Walking The Crazy Off

The sky was wonderfully clear tonight after the smoky haze of the last few days (the big Sand Canyon fire is still less than half contained, but they’re getting the upper hand and it’s burning away from civilization and up into the mountain forests) and it was lovely going out for a 22:30 stroll around the block.

Up high in the southwest you can see Mars and Saturn in the head of Scorpius. Jupiter had set earlier (I’ll have to walk off the crazy earlier in the evening tomorrow to see it) but I could clearly see stars down to about magnitude 4, which is pretty good for Los Angeles. No sign of the Milky Way to the naked eye, but I know it’s there.

The skunks and raccoons left me alone and my fellow residents of the neighborhood actually stopped at the stop signs and didn’t run me over. A cat got freaked out because I walked by her wall and a couple of dogs expressed their displeasure with my existence, but that’s acceptable as long as they’re not lose and trying to gnaw on my leg.

The things that had me so frustrated and pissed off were still here when I got back, but I was able to separate them into the things I couldn’t do anything about tonight (they’ll still be here tomorrow) and those I could. I then did the ones I could.

Some days, that’s all you can hope for.

I’ll count it as a win.

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Filed under Astronomy, Los Angeles

Neglect Of My Mechanical & Electronic Servants

It’s true, if you don’t use it, you lose it. This is no less true of our mechanical and electronic systems than it is of our personal, meatware systems.

I recently needed to use the van which had died back in January. It would have been much easier if I had been able to do so right at the time it had its semi-fatal problem, since at the time all of the accompanying systems were working reasonably well. But when I let it sit for five months, only driving it around the block once a month or so, things got out of whack. Not only did I have to fix the original problem, but now I have a handful of other issues to deal with, all of which were caused by sitting in the driveway, neglected, for five months.

Tonight I’m spending way too much time trying to get my old iPad back among the living, or at least among the functional. But I’m not sure that I’ve used it since about December. Part of the problem is that it’s an iPad2, reasonably old by digital standards, and while it was the hottest thing on ice when I bought it, now it’s slow, short on memory, and closer to being a brick than not.

But I would like to take it to a work conference that I’ll be attending tomorrow, so it’s time to charge the battery. If it had a low charge but was being used regularly,  this would have taken an hour or two. Three hours later, I’m at 43% charge and creeping.

Once it gets to the point where it’s actually on and staying on, it wants to update 163 apps. All. At. Once. After two hours, it’s down to 123, so it might be done by morning. Or not.

I’m sure at some point it’s going to want to upgrade the iOS operating system, if the hardware is capable of using the latest one. If not, there might be a number of apps that just won’t work any more, which again diminishes the utility of the beast.

Finally, it’s frustrating to find that 99% of the apps being upgraded have grown by anywhere from 45% in size all the way up to 250%. Which means that my 32GB of RAM is looking more and more puny by the second. I already had to temporarily delete all but three of the dozen or so movies I’ve bought for the iPad, and now I’ve had to delete two more. (“Blade Runner” made the final cut.) I guess I’ll just watch them on my phone on the next plane flight.

Next to start getting shaved down will be the music. That will be a dark day, indeed.

Use it or lose it!


Filed under Computers

Sky Dandruff & Super Sunset

I usually leave the sunroof on Hissy open a half-inch or so just to keep the heat from building up when it’s parked for a long period. This morning, even though that opening wasn’t much, I found the black seat to have some white ash on it.


This evening this translated to some amazing shadows on the white water vapor clouds, being cast by the much darker clouds of drifting smoke.



Fires like this can be terrifying and enormously destructive, but their side effects are not without a certain beauty despite that.

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Filed under Los Angeles, Photography, Weather

No Context For You – July 24th

file jul 24, 22 42 42 small

The world is not black and white – infinite shades of grey, an infinite rainbow of color, and a spectrum that the eye can’t see but the mind’s tools can, screaming up through the ultraviolet toward X-rays and meandering down from infrared to radio waves.

Aside from having a wildly distorted and inaccurate view of the universe, those who see everything as either black or white are just missing so much, both literally and figuratively.

It would be sad if it weren’t currently so dangerous.


