Category Archives: LA Kings


It’s 22:50 already? What happened to the day, and the night as well? Oh, yeah, got that done, and feel good about slaying that dragon at last, and the Kings won again tonight (six in a row, back into a playoff spot, woo hoo!), but there are no more functional brain cells in the creative part of my grey matter.

Back to the Silly Word Flashcard deck!

Tonight’s word is “landlubber.” I’m guessing that most of us know what it means, but it’s in here because it sound silly, not because we don’t know what it is. (Unlike “smellfungus!”) It’s defined as “someone who doesn’t know about boats or hasn’t been out to sea.” Fair enough.

The first thing that grabs me about the other information on the card is that under “Similar Words” is says, “This word is one of a kind!”

I beg to differ.

There might not be any similar words pertaining to the sea, but there are plenty of words for someone who doesn’t know about a particular aspect of life. The first thing that comes to my mind is what I was called (among other things) when I moved to Vermont at age 13. In Vermont, if you come from outside, particularly from another state or, worse, from one of the big cities like Boston or New York City, you are a “flatlander.” It’s not a compliment.

Terms such as “carpetbagger” or “snowbird” indicate someone from outside the area, often referring to someone coming in to take advantage of the locals or take away something they’re not entitled to. But “landlubber” and “flatlander” refer to someone without experience, with an overtone indicating that in their ignorance they’re missing out on something wonderful and glorious and should be pitied or scorned because of it.

The second thing that I see is the “See Also” recommendation — “Cats.” There’s a subtle humor in there which I find charming.

Finally, I recall that in several science fiction novels there are created terms that would be the space age equivalent of “landlubber,” indicating with the same scorn someone who has not been off-planet. “Dirtgrubber” or something of the same ilk.

Any of my Vermont friends have any further insight on the use of “flatlander?” Any other terms that anyone can think of to fit into the same category as flatlander and landlubber?

Leave a comment

Filed under LA Kings, Paul, Science Fiction

ISS Pass For October 6th

In addition to tomorrow night’s total lunar eclipse, tonight and tomorrow night there are really high, bright International Space Station passes in the evening over the US. Check on NASA’s “Spot The Station” website (free), or the Heavens Above website (free), or any of a dozen or more other websites, or get an app for your smartphone such as “Flyby” (my favorite, a bargain at $3, also available for Android).

For the SoCal region, tomorrow’s ISS flyby is at 19:03:32, rising in the SSW, maximum elevation of 67.7°, magnitude -3.8 (super bright!). It should be a balmy 74° F and clear tomorrow night, and I realize that the timing conflicts with the start of the first LA Kings hockey game of the season and we’ll be raising our banner for last year’s Stanley Cup Championship — but it’s a really great pass. Go out and see it, you can take your tablet or phone out to watch the Kings game while you look at the ISS go overhead.

(For later tomorrow night / Wednesday morning, for the full lunar eclipse, the weather’s predicted to be 63° and clear as a bell – let’s hope!)

Of course I was out with a camera tonight.

IMG_1945 small

Fifteen-second exposure. The bright line at the upper left with red and white alternating dots is a jet leaving LAX. So is the one just above the horizone in the center, going through the leaves of our palm tree.

The ISS is just starting to rise. Look at the big tree in the lower right corner. There’s a notch in the branches at about the 10:00 position. You can see the ISS rising there.

I’m posting this picture in its full size for a reason. If you want to play along, click on the image, blow it up to full size, and see if you can see some of the other things that I was gobsmacked to see.

Hint: Look at the lower left, between the palm tree and the big airplane trail. Second Hint: It’s not a pterodactyl. I’ll spill the beans at the end of this article.

IMG_1946 small

Twenty-six second exposure, the ISS is just clearing that big tree. I’m also drawing a crowd, neighbors walking their dogs and wondering what I’m looking at. They’re all interested, not just humoring the odd guy who lives in the middle of the block (that would be me, but you all knew that), so I’m trying to answer questions and do a running commentary while I keep shooting.

IMG_1947 small

Sixteen second exposure. I would love to get a nice, long, ninety second exposure showing the ISS passing across half the sky — but this is the heart of the “world famous San Fernando Valley,” so any exposure that long would be so overexposed it would look like this one from June. You need a dark sky to do a long exposure like that.

