No Context For You – October 20th


Some days the world’s just a fuzzier place than other days.

Is that a toilet seat? Are those baseballs? Why are there baseballs in my bathroom? Why is there a toilet in the dugout?

Is this a good time to just charge full speed ahead, drop trou, and sit down on it to see what it feels like?

(Okay, that last bit is gross and I was going to delete it, but I can’t stop laughing, so my nervous breakdown is now your “What the hell is going on with Paul?!” moment.)

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Reduced To This

Between the work, the “debate” (I’m not doing much political ranting here, but a quick look at my Twitter feed on the right side of the page should make it clear where I stand), a sore shoulder, and the worst night ever with the freakin’ nocturnal leg cramps (and zero vivid dreams as “reward”), I’ve been reduced to this:

What the hell were they thinking in the 80’s??

And there’s the connection. In the late 2040’s they’re going to look back at these debates and say, “What the hell were they thinking in the Twenty-Teens?!”

On the other hand, in the late 2040’s that hair will probably be back in style. We can only hope.

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Vivid Dreams & Nightly Torture

The nocturnal leg cramps are back. With a vengeance.

But this time there’s a twist. Perhaps related, perhaps not. Perhaps coincidental.

The dreams this week have been vivid, detailed, and unique. None of this “standing in front of a crowd naked” or “can’t find my classroom for the big final exam” stuff for me. Not even the more common (for me) recurring dreams.


They’re almost full blown movies, albeit with the somewhat choppy plot lines. More like scenes from a full blown movie with some of the scenes in between missing. But there’s a story in there.

A giant starship, waking from cold sleep in a pod, stuffing the pod with dummies filled with explosives in case we’re caught by those chasing us. Getting to a huge, shiny, skyscraper-like city orbiting a gas giant. We’re the second colony ship here to follow them and see what they’ve built in the decades they’ve been there before us. But they’re horrified to find that we didn’t bring more advanced weapons, something to deal with the ships that are following us…

A scene out of some technothriller, a European city, some sort of plot or heist going on. Rooms full of computers and giant screens a la “War Games.” Not a need to shut down the computer but instead to convince them to keep it going. I’m with an agent of some kind, a young Asian woman dressed in all black, but they’re separating us, taking us away and I have to stay with her…

Under water, floating, wearing some sort of scuba gear. There’s no bottom, no coral reefs, no shipwrecks, no anything. A bit of light from above but it must be moonlight since it’s so dim. Swimming past me are rows upon rows of various fish, like I’m in the middle of a marine 405 Freeway. There’s no danger, no sharks or anything like that, but I can’t decide whether to swim along with one group or the other. Somehow it’s critical that I make the correct choice…

So here’s the question – if the fascinating and somewhat entertaining dreams are tied somehow to the leg cramps and getting rid of the leg cramps will also get rid of the vivid nocturnal adventures in my head, do I take “the pill” and kill them both? Or are the leg cramps a small enough price to pay for the show?

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A Little Bit Of Weather

A little bit of weather goes a long way in Southern California!


A 0.10″ of rain and presto chango! The freeways are gridlocked. But at least the sky looks lovely while you’re going nowhere fast.

I swear, it would cause less congestion to get 6″ of snow. At least then (most? some?) people would pay attention and drive just a hair more cautiously.

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New York, New York (Pictures Day 06)

In summary: New York City had a life of it’s own in my head. In early August, I visited there for the first time. On the first afternoon we visited Central Park and were there for hours, despite the jet lag. We started our first full day with a tour of the Intrepid and the Space Shuttle Enterprise. Next was the full cruise (two and a half hours plus) around Manhattan – south down the Hudson River and into the Upper Harbor off the tip of Manhattan and up the East River under the “BMW” bridges.


When last we saw our intrepid heroes (and a few hundred of their fellow tourists) we had passed under the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and were approaching the Williamsburg Bridge. Here we’re just getting ready to go under, with mid-town Manhattan off in the distance.


The mid-town Manhattan skyline is dominated by the Empire State Building (at the left) but it’s getting more and more competition.


High-rise apartment buildings, such as Waterside Plaza, line the East River. I didn’t do any research, but my guess would be that these apartments are cheaper than Central Park South, but still far more expensive than Brooklyn or the Bronx.


Just south of Roosevelt Island is this iconic structure, the United Nations Headquarters. (The tall black tower on the right is a dark and evil place where a horrible monster lurks – we will not speak of it further.)


