My routine’s been a bit irregular of late simply because of life being life and the calendar being the calendar. As a result, I’m feeling a bit “adrift” today, not sure what day it was or what time it might be. Sort of like jet lag on a big scale.

I understand all of the reasons that have gone into it. The Wings Over Camarillo airshow last weekend meant four or five days in a row where the universe played 52-pickup with my regular routine. Some job search activity this week required a re-shuffle of some of my weekly routine activities. College football started this weekend with games on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and tonight (I think today is Monday) where the last of the pre-season NFL games were all on Thursday. Given that normally it’s college football games on Saturday and pro games on Sunday, my “football-based circadian rhythm” is askew.† Then they threw in this holiday which means that the Long Suffering Wife is home an extra day, which is a good thing, but not according to the “normal” schedule.

I’m sure there are many folks out there in the world who still have chaotic, random schedules to a much greater degree than the rest of us. For example, in my college days my schedule was almost completely random with only some large-scale order to be seen. In the big picture, there were the three quarters of classes and tests along with the summer break. Most classes had some sort of regular schedule for meeting. But beyond that, between projects, papers, assignments, and most of all, my random swing-shift and graveyard-shift job to keep the bills paid, it was seriously non-linear. On a day-by-day basis I was trying to figure out on the fly when I would sleep or eat, because it was different most days from the days previous and the days following. Looking back on it, it’s a wonder that I survived (relatively) sane.

Now I’m used to the same type of schedule that most of us have. Many of us (not all, I understand) have work schedules that are predictable and repeatable. For most of us, there are significant parts of our lives that are tied to a routine weekly or monthly schedule. Even if it’s not our favorite television shows on at the same time every week (well, except for those on Fox) it might be school schedules for our kids, PTA meetings, soccer practices, AA meetings, whatever. As a society, we smooth the rough edges of coping with it all by having a bit of routine that allows us to plan ahead and lean into the turns, as it were.

Additionally, when we do something that completely throws our personal schedule out the window, such as going on a vacation, we generally know when it’s coming and can plan for it. We expect it. It doesn’t catch us by surprise. And it only disrupts our personal schedule, but the schedule of society (television, sports, church) goes on like clockwork. We’re more thrown off when a disruption catches us just a bit by surprise. If that surprise is a major disruption or catastrophe (family illness or crisis, earthquake, blizzard, flood, Kardashian sighting) then we don’t so much notice the change or absence of routine because we’re so caught up in the immediate moment while we’re in the jaws of the crisis.

It has made me think today about how our ancestors dealt with this. Ancient agrarian cultures would still have dealt with the movement of the seasons to know when to sow and when to harvest. The seven-day week goes back over 2600 years and apparently was common to many cultures independently. Western culture has it codified in large part by the Biblical book of Genesis and the Judeo-Christian creation story. Apparently the Soviets tried to change to a more “efficient” five-day week after the Russian revolution, but changed back after only about ten years. Still, it was a schedule.

But without clocks or watches, for much of recorded human history the average person knew only approximately the times of sunrise, noon, and sunset. Some might be aware of the lunar cycle. But a sense of time as we see it didn’t come by until fairly recently, in the last couple hundred years.

Which way of living is more “natural” or “correct”? I suspect it’s both, and neither. We try to get back to that when we go camping or on a retreat, but that assumes that we can turn off our cell phones and not be checking the internet every five minutes. It is nice to not have that feeling of being slaved to a schedule, but most of us don’t get to live that way for long periods, and most of don’t want to. It’s fun for a week or even a month, but then we start longing for the comfort and predictability of that routine.

Tomorrow it will continue — I’ll have to remind myself several times that it’s Tuesday, not Monday, because it will “feel” like Monday with most folks going back to work and school. Then it will be a “short” week and the weekend will be coming at us sooner than expected (never a bad thing) before we finally settle down (we hope) into a month or two of day-in, day-out routine.

Boring, but comforting. It’s all a matter of balance.

This weekend, I guess I’ve felt out of balance in that sense. Yet off in the distance of time, I can hear someone like Benjamin Franklin laughing his ass off at me for that, and beyond him I can hear some Babylonian laborer shouting that we’re all freakin’ crazy. They’re no doubt all correct.

Especially if I start talking to old Ben or that Babylonian in public!

(Lest you think I’m obsessed with football and base my entire weekend around it for half the year — I’m not and I don’t. I’ll make a point to watch or listen to my beloved KC Chiefs play, but other than that, it’s interesting noise. While I’m doing something else, like writing, doing something on the computer, or putting up Christmas lights, I’ll have the game on. When everyone screams, I’ll watch a replay. I do the same thing during the spring and summer with baseball. I get bent out of shape very rarely if I have to miss a specific game, but it’s a comforting, ambient sound that I can pay more or less attention to as my time and other activities warrant.)