IMG_1948 small

Fifteen second exposure. The two bright spots are lens flares caused by the street light which was right over my head. Not much of a factor when I was aiming toward the horizon away from it, but now that I’m looking closer and closer to it, the flares start.

IMG_1949 small

A thirty second exposure. See how much lighter the background sky is? Three times this exposure, six times the one above? Not going to work in this environment.

On the other hand, I’m loving the tripod setup and especially the new remote control trigger for the Canon DSLR. It eliminates almost all jitter caused by manually pushing the button on the camera, and for these pictures, it eliminates having to hold down the button for the entire length of the exposure, which introduces a lot of jitter, tripod or not. With the remote, you set the camera to “bulb” and hit the button on the remote and hold it for a second to start the exposure. From there, the camera will keep the shutter open until you hit the remote control button again, AND there’s a nice clock on the display on the camera back, letting you know how long the exposure is.

IMG_1950 small

Sixteen second exposure. Heading down behind the trees on this side of the street. If I’m alone I would have grabbed the gear and sprinted back across the street and up a house or two. (After carefully looking both ways for traffic, of course.) From there I could have watched the ISS another couple of minutes as it headed out to the NNE, and possibly even seen it fade into darkness. But I had an audience of dogs (yes, when I came in, Jessie knew that I’d been petting Ozzie, seeing other dogs) and neighbors so that wasn’t practical.

IMG_1951 small

Seventeen second exposure. (I need to remember that the Canon will do exposures up to about sixty seconds on its own, rather than having me guesstimate when to stop the exposure.) The trees are very brightly lit by the street lights in a long exposure, and the lens flares are winning.

I was still answering questions about whether my tripod was tracking the stars or the ISS, whether or not you could see the actual structure of the ISS with this gear, when’s the eclipse this week, will I have my telescopes out, will I have our telescopes out for Halloween…  (No, it’s just a regular old tripod. Nope, you need at least a 16-inch telescope, a 20-inch or 24-inch would be better, and some really fantastic tracking software. Late, late tomorrow night or early, early Wednesday morning, 3:00 AM to 4:30 AM-ish. Yes, if I can wake up. Yes, unless it’s cloudy.)


Remember that first picture above, the fifteen second exposure in the light polluted soup that’s LA’s sky? I know what’s up in that part of the sky, but I had no idea that you would be able to see any of it. I was wrong.

Just to the right of that tree, just below the start of the big airliner trail, you can see the brightest stars in Sagittarius. It’s generally described as a “teapot” and in a dark sky, “boiling up” out of the “teapot” is a “cloud of steam,” which is actually the Milky Way. The region is full of bright nebulae and globular clusters, easy targets for even a small telescope. (NOTE: You’re not going to see anything that looks like this spectacular image of M8 and M20 with the naked eye, even with a huge telescope. It’s what many people expect since it’s what they see on the television and internet, buy you’ll just see a ton of stars and some whitish and greyish clouds of gas. Some other time we can get into why.)

In a dark sky, it can be spectacular. I fully expected it to be invisible from this location. But lo and behold, when I looked at the image, you can clearly see hazy spots of grey nebulosity where M8 (the Lagoon Nebula), M20 (Triffid Nebula), and M7 (Ptolemy’s Cluster) are.


Here’s an annotated image, showing the “teapot” and the different Messier objects that can be ever so vaguely seen.


IMG_1945 annotated cropped

I guess that’s why I should try these things instead of just assuming that I wouldn’t see anything. You know what they say about “assuming”…

Check your location, go out tomorrow night and see the ISS go over! (Then go watch the Kings.)



Filed under Astronomy, LA Kings, Photography, Space, Sports

Odds & Sods For Saturday, September 13th

Item The First: I mentioned Monte Moore, the radio announcer for the Kansas City Athletics when I was a kid there in the Sixties, and later the voice of the Oakland A’s after they moved. In looking him up to make sure I had his name spelled correctly and so forth, I remembered a fragment about one of his partners, a “color” announcer. It would have been about 1964 or 1965, the guy’s first name might have been David. If I remember correctly, he was killed during the off-season, possibly in a car accident.

