dxmachina: (Snow)
So, it was -10°F outside when I got up this morning, just before sunrise. I don't recall ever seeing a colder morning. Just thought I'd mention it.
dxmachina: (I Got a Rock)
It's a chilly, windy, misty night here, so there hasn't been a lot of trick-or-treat traffic so far. That a shame, because it was pretty nice out this morning, albeit a little colder than it's been. It's still early, but it's not looking good. I've only had one clump of seven tweens and almost tweens, and there weren't any other clumps that I could see up or down the street. Also no parents shepherding the real little guys around. I think the weather may be a little too rugged for them, especially since what's the point of having a cool looking Flash costume if it's buried underneath a parka. I may wind-up having to eat all this candy I bought.

I was disappointed by my candy choices this year. No one was selling the little bags of Whoppers, not Wal-mart, not Target, not the supermarket. The only way I could buy them was as miniatures (only three malted milk balls per package) as part of an assortment that contained peanut butter cups. I've never liked the taste of peanuts (so any leftovers are useless to me), and I'm uncomfortable giving them to children whose parents aren't present (which is probably a massive overreaction on my part, but then peanut butter's been banned by a lot of the local schools around here).

In setting up, I discovered that my doorbell isn't working. Probably the contacts in the switch have corroded. This is like the third button I've installed out there since I moved in. Granted, it doesn't get much use except on Halloween...

--update-- Two more pair of treaters, one set of whom are walking around while their parent(s?) follow them around in a car. The other parent (dad) was on foot. --update--

...and during political season, so maybe I'll wait until Wednesday to fix it. And maybe rewire the whole system. It's never worked right, and it takes an inordinate amount of pressure on the button to get it to bong. And it never bings. I think they wired the backdoor bell to the front, but the backdoor sounds the same (bong). The bing bell is in there, but it never activates for some reason.
dxmachina: (teaching 02)
For the first time in what has been an extraordinarily temperate summer, the temperature has broken 90° here at Casa Machina. We are the midst of the first real heat wave of the year, and of course, I pulled the air conditioners out of the windows two weeks ago. Actually, calling it a heat wave is kind of an insult to heat waves. It has been more a matter of humidity than heat. Until today the temperatures the past couple of days have only been mid- to high eighties, but with the humidity hovering around 70%. Soupy, but tolerable. Today is a bit different.

As noted, this is the first time the temperatures have even touched 90° this year. Till now it's been quite an enjoyable summer. Up until this past weekend, the night-time temperatures in August were in the low sixties, or even down into the fifties, with day-time highs in the low eighties, with only the occasional humid day thrown in. That's why I pulled the A/C units out. I only have one window in my bedroom, and I wanted to open it full up.

I'd turned on the A/C only four times in July, and hadn't touched it in August. I tried to avoid the heat by doing some stuff down in the basement, but when it hit 85° on the first floor I gave in. I reinstalled the big portable unit in my office. That one's easy — it's stored in a cubby next to the window anyway, and it only took ten minutes to set it up. The bedroom one is more involved, and I'd have to carry it upstairs, so I just left it down in the basement and closed the bedroom door.

---
Now if it were tomorrow, I wouldn't have bothered. I'd have just left for work early, and enjoyed the A/C there. I met my new MCC class last Wednesday. Well most of them,anyway. I had four no-shows, a new league record. MCC has a program that phones people who have registered but no shown up, so I forwarded their names, and calls were made so we'll see. There was one who has no phone number on file with registration,so she's still a mystery.

I was pleased with the first session. I finished the lecture portion with plenty of time for the lab, and yet still was able to add a couple of tweaks to it. I'd been a little dissatisfied with the flow in previous semesters, but this time it seemed to work well. I didn't even have any after-the-fact thoughts about new tweaks. I was also pretty happy with the lab lecture, too. Those are easy to second guess, because the feedback is immediate when you haven't explained things well.

---
Teaching in the Brave, New, Academic World... )
dxmachina: (Computers 02)
...or how I spent my summer.

I spent a good portion of the summer teaching — the lab portion of my usual MCC assignment on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8 to 10 p.m. The three days a week thing got old fast, but otherwise I had a good class and a good time. One of my students was even a minor local celebrity, a features reporter for a local TV station who is apparently chucking it all to become a (male) nurse. Of course since the local TV station is not local to where I live, I had no idea until some of the other students pointed it out. He was totally not the stereotypical self-absorbed TV personality, but was rather a keen student and very helpful to others.

As for the rest of the time, here are the highlights...

---
Last weekend of June... )

---
Fourth of July weekend... )

---
Readercon weekend... )

---
First weekend in August... )

---
The funeral... )

---
Summer ends for me on Tuesday, with the start of the semester at MCC. Meanwhile I have been busy preparing syllabi and lecture notes. I'm teaching my usual general chemistry course at MCC, Mondays and Wednesdays 4-7, and a lab over at CCSU on Thursdays from 4:30 to 7:30. The department chair at CCSU offered me a second lab section, but it conflicted with MCC, alas.

Hoping I can post this...

Nope, still down... and I lost all my tags. Bother.

And now we appear to be back.
dxmachina: (Dawn)
So... Last time I posted was back in April. The lack of posting hasn't been because I've been especially busy, or had nothing to talk about, but rather a matter of procrastination. <Shrug>

A couple of days ago I got back from a short camping trip to Watkins Glen, NY, with a small subset of my usual camping group. Fun trip for the most part. Did a couple of good hikes to see gorges and waterfalls, including the spectacular Taughannock Falls, along with a nice bike ride on the Catherine Valley Trail.The only negatives were the heavy rain the first night, and the fact that my air mattress developed a leak that got progressively worse each night, culminating in waking up at 2:30 Tuesday morning with my heavy upper body flat on the ground, my less heavy lower body boosted high in the air by the remaining inflation, and the largish meal I'd had at the BBQ joint in town trying to work its way back out through my esophagus. Yeesh!

I rearranged things to a more comfortable position and was able to get back to sleep until dawn. First thing I did was drive into town to Walmart to price a new mattress. Then I went to Dunkies for breakfast and wifi to check the forecast. They were predicting thundershowers the next day, so instead of getting a new mattress, I decided to cut my trip short by a couple of days, broke camp, and headed home. It turned out to be a good decision. I kept checking the weather radar the next day, and there were some intense cells over Watkins Glen. Now I just need to find and patch the leak. And maybe have a chat with baby!sis because her kids were the last to use the mattress.

---
While in Watkins Glen, we went and saw Guardians of the Galaxy at the local theater for cheap*. It was great fun, but no one but me wanted to stay to watch all of the end credits, so I missed the big reveal. Not to worry, I already had heard about who it was. When I got back home I started looking up the comic book version of the team, and I'm pretty sure I must have bought some of the original series. I was a huge fan of Adam Warlock, and he was in it. Actually, knowing that now makes me disappointed that he didn't make it into the movie (although some have speculated the he, too, is part of the Collection). The only character I actually remembered was Drax, from his time with Warlock. And, of course, Thanos and Ronan. I did once buy the first issue of Nova, so I also recognized the Nova Corps, but I never was a fan.

* I should note that it had been almost nine years since the last time I was inside a movie theater. It may have been cheap by today's standards, but I don't think I paid that much in the first run theaters back in the day. One of the many reasons I haven't been in so many years.

---
Anyway, I have lots more to post about, but for now... baby steps.
dxmachina: (Dandelions)
Boshe moi, the pollen vortex is frackin' killing me.

March finally showed up on April 1st, and for the past few days April has been trying to shove it out of the way with a vengeance. On one hand, I was finally able to ride my bike two days in a row. On the other hand, I am wheezing like a patient in a TB ward. I hate to think what it would be like without the zyrtek, because even with it, boosted by some diphenhydramine, my mucus membranes are still running overtime on histamine production.

I had the windows open for the first time yesterday. Did I mention I had all the windows except the ones in the front replaced? Back in January, when it was 7 °F outside. Cold as it was, at least I could breathe.

I never did see any crocuses this year, although the daffodils and tulips have sprouted. I'm worried about the two krabapple trees in the front yard. Neither has shown any signs of life yet. They're both a few years old, so it's not like this was their first winter. The branches still seem fairly flexible, so at least there's some moisture in there.
dxmachina: (Rain02)
I think it's time for me to break up with Mother Nature. I seem to be trapped in an increasingly abusive relationship with her. The past few months have been especially abusive on her part, and I've had it. Start with the coldest winter I can remember*, one that doesn't seem to be anywhere near ending though it's the last days of March. Throw in the snow storms and the ice. Then the last few days have been the nor'easter from hell. It's been raining hamsters and now there's water seeping into my basement as the water table rises. Plus the winds seem to have wrecked my gas grill.

* And I have an especially good memory...

