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...

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Last weekend of June... )

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Fourth of July weekend... )

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Readercon weekend... )

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First weekend in August... )

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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: (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: (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: (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...
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.


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