tuesday noon office hour is up in the Physics Help Room, so I had to go up there. And then we had charity benefit for Feeding America Tuesday evening in Holland, so I had to leave early. In between I had to type up a solution for a take-home quiz for my PHYS-1070 and get the webpages set up so I could load them just before I went home. Gosh -- uploaded at 2:59pm -- right on time! Amazing.

Tuesday evening was a bust, at least for doing work. The event and the meal were fabulous -- post coming Real Soon Now. Didn't even try to write when I got home.

Wednesday PHYS-1070 Exam 1 at 10am, PHYS-2070 Exam 2 at 1pm. PHYS-1070 graders came by and got their instructions around 2:30pm. I waited until 4:20, but the other graders were a no-show -- we had a 4pm appointment and I stayed late because at least one was teaching a lab. Don't know what happened yet.

Wednesday night -- it's the 30th of September and the end of a quarter, so it's deadline for the Writers of the Future, for which I still have some eligibility. I had started a story back on 28 August, which was to be the WOTF Q4 2015 entry. I've pondered the story -- but only had 105 words written. The plan was to attack it two weekends ago so it "wouldn't be a last minute rush"... Ha. I ended up being entertained in the ER early Saturday morning instead (DW) (LJ). So much for writing.

Then a week ago, on Thursday 24 September, on the drive in to work, I had a new idea. No! I don't want a new idea. I had just fleshed out what I wanted to do with the old story and... Uh-uh, new idea! Shiny! Good! Great visuals! Dammit. No, I am simultaneously writing two stories in my head. I opened a file on Friday the 25th and sketched out 1304 words. That's over 12 times what I had in the bag for the first story.

Fine. New new story. As usual for me. It happens every damned quarter. (grin)

I started in on the writing around 10:30pm. It's a midnight deadline... on the west coast. It did go fast. A small cast for a Dr. Phil short story -- and almost nothing to look up online, except for the spelling of a couple of words not in the Microsoft Word 2010 spellcheck. I had 5405 words by 1am. Print, revise. 5512 words by 1:57. Create RTF without cover sheet. Upload to WOTF at 2:04am EDT, or 2604 hours Wednesday -- 2304 hours PDT.

Done. Whew. Another entry -- my streak since 30 June 2002 is still intact. Just read through it and amazingly didn't find any typos... yet. On the other hand, there's a potentially annoying repeated word right at the ending. Can't figure out if it's artistic enough. (evil-grin) Well, we'll see. My WOTF Q3 2015 story actually got an Honorable Mention from the new judge -- amazing! He's hated most of what I've submitted since K.D. Wentworth died.

On another note, I have decided I really loathe Word 2013, which came on OUEST, the university's laptop. I cannot figure out how to turn off the animation, where it slides and skips onto pages as you scroll or PageUp/PageDn. Come on, can't you just pop to the new location LIKE EVERY OTHER EARLIER VERSION OF WORD EVER? In Word 2010, clicking on the Page 1 of 21 in the lower left, brings up the Ctrl-G goto page number box. Not so in 2013, which brings up this "Navigation" window which does everything but allow you to goto a page number. Back to Ctrl-G, I guess. And then there's the look of the pages. Someone in the university locked down the defaults so I can't change the wallpaper -- it's a brilliant white -- and the windows are overly bright as well. All my usual manipulations don't help. I guess you can have any color you want on this machine as long as it's BRIGHT WHITE.

The latest is that Word apparently made a power grab and was the program to open two desktop shortcuts -- RTF reminder files that I had set up to open with Write. Having reset the Properties on the shortcuts, now Word 2013 had to sulk and whine about it no longer being the default program for opening documents. You know, Word 2013? Deal with it. It's just those two shortcuts.

Anyway, I've still managed to do a little work on the novel -- more time has freed up now. Onward!

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal