Category Archives: Photography

Squirrel Dude

At times we’ve had as many as three or four squirrels running about the yard at any given stretch of time, but we’ve been back down to one for some time.

I suspect we have the hawks to blame (or thank) for that.

This guy’s been around long enough that he’s slowly but surely getting less nervous and figety when I walk outside. By which I mean that he doesn’t instantly bolt for the tree when I first step out the door, and if he does run as I’m getting something out of the fridge or whatever, he usually goes only halfway to the tree, not up it.

Sort of like how a runner on first is supposed to go halfway to second on a popup to the outfield, so he can still get back to first if it’s caught but can easily advance to second and maybe take third if it’s dropped?

At one point a few weeks ago I walked out back and sat down in the sun with crackers. When I frisbeed one onto the lawn towards him he didn’t bolt, but explored the cracker and then ate it. He then quite clearly wanted more. I kept luring him closer with food, and while he wouldn’t quite come close enough to take the cracker from my hand (yet!), he did get within a couple of feet.

I don’t think I really want to train him to trust humans THAT much or to beg for food. The neighbors and the next occupants of this house might not be as enthused about it as I am about that trick.

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Filed under Critters, Photography

Fine Feathered Friends – May 16th

We’ve had a new bird in the neighborhood. I’ve heard them, and I had seen glimpses of them across the street in the neighbors’ yard, but they hadn’t visited our yard yet.

Until this week.

Similar body shape & tail to a mockingbird, but probably a third or more bigger.

Plus that gorgeous coloration, as opposed to the mockingbird’s shades of grey and black.

The first time I saw him he was doing a carrier landing right into a flock of house finches, scattering them, and taking first pick of all of the seed.

They’re also quite loud.

He also was quite bold, coming right up to the porch to get the untouched seed there.

Welcome to the yard, scrub jay!

Remember, there’s plenty to go around, let the little guys have some too.



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Filed under Birds, Critters, Photography

Random Old Photos – May 15th

From a 2000 airshow at Point Mugu.

The resolution on my early digital point-and-shoot camera was small. So were my kids.

This was a few years before I joined the CAF myself, but a lot of the warbirds look familiar.

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Filed under CAF, Flying, Photography

Fifty Years Ago Today

I was in Florida. And it turns out I wrote a pretty decent account of that trip ten years ago today.

So read this!

The tl;dr version – I was 17, somehow got permission to take time off school, made it from a small town in Vermont to Florida, and saw the last Saturn V launch when Skylab launched on May 14, 1973.

It was quite the adventure. You know how they say you learn to make good decisions by living through the bad decisions you make? That trip was FULL of bad decisions, and decisions made out of ignorance. But it was spectacular, definitely changed my life.

Apollo Command-Service Module (CSM) training simulator, seen on the Kennedy Space Center tour a day or two before the launch.

The Saturn IB up on stilts to use the Saturn V launch pad, with the Apollo capsule that would take the Skylab I crew up. It was supposed to launch the next day, but due to the damage the Skylab took on launch it took eleven days of desperate work to figure out how to save the mission and prepare for the rescue. The Skylab I crew launched on May 25th, but I was back in high school in Vermont by that time.

The final Saturn V, with the Skylab spacecraft on top.

In some ways for me, the most simple but amazing fact is that in 50 years I’ve never been back to KSC to see the new museums, the space shuttle Atlantis, or a launch. I’ve been to five NASA Socials (see that “search” box?), I’ve finally seen a launch out of Vandenberg, I’ve been to the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, to the associated Udvar-Hazy museum at Dulles, to a ton of air shows, flown in P-51 Mustangs and a B-25 and a B-29 and done aerobatics in an SNJ and a bunch of other planes with the CAF, and even got my own pilot’s license (gotta get current and get flying again, but that’s a different rant)… But I’ve never been back to KSC.

It can’t be that hard to see a launch these days, SpaceX is launching about once a week or more, ULA has the Vulcan coming online soon and they’re still launching the last of the Atlas missions, Blue Origin is getting ready to go orbital soon.

Gotta fix that. Soon.

