Category Archives: Castle Willett

In Search Of A Little Green

We started restrictions on lawn watering back in June (or was it May?) and between that and several solid weeks of 100+ºF days every single day, the back yard has taken a beating.

But abour ten days ago, just after we got back from Chicago, there were some hurricane remnants wandering through and we got a tiny bit of rain here. Other places out in the mountains and deserts inland, out beyond Palm Springs and into Nevada and Arizona, some isolated spots got enough rain to cause some flash flooding and mudslides, but here we got maybe 0.2 inches of rain over a 24-hour stretch.

Plus, since then it’s been mostly in the mid-80’s every day instead of 100+.

Did it help?

I’m going to go with a resounding, “Maybe?”

I’m not sure how much of it is wishful thinking and how much is actual recovery, but it seems to be a tiny little bit more green than it was.

I’m not talking about those tall, long desert grasses on the right, it’s the standard issue monoculture lawn grass on the left hand side of that barrier that I’m wondering about. Maybe? In spots? Kinda?

At this point, I would be happy to have the lawn hanging on in a “less dead” state than even bothering to hope for “thriving.” Let’s manage our expectations, folks.

This would be another benefit to owning our home instead of renting. If we owned I would be ripping out the wanna be putting green and putting in some low water, desert vegitation and flowers, along with some succulents, cactus, rocks, pathways, and lots of fancy gravel or decomposed granite in between everything. It would look great, be very low maintenance, and have ultra low water requirements. Maybe a bench or two, a birdbath, some bird feeders…

I think we’ll probably be out of the drought via natural causes and a couple of consecutive El Niño years before the owner will be doing that. Brown and dusty might be the new norm. With just the slightest, semi-hallucinatory bit of green mixed in…


Filed under Castle Willett, Photography, Weather

NFL Week #2

We kicked it off this week with the Thursday night game. Arrowhead was rocking like it should be, a great venue for a great showdown against our interdivisional rival, the Chargers!

Twas a great game, which the Chiefs won 27-24. It was tight all the way with the deciding big play being an interception by the Chiefs and a 99-yard runback for a Pick Six.

The fun part was having a Board Zoom meeting from 16:00 to 17:00 with the game starting at about 17:10. Let’s not allow that meeting to go long! (Not a problem.)

The best part was being dressed in some of my pre-game Chiefs gear for the meeting. We’re not one of those companies where we’re really strict about protocol, and my pre-game stuff is pretty tame (no beads, no funny hats, no face painting, etc) so it was good for a laugh or two and some friendly ribbing.

It’s all good. We’re 2-0, and with no Chiefs game on Sunday, there might be some alternative activities available. They just opened a new grocery store, an Aldi, the first in the area. Maybe a visit there instead of the same, old Ralph’s.

Do we know how to party hard or what?!

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Filed under Castle Willett, KC Chiefs

Japanese Maple With Issues

Spring is well on its way here with the trees, flowers, birds, and other critters all in their blooming, flitting, mating, and reproducing modes. Except for the little Japanese maple tree out there.

I do remember from previous years that it can be a late bloomer, but this is ridiculous!

It’s the last week in April and this stubborn dude has nary a single bud on it, or even a hint of a bud to come. It’s a collection of sticks!

It’s a not-so-fine line between “stubborn” and “kindling.” If there’s sap flowing, the leaves need to be popping soon or the gardner’s going to take it out!

C’mon, Red! Let’s pop some of those red leaves and get some photosynthesis going! You’re going to have to do it on your own, I don’t know how to do CPR on a deciduous beastie!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Flowers, Photography

The Weekend Gone By

What did I learn?

tl;dr version – a 30-minute job turned into a six-hour job and today I’m sore as hell after lifting too much, stretching too much, and doing all sorts of contortions that my middle-aged body isn’t used to.

And it’s almost Monday.

Hitting the new week running…

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Filed under Castle Willett, Paul

Close Encounter Of The Furred Kind

Before dinner I was taking a break for a few minutes, sitting out in the back yard in that white chair out toward the edge of the drop off down the hill.

The sun was warm, it was quite pleasant, probably about 70°F, the strong winds of the last several days gone. I sat for 15-20 minutes, skimming social media on my phone and enjoying the weather.

Sitting very still, apparently.