As I said, it’s just a fragment of a memory from nearly fifty years ago, but I went to see if I could find any online information that matches that and I came up empty. (See, the internet is not omnipotent. Or it is and I’m just not asking the correct questions.) I found a lot of great old trivia about the KC A’s, and that brought up many more memories that I had that I didn’t see mentioned – but nothing about the loss of one of the radio guys.

If anyone of you should happen to know or remember anything about that (I know, it’s a wild shot in the dark) please let me know in the comments. Let’s see if the massed neurons of the WLTSTF family can do better than Google. Sort of like Ken Jennings taking on the IBM “Watson” system on Jeopardy!

Item The Second: It should be noted that in the Sycamore Canyon Beach panorama yesterday, The Long Suffering Wife can be seen enjoying the ocean breezes. I’ll let you go hunting for her if you wish — she’s in red and white. (Go Angels!)

Item The Third: I don’t know which was funnier the other night, seeing the stories and videos about the two deer tying up traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge for forty-five minutes, or seeing five minutes later that there was already a Twitter account for “Golden Gate Deer.”

Item The Fourth: Who used the phrase “Far Out!” any more? I mean, except for people doing their best impersonations of George Carlin’s early days as the Hippy-Dippy Weatherman. I don’t think even hipsters use that phrase. (What DO hipsters say, other than putting down anything that everyone else likes?) The volunteer duuuude who called up for the Red Cross last week to get me back in to donate blood (this was my donation #51 with the American Red Cross, whoo hoo!) used that phrase at least three times. It really sticks out in a conversation these days.

I wanted to respond to him with “Farm house, man!” but thought that might be a bit too esoteric, 1970s, Southern Vermont-ish for him. Punk kid doesn’t even know what “SKs” are, or how to properly use “wicked” in a sentence.

Item The Fifth: One thing I started noticing a lot at the Wings Over Camarillo air show was people wearing LA Kings branded shirts, hats, and other gear. You have to understand, LA has always had a rabidly passionate core group of Kings’ fans, and I’m proud to count myself among them going back for forty years now. But it’s always been a teeny, tiny, minuscule group compared to the legions of fans for the Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans, Clippers, and even the Galaxy. There were folks jumping on the bandwagon when Gretzky came in 1988, and most (not all) of them jumped off when the Kings didn’t immediately win the Stanley Cup.

A lot of them jumped back on when the Kings won their first Stanley Cup in 2012. But unlike the Gretzky years, success wasn’t a one-time thing. The Kings made a deep drive into the playoffs in 2013. And then we won it again in 2014. At that point there were tons of folks catching hockey fever and there are signs that it’s still happening. At the airshow, I saw many more folks wearing Kings gear than I saw Dodgers or Angels or Lakers gear. I’m also seeing an awful lot of bumper stickers and “Kings – Stanley Cup Champions” window decals on cars.

This may become a hockey town yet!

1 Comment

Filed under Critters, LA Kings, Odds & Sods, Paul

My Stanley Cup Final Game Five

I’ve told you that I’m a fool for my LA Kings, and this year we were in the Stanley Cup Finals. I didn’t rant as much on a daily basis as I had threatened, but there’s a loose end and a story to tell about how it all ended.

Assuming that you know anything about hockey, you know how it came out. Assuming that you know nothing about hockey, the short version is that my beloved LA Kings won in five games, losing only Game Four in New York.

But I was going to be on vacation for games three, four, and five… I carefully tried to scout out locations where I could watch each game, averting a potential catastrophe.

Game Three we watched the first period at home, listened to the second period on the radio driving to the airport, and watched the third period in a restaurant at LAX along with a big crowd. I was, of course, wearing my traditional jersey to and at the airport for the game.

Paul_In_DinerPhoto credit: Ronnie Willett

Dressed like this, it was obvious that Los Angeles had turned into a hockey town. Everyone wanted to talk about the Kings, from the shuttle bus drivers, to the restaurant staff, to random strangers in the restrooms, to airline flight crews. After we had won Game Three, I got into a conversation with a total stranger who was praying that the Kings would lose one game, because he had tickets to Game Five and if we swept, he wouldn’t get to see them. (He got his wish.)

