Category Archives: Castle Willett

Christmas Day 2019

I hope that everyone had a Christmas Day that was as calm or exciting as they wanted or needed, with as much or as little drama as requested, and that everyone had been good (enough) this year so that Santa brought them what they wanted.

If you didn’t get everything you want, it’s never to early to start planning for next year.

Here’s a short video of our lights turning on:

And a picture of what it looks like after dark:

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, y’all!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Christmas Lights, Photography, Video

Christmas Eve 2019

It was a new Christmas Eve tradition – Chinese dinner

The tree and presents are ready.

I hope you and your family have a most happy holiday filled with laughter and love, no matter what your celebrations entail.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Christmas Lights, Photography

Bizarre Perspective

The season advanced, the neighbor’s trees with the giant, dried up leaves finally had enough, the wind picked up, and in a matter of fifteen to twenty minutes between the time I left the house and the time I came back, there were leaves everywhere. In the street. Filling the gutters.

All over our lawn.

In the bushes


On the porch.

The offending trees next door.

It struck me that I have a bizarre perspective on this sort of thing, especially compared to that from my childhood. On the one hand, from the viewpoint of my life here, both in the “here in this particular house” and in the “here in Southern California” frame, this was an unusual and noteworthy event. I made everything look different. On the other hand, from the viewpoint of my much younger self, growing up in the midwest and New England, this was absolutely normal and borderline trivial.

There was a voice shouting in my head, just a bit shocked at my attitude. Perhaps with the tiniest bit of outrage.

It’s. Just. A. Few. Hundred. Leaves. Falling. Onto. The. Grass. In. Fall!!!

In Vermont, by mid-October there were parts of our yard where we would literally be knee-deep in leaves. We had a couple of maple trees that would turn bright red so it all looked very pretty, but it was more of a chore to clean up than an event. The first few hundred leaves falling didn’t mean that a novelty was being presented to us – it simply meant that it was time to get raking.

Yet here in SoCal – not so much, at least not these leaves, today.

I found it somewhat disconcerting, odd, yet couldn’t shake it every time I saw the leaves out there.

So I took the pictures and chose to share the story and my accompanying feelings of disconnect.

Will I start raking the leaves? Nope. That’s why the landlord has gardeners. Not for me to deal with.

Which is also more than a little bit disconcerting.


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Up On A Ladder Again

It was sunset (nice), ten days before Christmas (coming at us like a freight train), during one of the very, very, VERY few chunks of time per week that I have as discretionary or recreational time, so what am I doing?

Putting up MORE Christmas lights, of course!

Some of these aren’t exactly what I thought I was ordering, but they’re not too bad. I think they’ll grow on me.

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Milestone For The Big Blue Max

I told you it would happen!

I kept waiting for the transmission to blow out or some maniac doing 100+ mph in the rain and traffic to take me out in the last mile, leaving it forever stuck on 199,999 miles – but nothing like that happened.

It was uneventful, except for possibly the trivial and inconsequential coincidence that it happened EXACTLY in front of my office, which happens to sit right next to the freeway. That was a tiny bit weird and random.

On to the next 100,000 miles! She may be neither small nor zippy (like Hissy is) but she’s reliable and reasonably comfortable. And we’ve been through a lot together.

Which brings up another point. I know that my kids name their cars and give them personalities because I do and in that sense I’m either an outstanding, super cool role model or a terrible, psychotic one. But does anyone else do this?


Filed under Castle Willett, Paul

What’s Up With ATC Tonight?

As I’ve mentioned, we live pretty much right under the extended centerline for Burbank runway 8, which leads us to have 737’s and the like overhead at about 4,000′ all day long. Since I’m an airplane nut, this is not a problem.

It also means that I’m pretty used to which direction planes are coming from 99.99% of the time. So when I’m busy on the computer but I hear one coming from an odd direction, it makes my ears prick up.

When a second one follows, I pull out FlightAware to see what their flight paths are.

(Image from FlightAware)

That first plane (a United flight) came in from the northwest (not so unusual), then did a big 360° turn over Hidden Hills (pretty unusual) before he got lined up and had just exited stage right toward final approach. (For reference and scale, from our house at the blue dot, the 405 Freeway and Van Nuys airport there are about half way to Burbank.)

The second guy (a Southwest flight), currently over Tampa Avenue, came in a bit more normally from the north over Simi Valley, looped a little wide, but was now on final.

Then the third plane (Alaska Airlines Flight 1150) followed the second plane and made an even bigger 360° out over the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu!

What’s up with Air Traffic Control (ATC) tonight?

Let’s step outside and look toward the southwest and Malibu, shall we?

Yep, there he is!

And, yep! There he goes!

A weather-related issue? Possibly. You can see a storm cell over Topanga State Park to our south. There’s a front moving in and some of the showers were supposed to get severe, but that wasn’t supposed to happen until tomorrow morning.

Spacing? ATC maintains minimum separation between aircraft and if there are a few coming in all at the same time, someone might get told to take the scenic route and linger for a few in order to not crowd anyone else.

Whatever. I got my own personal mini air show! The day got better!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Christmas Lights, Flying, Photography

Kotter Was Here

Found in the back yard this weekend.

Forget about Kilroy.

Kotter was here.

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Getting Close

The old blue bomber of a mom-mobile van (my 2001 Chrysler Grand Caravan) is finally almost at another big landmark:

I usually only drive it out to the CAF hangar and back on Saturdays these days, and that’s just to keep the fluids circulating and everything getting a little workout. It’s my “spare” vehicle, which is handy when kids come into town (like for the wedding last month!) or when I need to haul a bunch of crap (like when we moved last year!).

It’s about 65 miles out to the hangar and back, so next week should do it. Let’s home it doesn’t do a “Blues Brothers mobile” ten seconds later!

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Fiat Lux 2019

The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally the first day of the Christmas lights going up. This year is the latest that Thanksgiving can ever be, November 28th, so there’s no time to delay.

After years of putting up massive numbers of lights at our old house, we moved about eighteen months ago into a much smaller place. So last year was a bit of a learning experience. This year, having one Christmas worth of experience, it went a bit better on day one.

While the lights often look like fine spider webs of colored or sparkling luminescence, there’s a blob over the garage door that defies that.

It’s more like a black widow spider web in form rather than one of those gorgeous, symmetric, orb weaver webs. Just a weird blob of lights in a glob or a clot.

Blob. Glob. Clot.

Might have to do something about that.


Filed under Castle Willett, Christmas Lights, Photography

Skylight Moon

One thing about having a big, fancy, east-west aligned skylight in the kitchen is that, when the geometry is right, you can watch the full moon rise through it.

Straight up the slot!!

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Filed under Astronomy, Castle Willett, Photography