Filed under Photography, Politics

Brown & Orange Sky

img_9635Smoke from the Sand Canyon fire is rising at the far left, about 20 miles to our northeast. The smoke plume has today blown more to the south than to the east and it covers much of the Los Angeles Basin and beach areas. Once it hits the onshore breeze, it’s scattering back along the coast to the north and west.

Here you can see the brown & orange cloud stretching all the way around to our west. So far the fire has covered over 20,000 acres and is only 20% contained.


Filed under Los Angeles, Panorama, Photography, Weather

Living In A Tinderbox

At lunch I posted this on FaceBook & Twitter:


I particularly liked the way the “wind chill factor” brought the 108° in the shade down to where it only felt like 102°. And while I might have stretched the facts just a bit with the comment about “2% humidity,” I wasn’t exaggerating much. and the wind was blowing pretty good.

What happens under those conditions?

img_9587Yep, another large brush fire. I had been hearing sirens every five to ten minutes for quite a while. We’re a half mile from a very large hospital (“Hi, Long-Suffering Wife! I can see you!”) and in Los Angeles, so sirens aren’t uncommon, but having that many for that long was.

Someone mentioned they had heard there was a fire up in the Sand Canyon area, and someone else said they had seen it but it was small and should have been put out quickly. Then we looked out the window toward the northeast where Sand Canyon would be.

Well, there’s your problem!


Sand Canyon is a part of Santa Clarita, which is where we’re building our 78 homes for low-income veterans. As in, where we currently have 28 homes in various stages of framing, roofing, plastering, and generally being very exposed to flying embers and debris.

The good news is that our site is about five miles just to the left of where the smoke’s rising, and the wind is obviously pushing it away from us and the city of Santa Clarita, off into the canyons and mountains. That makes it harder to fight and put out, but it keeps lots of houses (not just the ones we’re building) safe tonight.

As I left the office, just after sunset, there were two vastly different views available. To the west, it was a sunset that was a couple of notches above average.


To the northeast, the pyrocumulus clouds of smoke were still rising, lit by the last fading rays of the setting sun.


Is it me, or does that smoke cloud look like one of the dwarves from “The Hobbit”?

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Filed under Habitat For Humanity, Los Angeles, Photography

Fifteen Years Ago

About this time of night, our families were shooing The (At That Time) Short-Suffering Wife and me off to our hotel. They would help clean up and take care of the tuxes & gowns & presents and so on. Our work for the day was done.

It’s been a good fifteen years. We’re a good pair, we love each other, and we make each other laugh, even after all this time. Usually we’re laughing at stupid stuff that other folks just don’t understand, but that’s fine.

For example…

Yesterday the (Now) Long-Suffering Wife looked up what the traditional anniversary gifts are for fifteen years of marriage – crystal or watches.

How blasé!

Not an inexpensive gift (literally more than we spent on my new car), but for our fifteenth anniversary we each other a completely new sewer system for the house!


Having the entire end down by the street filled with roots is apparently a bad thing.


For the line from the “Y” to the main sewer line under the street, they “shot” this liner in. When inflated to fill the inside of the broken pipe, it’s then heated so the epoxy layers turn hard as a brick. Much cheaper than digging up all of that street, curb, and sidewalk and then rebuilding it all.


From the “Y” up to the house the one line runs under a LOT of cement. Instead of digging it all up, they run this honkin’ big cable through the broken pipe, with this huge nose cone at the end hooked to about 45′ of somewhat flexible 4″ pipe.


At the other end, this big hydraulic ram muckles onto the cable and pulls, about a foot at a time. The nose cone breaks apart the old, clay pipe and forces it outward, dragging the new plastic pipe in behind it. Pretty neat!


Once all is said and done, the far end of the pipe is connected back to the main iron pipes coming out from under the house.


We seem to be missing that tree that’s been there forever. What will we do with those Christmas lights this year?


Back at the “Y”, the top pipe comes from the bedroom end of the house, the one from the right comes from the laundry room & kitchen end of the house, and it all goes off to the left into the pipe with the new liner. They also installed several “clean out” fixtures to make cleaning any future problems MUCH easier.


Easy peasy!


It all disappears underneath the sidewalk, beyond the street, hopefully to never be a concern for us together!

My sister said that there’s nothing romantic about this. I disagree, especially for the two of us. This will last far longer than any flowers or chocolates.

And we now have a sewer system that can flush away a live armadillo! Behold our toilet power!


Filed under Castle Willett