At the edge of the hill there’s a little terrace, about five feet down, with a set of steps over on the right, by the ice plant. Down the hill, along the outer edge of that terrace, there’s a chain link fence, that may or may not define the edge of the property. (There are a couple more chain link fences running parallel to it horizontally along the ridge, but no way to get down there and just ivy and weeds covering the hillside. I rent, so I don’t care where the property ends, but it could also be at one of those fences.)

I heard something hit the chain link fence and then wiggle it. I had my suspicions.

A few second later I saw movement at the edge of the yard, above the terrace and just four or five feet from me. Whatever it was had hit the top of the wall behind some of that tallish, decorative sage grass that grows there so I couldn’t see it and it couldn’t see me.

I stayed very still.

And around the corner of the clump of grass came my suspect.

(May or may not be the actual squirrel.)

I expected it to bolt, but noooooo! It started to creep forward toward the yard behind us, oblivious to my presence. For about three feet. Then it froze.

Probably no more than an inch or two from my sneakers, it didn’t even raise its head, just moved its eyes, almost in cartoon fashion.

Jurassic Park Remove Glasses GIF - Jurassic Park Remove Glasses So Intense GIFs(Yeah, that’s the attitude!)

I still hadn’t moved, but quietly said, “Something I can help you with?”

Friends, I will bet anyone $5 that if you go examine where that critter was standing you will find a little pile of squirrel shit.

The squirrel levitated at Warp Factor 8 over to the big tree back there and then sat about 15 feet up, clicking and chattering at me. Obviously, this was all my fault!

I couldn’t have caught or chased it to save my life. I was laughing too hard.

Gotta keep that chair there and spend more “quiet time” reading there. Who knows what or who might drop by next?

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Filed under Castle Willett, Critters, Photography

Three Days

Hey! It’s a three-day weekend! I literally didn’t even realize that until it came up in a meeting this afternoon.

And I don’t have to go to the hangar! That gig’s done!

I don’t even know what I’ll do with myself.

Maybe (hold on, this is going to be a radical concept!) read one of those books that’s been sitting there.

Maybe (buckle in!) watch a movie or a couple episodes of a TV show that I started years and years ago.

Maybe (inconceivable!) I’ll just sit and watch birds and clouds.

Let the adventure begin!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Paul

Moon Rising Over The Valley

It was clear and cool with the moon rising, one day past full. The picture from the iPhone was nice, but a bit blurry. It was time to get out the tripod and the light bucket lens.

Due west, the lights of Woodland Hills and Tarzana just above the trees at the center, the moon rising at the left. (Blow it up to see a bunch of detail.)

To the north-northwest, looking across the canyon.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Photography

One Of Those Days

It’s never a good thing when “something” wakes you up at 02:27 and you can’t quite put your finger on it laying there in the dark.

Then you realize that you’re up to your eyeballs in “dark” – what happened to the light from the clock, the cable box, the night light, the light from the kitchen night lights… Well, the winds are HOWLING again, so I guess that’s not too surprising? It’s tough to make sense of things when it’s 02:28.

Okay, the power’s out. But why is there still light from the street lights? Maybe they’re on a different circuit of some sort?

By the light of the ever-present cellphone, I got into some sweats and went exploring, cautious of the possibility that there might be a loose wire down out there. And the first immediate odd thing is that there are houses up and down the street with lights.

Is it us? Check the breaker box, toggle the master circuit breaker, doesn’t make any difference.

A closer examination shows that the houses on either side of us are dark, and the two houses directly across the street. But everyone else is fine.

Watson, by the power of logical deduction, I have determined that something has gone wonky on the power pole across the street. Wouldn’t it feed those five houses and not any of the others?

Having some idea of what’s going on (or at least an educated guess) I get on my phone to put in an outage report with DWP. Then I fall asleep out on the couch. Fitfully.

My only real concern is the two refrigerator/freezer units. But as long as we keep the doors closed, they should be good for a bunch of hours.

At about 05:00 I hear a truck outside and go hustling out. But it’s not DWP, it’s Spectrum. Their driver says that he was sent out because there’s a cluster of several houses here that have gone offline. Yep, that would be us, but I think we need DWP. He’ll have Spectrum follow up with DWP.

