Category Archives: Castle Willett

Standing Down

The wind continues to howl. It’s got to be 25-35 steady with gusts to 50+, if not more.

But there is no known fire near us.

The air has more than just a whiff of smoke and ash to it, along with the calling card of a particularly pissed off skunk somewhere nearby upwind. They’ve been telling us to watch out for wildlife displaced into urban areas by the destruction of their natural habitat. Perhaps that’s why the skunk is pissed off. Can’t say that I blame him.

But they’ve taken down the police barricades two blocks away from home.

It’s gotten cold, which I guess is good, but it’s staying dry, which is horrible. There were spots this weekend reporting relative humidity in the single digits for days on end – THAT’s a huge problem when fighting brush fires. One report I saw had a reading of 1% relative humidity! That’s rivaling what it would be like on Mars.

But as of about 20:30 tonight, the mandatory evacuation order for all of the neighborhoods on the west side of Valley Circle have been lifted.

So tonight I started standing down. I started unpacking the cars. I started putting all of those valuable pictures, documents, video tapes, jewelry, and priceless memories back away in the house instead of leaving them pointing out of the driveway, ready to be scrambled like a couple of SAC bombers when the ICBMs start streaming over the Pole.

It’s time to stand down.

And maybe get some sleep.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Disasters

Changes While We Weren’t Looking

First of all, let me be the latest to whine about Daylight Saving Time. I hate it for all of the usual reasons that everyone else hates it, but I’ll add my perspective based on our society’s transition to how clocks are set.

If you’re anything like me, your watch, phone, computer, tablet, and cable box all updated themselves last night. They’re all computers talking to other computers and those other computers are talking to the Colossus computer (howdy, Dr. Forbin!) somewhere a mile under some Colorado mountain and the Colossus is hooked into an atomic clock that’s accurate to within a fraction of a microsecond between now and the heat death of the universe. Since they’re all talking, they all make sure that they’re all using the same time frame.

But there are still clocks in our lives that aren’t in that particular computer clique and they have to be reset manually. My bedside clock radio with the honkin’ big red numbers, the wall clocks in the bathroom that are running on a solitary AAA battery, the dashboard clocks in the cars, the clock in the microwave… Time has to be spent hunting down and changing all of those clocks.

That’s not the problem.

The problem is that over time all of these clocks, both sets, will drift a bit. With the computer clocks, they’ll talk to the Mother Ship clock periodically (daily? hourly?) and all get on the same page again. But those manual clocks will get a bit off here and there, which we’ll compensate for in our heads. I know that the bedside clock is a couple of minutes slow, the one in the master bathroom is a minute fast, the one in the guest bathroom is a minute slow, and the one in the old van just blinks because it’s too damn hard to figure out how to set to begin with.

But I’m not going to set them to be off by that amount again! That would be stupid, even by my anal standards. Instead, they all get set to match my watch and/or phone, which in turn match the computer, the cable box… You get the picture.

But tomorrow morning when that alarm goes off and I look at the the clock to see “07:00” I’m going to have to remember that it’s really 7:00, not 7:02.

What a pain!

Meanwhile, while dealing with all of that, we found out this morning that while we were out of town last week one of the bus boys at our “normal” Sunday morning restaurant has been promoted to a waiter’s position. Great, we like him! Except, where’s Connie, my ketchup queen? Oh, that’s why George got promoted? But Connie was our favorite!

Furthermore, when we get to the grocery store after breakfast, we find that in that same week out of town they’ve done a “Fifty-Two Pick Up” on how the store’s arranged, so our ten minute shopping routine turned into over twice that as we just tried to figure out which aisle now had the sodas, where the olive oil got hidden, and who in hell thought it was a good idea to put the potato chips way over THERE?

Somehow it’s all connected, and I’m sure there are stupid politicians behind it all somehow.



Filed under Castle Willett, Paul


Something got me up early the other morning (given the choice, I would be up until 1AM or later every night and then not roll my butt out of bed before about 10:00) and I found much to my surprise that the later sunrise and my earlier rising and the shifting of the sun to the south as it rises in the fall all combined to make the kitchen and dining room of the “new” house the most amazing golden color.

Even this picture can’t begin to portray even half of the depth to the hues and the vibrancy of the color.

It was spectacular! Almost worth being out of bed before 10:00!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Photography

Halloween Decorations

As the seasons move on and we enter fall for the first time in our new neighborhood I notice that there are substantially more homes with Halloween decorations out than in our old neighborhood. It was one or two as soon as October rolled around, but now the number is growing. (This gives me great hope for Christmas, although it’s equally likely that we’ve just inadvertently moved into a neighborhood of vampires, ghost, goblins, and ghoulies and we’ll never see Christmas because we’ll be eaten alive on the 31st… Never mind!)

Most of meager supply of Halloween decorations are still in storage after the move, but a couple of lawn ornaments got shoved into the garage during those chaotic weeks, so this weekend I put them out in the front yard. Of course, last night we had our first severe Santa Ana wind event and they got blown over. (In the old neighborhood we were at the bottom of the hill and somewhat sheltered – here we’re at the top of it and pretty exposed. It got windy.)

No harm, no foul, everything’s back up again tonight, but in that mindset, the Halloween zeitgeist as it were, I noticed something else tonight.