For the second and third periods of Game Three I could not blow the Vuvuzela of Victory as is traditional (it was packed away in my luggage — yes, of course I took it, what kind of a fan do you think I am?) but I had a vuvuzela app on my iPhone which substituted in a pinch.

Travelling through O’Hare in Chicago and Newark in New Jersey, I was expecting to get some grief about my Kings attire, but I was disappointed. Not a word.

Once in New England though, my family was more than happy to give me a hard time. We watched the first two periods of Game Four at my sister’s house and the third period back at our hotel. I was only able to grace the Central Vermont countryside once with the sweet, sweet tones from the Vuvuzela of Victory as New York just managed to slip away with a victory. (Not to worry, the neighbors probably just thought it was a dying or mating moose.)

Game Five was more problematic. While it was a great opportunity for us to win the Cup on home ice (when we won it in 2012 the deciding game was in New Jersey), I needed a place to watch, and I had a get-together with some of my high school classmates to attend. More unusual, and critical, was the fact that our hotel did not have NBC on the televisions in the rooms. In fact, they had none of the four major networks.

The dinner with my classmates was spectacular and fun. It went a bit later than I had expected, but it wasn’t a huge deal since we were on the East Coast, where the game didn’t start until 8PM. I followed the first period on my phone, then went looking for a television after the dinner party broke up.


The Hartness House is a spectacular place and has always been a favorite of mine. (Our house when I was in high school was just a block away and one street over.) I’m sure I’ll rant more about how wonderful it is at some other time, but what surprised me this time was the lack of the network broadcasts on the televisions in the rooms. At first I had been worried that they might not have the NBC Sports Network, which is only carried on cable and satellite and not always carried in many places, but I stopped worrying when I realized that Game Five was on NBC, the primary network. Everyone has that on their televisions, right?

Wrong. That was the last thing I would have expected, but there it was. I went to the front desk and explained the problem. They were wonderful and pulled a big, flat screen, HD television out (from the bar?) and set it up for me in one of the sitting rooms by the front desk. There I started to watch the game, along with the Long-Suffering Wife.

While we were having dinner, the Kings had scored once in the first period. In the second period, New York scored twice to go ahead. (I was sad.) In the third period, we tied it up (I was very happy) and I danced in my seat on the couch and screamed as loud as I could while being very, very, very quiet. No Vuvuzela of Victory. Not even the iPhone app.

Remember, I’m in the lobby of a not terribly large bed & breakfast which is also a national historic site. It’s close to 11:00 PM. There are dozens of people upstairs, asleep. I’m right at the bottom of a gorgeous staircase that goes up to all of the rooms…


…so the Vuvuzela of Victory would sound fantastic, echoing and ringing through the entire building. And getting my ass arrested, probably by the local police chief, who happens to be one of my high school classmates.

So I kept it to a dull roar. And the game was tied after regulation. And we sat through the first overtime. It was incredibly tense and exciting.

It was tied at the end of one overtime. The Long-Suffering Wife gave up and went to bed. The staff and their big friendly dog kept coming out every fifteen minutes or so to see if I was done and gone. Every fifteen minutes the grandfather clock (center, in the corner at the bottom of the staircase behind the flowers in the picture above) would go off. The staff turned off all of the lights except for the room I was in. The staff finally gave up and went to bed themselves.

And still the game went on. Until we won it, 14:43 into the second overtime. It was the fourth longest game in NHL history. And still there was no screaming, no shouting, no Vuvuzela of Victory. I was dancing around and very excited, but it was like watching “Footloose” with the sound turned off.

I didn’t wait up to watch the Kings celebrate and get the Cup. It was about 1:45 AM by this time, and we were meeting my classmates early on Saturday morning for the parade. The late, late, late night celebration and lack of sleep that night no doubt helped me to look and feel my best the next morning.

017_PaulWillett2Photo credit: Chris Reasoner King

I wore my Kings jersey to the parade, in part to show off my pride in my team and my joy with their victory, and in part to give the needle just a bit to some of the locals who were not Kings fans.

So there you have it. Some of the Finals got listened to on radio, some watched in odd places, some just tracked play-by-play on an iPhone app. The Vuvuzela of Victory was blown often, but also set aside at times in the name of discretion, with some really quiet, bad, middle-aged, white guy dancing substituted.