I can't take much more of this. I thought we might finally be getting a break three weeks ago when the temperatures got up to about 60 one sunny Saturday. I even broke out the bike for the first time in months for a sloppy ride through the snow melt on the bike path. I even left the bike in the car, figuring I'd be back reasonably soon after. Nope.

Bother.

I really am itching to ride. Last year was my worst year since I got the new bike back in 2007. Didn't even break 900 miles for the year. The year before I'd done almost 2300. It shows in my weight. Between the lack of exercise and the cabin fever, I'm gaining. Not good.

More rain in the forecast for tomorrow. One of these days I'd better install that sump pump.

On a happier note, I appear to be well set for teaching the rest of the year. I've got a summer lab lined up at MCC, and my usual course at MCC along with a lab at CCSU for the fall. I could actually make a reasonable sum of money this year. OTOH, it was kind of fun getting almost everything back from Uncle Sam that was withheld for taxes last year. I'll be getting most everything back from CT, too. On the gripping hand, I owe more to RI than I do to either the US or CT, even though the only income I got in this state was a piddly amount of interest and some dividends. Almost makes me want to start thinking about a move to CT**.

** Seriously, the tax rate in RI is double what it is in CT, and CT seems to offer better services. I need to investigate.
dxmachina: (Snow02)
I am so done with winter...

I've had to deal with two full and one partial snow days in the last week and a half. One of the full ones and the partial (they shut down classes at 4:00 on a day when I teach from 3:05 to 4:20) happened to my course at Central, one that already had four credits worth of material jammed into a three credit course. I lost yesterday from my MCC schedule, but at least that course has more places where I can make up the difference. I normally tack on some non-syllabus material on the last day anyway. Both of the full days landed on the final lecture before an exam, so I've had to postpone the exams a day, which is probably harder on the students than it is me.

Boskone kicks off today, and I'll head up there for the evening in a little while. Had the Subaru maintained* this morning, so there should be no problems with the drive. I would dearly love to be able to take the train up from Wickford, but while it would get me there today, service stops before I want to leave tonight, and there's no service at all on the weekend. Bother.

* I've already put 10,000 miles on the Sub since I got it less than six months ago. It has been very handy having AWD for the snowy days, especially the drive out to and back from New Britain on that partial snow day.


dxmachina: (Holmes)
Wrapping up series 3 of Sherlock...

So, a cottage on Sussex Downs, bees! Well, no.

Spoiler alert... )


dxmachina: (Hobbes)
It was the best of times, it was the... well, not the worst of times, but there were parts of 2013 that weren't so good.

The year in review... )


dxmachina: (Writing 01)
So, it's been awhile...

First lines for each month this past year:

January: Real cyclists don't wear underpants.

February: It's been snowing since about 8 am, about 2½ hours now.

March: So, I haven't talked much about the teaching gig.

April: (For some of us, Opening Day is the new year...)

May: The semester has mostly wound down.

June: So, long time, no write...

July: Friday was the first (and only, so far) truly nice day of weather we've had this month.

August - November: On hiatus.

December: So, it's been awhile...
dxmachina: (Calvin)
Am in Maine, at my campsite using the campground's free wireless. What a world with such wonders in it.

The arm wound turned out not to be a laceration, but a flaying. The good news, no stitches. The bad news, no skin for a couple o'weeks. It is well bandaged*, and when I went hiking today I covered the whole thing with an ace bandage, too. Took an hour and a half to do this, most of it involving me listening in as the doctor was trying to remove the tips of the poor guy in the next examining room's hearing aids, which turned out to be well and truly stuck. He eventually had to be sent to a real ER**.

* I told the nurse I was going camping, so she wrapped me up with gauze and gave me some extra gauze and dressings.

** Word to the wise — don't have your hearing aid fitted by the students at the URI Audiology Department...

It is way cooler here than in Rhody, so I am happy. Even the thundershower last night didn't cause any problems once I got the tarp up over the tent. Expecting more thundershowers tomorrow, but followed by an actual cold front, so even better.

Bother

Jul. 18th, 2013 07:23 am
dxmachina: (Bonk)
So, I was loading up the last couple of things onto the truck for my trip to Maine, and I was feeling pretty good about things. No weird accidents or illnesses to prevent me from going camping for the first time in 11 years. And then...

As I was walking out the side door carrying the cooler with the soda and beer and other beverages in it, I stumbled. Not badly, just enough so I fell a bit to my left. My left arm hit the little hunk of sharp metal that passes for a door latch on modern storm doors. It hurt, but I not that badly, so I continued on and loaded the cooler into the back of the truck. Then I looked at my arm — ripped wide open, about an inch and a half long cut, and bleeding profusely.

