Hiker Down, Choppers Up

Just to our west about three-quarters of a mile you get into some park and wilderness areas, with Castle Peak the most prominent feature. I’ve shown it to you many times since we moved in here almost two years ago.

Folks go hiking here (which is good) and occasionally have an accident (which is bad).

Much like my experience with the cargo 747’s going overhead and rumbling the house, our first indication of a hiker in distress is usually the sound of multiple loud LA City or County Fire Department helicopters orbiting repeatedly past our house.

The green line will show their path over the last hour or so… This guy was the eyes, followed by the actual rescue crew.

And if we need confirmation,

What did we do before we had these supercomputing telecommunication devices in our pockets? Just stand out in the yard and wonder what the helicopter was doing?

More importantly, what did the hikers do before they had them, or had rescue helicopters? I mean, besides bleed and pray to be found by someone friendly before the coyotes found you first?

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Filed under Castle Willett, Flying

Hummingbirds Are Assholes & The Tree Is Reading My Website

Wasn’t it just two days ago that I showed pictures of the (finally!) barren tree in our back yard, noting,

“The winds have taken the leaves and the tree is pretty much stripped now. Just in time! Next week it will be March and we’ll need to start seeing those spring buds come out. I hope that sap didn’t get too comfortable down in the roots.”

I was out there today and noticed this, NONE of which was there forty-eight hours earlier.

Honestly, a week ago I wouldn’t have thought that this tree shed its leaves in the fall or winter at all.

Even with the nasty winds we’ve had on far too many days this winter, while a few leaves would fall, overall it was fully enfoliated. (My computer says “enfoliated” isn’t a word – it has to be a word, I just typed it twice in this paragraph! Stupid computer.)

Then, overnight it seemed, 99% of the leaves were on the ground. Prompting Tuesday’s pictures and my snarky comment.

This afternoon the tips of the branches on a good chunk of the tree are exploding with the 2022 model of Leaves-A-Go-Go! Don’t stand too close! You could lose an eye if one of these suckers pops out at Mach 3!

I can only believe that my tree is, in fact, reading this website and taking my advice. It’s the only logical explanation !

But that wasn’t why I was out in the backyard with a camera…

I’ve been working on several “deadline from Hell” projects and needed a break. I had gone into the kitchen and saw three or four hummingbirds flitting around the fruit trees and the feeders, so I grabbed my camera and went out.

The instant I went out, still 20-25 feet from them, they all bailed. I could hear them up in the pine trees at the back of the yard, clicking that weird little electronic-sounding chirp of theirs, but they wouldn’t come out.

I waited.

Eventually I noticed the new buds on the tree and went to document it. Now that I was otherwise occupied, the hummers started coming back out, flying overhead near the field of view where I was looking up into the tree. But the second I started to shift the camera over to them… “Warp Factor Eight, Mr. Sulu!! Get us out of here!” And they’re gone again.

I waited.

They came back over by the feeders, which by now are 40-45 feet away because I’m over by the big tree. Every time I took a step in that direction, they flew away like little emerald, iridescent UFOs.

I waited.

Again they were back, but every time I started to raise the camera, they teleported away to Planet Hummingbird.

I said, “Screw it!” (Close enough…) I have deadlines, I had gotten some sun and air, I was going to go back in. I got back to the porch, walking right next to one of the feeders, when…

One of the little monsters flew up to the other feeder, over by the fruit trees, about eight feet away. I froze, verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry carefully and slowly started to raise the camera…

And the little asshole flew over and started sucking out of the feeder six inches from my head. I could have (in theory, at least) reached out and grabbed him, BUT MY CAMERA IS USELESS BECAUSE I CAN’T FOCUS A TELEPHOTO LENS THAT CLOSE!!!

They were toying with me. I hope they had fun.

They were teasing me. Little assholes!


Filed under Castle Willett, Critters, Photography

No Context For You – February 24th

Is that the light at the end of the tunnel? If so, are we going in, descending, like Sandman Slim being dragged there alive by demons conjured in the Hollywood Hills? Or are we coming out, like Orpheus and Eurydice, almost to the top, clinging to faith…

(BTW, read the Sandman Slim books – they’re excellent!)

I’ve come to the conclusion that I might hate February. Or at least, it’s my least favorite month. I still have just as many deadlines and just as much work to get done. Actually, given my current employment situation with a January 31st fiscal year end, I have MORE work than most months. But I get two or three fewer days to do it.

February is going to get dropped from the Christmas card list if it doesn’t straighten up and fly right.

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Filed under Photography

Fall Arrives

It’s late February and we’ve had more and more windy days than I can remember. Time is all screwed up, in so many ways – even the trees are confused. At least our tree is.

The big tree in our back yard has just this last week decided to drop all of its leaves for fall. I guess it just didn’t feel like doing it in November or December.

I know that the season may arrive a bit late in these temperate, warm, semi-desert conditions, but this is ridiculous!

