Category Archives: Paul

Thoughts In Search Of A Message

Sometimes I guess I just need to write, knowing that there’s a message in there someplace, but being too tired, too close to the problems, too confused, too swept up in the chaos to find the optimal path to salvation. But one thing I got out of some training at both Annapolis and Pepperdine was a technique for dealing with such situations – MOVE. Not panic, not random motion, but get your ass in gear. Make your best choice, be ready to change direction if you get new or better information, but avoid paralyses¬† by analyses.

So let me ramble a bit and see if my muse can guide us toward an actual point…

One of the reasons that these thoughts are dwelling tonight is because do-or-die deadlines have been met and, for the moment at least (I’m well aware that this can change in a heartbeat) I’m not seeing any additional do-or-die deadlines on the immediate horizon. Meeting those deadlines has involved working a lot of hours right through what should have been a four-day holiday weekend, plus some 20+ hour days that had me up until 3AM or so this week – but the deadlines have been met. So I can breathe. And come up for air just a little bit.

It’s not like I have nothing to do. There are myriad other things that got pushed onto back burners, both at work, at home, at the hangar, and in my personal life. And it’s not like hitting those do-or-die deadline tasks was antagonistic or confrontational. Quite to the contrary. The people I’m working with now are supportive and wonderful. Making the move last October was the luckiest and best career move I’ve ever made. But in the end, by nature of the beast, my shoulders were where the burden fell (and will fall again in the future) and mine is the responsibility to get ‘er done.

The pressure and time requirements can be significant, the outcome uncertain, the anxiety levels high. But the feeling of accomplishment when it gets done? The kudos from people who I admire and enjoy working with? Those are significant as well.

Now, an ever so brief pause. Or at least a chance to ease it back out of overdrive and off of the afterburners for a couple of days.

There’s still this truly annoying, nagging, urgent voice in the back of my head that’s telling me that I have to optimize, and maximize, and be extremely efficient. How do I take advantage of this pause to catch up on the highest priority items off of those back burners? How do I gain an advantage and not waste the opportunity? When what I would truly like is the opportunity to waste away, to not think for a bit, to catch up on some recreational reading, to watch “Hamilton” again (I can’t believe I’ve only watched it once on Disney+!), to do something mindless for a couple of hours like crushing those cans in the garage for recycling, or take a walk with my camera (wearing a mask, socially distanced of course) to take pictures of things outside of my yard.

I think it’s a matter of balance. (I might have said something along these lines a few hundred times before, but I guess I need to remind myself.) Read a few chapters in that book that I’ve been neglecting for weeks, but also get caught up on some stuff for the hangar that’s past due. Watch “Hamilton” again, but also get those backups done and take a look at that hard disk that’s getting glitchy. Crush those cans, but also spend a few hours sorting and filing that increasingly threatening pile of loose documents in back of my desk that’s making it time-consuming and frustrating to find anything quickly.

Remember that there’s good in the world. The NFL season started tonight, and my beloved Chiefs pretty convincingly won the season opener. The three-minute long trailer for the new “Dune” came out and it’s freakin’ SPECTACULAR. I’ve got a big stack of new CD’s to burn and listen to, new music to sort through looking for new additions to my “best of” playlists.

Don’t despair. I know it’s so easy today – friends online let me know today of an acquaintance who lost her battle with depression. The fight is hard and there are days when we all wonder how much more we can take. I can’t be proud of the fact that I’ve yet to come that close to the end of my rope – I prefer to be grateful, knowing that darkest hour could be out there lurking somewhere.

Don’t forget. It’s just over a year ago that my dear friend Sandy passed away suddenly and totally unexpectedly. I’ve been thinking of her a lot this last week especially. I can talk to her in my head whenever I want, but I can’t get any answers. But for every “what if” question there are happy memories to offset the sorrow.

In summary, I guess the message for myself from this moment of reflection (remembering Tonio K.’s lyric from “American Love Affair, “No one’s let her take the time to think at all, much less think twice”) is to cut myself some slack, take some down time, but don’t take too much, and don’t forget to tell people that you love them. They may really, really need to hear it, and some day you may not get another chance.

