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New Neighbors?

We already have two house finch nests out on the back porch, but they’re hidden well, tucked up behind a pair of outdoor speakers that the landlord had installed back when he lived here. However, we have a lot more finches around than those two pairs. They’re horny and flitting about all year around (they can have a couple clutches of eggs per year) and it looks like a third couple has started a nest.

The nest from two years ago is just to the left of this, two roof segments over. These pair of finches has been checking out all of these little compartments for several weeks, and it looks like they’ve finally settled on this one.

Good choice, with those couple of vines anchored up there, gives them a good base of support to build against. Some of their building material makes me think they found a coffee filter or some other trash to use. NONE of this was there yesterday, but by this afternoon they had a nice bit of construction done.

Later in the day they both came back several times to add on and to scout lookout positions. Lucy (the female) is up in the nest and Ricky (the male) is perched in the vines below the thermometer.

I’ve had a talk with them about how they’re very near the door to the back porch that we use all day long and we won’t bother them, but I don’t know if they got the message. Right now they’re still taking off like a bat out of Hell every time the door opens, just like the two right above that door, behind the speakers.

This may take some getting used to, by all of us.

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Evening Stroll

My watch bitches at me if I don’t get up and move around once an hour. I tend to take short walks around the yard, front or back, or down the block a house or two.

Tonight I noticed that the two street lights that have bedeviled my astrophotography and ISS photos for the last four years are both out. With the twelve day old moon 96% illuminate above it’s still easy to see, but for at least a hundred yards or so between working lights it’s strangely NOT like being in the middle of a huge metropolis.

Think what it’s like out there away from the metropolis and all of those working streetlights, porch lights, cars, stadiums, and so on. I’ve seen it, used to live there, but it’s been so long. LA’s pretty at night, Jim Morrison’s “city of light,” but I miss the dark sky and the stars.

Soon. I hope.

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Working Class Rose

Looking at some of the other roses that have been blooming in the last week, many are to me the equivalent of beautiful actresses or models. They’re the epitome of beauty and grace, hovering on the edge of perfection. They’re like the champion dogs at Westminster, meeting the standard established for “roses.”

This one didn’t give me that vibe.

The vibe I got from this rose is “working class.” This is the rose that isn’t going to be spending any time on a pedestal, being admired for “perfection.” But for all of that it’s no less beautiful, no less aromatic, no less stunning in its subtle colors and enormous ball of petals.

This is a “Rosie the Riveter” of roses (yes, I did that on purpose), getting the rose job done and getting it done well, without worrying about any extra effort on useless style points. It’s big, it’s brash, and it will kick your ass (and cut your fingers) if you don’t give it the respect and admiration it deserves. This rose didn’t come from Beverly Hills where the beautiful people lounge, it comes from Philly and has a nine to five job and the attitude to go along with it.

I love this rose!

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Do Foreign Directors Make Watered Down Versions Of Cool American Films?

What might spark such an odd question, one might ask?

Back in the early, early days of pay television in Los Angeles, probably even before HBO or Showtime, when the “premium” or pay-TV came on an over-the-air channel that was scrambled, with about eight hours of service a day, I saw a Brazilian film called “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands.” In short, a woman marries a red hot lover who gambles and drinks and finally dies, then marries a boring but reliable doctor. The second husband takes good care of her, but the sex sucks and he’s dull. Then the ghost of her first husband appears, always naked, and complicates her life considerably.

There was a reason it was shown at midnight on an encrypted channel. I loved it.

“Dona Flor” was made in 1976. In 1982 an American film came out called “Kiss Me Goodbye,” starring Sally Field, James Caan, and Jeff Bridges. (James Caan is the dead husband, you can figure out the rest from there.) They don’t even try to say that it’s not a re-make. The original screenwriters get credit on the American version as well.

But after watching them both… Why?

It’s not a terrible film. The talent is decent, it comes across as a perfectly serviceable, odd, screwball comedy. It has moments.

But the original film was fantastic!

Tonight “Kiss Me Goodbye” is on some cable channel or the other, there’s nothing else on, so I’ve got it on as background noise. (The honkin’ big TV also helps keep the room warm.) But it just bugs me that it’s so watered down and bland compared to the original. Thus the original question.

Do foreign directors make versions of “The Godfather” without all of the violence? Family friendly versions of “Kill Bill” with everyone using water guns instead of swords? Somewhere is there a French or Brazilian version of “Full Metal Jacket” starring a former children’s show actor?

Just curious.

Watch the original, it’s got to be available out there somewhere these days. NSFW, but much more satisfying.

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Brighter Days Ahead

Physically and astronomically, at least. The political and social aspect of “brighter” are much more uncertain.

But erase us from the planet in an eyeblink and the rest of the biosphere in the Northern Hemisphere will merrily go onward toward June 21st with each day getting more hours of daylight.

The winter solstice is three weeks behind us, the Christmas lights are off and it’s a bit darker out there for that.

The moonlight waxes and wanes from night to night and that porch light can only do so much. Orion can guide our way, but we’ll have to bring our own inner light to our actions and attitudes.

Be kind. Be aware. Be responsible.