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Filed under Paul, Photography, Space, Travel

ISS Pass – May 13th

If you’ve seen any of the previous pictures that I’ve posted of ISS passes over the years (go ahead, look now if you want, I’ll wait) you’ll have seen that they’re all different. The one constant is that they’re west to east paths (within certain ranges), but every time there are different paramters. Like where the ISS rises in the west (-ish) and where it sets in the east (-ish). How much of the pass is visible – for an evening pass the ISS often passes into shadow somewhere along the line, while for pre-dawn passes (which I am NOT getting up for about 99.999% of the time!) it will appear out shadow somewhere overhead. Another key is how high it gets. Sometimes it’s down near the northern or southern horizon and you just barely see it above the horizon.

The spectacular passes are when it goes from horizon to horizon while passing through or near the zenith, the spot directly overhead. Those are the brightest passes, and the longest.

Tonight’s pass, courtesy of

Look at that track! Starting at the lower right in the southwest, through the zenith (okay, 88º elevation, where the zenith is at 90º), and back down to the horizon in the northeast. Of course, this almost guaranteed that it would be cloudy, because Murphy’s an asshole.

Much to my surprise, it was clear as a bell.

The good news is that the pass was spectacular. The bad news is that I live in the middle of a big city with a ton of street lights, general light pollution, and every house lit up with porch and security lights. So there’s a lot of glare.

I first saw it with the naked ey about the time it crossed the path of that aircraft in the lower left. The coastal fog and haze will do that. But it got bright quickly and climbed out of that haze. Then, when it got into the wires overhead, it was time to quickly flip the tripod 180º and look toward the northeast.

The ISS was just behind the edge of that well-illuminated tree as it started to descend from the zenith to behind my neighbor’s house. At least the telephone pole, while somewhat unphotogenic, wasn’t in the way.

If you’re in SoCal, there are more passes in the next few days. Tomorrow night (May 14th) at 21:31:17. The 15th at 20:42:00, the 17th at 20:43:04, and the 22nd at 23:10. All of those are lower toward the horizon and dimmer. The passes on the 14th and 15th will be the best of the lot. (There are also some better AM passes but again, *A*freaking*M*, as in 04:50:35 on the 14th. Knock yourself out!)

No matter where you are, again, go to to get predictions for passes of the ISS (and lots of other bright spacecraft) over your location.

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

You Can’t Take A Bad Picture Here – May 11th

There are places on the planet where it is damn near impossible to take a bad picture, no matter your equipment, skill level, or whatever. I’m sure there are folks who somehow do manage to screw it up, but they’re in a different class from us mere mortals.

For example:

The Grand Canyon at sunset.

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Filed under Photography, Sunsets, Travel

Skyscapes – May 10th

Sometimes it’s the simple things that you look right past that can be beautiful and amazing if you just take a second to look.

Take the second.

Make the second.

It’s worth it.

You’re not going to sleep tonight thinking, “DAMN! I wish I had kept hurrying and hadn’t stopped to look at those clouds!”

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Filed under Photography, Weather

Silent & Shiny

See it up there on the roof? Shiny and new. Silent. As it’s supposed to be.

We’ve had a LOT of wind the last couple of months and somewhere along the line both of our turbine vents blew a bearing or two. While they’ve still been spinning with the strong winds, they’ve been making a horrific racket.

Our landlord finally got around to replacing them, so now they’re shiny, spinning, and blessedly silent.

With the sun setting into the coast fog moving in from Malibu (the “May gray” as it’s known around here, until it turns into “June gloom”) it shines as it spins, much like the waxy leaves on the palm trees across the street, thrashing about in the breezes.

Just another mid-May day in SoCal.

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Filed under Photography, Weather

The Rosy Side Of The Driveway

Last year was “thin” for roses – not getting any water will do that. They’re on a drip system, but even that was cut back to two days a week with the water rationing measures in place in SoCal.

This year, after near record rainfall over the winter, rain STILL coming very late in the year and well past the end of the rainy season, and use of the sprinklers again authorized when it’s not raining:

There are still a couple of little holdouts there in the middle, but I have faith that they’ll get their act together and start contributing soon. Or maybe they’re holding out for all of the others to bloom and fade so that they can then have the stage to themselves.

Roses are so tempremental!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Flowers, Photography

Potential Fulfilled

A pair of rose buds made me think about “potential” a few days ago. Now that potential is coming to fruition.

The roses go from buds filled with potential to gloriously beautiful flowers just by existing, although I’m sure there’s more to it that behind the scenes in the operation of the Universe. For you and I, the potential’s a little harder to conver to glory and beauty.

If only it was as easy as the roses make it seem.

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Filed under Flowers, Photography