Here There Be Dragons, and I am Grateful

After the very bad news, I want to remember that I have many things to be grateful for.

One of them is the DreamWorks Dragons franchise.

I was a bit late to discovering it. I knew the first movie (How to Train Your Dragon) existed from a church children’s event, but I only caught bits and pieces of it there. When I finally watched it for myself, it became one of my favorite movies. The animation, acting, and story are all beautiful. Toothless is a given a remarkable range of expression and emotion for a creature who cannot speak. The human hero is a skinny boy who is an explorer at heart; no prizes for guessing why that resonates with me.

I’m not sure why I didn’t see the sequel (How To Train Your Dragon 2) when it was released in 2014. When I finally watched it last August, I realized I had missed a lot. It might be an even better film than the first, and it has the best marriage of score (especially “Where No One Goes”) and visuals I have seen since Star Wars!

Around the same time, I learned that a TV series, set between the first two movies, existed. I am currently partway through the seventh of 8 seasons. Of course, the animation quality and number of characters is smaller due to the lower budget, but I am thoroughly enjoying it. They put more personality into an animated chicken than I have seen some live-action actors put into their characters!

The best thing about the series (or any such series if it is done well) is the opportunity to take time to get to know the characters well. In a movie, the supporting cast by necessity just doesn’t have that much screen time. In a series, a whole episode can focus on Ruff and Tuff going bonkers for 20 minutes, and it works hilariously.

We also get fine drama, adventure, and a deep sense for how much these people and dragons care about each other. Some of the finest moments and stories actually come from characters that don’t appear in either of the movies. The most emotionally moving moments actually had me tearing up. Quite impressive for a “children’s show.”

Like any work of art, the movies and the series have their imperfections, but the are still great art.

The third movie (How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World), which will conclude the entire franchise, is now in theaters. I plan to see it when it comes to the Elks Theatre, our local second-run theater with a great atmosphere.  I know this doesn’t make much sense to say about fictional characters, but I will miss them.

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Tenure Denied

In case anyone reads this blog and not my Facebook feed.

From the president of the University: “I regret to inform you that your request for tenure and promotion to Associate Professor has not been recommended for approval by the University Promotion and Tenure Committee at this time. I intend to support the committee recommendation.”

In practice, this means that I will be able to finish this academic year and be offered a contract for next year. After that, I need to find another job and most likely, another career.

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Watching Classic Doctor Who: The First Two Doctors

If I keep my hair long, I know who I will cosplay when it turns grey!

As a lifelong science fiction fan, I took a surprisingly long time to start watching Doctor Who. I finally started in August 2017, in part because most of the classic episodes are airing on our local RetroTV affiliate, and I can record them on my home-built PVR. I want to share how I am watching the classic part of the series. This post will just address the First and Second Doctors. 

The classic series aired from 1963 to 1989, consisting of multi-episode “serials,” before being revived by a TV move in 1996 and a full-fledged continuation of the series in 2005 that is still running.

I started with the very first episode, “An Unearthly Child,” which is the first episode in a serial sometimes known as 100,000 BC, and am now partway through the Second Doctor’s tenure, currently watching The Wheel in Space. Most of the classic series  airs on RetroTV, but several stories do not for one of two reasons. I discuss them below and how I have or will see them anyway.

  1. The serial is a partial or complete victim of BBC wiping.
  2. [NL] Three serials from the first two Doctors are for some reason not licensed for Retro TV. Most of these are also available on Netflix DVD. I think that all of these plus the episodes airing on RetroTV are available online through Britbox or the Britbox Amazon channel. 

I am currently partway through the Second Doctor’s tenure; he has suffered the most from the BBC wiping. I am currently watching The Wheel in Space.

The table below lists all the serials featuring the First and Second Doctors.  If you are trying to watch all of Classic Doctor Who yourself, you can follow this list. The entries in the “How” column correspond to the codes in square brackets above.

In acse you doing receive Retro TV, I think Britbox has all of the episodes listed below as PVR and NL.