Get fully vaccinated. Wear a mask. Stay away from indoor crowds. Socially distance.

Be intelligent. Stay out of the cults that seem to be fracturing our society.

Be an adult but hold tight to a childlike sense of wonder.

Balance maintenance of a healthy skepticism with an open mind driven by facts.

Have fun.

Enjoy life.

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Bob & Weave

It was chaotic, it was over full, it was stressful. But at least there was a plan.

Then things changed. And now, it’s chaotic, it’s hectic, it’s stressful. But there’s no plan at the moment.

It will be fine. I’m not the one who is having issues. No one’s dying. At least, not today and not anyone I know. It’s just a bit…disorienting.

EGBOK! Everything’s Gonna Be OK! And it will.

But for the moment it’s one step at a time. Literally.

When I was a kid and we lived in the Kansas City area our house had a fairly steep in half of our back yard. There was a chain link fence at the bottom, to keep me and my siblings in I suspect, not to keep others out. My dad worked with computer drum drives on mainframes and would occasionally bring home one of the shipping containers they were transported in. They were cylindrical, heavy, thick cardboard, about four feet long, about three feet in diameter, a little bigger than a trash can.

We would cram three of us in there, sort of like tennis balls in a can, then roll it down that hill. It would pick up some pretty good speed, then slam into that fence. We would tumble out, always dizzy as hell, sometimes bruised, always giggling and laughing and trying to run back up the hill to do it again.

Today feels a bit like that, trying to run back up that hill while super dizzy and a bit bruised and banged up.

There’s less giggling and laughing, but I’m trying to keep my sense of humor about it all. So far, so good.

But I really would prefer not to do it again.

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Happy New Year 2022

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Welcome, 2022!

No resolutions – it’s a lousy way of making changes in your life that you want. If you need to eat better and drop ten (or forty) pounds, you’ll do it when it’s worth it to you enough to make the changes. If you want to start training for that marathon, you’ll do it when you want it enough to find a program and stick to it. If you want to start learning a foreign language or writing that novel or taking flying lessons or whatever else it is that you’re longing for, you’ll do it when you’re ready. Like, really, Really, REALLY ready. Not because someone else is telling you to.

Been there. Done that.

FYI and TMI, I dropped that weight years ago, wouldn’t hurt to drop a bit more. Ran those marathons, would sort of like to run a faster one. The point being that I speak from experience. Until your “Come to JESUS!” moment comes, you’re just raising your blood pressure.

You know what changes are needed. You probably know why you want to make the changes. If it’s because society tells you to, you’ll either realize that society’s right and you’ll do it, or you’ll realize that society is an asshole and you’ll tell it to take a long hike off of a short pier.

But that’s you.

I hope that in 2022 you get some clarity and find the strength and courage to do what you need to do. It’s hard. It’s worth it.

Remember the Litany Against Fear from “Dune.” This shit is scary. But you’re far stronger than you think you are.

Balance.

On the one hand, it is all up to you. It’s up to you to overcome the fear, get started, get back up when you get knocked down, and get to the finish line.

On the other hand, there is always help out there when you need it. We’re all just too scared to ask for it or take it when offered. More stupid fear. We think we’re alone, but we’re not.

Good luck. You can do it.

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New Year’s Eve 2021

Well, here we are, the last 90 minutes of 2021, at least on the West Coast.

Proving that 2021 is still trying to rack up points to win the award for Worst Year EVER, on top of COVID and all of its variants, and the GOP, and the brush fires, and the climate change, and on and on and on, we got the news that Betty White, beloved actress and comedienne supreme, died just seventeen days short of her 100th birthday.

This year is going to need to be strangled hard and have a stake driven through its heart.

On the other hand, as my SIL said, “What did she know about 2022 that we don’t?” Yeah…

Looking for some light in that tunnel, specifically some starlight and Christmas lights, I figured out tonight how to get my annual picture of Orion over the house with the house lit up with Christmas lights. It used to be easy with Orion high in the south and the house facing north:

From 2007. But that was the old house, and the “new” house (coming up on three years!) faces west. So I had to change the angle a bit, go stand in the middle of the street for a few minutes (what a stupid way to end up in ICU that would be on New Year’s Eve!), and end up with a huge freakin’ telephone pole in the way (nothing a chain saw wouldn’t solve).

A 1/2 second exposure. The urban forest with utility poles, streetlights, and wires everywhere.

A one-second exposure. It might not be art, but it is what we have.

To top it all off, I yoinked some muscle in my back this evening doing nothing more strenuous than sneezing. It’s a good thing that the alternative is worse, because this getting old crap is a pain in the ass.

With all of that said – Happy New Year to you all! I hope that you are all safe as 2021 ends and 2022 begins. I beg you all to continue to be careful, both with politics, our changing world, and especially the diseases threatening us. We still have a way to go and every indication is that the next few months (the “fifth wave”) will be brutal.

Be kind.

Be smart.

Take care of yourself.

Take care of others.

We’ll get through this together.

Happy New Year!