The winds have taken the leaves and the tree is pretty much stripped now. Just in time! Next week it will be March and we’ll need to start seeing those spring buds come out. I hope that sap didn’t get too comfortable down in the roots.


Filed under Castle Willett

Mars Delivers

In case you somehow missed it, here’s what it looks like to land on Mars:

And as if that wasn’t enough, for the first time ever we could hear what the wind sounded like on another planet:

And while that’s the icing on the cake for the clever critters who sent Perseverance, she’s also getting to work, raising her mastcam and antennae, sending panoramas back home so that the scientists can start to see what they want to look at and the drivers can figure out how to safely get there:

It was indeed a day of wonders. Welcome to Mars. Again.

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Filed under Astronomy, Space

Incoming From Mars

This afternoon JPL started uploading raw images from Perseverance onto their website here. (There are similar links with literally tens of thousands of raw images on related JPL website pages for Curiosity, Spirit, Opportunity, Insight, Pathfinder…)

There’s also news from a few folks on the inside at JPL that tomorrow’s news conference will be something else indeed:

The image shown there was one of four of the very first images released last Friday. Word on the street (well, tweets from folks who would know) is that tomorrow’s images are going to be legendary. You’ll see them sooner or later even if you don’t watch the press conference live, but why not be there to see it live if you can?

11:00 PT, 14:00 ET, on NASA-TV, YouTube, and probably a number of other places.

Time for the world to change again, this time for the better.


Filed under Astronomy, Space

C-47 Dakota

Not something we see every day, at least, not with the engines running!

The American Aeronautical Foundation has a couple of planes out at Camarillo and rents space in our hangar and on our ramp. (Their B-25, “Executive Sweet,” is excellent!) This is their C-47 Dakota, which hasn’t flown in a while.

But they’ve been putting a ton of work into it recently and today was the first day that I’ve seen where the engines have been running and it was moving around the airport under her own power.

Here you see it alongside our C-46 Commando, “China Doll.” The C-47 didn’t fly today, at least not that I saw, just taxied around the airport and ran up the engines. But they’ve got to be getting close!

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Filed under CAF, Flying, Photography

Art – February 19th

Given what I started with and what I ended up with, I’m reminded of Bare Naked Ladies’ “Tonight Is The Night I Fell Asleep At The Wheel.”

I like the effect – maybe one of these times I should keep track of which filters and effects and settings I used so that I can more or less replicate it at some point in the future instead of just stumbling blind from scratch every time.



Filed under Art

New Wheels On Mars

It was a good day to land an SUV-sized, two-ton, nuclear-powered robot on Mars. I was properly dressed for the occasion.

These are “EDL socks,” displaying Entry-Descent-Landing, otherwise known as the “Seven Minutes of Terror.”

They’re available from sciencesocks.co – they’re also very comfy.

There’s also an image of the launch from Earth on the back, but I forgot to take a picture of that.

The hat I got from JPL years ago. I actually had to miss the landing live due to a long Zoom call that came up at the last minute (okay, I had it on one monitor with the sound off) and during the call I was referred to as “the guy wearing the baseball cap.” It’s so much more than a baseball cap…

Perseverance is down safe and has started sending back pictures and data. The truly annoying hints from a number of folks at JPL tonight (via Twitter) indicate that they have some truly SPECTACULAR images to share coming up. Keep your eyes open for a press conference in the next day or two.

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

Detritus Art

I got to spend way too much time today in a dentist’s chair (root canal – I’ll live, I might be cranky) and then got to stop by the hospital to pick up a couple of prescriptions.

These days, of course, when you want to get into a hospital you have to pass through a checkpoint, get your temp taken, and get screened (at least verbally, not with an actual lab test) for COVID. With a big hospital with a big organization, they need a way to make sure that everyone has been screened, so at Kaiser Permanente they give you a little colored sticker to put on your shirt. Every day it’s a different color, about all that I noticed when I’ve been there before in the last year.

When you leave, you can take off the sticker. Previously on the main exit from the facility there was a board where everyone stuck them. Simple. Easy. Elegant.

The board is gone.

Out in the parking lot, folks have spontaneously started putting their stickers onto whatever surface will hold them, primarily these bollards that are out at the edges of the parking lots.

Is it found art? It’s colorful! It’s an unexpected little bit of random whimsy and joy in sort of a grim and serious place!

Or is it just litter, junk, detritus, a pain in the ass problem that someone is going to have to clean up? One of those little things that no one quite thought through when the focus was on making sure that everyone could easily be ID’d as having passed the COVID checkpoint? An unintended consequence?

Or maybe it’s both?

I do notice now that it appears that every single day seems to have not just a different color, but also a different message. Heart health! Colon cancer, get tested early and save your life! (Yeah, that one, we can relate on a very personal basis!) Practice social distancing! (Some folks need to practice a lot more, they’re not doing it correctly still.) Mammograms! Prescription refills by mail! Exhibit gratitude to make someone’s day! Phone and video exams!

Keep your eyes open for unexpected beauty and whimsy, even if it is just an unintended consequence.


Filed under CoronaVirus, Health, Photography