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Filed under Paul, Sports

Midwestern City At Night Circa 2006

Take a dark night, plus bright lights, plus a long exposure, with a bit of motion tossed in.

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You can get fascinating, abstract images.

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They’re pretty images.

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Some might be vaguely recognizable.

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Some might be art.

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You don’t need to be on a plane.

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A car will do just fine.

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They’re very useful when you’ve had quite enough of “the news” for today, thank you very much.


Filed under Art, Photography

So, How Was The Airshow Last Weekend?

As I mentioned about eight days ago, the Camarillo Airport, Southern California CAF, the local EAA chapter, and a bunch of other folks put on the annual “Wings Over Camarillo” airshow last weekend. It was my first experience working to help put on the airshow after many, many, MANY happy days as a spectator at one.

It was fantastic!

I took my video camera on Sunday (we’ll see what I can pull together from that, haven’t played much with video editing but this sounds like a really good excuse to do so, am I right or am I right?) but on Saturday had the DSLRs. I missed a few planes while they were in the air (such as the famous Flying Wing owned by the Planes of Fame, seen in our hanger here), but got to see most of it while running around taking care of my CAF thing.

Note: I did not get pictures of every plane flying and for the sake of making this post slightly less unwieldy and lengthy, I haven’t posted pictures of every plane I did catch in the air. Rest assured, there were plenty more. My apologies to those who aren’t show here.

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A tiny two-seater.

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To start the show, parachutists brought in a giant US flag, with three of them in wingsuits.

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Judy Phelps, out of Santa Paula, performed a wonderful aerobatic routine in her Pitts.

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One of the local bizjets showed off with a low pass or two.

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The Wolf-190 (I think, about 99% sure).

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Dr. D (Dr. Frank Donnelly) does old fashioned, slow & simple aerobatics in his 1946 Taylorcraft. It’s really hard to “show” aerobatics in a still shot, but this wasn’t too bad.

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Three PT-22s, the older brother of the PT-19 flown by the Southern California Wing of the CAF. I don’t know who owns #596 and #146, but #269 is another CAF aircraft, from the 3rd Pursuit Squadron.

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The Antonov An-2 “Big Panda” is flown by the CAF’s 3rd Pursuit Squadron out of Cable Airport in Upland, CA. It’s a Russian cargo plane of a similar era and design specification to the US’s DC-3. Low, slow, built like a tank, can carry a ton, and can (literally) land and take off from a football field.

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Clay Lacy’s Pilatus PC-6 is another great “bush” STOL plane. (Short Take Off & Landing)

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Flying in formation we have the B-25J “Executive Sweet” (based at Camarillo) along with five CJ-7s.

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P-47 Thunderbolt

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British Spitfire, the plane that won the Battle of Britain. (This one is a SoCal CAF aircraft, one of only a handful still flying.)

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A P-39 Airacobra, “Pretty Polly.”

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The B-25J “Executive Sweet” up close on a low, high-speed pass.

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The CJ-7s pass in review.

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A Grumman Albatross, originally designed for air-sea rescue missions.

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A group of Navions doing their right break.

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Two of the Condor Squadron’s AT-6s, based out of Van Nuys. These two are painted with German markings.

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C-53 Skytrooper, another CAF aircraft, this one operated by the Inland Empire Wing out of Riverside, CA. Note the guy in the door near the rear – he had just dropped a test marker to see where the wind would blow his paratroopers when they jumped out on the next pass.

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Another Condor Squadron AT-6, this time painted in US markings.

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And yet another.

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The D-Day re-enactment was done with the old style round parachutes, the kind that were used in World War II.

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Not nearly as maneuverable as the newer wing-shaped parachutes. (See the one used to bring in the US Flag, above.)

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Vicki Benzing does amazing things with her high-performance aerobatic aircraft. Again, tough to show in a still picture, but follow the smoke. She was spinning up to there, then did a sharp bank up towards there, where she did a hammerhead or some kind of stall or loop way up there, then came spiraling down that way, headed straight toward the ground. Yeah, things that shouldn’t be possible with an airplane, but she does them anyway.

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To finish the show, a group of naval fighters from the Pacific theater in World War II took to the air. This is the SoCal CAF’s F6-F Hellcat.

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This is a SBD Dauntless dive bomber.

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One of the very, very few Japanese Zeros being flown still — again, a SoCal CAF aircraft.

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The SoCal CAF’s F8-F Bearcat.