Washed it off, put on a big ass bandage, and loaded the last couple of items on the truck, then headed off for the local urgent care facility... which doesn't open until eight (it was 6:30 when I got there). So I got some ice for the cooler, stopped at Allie's for donuts, and came home to wait for eight*.

* I thought about going to a hospital ER, but the two closest hospitals are each about a half hour away anyway, and the bleeding seems under control.

Sometimes it really sucks to be me.
dxmachina: (Dizzy)
I find myself using the word "sweltering' quite a lot lately. Indoor/outdoor thermometer is reading 86° in the house right now*, and 100° outside. I don't think it's really quite that high. The outdoor sensor is under the eave in front of the house, which faces west, not the best place for accuracy. Weather.com is telling me it's 86° out there, but that's not right, either. Somewhere in between, I think. I was going to mow the lawn when I got home, but heat stroke is a concern. I took a ride last evening, and it was like riding through soup. The piney woods smelled nice**, while the Great Swamp was more fetid.

* I only got home from school/lunch with Tom and his family an hour ago, and the A/C hasn't yet caught up yet.

** Speaking of smelling nice, driving by Schartner's strawberry fields towards the end of June was just amazing.


I think the heat and humidity actually affected the experiment the class did today. They were measuring the heat of fusion of ice, the amount of energy it takes to covert water from a solid to a liquid. You do this by throwing some ice cubes in a styrofoam cup with warm water in it, and calculating how much heat the original water loses. The two values are equal and opposite, so you then know the total energy it took to melt the ice. Except... even though the building has A/C, it was really humid in the lab. Warm, humid air carries a lot of heat, so there was more than one source of heat to melt the ice. The average percent error I saw was about 50%. Not good results. The procedure isn't especially accurate to begin with***, and the conditions made it worse. Tom and I discussed the procedure later, so maybe some changes will be made.

***I told one student that the procedure was a "quick and dirty method," although not especially dirty considering the final outcome is cold water.

I need to start gathering my camping equipment for the trip to Maine on Thursday. I'm off tomorrow, so I have the whole day to pack the truck. Key things to do include figuring out how I mounted the bike rack on the back of the truck back in 2002 when I took it to Canada. Normally the bike stays under the tonneau cap, but with all the camping stuff there isn't much room. The rack was designed to attach to a trunk or hatchback, as on my old Subaru, not so much a tail gate. I did switch the narrow tires on the bike to a pair slightly more suitable for riding Acadia's gravel carriage trails.

Don't find out till tomorrow night if I have to teach Thursday.

Still sweltering...

Readercon

Jul. 14th, 2013 11:48 pm
dxmachina: (Books 02)
Friday was the first (and only, so far) truly nice day of weather we've had this month*. Saturday was warmer and more humid, and today is meet the new sweltering, same as the old sweltering.

* I use the word "we've" advisedly, because it didn't really get nice until I was in Burlington, so I have no idea what the weather was like in Rhody.

Spent the weekend at Readercon. After the post-con meltdown last year, the subject of safety was on everyone's minds, and deservedly so. Couldn't miss it really. There were signs everywhere, and it seemed like pretty much an entire program track was devoted to it and related topics. That said, at least one incident of some sort occurred, and is now being investigated. I noticed some of it on Twitter, but am confused about what exactly happened**. This is a shame.

** Mostly because I am unclear about whether there was one argumentative creep, or one creep plus another separate argument with someone else. The argument was about the potential for false accusations, which would be weirdly ironic if that's what escalated to the complaint.

Anyway, the panels — Besides the safety topics, there was quite a bit on gender issues, which doesn't really interest me much. Still, there was enough stuff on the program to find something to occupy me in most sessions. The times I couldn't find anything seemed to coincide with the times I needed to check-in at the hotel or get something to eat. Actually, it worked out in such a way that I really never had to choose between two equally appealing panels, so that worked out... I guess...

I didn't take many notes this year, at least not until Saturday evening, but I still have impressions.

Friday... )

Saturday ... )

Sunday... )

Miscellany

The con was very well attended. The registration line was very long when I showed up. Fortunately for me, almost everyone in line had pre-registered. I hadn't, so I was shuttle to a different, much shorter line. And still didn't have my badge much sooner than the folks I had been standing behind in the original line. This is actually the opposite of what my experience has been in the past. The pre-reg line is usually way shorter than the registration line. I wonder if way more pre-registrations came in this year in solidarity after the troubles were resolved. I usually pre-register, but never got around to it until too late this year.