Number Title How
1.01 An Unearthly Child PVR
1.02 The Daleks PVR
1.03 The Edge of Destruction / Inside the Spaceship PVR
1.04 Marco Polo LC
1.05 The Keys of Marinus PVR
1.06 The Aztecs PVR
1.07 The Sensorites PVR
1.08 The Reign of Terror BBC
2.01 Planet of Giants PVR
2.02 The Dalek Invasion of Earth BBC (NL)
2.03 The Rescue PVR
2.04 The Romans PVR
2.05 The Web Planet PVR
2.06 The Crusade LIT:H + LC
2.07 The Space Museum BBC (NL)
2.08 The Chase PVR
2.09 The Time Meddler PVR
3.01 Galaxy 4 LIT:H + LC
3.02 “Mission to the Unknown” LC or Animation
3.03 The Myth Makers LC
3.04 The Daleks’ Master Plan LIT:H + LC
3.05 The Massacre of St Bartholemew’s Eve LC
3.06 The Ark PVR
3.07 The Celestial Toymaker LIT:H + LC
3.08 The Gunfighters PVR
3.09 The Savages LC
3.10 The War Machines PVR
4.01 The Smugglers LC
4.02 The Tenth Planet BBC
4.03 The Power of the Daleks LC
4.04 The Highlanders LC
4.05 The Underwater Menace BBC
4.06 The Moonbase LIT:T1 + LC
4.07 The Macra Terror LC
4.08 The Faceless Ones LIT:T1 + LC
4.09 The Evil of the Daleks LIT:T1 + LC
5.01 The Tomb of the Cybermen PVR
5.02 The Abominable Snowmen LIT:T2 + LC
5.03 The Ice Warriors LIT:T2 + LC
5.04 The Enemy of the World BBC (NL)
5.05 The Web of Fear BBC
5.06 Fury from the Deep LC
5.07 The Wheel in Space LIT:T2 + LC
6.01 The Dominators PVR
6.02 The Mind Robber PVR
6.03 The Invasion BBC
6.04 The Krotons PVR
6.05 The Seeds of Death PVR
6.06 The Space Pirates LIT:T2 + LC
6.07 The War Games PVR
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A 4″ telescope, a smartphone camera, and a little patience…

This was taken with my Moto e4 camera through 30 mm eyepiece on a Bausch & Lomb Criterion 4000 4″ telescope at a star party hosted by the Black Hills Astronomical Society. I was testing a small telescope donated to the Physics department, and it performed much better than I expected!

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Gratitude (July 18 – Aug. 8)

  1. The public library bought a copy of Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet at my suggestion! I watched the first episode on July 18
  2. The bike shop completed several repairs on my bike, and now I have it back
  3. Reading more of The Cat Who Could Read Backwards with my wife
  4. Planning for my class in the fall
  5. My parents and sister came to visit us! While the were here we…
  6. …caught up on our lives
  7. …shopped at the Farmers’ Market
  8. …grilled during a thunderstorm
  9. …picked beans from our garden
  10. …and ate at IHOP!
  11. Our large green bean harvest
  12. My parents and sister safely traveling back home
  13. The wonderful time we had with them over the weekend
  14. Making substantial progress on my parts of our department review
  15. My research for the review being made relatively easy with so many documents online
  16. Seeing part of a rainbow and a beautiful sunset while walking with my wife
  17. Useful workshop on grant writing in Pierre
  18. Driving safely back from the workshop
  19. Watching my wife’s softball team compete in their playoff tournament
  20. Taking fun action photos of my wife’s softball team during a  game (July 24)
  21. My wife catching a fly ball to end the game and ensuring her team’s first win of the tournament.
  22. My wife unclogging our toilet
  23. More progress on the department review document
  24. Useful phone meeting (July 26)
  25. Building a computer!
  26. The new computer works!
  27. Successfully transplanting multiple components from the old computer to the new one
  28. Reinstalling MythTV and other software to have a fully functional, faster, and better entertainment PC
  29. Watching Golden Girls with my wife
  30. Clearing out some weeds under our deck
  31. Organizing some of the many photos I took in July
  32. Sending a homemade electronic card to my parents for their wedding anniversary
  33. Attempting (so far successfully) to save a sunflower in our garden that was partially uprooted by a storm
  34. Lunch club at Colonial House (Aug. 7)
  35. Useful meeting with one of my colleagues
  36. Successfully returning our car to the garage in time to avoid quarter-sized hail
  37. Being safe under our garage porch roof during the hail
  38. Petting a friendly neighborhood cat
  39. Kittens from the Oglala Pet Project at the Farmers’ Market (July 28)
  40. Garlic harvest from the garden
  41. New tile in the hall outside my office and lab is now complete
  42. Safe drive to Pierre for a grant writing workshop (July 24)
  43. Useful advice and practical tips at the workshop
  44. Good food for lunch
  45. A safe drive back (July 25)
  46. Buying eggs from a local source
  47. Clarinet Madness concert (July 27)
  48. Talking with friends before and after the concert
  49. My wife organizing and hosting her team’s end of season softball party
  50. Taking some time off before the start of the new semester
  51. Changing the scheduled time for my class to remove a conflict with another class
  52. Mowing our lawn before the day became too hot (Aug. 3)
  53. Watching How to Train Your Dragon. I highly recommend it.
  54. My wife getting our roof repaired after discovering a leak
  55. Passing on the thank you note from the GenCyber campers to the Black Hills Astronomical Society
  56. Time around our fireplace with friends (Aug. 4)
  57. Watching one of our friends fly his rental plane over our house!
  58. Interesting colloquium from one of my colleagues
  59. Lunch Club at Chili’s (July 31)
  60. Lunch Club at La Costa (July 24)
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Gratitude (June 27 – July 17)