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The SoCal CAF’s P-51D Mustang, “Man O’ War.” I can assure you, based on personal experience, this is one hell of a ride!

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A Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, with the obligatory shark mouth paint scheme.

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Our Bearcat and Hellcat passing by in formation.

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Our P-51D comes in for a landing at the end of a very long, and very enjoyable, day.

I’ve heard rumors that some people can go to an airshow and not have a good time and come home with a huge grin on their (sunburned) face. I’m afraid that’s a concept that’s just alien to me.


Filed under Airshows, CAF, Flying

Tin Foil Hats At The Ready!

Watch out today, at least in Los Angeles. I don’t know if it’s something in the air, something in the water, a change in the solar neutrino flux, or a variation in tachyons arriving from the galactic core, but it’s time to put on your tin foil hats!

I had a few errands to run this morning, no biggie. Post office. Bank. Restock the pet food larder. Maybe go pick up the new John Scalzi book and/or the new Richard Kadrey book and/or the new Brad Paisley album. No biggie.

It started at the post office. There were a few cars in line for the drive-through mail drop and something was making the line go slow. I finally saw that there was a booth set up on the sidewalk. A couple of people from the booth were trying to talk to the drivers as cars left the mailbox and waited to exit onto the street. When it was my turn, I saw that it was a fanatical group trying to rally support to impeach Obama.

While the opportunities for entertainment were clear, so were the opportunities to raise my blood pressure.

First off, I’m a huge fan of the First Amendment, even when it means that we have to give assholes and subhumans like the Westboro Baptist Church the right to picket funerals. I despise people like that with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, but I understand that if I want those rights for me and people who agree with me, I also have to allow those rights to people I detest.

Secondly, I try real hard to be tolerant and give everyone a chance, maybe two. (It’s my Catholic school education, I’m sure.) However, after that point, my tolerance level drops off pretty fast. People who insist on demonstrating repeatedly that they’re delusional, anti-social, ignorant, or psychotic are fools who no longer deserve to be suffered gladly. The screaming folks with the big posters of Obama made to look like Hitler? They might have at least one strike against them to start with.

This guy wanted to shove propaganda flyers into my face before I could get the window rolled up after dropping off my mail — I declined to accept. (Strike one.) This dude looking like a poster child for a white supremacy group screamed at me, asking if I knew we were all doomed if Obama wasn’t “stopped” — I ignored him. (Strike two.) He then asked if I had ever considered the “evidence” that Obama was a fascist, socialist, Nazi dictator…

In my defense, the street was full of cars in front of me and I couldn’t go anywhere anyway.

I asked him if he knew the difference between fascists, socialists, and Nazis, since they were all different and in many respects had opposing policies and viewpoints and hated each other.

He pointed at the Hitler mustache on the poster and told me that Obama was just like Hitler! I told him that I didn’t know that Hitler’s mustache made him evil, I had always thought that it was senseless slaughter of millions of innocent people.

He told me that when I looked in the mirror I would see that mustache on myself and know that I was a Nazi too. I told him when he looked in the mirror he would see a psychotic idiot in desperate need of some serious mental help.

He started listing the conspiracies all around us regarding AIDS and 9-11 and global warming and the United Nations, saying that if we ignored the danger we would all be locked up in gulags. I pointed out that if Obama was really a dictator, nut jobs like him wouldn’t be sitting on the sidewalk ranting. He and his friends would be dead and no one would ever find the bodies, so ipso facto, Obama wasn’t a dictator.

I may have been using intellectual arguments above his weight class.

Traffic was clearing and I started to move. As I did so, I saw the poster on the front side of the fold-up table they had. It was urging people to impeach that Nazi-socialist-communist-fascist-dictator Obama and join Lyndon LaRouche in saving the country. His obvious problems with reality made so much more sense now! I told my delusional friend that he needed to find a better cult to join next time. I suggested one with lots of sex and drugs might be more to his liking. He called me a Nazi again, we flipped each other off, and I left.

You don’t see that every day in the San Fernando Valley!

Nor do you normally see folks jogging in 95° heat while wearing full, black sweat suits, including full-length sweatpants and a hoodie pulled up over their head. Yes, you see folks jogging. Yes, you even see a few of them out jogging in 95° weather. But I’ve never seen anyone dressed like it’s 35° when it’s 95° and running at a good pace to boot. It looked like a good way to either wake up in intensive care needing multiple organ transplants or to simply wake up dead. Good luck, guys, you’re going to need it. Stay hydrated!

Then, for a more common bizarre circumstance for LA, there was apparently a huge accident on the freeway. The westbound freeway was gridlocked. Grid. Locked.