The number of attendees put a strain on the facility. The two ballrooms still seem more than big enough for any panel, but the smaller panel rooms were too small this year. Almost every panel I attended in one of the smaller rooms was standing room only, and I mean a lot of standing.

Barry Malzberg was, as usual, listed on several panels, and I wondered how the recent controversy surrounding him would fly given Readercon's current emphasis on safe spaces and non-harassment. Then I saw the sign that said he wouldn't be in attendance. So it goes.
dxmachina: (teaching 01)
I like start each lecture with a quote or cartoon or something similar on topic to what's going to be covered. (I used the cartoon in the icon in my first lecture.) Sometimes they're funny, sometimes they're pithy, and occasionally they are filks, like this one I did last night on the ideal gas law (PV=nRT):

One law for Boyle, with extent versus spring,
One more for Amontons, T zero was the thing,
Another one for Charles, expanding in the heat,
And one for Avogadro, with particles discrete,
In the Realm of Gases where the volumes change.

One Law to rule them all, One Law to find them,
One Law to join them all and through a constant bind them,
In the Realm of Gases where the volumes change.


I just wish there was some property of gases that would allow me to make the last line a little more sinister, but ideal gases don't really have shadows.

But wait, there's more... )
---
One quote that I used that I found unintentionally hilarious was this one from Robert Boyle on his experiments determining that the volume (extent) of a gas was inversely proportional to its pressure (spring):

'Tis evident, that as common Air when reduc'd to half Its wonted extent, obtained near about twice as forcible a Spring as it had before; so this thus- comprest Air being further thrust into half this narrow room, obtained thereby a Spring about as strong again as that It last had, and consequently four times as strong as that of the common Air. And there is no cause to doubt, that If we had been here furnisht with a greater quantity of Quicksilver and a very long Tube, we might by a further compression of the included Air have made It counter-balance 'the pressure' of a far taller and heavier Cylinder of Mercury.

Even in 1662, scientists were complaining about not having enough funding.


dxmachina: (Koufax2)
(For some of us, Opening Day is the new year...)

The Dodgers opened with a good victory over the hated Jints, with Clayton Kershaw both throwing a four-hit shutout and hitting the game winning home run. Even Koufax never did that. (Koufax couldn't hit a lick.)

Speaking of the elder left-hander whose name starts with K, the opening ceremony was pretty cool, especially at the end when Mattingly went to the mound to bring in a lefty reliever for the opening pitch.



Read more... )
dxmachina: (Calvinball)
Matt "the Bison" Kemp helps Abby on Sesame street in the Cutest. Video. Ever.




As a side note, Vin Scully once dated Joan Ganz Cooney, In fact, he took her to the post '55 World Series celebration, after Brooklyn won their only World Series.

Another favorite Kemp video of mine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kH4KP6uqtMg
dxmachina: (Snow02)
...and other thoughts about the blizzard of '13.

It's another snowy weekend, although I don't think there's as much on the ground as they were predicting (6"). At least there's still power. I lost power in last weekend's blizzard around 9:30 Friday night. I didn't come back until around noon Sunday, so around 39 hours without heat or other conveniences. It wasn't so bad Friday night, as the house is well insulated and there was still a lot of residual heat in the house. It was getting near bedtime anyway, so I reported the outage to National Grid, and then stuck myself under the blankets around 10:30 and went to sleep.

Staying warm... )

---
Pushing snow )

---
In other neighborhood news, whilst doing my second shoveling of the end of my driveway, I finally had a conversation with my across the street neighbor. She's lived across from me, on and off, for 9 years, so it was probably about time. I also had my first chat with the guy who lives next door to her, so it was a very social blizzard.

---
The power outage bugs me more and more. I'd been lucky in previous big storms, not losing power when many others did. What is bugging me so much is that during the great blizzard of '78, which was a much worse storm, far fewer people lost power. This time around, more than 190,000 homes were without, and remember, Rhody's population ain't all that big. There's been storm after storm after storm that just clobber the infrastructure in dimensions that seem to far exceed what they used to. I wonder how much of that is due to the utilities cutting back on tree trimming in the name of profit. Blech.

---
Speaking of natural disasters, I am so very glad that the meteor didn't hit Russia, say, thirty or forty years ago. That could have been bad, in the crossing the streams sense.

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