  1. Catching up with food friends in our spiritual community
  2. Watching Golden Girls with my wife
  3. Taking new pictures of our garden
  4. Sunny weather after all of rain recently (July 1)
  5. Watching my wife and her church softball team win two exciting games (July 2)
  6. Our large cheering section at the games
  7. Making progress on my tenure dossier
  8. Sigma Xi quickly resolved a problem with renewing my membership
  9. Day off on July 4
  10. Seeing the fireworks from the hill near our house
  11. Making preparations for an OS upgrade to my Entertainment PC
  12. Performing the OS upgrade and getting everything working again much more quickly than I expected!
  13. I think it is working better after the upgrade
  14. Helping my wife make pasta salad
  15. Harvesting peas fresh from our garden
  16. Seeing Venus and Jupiter in the sky in addition to the fireworks
  17. My wife cleared out some space in our house by finding someone who needed the two huge bags of packing material we had accumulated
  18. My first online sale via Facebook
  19. Watching my wife make some great plays in her team’s two victories in the church softball league (July 9)
  20. Teaching someone else how to “keep book” for the game
  21. Good group meeting
  22. The support of my friends
  23. New visitors to The Well
  24. The electrical work in my lab is finally finished!
  25. My students are making good progress
  26. Learning how to set up our department’s smallest telescope
  27. Getting some major housecleaning done
  28. Farewell lunch for a colleague (July 16)
  29. Lunch Club at Gyro Hub (July 17)
  30. The latest STEAM Cafe (July 17)
  31. Food truck at STEAM Cafe
  32. Being able to work from home or alternate locations in the EEP building while my office is off-limits due to asbestos removal.
  33. Taking the group photo for the GenCyber camp (June 28)
  34. Watching Avengers: Infinity War at the Elks (June 28)
  35. Picking up our serviced and repaired vacuum cleaner
  36. Making donations to local thrift stores
  37. Hosting dinner for friends at our house (July 6)
  38. Good food and catching up with friends at dinner
  39. Riding with colleagues to the Badlands Astronomy Festival
  40. A short walk in the Badlands before the festival began
  41. Helping my colleagues set up their telescopes
  42. Learning about our location in the Laniakea Supercluster during the presentation at the Festival
  43. Looking at Jupiter, Mars, the Lagoon Nebula and many more beauties of the night sky through mostly clear and dark skies
  44. Getting to know my colleagues better during our rides to and from the Festival
  45. Getting the lawn mowed (July 7)
  46. Good discussion on living authentically at The Well (July 14)
  47. Our latest student successfully defended his dissertation
  48. Useful feedback in the reviews of our funding proposal
  49. Dinner with friends at Baan Thai (July 13)
  50. Riding with a colleague to and from Neutrino Day in Lead, SD
  51. Despite some miscommunications at the start, the day went really well!
  52. “Quality control” on the liquid nitrogen ice cream other members of the department made
  53. One of the students made a lunch run for us
  54. Good questions and interactions with the public
  55. My temporary tattoo
  56. Meeting a friend for bagels (July 15)
  57. Our morning glories are blooming!
  58. Being able to capture a photograph of interesting insect life in our backyard; I think it is a cicada
  59. Dragonfly
  60. Taking the group photo for my wife’s softball team (July 16).
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Gratitude (June 20-26)