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Tonight’s 97% Lunar Eclipse

I’m posting this earlier than normal tonight since I want anyone who reads this (all 10 or 12 of you!) to have the information on tonight’s partial lunar eclipse. Go here to follow along with the schedule – we’re starting in a touch over three hours!

First of all, this is a lunar eclipse, not a solar eclipse. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the cautions about watching a solar eclipse ONLY with proper eye protection. (Who wants to go blind?) But this is a lunar eclipse, so just relax and watch it with ye olde naked eye! Get a lawn chair or blanket, kick back, stay warm, watch the show!

In short, the show starts with the penumbral eclipse as the Moon enters the “outside ring” of the Earth’s shadow. Not much to see, some dimming. That will start at 06:02 UTC (22:02 PST Thursday night on the US west coast, 01:02 EST Friday morning on the US east coast).

The real action starts when the Moon enters the umbra, the “inner ring” of the Earth’s shadow. You’ll start to see dimming of the Moon’s left-hand limb, growing over the next ninety or so minutes. That will start at 07:18 UTC (23:02 PST Thursday night on the US west coast, 02:02 EST Friday morning on the US east coast).

The maximum eclipse (97% covered) will be at 09:02 UTC (01:02 PST Friday morning on the US west coast, 04:02 EST Friday morning on the US east coast).

Then it all just runs backwards as the Moon starts to exit the umbra, which finishes at 10:47 UTC (02:47 PST Friday morning on the US west coast, 05:47 EST Friday morning on the US east coast).

This, of course, all assumes that it’s not cloudy.

If it’s cloudy, you can follow along live at a number of sites, such as these:

Finally, will it be clear, or at least clear-ish, here in Los Angeles tonight? Well…maybe. Right now it’s about the same as last night, when we had an ISS rising. Speaking of which, just seconds before a Zoom event that I had tonight, there was another really nice ISS pass. And the clouds?

Rising from the west! I wish that I had fewer overhead lines and aircraft, but that isn’t going to happen in Los Angeles. ISS coming from the horizon to straight overhead and then some with the “light bucket” lens, Venus setting near the bottom. And as it goes over we do a quick flip…

…to watch it disappear and fade near the northeastern horizon.

Still a few clouds.

So now, we’re 3:11:20 out from the start of the eclipse. Clear skies!!

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Suddenly, November!

Whoa, when did THAT happen?


I remember asking Santa (or his October equivalent) for some things in that 10th month of the year which from it’s name obviously used to be the 8th month of the year. (How trustworthy can a month like that be?)

How did that go?

  1. Not looking so good. The Chiefs had a very unconvincing win tonight over a lousy team, at Arrowhead, on Monday Night Football, to somehow get lucky enough to get back to 4-4. The next three weeks they’re playing teams that are way, WAY better than .500 and their remaining strength-of-schedule for the nine games left is the toughest in the league, as befits a team that’s been to the Super Bowl two years in a row. So we might roar to life and finish 13-4. Or we might keep playing like this and finish 4-13. It’s feeling a lot more like the latter than the former, but having suffered through plenty of 3-13 seasons, I’m going to continue to have faith, even if it gives me a heart attack. And it might.
  2. The Kings started off with an impressive win and then lost six in a row. Not playing too poorly, just poorly enough to lose. But then they’ve won two in a row, so hope springs eternal. It’s early. We’re in a lousy division. We won’t have to be great to be a playoff team, and if we’re just a bit better than great we can be at the top of the division in March. Again, hope exists, against my better judgement.
  3. A win! I actually haven’t seen another ad for one of these stupid wind sculptures that looks like something out of a “Saw” film. There are plenty of other stupid ads, and both FaceBook and Twitter have increased the number and frequency of ads in the last week or two, to the point where I’m seriously considering shutting down my accounts in both – but I haven’t seen this ad again!
  4. Some progress on the backlog of “back burner” tasks at work, but it’s a never ending battle. I think I’m at least crossing things off of the big whiteboard to-do list at least as fast as I’m putting new ones on, but it’s the Red Queen’s race.
  5. Ditto for the hangar. I’m desperate to get things wrapped up here and caught up since I’ve announced that I will *NOT* be running for the volunteer Finance Officer gig for the next two-year term. I’ll help whoever the new guy is, but I’m out. Eight years is enough.
  6. Progress – the strict “ultra low carb” diet from Hell for six weeks succeeded and my A1C numbers are now excellent! I also lost a few pounds, got my blood pressure down a few points so that they’ve backed off bugging me about that, so if I can stay good, maybe at least the medical computers and their human sycophants will stop bugging me for a few months. Now if I could just get my eyes to work again…
  7. THE JUNCOS ARE BACK! Not unusual to see nine or ten in the back yard daily. In addition, there seems to be another flock that have moved into the hedges across the street. I see them feeding in our front yard every night, a dozen or more. This is a spot of happiness!
  8. Didn’t get to sit and read one. Single. Day. In October. That sucks.

So, for November? More of the same. It would be nice to see “Dune” in IMAX, but I might have to settle for simply seeing it in a theater instead of on television. Or just in the living room. But I need to see it.

As for all of the other items, #1, #2, #4, #5, and #8 above? One step at a time. Just keep fighting.

Yeah…

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