From our front yard security camera, during the day (the mail carrier is likely not a ghoulie) it looks like, well, a front yard:

However, tonight I noticed that that bush in the foreground right by the porch looks quite different when lit from the porch light only:

Am I the only one that sees a crazed, screaming face in that bush? And why do the eyes follow me when I look out that window and move around the room?

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Filed under Castle Willett, Photography

Sunset From Anthony’s Deck

Meet your neighbors. Make friends.

The urban legend says that no one in LA knows ANY of their neighbors. This has a grain of truth to it – there were people who lived across the street from us for 27 years at the old house and I don’t know that I ever said two words to them and I most certainly didn’t know their names. On the other hand, the other five or six closest houses to us on the street as well as the folks who lived on the other side of the wall in the back were all at least casual acquaintances. We knew their names, we knew their dogs, if they were going out of town for the weekend we would keep an eye on their place and bring their trash cans up from the curb, and they would do the same for us.

Since we moved in May I’ve met several of our neighbors and I go out of my way to say hello, introduce myself, find out who they are, invite them over if they see the telescopes out in the front yard, and so on.

Tonight that paid off.

There are the remnants of a “small” hurricane to the south of us, streaming lots of moisture across Baja and into Arizona at the moment. That stream of rain and thunderstorms is shifting over us, so I figured there might be a decent sunset to look at. Fortunately, it came just as halftime started (where my beloved KC Chiefs were beating the Broncos to go 4-0) so I grabbed my camera and went out.

As I’ve mentioned, we’re at the top of the hill, on the side of the street where our back yard drops off to the east. To our west, there are a bunch of trees and lots of power lines.

Things were starting to look colorful – but trees, neighbors’ houses, etc. I wandered down the hill a couple of houses.

Back to the west, with all of these layers of clouds and the sun setting through the layers to the west, there were some interesting spots of color floating in a sky full of darker clouds.

As the sun started to get to the horizon and peek out from under the last layer of clouds…

…the colors started to get vivid near the horizon. But still, trees, antennas, neighbors’ houses. Better, not spectacular.

The pinkish mid-layers got even more pronounced.

One of the neighboring wives came out to leave and saw me, asked what I was taking pictures of. I told her – she called for her husband to come out. I had previously met Anthony and he told me I should come with him. They live on the other side of the street with the hill dropping away and giving a clear view to the west, and they’ve got a deck so that it’s a particularly spectacular view.

Down below in the gloaming are the West Hills Baseball fields where we spent so many hours with all of our kids. The central hill there we always called Castle Peak, primarily because it’s surrounded by Castle Peak Park.

Meet your neighbors. Make friends. One of them, like Anthony, might like sunsets just as much as you do, and they might have a great view of the western horizon.



Filed under Castle Willett, Los Angeles, Photography, Weather


Shit, it happened again. Busier than god all day at my paying job, come home and spend all evening busier than god at my non-paying job. All of a sudden it’s 23:44…

Drop back ten and punt, at least in the blogging, website, “NDIAD” (Not Dead In A Ditch) sort of way. (NDIAD is how my kids learned to report home when they were travelling or staying over at a friend’s house and wanted to let me know they had gotten home safely or whatever. It’s a Willett thing.)

Oh, and I got turned down for the latest NASA Social that I had applied for. SHAZBATT!! It would have been for the Mars InSight landing, held at JPL, and would have been really, REALLY cool! Which is no doubt why a ton of folks applied and those of us who don’t have 5,000 or 25,000 followers (or those of us who have already been to five) didn’t get picked.

How did your day go?

Oh, if you’re anywhere on the US eastern seaboard, please stay safe – it’s going to be a rough couple of weeks. Check in once in a while, that sort of thing.

It occurs to me that NDIAD can also stand for Not Drowned In A Ditch…

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Filed under Castle Willett, Paul, Weather

Bringing In The Mycelium Second String

While I realize that just about absolutely no one on the entire planet gives two shakes about the mushrooms in my yard, it has also occurred to me that it’s my website and I can post any stupid crap I want…

You’ve seen that the new front yard occasionally sprouts mushrooms (here, here, here, here, and here) but it’s been a losing battle against the gardeners’ lawn mowers. The lawn gets mowed on Thursday, so popping up on Monday gives you a three-day lifespan, while popping up on Saturday only gives you five days.

The lawn was mowed today (it really IS Thursday, right?) but when I got home and was taking out the trash I found these guys:

Not clear if these guys started coming up just after the lawn movers passed, or if they started coming up yesterday or early today and were just too short to get lopped off by the spinning blades o’ death!

It’s possible that the big puffballs I’ve seen before are actually the same type/species/family as this guy and I just never noticed one this small – but it looks different. Maybe the mycelium has send in the second string!

This guy on the other hand looks like a distinctly different breed than the big white puffballs. It’s also small enough to have not get lopped, but it looks like it’s a different shape, different stem, different coloration.

I’m most certainly no expert at all on the subject of mushrooms, but I have learned that the mycelium can be a massively huge organism that underlies that suburban putting green that covers the ground in front of the house. What I wonder about now is if it’s made up of different types and species of mushrooms or is it supposed to be monospecific? (I’m astonished that “monospecific” is an actual word, and even more amazingly, it means exactly what I wanted it to mean when I thought I was making it up! Mrs. Henry would be so proud!)

Again, I’m sure no one gives a rat’s patootie – but as Kevin MacNamara said about me way back in high school, I’m “easily amused.”



Filed under Castle Willett, Photography