Balance.

But keep moving.

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Random Old Photos – September 01st

Remember the scene in “The Princess Bride” where Inigo’s quest has hit a dead end and, stranded in the forest, he closes his eyes, prays to his murdered father to ask for guidance for his sword, and stumbles into the secret switch to the underground lair of Count Rugen where Wesley’s mostly dead body is lying? (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you are required to stop whatever you’re doing and watch one of the top ten movies ever made.)

This is like that. I’ve got a LOT of pictures going back to my first cheap digital camera in 1999, and there are thousands and thousands of negatives and slides that pre-date that which I need to get digitized and scanned some day real soon now. So let’s pick a random year and date and time and see what can make me either say, “Damn, that’s a GREAT picture!” or, more likely, makes me blow Diet Coke out my nose onto the keyboard.

No, not upside down, just a matter of perspective. Some place that it’s EXTREMELY rare for me to be. (Long story…)

What the hell was I doing on a horse??!!

It took a while, but by going through the other pictures taken in the day or two before and after this, it finally came back. But I can guarantee that I hadn’t thought of this experience for one millisecond in well over fifteen years.

As Inigo said, “I need you to guide my sword!”

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Some Days

Some days you’ve listened to one too many news reports about evil monsters trying to destroy our country.

Some days you’ve read too many comments by equally evil sycophants helping to spread hate and lies.

Some days you’ve gotten one too many incredibly frustrating and annoying emails asking for an explanation of things you’ve already explained too many times using simple words and short sentences.

Some days you just keep writing and deleting emails because you’ve still got that one brain cell that knows better than to hit send.

Some days you just want to do something simple like mail a package or hang a picture and you can’t because the whole freaking world has you tied up like the Lilliputians tied up Gulliver.

Some days the only things you want to do are the things you know you’ll probably regret.

Some days you just have to hold it all inside and hope for the best.

Some days.

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Today Was Wednesday – No, Thursday

Getting to the point where a couple times a day I literally have to check my phone or watch to remember.

As we’re discovering, “working from home” can be much more like “living at work.”

The good news is that thanks to some heroic efforts by a couple of San Luis Obispo fire crews last night, while the fires got very, VERY close to the domes at Lick Observatory and did destroy one currently unused dorm building, none of the telescopes or other primary buildings appear to have been damaged.

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Read Your Receipts

It could be that I’m the slowest and stupidest person on this particular bandwagon, but…

…do you read any of the fine print, or even the not-so-fine print at the bottom of your grocery store receipts?

I usually don’t. Unless there’s something that I want to check (“Did I get that 3 for the price of 4 special on Lucky Charms?”) I usually don’t look at it at all other than possibly to record the total.

But today…

So it’s not-so-small print. “Recall Notice – You may have purchased the product listed below.”

Let’s get real. Their computer gets our customer loyalty card account number every week so that we can get that special when we buy five boxes of Cheerios and pile up those fuel points to use to get gas. Their computer knows EXACTLY what I bought. Their computer knows what I bought, what minute I bought it, and what product was out on the floor at that time. Their computer is giving me this warning because it’s 99.999% sure that I bought that recalled onion.

Three thoughts:

First, on one level it’s creepy as hell that they can do this while on another level (from someone who has designed databases and written programs in my sordid past) this is trivially easy so OF COURSE they can do this! When you buy Brand A detergent and you get a coupon for Brand B, do you think that’s an accident?

Secondly, given that ability, it’s pretty great that they’re giving us this warning rather than just having it buried out there in a two-second news segment at midnight on a channel I don’t watch or buried off in an online news article from a source I don’t pay any attention to. That’s very helpful and I guess I should be reading the receipt more often, right?

Finally – WHY THE HELL DIDN’T THEY TELL US SOONER? If we’re going to take it as a given that they have all of this data, I’ll guarantee that they have my phone number, my email address, my home address, my mailing address, and probably my shoe size, inseam, and current blood pressure readings. We’ve already eaten the possibly contaminated onions, probably ate them two or three weeks ago. If they found out about this sometime weeks ago, instead of waiting until now to have something stuck on the bottom of a three-foot long receipt, why couldn’t I have gotten a text or email or phone call weeks ago?