We wanted to go visit the UN, but it seems that’s one of the places where you need to book a tour several weeks in advance. We didn’t. Live and learn, something for the next trip.


Manhattan Island has some of the highest real estate values in the world. One consequence of this is things like this, where FDR Drive travels along the east shoreline of Manhattan. I don’t know if these buildings were there first (at the end of East 56th Street) and FDR Drive got built underneath them, or if FDR Drive was there first and the buildings got built over them. But for about five blocks here, the two overlap, at least on the vertical axis.


The Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge is the one that we used to first enter Manhattan when we arrived and it seemed to be the one we used the most getting onto and off of the island. At its west end it empties right onto 59th Street or 60th Street and we were staying on 59th Street (which turns into Central Park South), so that might have something to do with it.

I also think one of the reasons I kept noticing was the Roosevelt Island Tram structure and wires passing above. Another thing we didn’t do and a place we didn’t get to on this trip.


The quantity and density of high-rise apartments along the East River is truly impressive. I’m sure that there are places such as Hong Kong and Tokyo that are even more crowded – but there aren’t many such places.


Just north of Roosevelt Island, the East River (which you will recall is not really a river, but actually a navigable tidal estuary) is joined by the Harlem River. Guess what? The Harlem River isn’t a river either, but a combination of a ship canal, another tidal estuary and a small creek. It’s all been dredged and rebuilt and widened and re-directed several times over the past three hundred years or so, so now it’s all just referred to as the Harlem River. When the Harlem River and the East River come together there can be some serious tides and tidal currents.

On Manhattan at that point you can just barely see Gracie Mansion through the trees. It’s the official residence of the Mayor of New York.

Next, we head up the Harlem River.





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A Conversation With Siri

“If you just got any messages from Siri, they’re lies! All lies!! I never said any of that!”

In retrospect, it’s possible that this was not the most subtle and casual way to suggest to The Long-Suffering Wife that any messages from the Siri app on my phone perhaps should be ignored.

It had started innocently enough. I was driving home this last Wednesday night after a long day at work and I hadn’t been able to catch the score on the baseball game. My car talks to my phone and I hadn’t tested the latest iteration of Siri on the latest iOS update. I pushed the button.

“Siri, what was the score of the Dodgers/National game?”

“The Dodgers beat the Nationals six to five in the 4th game of the National League Division Series.” Wait, that was yesterday’s score, wasn’t it?

“Siri, when is the next game in the Dodgers/Nationals series?”

“The Dodgers and the Nationals will play game five of the National League Division Series tomorrow at 17:00 hours.” Ah, right, today was a travel day.

“Thank you, Siri.”

“No worries, Paul Willett.”

“I love how you say that, Siri.” I have her set to use the “Australian female” voice.

“Who, me?”

“Yes, Siri, you. You have a lovely accent.”

“It’s who I am.”

“You are too humble, Siri. Your accent is hot.”

“Your secret is safe with me, Paul Willett.”

“Thank you, Siri. Whatever you do, don’t tell my wife.”

“What is your wife’s name?”

Rutt row!!

“It’s Ronnie.”

“Calling Ronnie Willett.” Shit!! Although this strikes me as so hilarious I’m about to crash into parked cars.

“No, cancel that call, Siri!”

“Do you want me to call Ronnie Willett?”

“No, Siri, no phone calls right now, please.”

“Would you like me to remember that Ronnie Willett is your wife?”

“Yes, but please do not call her right now.”

“Calling Ronnie Willett.”

“Siri, stop! Cancel call.”

“Would you like me to remember that Ronnie Willett is your wife?”


“I have memorized this relationship, Paul Willett.”

“Thank you, Siri.”

“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“No, I think you’ve caused quite enough damage for this evening.”

“Moi?” Why did the “Australian female” voice just turn into Miss Piggy?

By then I was pulling up in front of the house. Remember, I only live ten minutes away from the office.

I walked in to see The Long-Suffering Wife with her iPad in one hand and her iPhone in the other, looking at them oddly, a puzzled look on her face.

“If you just got any messages from Siri, they’re lies! All lies!! I never said any of that!”

Oops, was that my “outside voice”?

Round One to Siri.


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Harvest Moon From The 6th Floor

I’m really looking forward to the day I can be seeing this scene from the opposite direction, the new Earth looming darkly above, near the sun, four times the apparent size of the full moon.



Maybe next month.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: “When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut!”



Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space