I check my phone again and find that DWP has left several voice mails, but been blocked because, A) It’s the middle of the freaking night, and B) they’re calling from a number that’s not in my phone books, so my phone is treating them as spammers. Okay, yes, that’s what I’ve programmed and it’s a good little robot phone, but timing is everything. I call DWP back and they want to know if I still need help. Yes, thank you, that would be why I put in an outage report. (How come the cable company knows about this and they don’t?!)

About 08:45 the DWP rolls up and I go out to let them know what I know. Uh, duh, dude, and the guy points at the power pole. (Okay, trying to be helpful, but I was probably being a stereotype from some ad.)

Well, THERE‘s your problem! That cable on the left isn’t supposed to be hanging loose like that.

We sit around for a while waiting for a truck with a bucket lift on it, then it’s time to be rescued from the Dark Ages.

On the side of the transformer, up near the top, there’s a bump or wart. That’s where that wire should connect. So they grab that dangling wire (carefully), unscrew the clamps on that bump/wart and clean out the debris, strip an inch or two of insulation off of the end of the dangling wire, and insert it into the side of the bump/wart thing. There was a very satisfying ZZAAAAAAAPPP!! and flash. They clamped the bump/wart thing back down, and we were again on speaking terms with with the electrons.

Then I went to get breakfast and got stuck behind the long-winded, annoying dude from Hell.

Then I got home and found out that they had messed up my breakfast order.

And DAMN IT, I took too long to type this out, it’s after midnight! As of yesterday I had another streak of 245 days in a row posting on the site, and while this will count in my head, it breaks the streak so far as WordPress is concerned.



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Filed under Castle Willett, Paul, Photography

Groundhog Day Launch

Well, sorta.

It is Groundhog Day. And yes, as always, we watched the movie. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Sooooooooooooooo much to love on so many levels.

SpaceX did launch out of Vandenberg, 116 miles as the crow flies to our northwest. And the booster came back and landed at the launch site, which was spectacular. Watch the video!

For most Vandenberg launches they take a southerly route off the California coast, and particularly for evening or night launches the booster comes into sight, climbing up over the hill to our west about a minute after launch, and then being visible through first stage shutdown and separation, second stage ignition, and first stage boostback burn, with the second stage sometimes (at night) being visible all the way to the southern horizon where it’s all the way down past Cabo San Lucas.

So today, I decided to go out, climb up on the roof so that I could get a better view, and see if I could do a Facebook Live video to show the world the glory of a Vandenberg launch as seen from the west San Fernando Valley!

That might not have worked out so well.

Yeah. So windy. I had no idea that most of the time the wind noise was drowning out every word I said.

And given that it was a day launch it was hard to see much. Given the Return To Launch Site (RTLS) nature of the launch (as opposed to landing on a drone barge at sea off the Mexican coast) I suspect this wasn’t a southernly launch. (Given the security and secrecy around this launch of an intelligence agency satellite, they won’t be confirming.)

And what you probably can’t hear (I couldn’t when I watched) is that at some point there was a loud crash behind me as the wind blew over the ladder that I had used to get up onto the roof. Oops!

Fortunately, the Long-Suffering Wife was at home and able to lift the ladder back up. All was well.

Except for the fact that we didn’t see the rocket.

Later in the year will be more Vandenberg launches. Maybe I’ll get up to see one in person this year, or maybe I’ll climb up on the roof in the wind and the dark for EXTRA excitement.

Stand by!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Space, Video

DIY Silver Lining

It’s “suboptimal” at best to be sitting at my desk at 23:15, especially after having been here pretty much constantly, going like a demon, since about 08:15 this morning.

But if you have to make your own silver lining (and it doesn’t look like the cavalry is coming over the hill to do it for me any time soon) you can do worse than setting up the monitors on your secondary computer with this view.

On the left, the Shiodome Rail Tracks in Tokyo. (If you’re bored, try to use Google Earth to figure out exactly where the camera by matching up buildings and landmarks.) My son turned me on to this feed a while back since he was passing through there periodically. It’s very calming and the trains rumbling below are wonderful white noise.

On the right, Venice as seen from the Hotel Filu. This channel plays light classical music all the time (lots of Vivaldi, Pachelbel’s Canon in D, that sort of thing) and you can watch the boats go by. Tonight (my time) as I was working it was dawn in Venice, where the skies are clear and brisk and the sunset was wonderful!

Yes, very much places I would like to be rather than at this desk. One of these days…

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Filed under Castle Willett, Photography, Travel