A good time was had by all. (Except for the Sharks, Ducks, Blackhawks, and Rangers fans.)

Leave a comment

Filed under LA Kings, Photography, Sports, Travel

Start The New Week With A Bang

You know what would be better than some fireworks to finish off the weekend?

Neither do I!

(Sports-related squeeing coming up — feel free to jump straight to the pictures.)

I had said that I might mention the Stanley Cup Finals. This is your update after two incredibly tense games, both of which were won by my beloved LA Kings!

In both games we started out by giving up two goals and being down 0-2. (Mind you, this is in a sport where a 3-1 game is considered to be “high scoring.”) Both games went into overtime, the second game into double overtime. The second game was in fact the longest game in team history, and at 90:26 was the fourth longest game in league history.

But the Vuvuzela Of Victory has been singing her sweet, sweet song of joy and triumph.

As if that weren’t enough, my beloved UC Irvine Anteaters (ZOT!) started the college baseball playoffs last weekend by knocking off the #1 team in the country (Oregon State, also last year’s champion) on their home field. Then this weekend they went into Oklahoma State and beat a highly favored team on their home field.

Now it’s off to Omaha next weekend for the College World Series! I believe it’s only the second time in school history that we’ve ever made it this far.

Go Kings, Go!

Go ‘Eaters!

You may now all return to your regularly scheduled reality.

IMG_9711 small

IMG_9727 small

IMG_9747 small

IMG_9769 small

IMG_9797 small

IMG_9822 small

IMG_9850 small

IMG_9871 small

IMG_9882 small

Leave a comment

Filed under Fireworks, LA Kings, Photography, Sports

Hockey Posts Are Coming And We’re Rocking And Rolling!

What a day. Two big things to mention.

First of all, while I’ve mentioned it from time to time, I do try not to really go overboard with my hockey fanaticism here. I understand that many people aren’t hockey fans, or even sports fans, and I mainly want to use this forum to talk about astronomy, space travel, photography, writing,  freakin’ idiots, music, books, movies, pets, critters, and on and on and on. I talk about sports sometimes, but I try to keep it to a dull roar.

That may be hard to do in the next week to two weeks — you may consider this to be an official warning. I’ll flag the posts, so if you couldn’t care less about hockey, there may be a day or two here or there that you can just skip reading.

Tonight, my beloved LA Kings won Game Seven of the National Hockey League’s Western Conference Finals, putting them into the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in three years. It was a hell of a game, finishing off a hell of a series, which in turn followed amazing series against the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks. All three series went to seven games, thus making the Kings the first team in league history to get to the finals by winning three series that all went to seven games.

Earlier, the first series with the Sharks was also historic. We lost the first three games and were forced to win four in a row to advance, facing elimination with every game. We did it, becoming only the third team to ever pull that off. (Something like 90+ teams have tried before, and failed.)

Then the second series with the Ducks was the first time that two Los Angeles teams faced each other in the playoffs. The Angels and Dodgers haven’t done it, the Rams and Raiders never did it, and the Lakers and Clippers have never done it. In that series the Ducks pulled out to a three games to two lead, forcing the Kings to face two more elimination games, which they won.

Now we faced the Chicago Blackhawks, who eliminated us in the conference finals last year, going on to win the Stanley Cup. In this year’s rematch, the Kings went up three games to one, only to have the Blackhawks storm back and force a game seven. It was a close, close series, two very evenly matched teams, and a bounce or tip of the puck here or there could have made the difference either way. Tonight, of course, after an incredibly tense game where the Blackhawks went ahead 2-0, 3-2, and 4-3, only to see the Kings find a way to tie the game and force overtime.

There was a lot of screaming and yelling and blowing of the Vuvuzela Of Victory all night. When we won I blew the VOV long and loud enough to just about pass out.

It was fantastic!

I won’t be blathering on about the Kings every night, don’t worry — but I’ll be mentioning them and might have a longer piece here or there. (You’ve been warned.)

As if that wasn’t enough excitement, with about four minutes left in the third period, a 4-4 tie, edge-of-the-seat time — the seat started shaking from side to side, along with the rest of the house. We got a magnitude 4.2 earthquake with the epicenter near the intersection of the 405 Freeway and Mullholland Drive, right in the middle of the Sepulveda Pass, about ten or eleven miles away.