If I’m going to sacrifice any semblance of privacy and sell my digital soul to the big corporate grocer in the sky, can I at least ask to get some efficiency and timeliness in the one small benefit that I might get out of it?

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Entropy Sucks

Things break.

Cars.

Houses.

Bodies.

It’s been a tough day.

Tomorrow we’ll fight again.

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The Hurrier I Go…

Who knew that Lewis Carroll was the Nostradamus of his day, predicting 2020?

What really bugged me though was not remembering who said, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” I was thinking it was from a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon, or maybe the old Pogo comic strip or something. It finally bugged me enough to do a quick look up – it’s from “Alice In Wonderland.”

Well, that make sense. Our world today can’t be any more strange than Wonderland was.

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Lost Time

They’ve said that one of the possible symptoms of COVID-19 is the lost of taste and smell. I think for those of us in quarantine for twelve or thirteen weeks now, we’re suffering from a loss of all sense of time.

It’s bad enough that I can’t remember what day of the week it is any more. But between the odd and long hours of working from home, not sleeping well, all of the other various physical and mental strains and stresses, and the fact that I spend hours at a time without any outside view or reference to day and night (unless there’s an ISS pass or Venus or something to go see), the last few days I’ve been having trouble having a good sense of what time of day it is.

One minute I’ll be thinking it’s about 20:00, maybe 20:30, and then notice that it’s 22:30. Ten minutes later I’ll be feeling like it must be at least 02:00 and I need to get to bed and I’ll be screwed in the morning trying to get up – but it’s 22:40.

Or it could just be that I picked the Jean-Michel Jarre Pandora channel (with lots of JMJ, Enigma, Tangerine Dream, Amethstium, and so on) on the headphones for the last fourteen hours. It kept the sound of the howling winds out, but it may have sucked my brain into an alternate dimension where the clocks run a bit differently.

If we’re going to be switching dimensions or timelines, I have a few requests…

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A Red-Letter Day!

There won’t be photos of tonight’s pretty decent ISS pass – it’s cloudy with a 20% chance of rain out there. If you know anything about SoCal it’s that we get rain in June about once every other blue moon. Fate, man, it’s a bitch.

But it’s a red-letter day!

I needed to use shampoo on my hair this morning! Granted, not a lot given the circumstances, more like I just sort of opened the bottle and let some of the fumes waft over my scalp – but it’s a start!! And I can now use a towel to dry it again instead of using a squeegee!

Big doings here!

What are your plans for the weekend?

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ISS Pass & A Bonus

The weather’s better, there’s a nice, high, bright, ISS pass… Let’s see if I can avoid screwing this up two nights in a row, shall we?

(Image – Heavens-Above.org)

It was sweet, especially with a little contrast cleanup in Photoshop.

There was a bright, almost full moon rising, so I kept the exposures shorter, just 2.3 seconds each.

Then I tried to shift to another location to catch the rest of the pass as the ISS swung overhead and headed back toward the southeast where the moon was rising. The rabbits covering the lawn didn’t appreciate it and tried to trip me going down the hill.

I finally made it and got set up to see it fade into night as it got down near the moon (that honkin’ bright thing at the lower left edge).

As I pulled the tripod and started heading home (I had moved a couple houses down the hill to clear the street lights and trees) I noticed another satellite straight overhead. I quickly put the tripod back down and started shooting again.

It was MUCH dimmer than the ISS – this is a single frame and you can see it in the center top, heading down and slightly to the left.

Why not a combined file like with the ISS? When I tried to combine these images in StarStaX the satellite trail vanishes. It’s too dim and therefore too thin and each segment gets overwritten by the other layers where it’s dark.

But… I learned a new trick and I’m not afraid to use it three days in a row.

In a GIF format, you can see the unknown satellite moving down toward the horizon, before it too goes into darkness.

The fact that it went into darkness at about the same distance to the east of us means that it was probably at a similar height to the ISS. If it were higher, it would have stayed in sunlight longer – lower and it would have gone dark sooner. Beyond that, I have no idea what it was.

Keep looking up. You never know what you might see!

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