Writing 01

First Lines Meme - 2013

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...
Calvin

Still a Little Bothered

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.
Bonk

Bother

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.
Dizzy

Sweltering...

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...
Books 02

Readercon

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.

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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.
teaching 01

Filking for Science

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.

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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.


Koufax2

Happy New Year...

(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.



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Snow02

Chemistry Saved My Life...

...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.

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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.

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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.

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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.