  1. Taking in our vacuum for servicing
  2. Cooking a whole frozen crab for the first time
  3. Great music and important history at the Rapid City Municipal Band
  4. Saying goodbye to a friend before an international assignment
  5. Conversation with a colleague about mathematical and astronomical history
  6. Getting some chores done around the house
  7. Getting a department telescope ready for star party tonight
  8. Visiting with our institution’s former president and current Secretary of the Air Force
  9. Our new Blu-ray player arrived
  10. The first movie I played on the new player:
  11. Going out for a walk with my wife in some beautiful weather on Sunday
  12. Petting a pair of friendly neighborhood cats on our walk
  13. Riding on a classic Ford Tri-Motor airplane (pictures to come)
  14. Good food while waiting for the airplane ride
  15. The tremendous improvements in speed, noise, and ride quality in the decades since the Tri-Motor first flew
  16. Interesting planes on display before the ride
  17. Good discussion on the things that get in the way of living wholeheartedly well at The Well
  18. Testing our department’s new portable telescope power supply at a BHAS star party
  19. Seeing the Great Red Spot on Jupiter through the telescope at the star party
  20. Seeing the planet Mercury for the second time in my life
  21. Another star party for a summer camp at the School of Mines
  22. Good enough weather for the second party
  23. I could tell when the person at my telescope got the image in focus when they said “Whoa!”
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Gratitude (June 13-19)

  1. Lots of rain for our garden
  2. Eating fresh peas out of the garden
  3. Reorganizing our entertainment system to better hide wires and reduce clutter.
  4. Being able to quickly return a defective Blu-ray player for a full refund
  5. A new optical digital audio cable
  6. A presentation at a phone meeting went well
  7. Watching the season finale of Star Trek:Discovery
  8. Learning details of construction projects at the most recent Citizens’ Advisory Committee Meeting
  9. Baking bacon
  10. Being able to take a box to the UPS store on my bike
  11. Winning a new keyboard and mouse in a giveaway from a local computer store
  12. I thought our broken garage door needed to be replaced, but the repair person was able to fix it (for “a while” at least) at a tenth the cost of replacement!
  13. Watching Metropolis Restored, the nearly-complete restoration of the first science fiction feature film.
  14. Starting the Book of Amos in our reading group
  15. Buying radishes and tomatoes at the Farmers’ Market
  16. Connecting my phone to our car via Bluetooth
  17. Candlelight yoga
  18. Calling my stepfather on Fathers’ Day
  19. In preparation for upgrading my Entertainment PC, my wife discovered that I have a BTX (not ATX) motherboard in my current one.
  20. Help from a friend in selecting components for the upgrade
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#TBT: Mini Me

This is me a long time ago. I took this picture from a family genealogy book, which was written when I was in fourth grade (1990). I’m glad I finally grew into those teeth!

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Gratitude (June 6 – 12)

  1. Getting the front lawn mowed
  2. Starting a new batch of sauerkraut (June 6)
  3. My wife harvesting more kale from our garden
  4. Being able to delegate responsibility 
  5. E-mail conversation with a friend
  6. Watching my wife’s church softball team play and win (twice)!
  7. Good food and catching up with friends at The Well potluck
  8. Finalizing the dates for my family’s visit this summer
  9. Despite being clouded out, the Black Hills Astronomical Society meeting was fun, and I learned about how our new astrophotography camera works
  10. Spectacular clouds from the incoming storm
  11. A playful neighbor cat joined the meeting too
  12. Buying radishes and tomatoes at the Farmers’ maket
  13. Successfully connecting my phone to our car via Bluetooth
  14. My wife sold our previous vehicle
  15. Lunch club at Sabor
  16. Making an important appointment
  17. Winter break scheduling with my graduate students
  18. Beautiful weather for bike riding (June 12)
  19. Picking up farm fresh eggs with my wife
  20. Despite it not turning out well, I am still grateful for my attempt toradish greens.
  21. Beautiful sunset on a walk with my wife (June 12)
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