I didn’t know until I got within a block or so of the onramp. Then I could see that traffic wasn’t moving at all, dead stop, so I decided to stay off the freeway and get to the book store on surface streets. Unfortunately, the freeway backup apparently had been there for a while, had multiple lanes blocked, and the gridlock went back at least six or seven miles, so a few hundred thousand of my close, personal friends had decided to use that street as an alternate route.

No one was moving. Period.

But a significant number were driving like freakin’ idiots. (Big surprise, I know, right?) People cutting into shopping center parking lots, going 100 yards, then trying to cut back out into traffic in order to pass ten or twelve cars. People doing U-turns across the center divider islands into gridlocked traffic coming the other way. People ignoring the traffic control cops who were trying to keep some semblance of order at the bigger interchanges, and getting away with it because there was no way to stop and/or cite them.

After about fifteen minutes I made it a half mile and was able to turn away from it all onto a side street and escape. (Knowing the local topography intimately is a huge help in such circumstances — I recommend running to get to know all of the side streets on a first name basis.)

As I bailed on the book store errand and got back towards home, I went by the post office and saw our favorite neighborhood whackjobs still out there harassing postal patrons. I thought briefly of letting them know about the massive gridlock a couple miles away. Down there were thousands and thousands of helpless motorists who would have no opportunity at all to get away from their delusional diatribes. It would be like shooting ducks in a barrel!

The word “shooting” triggered the realization that many of those frustrated, pissed-off, short-tempered motorists might well be armed. As entertaining as it was to think of these deluded dimwits being shot at, I decided to leave well enough alone.

Instead I’m at home, making more tin foil hats and tin foil liners for my athletic supporter cups. It might be a long weekend in LA.

I think it’s the neutrinos.


Filed under Farce, Freakin' Idiots!, Los Angeles, Politics, Running

Flash Fiction: Defenders Of The Universe!

This week’s daunting Flash Fiction Challenge from our pen-monkey overlord, Chuck Wendig, is to write a story that’s nothing but ACTION! The idea, something a little different for me, came in a thunderbolt. I hope that I pulled it off.


I was startled out of a sound sleep by a loud noise, possibly my name being screamed in agony. Instantly awake and on my feet, riding a surge of adrenaline-soaked energy, I scanned the area for danger.

There it was! My ancient archenemy, returned again to wreak havoc and inflict a horrible, painful, slow death on everyone in the land!

With a snarl I leapt for him, but as always, he was too quick. He danced around my thrusts and parries, playing with me. I tried to pin him to the ground but somehow he always slipped my killing lunge. I battled onward!

When he finally was being worn down by my relentless assault, he tried to flee like the coward he was. I chased after him, victory soon to be mine. All I needed to do was corner him. In honest, one-on-one combat, battling like the true warriors we were, I would be triumphant at last!

Inexplicably, he escaped from certain death at my hand by climbing straight up the wall! Defying gravity with some unheard of, demonic power, he danced on the vertical surface, mocking me, just out of reach from my leaping, spinning, and tumbling attacks. Taunting me with maniacal fervor, he repeatedly snuck down the wall behind me, tantalizingly close, and lured me into yet another futile attack, only to somehow leap across the gap to cavort with glee on the other wall!

As a wail of anguish and sorrow ripped from my throat, reinforcements arrived and the enemy was attacked from above! Flying high from his unseen, secret lair, The White One slammed into him, sacrificing his body in pursuit of our triumph over evil. I was in awe of the bravery and fighting skill shown by my partner as he forced the evil one back down onto the floor!

But cursed be my slow reflexes! I allowed the demon to slip past me and back out onto open ground. The White One and I pounded after him, the sound of our running like thunder, trying to close the distance so we could finish him off!

The monster turned and tried to get behind us. His turning radius was incredible, almost supernatural. A freak of nature, unfettered by the restrictions of mass and physics, he spun around us like a cyclone. Desperately now on the defensive, we spun as fast as we could to keep the beast in sight, but soon we began to get dizzy and confused. His dastardly plan was working!

Suddenly, as he finished having his way with us, while we were vulnerable and unable to defend ourselves, he again scurried back into the corner and hovered. He skittered back and forth as if he was waiting for us to attack again. Why had he not finished us off? Why were our lives spared? Why was he now waiting for us to recover and re-engage in combat? We knew it was a trap, but we could not help but throw ourselves headlong into the ambush!

As I had expected, the mutant spawn waited until we were nearly on him before zooming off at super speed. The fiend somehow was always able to keep just ahead of us. Still dizzy and dazed, The White One and I tumbled over one another in our excitement and the overwhelming, burning desire to be the one to kill this monstrosity from hell!

