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

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

Kyoto (Part Seven)

To Recap: In May, 2012 I went to Asia on the “Three-Countries-Three-Weeks-Three-Kids” tour. The first stop on this once-in-a-lifetime trip was Shanghai, followed by several days in Seoul. Now I was footloose and fancy-free (i.e., lost a lot) in Kyoto, Japan. I found one of the most beautiful and interesting places I’ve ever seen and I’m going to continue to bombard you with share dozens of pictures from there with you for the next few weeks.

After seeing the Fushimi Inari temples at the bottom of the mountain, I was captivated by the thousands of vermilion torii gates lining the maze-like paths. I found a shrine on a side path which was slightly different, before walking further up the mountain and be warned about wild monkeys.

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Even high up the hill, there were some isolated ponds or lakes that were incredibly picturesque.

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Sometimes the hill got steep, but you’re on stairs and there are rest stops regularly. It’s not that much more strenuous than many common attractions at US National Parks.

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It just looks a little intimidating. “Stairway To Heaven” with torii gates!

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When you stop to rest and get off to the side of the stairs, you get an incredible view of the greens of this semi-tropical rainforest contrasted with the vermilion of the torii gates and shrines.

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Near the top I found another fountain with ladles, this time guarded by an alligator statue. But it’s still wearing a vermilion yodarekake.

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There were shrines like this every couple hundred yards as you climbed and wandered through the paths. Many had flowers and all that I saw were fresh – no fake flowers here. Someone (or members of some group) for each of these family shrines made a regular trek up the mountain.

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There were feral cats lounging around many shrines. From me all they wanted was either food or to be left alone. I wondered about their safety with the aforementioned threat from aggressive wild monkeys, but they didn’t seem too worried about it.

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Each shrine off on a side path seemed to have slightly different architecture or style, yet all had the unifying themes seen everywhere. (Torii gates, vermilion colors, statues of foxes wearing vermilion scarves, and so on.)

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As with most everything else in Japan, space is at a premium and no usable scrap of land is wasted. Many shrines were built into the sides of the mountain on many terraced levels.

Many shrines had lanterns built into the design and layout. (Plus, of course, there were modern, electric lights to be seen.) This made me wonder if the site was open at night, and what it might be to be there on a crystal clear night.

Maybe next trip.

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Filed under Critters, Photography, Religion, Travel

Panorama: Camarillo Airport, California

Today was yet another wonderful day at the annual Wings Over Camarillo airshow. Perfect weather, “clear and a million,” low 70’s, a little breeze — you couldn’t possibly ask for anything better.

As was the case yesterday, ’twas busy, busy, busy. My feet and knees are sore, my neck, face, and arms are a bit pink, and I’m probably a bit dehydrated (never a good thing when one has a history of kidney stones), but the show went off really well, as did our part in it. It’s with a great deal of satisfaction in both my organization and in my own efforts that I’ll sleep well, preferably for about eighteen hours, but more likely for six or seven. (Sometimes being a grown-up sucks.)

This panoramic picture was taken from atop a set of rolling stairs on the CAF site, about twenty minutes before the gates opened up to the public yesterday. (Click to enlarge.) Seeing as how I had a nice, high spot to shoot from, it’s a 360° panorama, starting and ending with the control tower.

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This picture combines seventy-two images of 2304 x 3456 pixels (7.9 megapixels) taken with a Canon Rebel XT DSLR into an image of 76534 x 3448 pixels (263 megapixels). Because JPEG images cannot be any wider than 65,550 pixels, the final JPEG image was reduced down to 65500 x 2950 pixels (193 megapixels).

With great detail comes a need for great computing power — this panorama took fifty minutes to process and create.

A few comments about the image, if I may, moving from left to right:

  • Something funky happened just to the right of the luxury camper van and to the left of the green forklift — the BBQ is seen twice, as are the houses on the hills in the distance.
  • The first plane you see close-up is our beautiful PBJ, a B-25 variant flown by the Marines in World War II. Ours is about 75% restored and we hope to have it flying by Spring 2015.
  • The very large yellow plane to the right of the PBJ is “Big Panda”, a Russian Anatov-2 operated by the CAF Wing in Riverside, California. In the foreground in front of it you can see our P-51.
  • The area around “China Doll”, our huge C-46 transport plane, and the blue SNJ-4 trainer is also a bit munged up by the software. It may have something to do with the big metal stanchion in the immediate foreground — the software may have forced a match of two images on that, while mis-aligning the background with the two planes. This could probably be overridden manually in the software, but 22:20 already, plus two long days, plus fifty minutes more to re-process… You do the math.
  • The big, dark blue plane in front of our left (east) hanger is our Hellcat.
  • In between the hangers and in front of the right (west) hanger you can see the effect of people moving in the half-second or so between shots. They turn into “ghosts.”
  • In our right (west) hanger is the prototype Flying Wing from the Chino Planes of Fame. It’s the only one flying in the world. (I believe the Smithsonian also has one, I could be wrong, but theirs doesn’t fly.)
  • Just visible in the right (west) hanger is our Bearcat.

Questions? Comments? Were you there?

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Filed under Airshows, CAF, Flying, Panorama, Photography

Welcome to BTV

So much airshow today. (Come out tomorrow if you’re in the area and missed it today!) So much fun. So much work! So much running around. So many miles walked. So much work still to do tonight for tomorrow (and it’s already 23:40 and I have to be there at 08:00 tomorrow morning).

So, so, so many pictures taken. (DUH!)

Things to do, sleep to lose, bridges to burn. In the meantime, know that I’m thinking of each and every one of you personally tonight. Yes, you. Yes, even the bot accounts. So when you go to Burlington, Vermont, as you should, here’s what will greet you as you exit the plane and head toward your rental car or the luggage carousels.

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How can you not love a place that has rocking chairs set up where you can relax and watch the mountains, the clouds, and the airport traffic?

Welcome to BTV!

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Filed under Airshows, Flying, Photography, Travel