If that location sounds familiar, it’s because it’s almost the exact same place as the epicenter of the March 17th magnitude 4.4 earthquake we had. They’re saying that tonight’s shaker is not an aftershock of that March temblor, not quite in the same place and much shallower.

Let me tell you, when you’re already pretty wound up and barely breathing and on the edge of your seat, having the room rattle and shake for four or five seconds will not help calm you down!

Plus, as they always tell you, 5% of all earthquakes are actually “foreshocks” of bigger quakes in the next 24 to 48 hours. There wasn’t any major damage from tonight’s quake, and no injuries at all — but is there a magnitude 5.2 or magnitude 5.7 quake lurking for tonight or tomorrow morning? There’s a 95% chance that there isn’t, but a bigger quake could cause damage or injuries is still not that long of a bet.

Let’s hope it’s a quiet, non-shaken night. Ditto for tomorrow. The only earth-shaking event I want in Los Angeles is the celebration when we win the second Stanley Cup in LA Kings’ history.

In five games. Not seven. I don’t know if my blood pressure can take a fourth seven-game series.

Go, Kings! GO!!

1 Comment

Filed under Disasters, LA Kings, Los Angeles

This Spring’s Epic Cardio & Strength Workout

Now that WLTSTF is in its second year, we’re starting to “swing through the lineup a second time.” As it were.

The Long Suffering Wife, as we recall, is on the Board of Directors for the local Habitat For Humanity chapter. Last year I wrote about how the physical challenges of the “Women’s Empowerment (WE) Build” pretty much kicked my ass. Today was this year’s WE Build event,which allowed many strong & powerful women (the best kind!) to get out there and hammer, saw, assemble, build, and paint. And this year there was a new torture to remind me how old and out of shape I might be. (“Might be” = “am.”)

photo 01The Long-Suffering Wife, resplendent in her pink hard hat!

photo 02Me, just looking goofy in mine.

The build is set up with about 95%+ women there, each assigned to a different area or task. The men are “Handy Hals” with the task of being go-fers, heavy lifters, and brute labor.

Last year we were at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, working on pieces (planters, fence sections, painting doors, etc) for the twelve homes in Sylmar which were being finished then.

This year we were on the actual construction site for the latest project, 87 homes in Santa Clarita. That’s a lot of homes!

The most special part of the work being done by the Santa Clarita – San Fernando Valley chapter of Habitat is that all of the homes are being built and sold to military veterans in need. That’s a great cause to support!

photo 03On the ridge overlooking the main street leading to the site, there will be a wall and memorial honoring our country’s fallen soldiers. I spent a good chunk of my day helping to plant eighteen or so trees on either side of the monument.

photo 04One site was laying cinder block for a retaining wall between different levels of the site. As you can see, each site has professional contractors there to give instructions, guidance, and keep everything safe — but the women volunteers are doing the work.

photo 05Another station was assembling, painting, and installing walls along the boundary between the site and a neighboring high school.

photo 06Another station was painting interior doors to be used when the houses get erected in a couple of months.

photo 07Another station was sealing and applying stucco to a retaining wall along the street. (There’s our memorial wall up on the ridge behind them!)

photo 08One station was painting the trim sections to go along with the interior doors.

photo 09Here’s the memorial wall being erected, with a great view.

photo 10And here’s what kicked my butt this year.  I’m sure every little kid has looked at jackhammers and thought that they would be really cool to play with. (I’m talking both male and female kids – the women we were working with were all lining up to take their turn to at least say that they did it.) But “playing” with a jackhammer is a lot different than working with one is. Those things are freakin’ heavy (approx 100 lbs) and it’s backbreaking, exhausting work. (Don’t let the smile fool you!)

If there’s a Habitat For Humanity group in your area, get in touch with them and see when they’ve got a build that you can help with. It can be hard work, but it’s well worth it.

Again, as it happened last year, I’m going to see if I can stay awake thorough the Kings’ hockey game tonight. (Or if they can get their act together after a pretty lousy first period.) GO KINGS!


Filed under Habitat For Humanity, LA Kings, Paul, Photography, Ronnie