The White One and I split up at last as I jumped ahead of the demon’s path. Finally we had it trapped between us. Fearful it would again try to escape with that new, seemingly impossible trick of climbing the wall, I batted and struck at it from above to prevent its escape!

As the monstrosity realized it was trapped, it again almost magically leaped across the ground to squat in the middle of the room. Ready for this trickery this time, both The White One and I pounced on it and buried it under our razor-sharp claws!

Triumphant but exhausted, we looked for the carcass of our fallen enemy. As had happened so many times before, the horror had vanished without a trace. The White One was smug and proud with his role in vanquishing the demon as he began climbing back up to his hidden lair, high above in the heights to which I could not yet climb.

I made a quick circuit of our demesne to guarantee the icon of evil was no longer present or lurking in wait for my defenses to be lowered. Confident at last that another attack was not imminent, I returned to my warm, comfy spot on my human’s lap and curled up.

I kept one eye open as I started to drift back to sleep, but the Demon Red Laser Pointer Dot From Hell dared not make another appearance this day.

I fell asleep, purring contently.

Kittens rule!

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Filed under Cats, Writing

Sightseeing In Los Angeles — Pershing Square

As is so often the case, we focus on what’s novel or interesting to us, often ignoring wonderful things right in front of our noses that might be novel or interesting to others. Thus, while I’ve traveled to (and posted pictures from) places like the Grand Canyon, Shanghai, Vermont, Southampton, Texas, Kyoto, VirginiaSeoul, and more (with many more to come), I’ve only shown a couple of sets of pictures from here in Los Angeles (here and here) which is a place I assume to be novel and interesting to people who don’t live here.

Today I had occasion to be downtown for a meeting (which I think went well and with luck will lead to another) and had a few minutes to kill beforehand. I walked across the street to Pershing Square, at the corner of 6th and Olive Street, right in the heart of downtown LA. Of course, I couldn’t just stand there or sit in the shade — I took a few pictures.

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Pershing Square has some gigantic art, several stories tall. I’m not sure if it actually has any other function, such as camouflage for the exhaust vents for the underground garage. Maybe I’ll find out if I get to visit there again regularly.

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A couple of the more noticeable and iconic skyscrapers on the LA skyline. The white building is known as the “Library Tower” since it’s across the street from the main Los Angeles Public Library and I believe the library owned the land or had some hand in the deal that got the tower built. If memory serves, it’s the tallest building on the West Coast. The slightly off-white, shorter building just in front of it is the library itself.

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One of the things I love about Los Angeles, particularly downtown, is the way you get modern skyscrapers set right next to mid-rise skyscrapers that might have been state of the art when they were built a hundred years or so ago. On the Park Central Building, I thought the pattern of fire escapes and the statues on the 2nd and 3rd floor exteriors were wonderful. Apparently this particular building was also the tallest building in Los Angeles from 1916 to 1927.

They don’t build them like that any more.


Filed under Job Hunt, Los Angeles, Photography, Travel

Always Darkest Before Dawn

And then you go and try to look up who said that (it’s unknown, a very old proverb) and instead find some of the most idiotic comments in the world on some of the Yahoo! and Answers.com and Ask.com sites. Are folks out there really that freakin’ stupid, are they on drugs, or are they trolling to see how PO’d they can get folks like me when we’re already in a sour mood? Better than the “bro-dudes” and the outright racist and misogynistic trolling sites, but still…

So I go to try to be creative and play with PhotoShop, something I haven’t done in a while, and find that my 100% legal software that I’ve used for years now needs to be “re-activated”? What fresh hell is this, and why? How much time do I get to spend tomorrow “fixing” a problem that didn’t exist yesterday and shouldn’t exist today? At what point is it better to simply toss Adobe’s installation disks into the blender (yes, it will blend!) and downloading some freeware equivalent such as Gimp?

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Surrealistic. And unrealistic.

Astronomically, the darkest hour, as far as the sun is concerned, is always at the point where the sun is exactly opposite of your longitude. But the moon is going to be up for a few minutes at least on most nights. And these days, there’s far more light pollution just after sunset since everyone’s still awake. Some nights there is lightning. An aurora displays. And fireflies. And noctilucent clouds. And supernovae.

I understand what the phrase means. I’m also thinking the sentiment behind it might be just as much nonsense as trying to make scientific sense (or justification) of a proverb that probably pre-dates the wheel.

How ’bout I just go to sleep and see what happens when dawn actually rolls around?


Filed under Freakin' Idiots!, Job Hunt, Paul