By now the news of this massive Midwest storm is national. But the weather forecasts Monday night were getting increasingly dire -- hurricane force wind gusts, etc. In particular, they were posting a dangerous driving advisory for open roads -- all starting at 8am Tuesday and continuing through 8pm Wednesday. Now most of my commute is open roads. In particular, the north-south US-131 run is past all sorts of farm fields. At this time of year, high winds pull up a lot of dust clouds and debris. And trucks getting hit with side gusts are trouble, too.
With extraordinary reluctance, I felt that though getting to Kalamazoo would be possible, that the chance of problems on the drive back made it prudent that I cancel Tuesday's 9am class. As my syllabus explains:
This is Fall in Michigan – Land of Driving Adventures. Dr. Phil has a long commute (154 miles/day) and Lake Michigan is a powerful force of nature. Dr. Phil will make gallant efforts to be here on time every day – but ultimately all of us have to be intelligent enough to make decisions between trying to get to class and oh, say… living. Physics is important, but if you or your vehicle can’t make it, then you can’t make it.
Previously I've canceled classes due to winter storms -- and half the time when I've canceled the university has ended up closing, too. When I called in after 8am to the department to confirm my requests to let the students know and get a take-home quiz handed out, they described it as black outside and getting darker. A lot of local schools up and down West Michigan closed. And they had a series of tornado warnings along US-131 as the front moved through.
The front came through later than was expected in last night's forecast. So in fact I probably could have made the round-trip with reasonable safety -- but you have to call it sometime. It's after 2pm now and we're starting to get the first big gusts of wind here, as well as the first signs of sun for the day. Interesting that with our new roof, that just as you can't hear a lot of rain from the roof, you can't hear constant wind much, either.
I wrote a new update to post on my class web page, but it took me 40 minutes to do the actual post. First the FTP program went south -- the useless Not Responding message -- and yet End Process in Task Manager couldn't kill it. Finally I held down the power switch, forcing a sudden stop. Then during the next boot, it took a while for Windows to clean up after itself. Then when I finally got a desktop and started FTP, I didn't check and the firewall wasn't up yet, so in the middle of updating the files, ZoneAlarm kicked in and finally it updated. Except that the alert graphic hadn't updated.
Sometimes my old copy of Ulead PhotoImpact, when updating an existing graphic, leaves a zero length .gif or .jpg and the actual file is left in a temporary file with an extension of .#$# . So I wrote two DOS Batch files JPEGFIX and GIFFIX to fix the problem when it crops up. But since these are DOS Batch files, GIFFIX ended up saving the file as .GIF and not .gif . Not a problem for Windows, but the university's Linux server allows both .GIF and .gif , and the image URL in the webpages ended in .gif . So I had to manual redo the file extension and upload again. I love computers. Really. I do.