Patriotic Pipe Burst

What was the third most exciting thing of your weekend? (And the absolute MOST important indicator that you really, REALLY need to get a life?)

You know those little plastic (“Made proudly in America!”) American flags that real estate agents stick by the driveway of everyone’s house for miles around just before the Fourth of July? Most of the houses on our block still have them up. So I thought it was a little bit odd, but not too much, to see two of them down the block stuck in the middle of the street. I noticed it, but I wasn’t worried about it – kids goofing around was my assumption.

An hour or so later I heard some heavy, loud engines outside, which is unusual a bit since we’re on a very narrow, very steep street climbing to the top of a very big hill. They’re out there for a while, idling, then I heard them fire up and I saw two fire trucks passing by. Which is even more rare. So I go to take a peek.

The street’s completely blocked off in both directions. Time for a stroll.

As they said on Mythbusters, “Well, THERE’s your problem!”

That’s probably 20 to 30 gallons a minute being wasted there and we’re in the middle of a huge, dangerous drought. They’ll fix that quickly, right?! Or at the very least, get the water shut off. Right?!

But it’s odd that the fire department didn’t do that. Just shut off the water. Is this a “not MY department!” situation?

It’s 15:26 on Saturday.

It’s 26 hours later. We now have cones instead of “borrowed” tiny plastic flags.

The flow has increased and is probably 40 to 60 gallons per minute. So, ballpark figures, 26 hours x 60 minutes per hour x 50 gallons per minute = 78,000 gallons wasted.

It’s Sunday at 17:25

Ooooh, look! Trucks! And it seems that they’ve finally turned off the water. Round numbers, call it 100,000+ gallons wasted.

We’re doing something. Possibly surrendering.

We’ve dug a hole and now we’re filling it. One can hope that some sort of repair was effected while the hole was open.

Thinking about it, this is at least the third or fourth time something like this has happened in the three years we’ve lived here. At what point do the future costs of simply digging up and replacing the pipe all the way up and down the hill outweigh the sunk costs in all of these little halfway measures?

Everyone’s gone, there’s “something” filling the hole (“Siri, define half-assed job…”) that I’ll be trying to miss for years in order to save my car’s suspension, and there’s mud in the street all the way up and down.

Wow. Big thrills!


Filed under Los Angeles, Photography

Planetary Conjunction – July 12th

Celestial mechanics, right there in plain sight. Yesterday’s photos + 24 hours (give or take a few minutes).

Mars is fading, as expected. Needed binoculars to see it, and you’ll probably have to click to see the full-sized image to see it here.

There it is! Just about eight hours from their (apparent!) closest approach to each other. The word “apparent” is key here. Remember, we’re all gravitationally bound (for the moment) to giant balls of rock, water, and gas, which are in turn spinning on their axes, which in turn are in orbit at thousands of miles an hour around a small, yellow, G-class star, so while they look close together from this particular point of view, they’re actually 74,400,000 miles apart from each other.

This is much closer, which is why even with a relatively simple and cheap camera system you can see craters and other features.

Aside from all of that, it’s simply very pretty to look at in the cooling evening sunset.

Then our 3rd rock from the Sun spins from in front of this view back over my head and behind us, causing the planets and Moon to appear to sink below the western horizon.

There they go, down behind the trees! Once they get down into the muck and coastal haze and we’re looking through a thick chunk of the atmosphere, it’s amazing how much the color from Mars varies every second or two. Mostly a dark orange, but sometimes much less red color and sometimes almost white for a second or two.

While the Moon, exposed to bring out detail at the terminator, is a fingernail crescent…

…and exposed to bring out the Earthshine, starts to also share the sky with some of the other background stars in the constellation Leo. (That’s Al Jabbah [Eta Leonis] to the upper left of the Moon, a white supergiant star about 2,000 light years from Earth.)

If you couldn’t look tonight or tried and got foiled by the weather or clouds, try to look tomorrow night! Let me know if you saw this!

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

From Left To Right – Mars – Venus – Crescent Moon

I think I gave a heads up about this a month or so ago but it snuck up on me.

Mars (getting faint, reddish) on the left of Venus (bright white) with the two-day old crescent Moon (it’s the moon-ish looking thing over by the phallic tree, duh) lined up as advertisec.

Could have gone out and caught them a few minutes earlier, but then Mars would have been pretty washed out in the sunset. As it was I never saw Mars with the naked eye, but it was easily visible in binoculars.

Over the next few days Mars will get more dim and start sinking toward the horizon. It will be going around the far side of the Sun from our viewpoint, so if you have anything you want to tell your Martian rover or orbiter, now would be a really good time to do so. In a week or so it will be out of touch for a month or so.

Venus will be getting brighter and higher in the sky for another month or so, then starting its trip back around the gravitational race track and too near the Sun to be seen.

Tonight I had to shift a bit and put that tall tree between the Moon and the planets so that I could get one more set of photos before the Moon was down behind the trees. Stupid planetary rotation…

Taking individual close ups, the Moon was very cresecenty and had some details and craters visible along the terminator.

If I had better equipment and could get a better, more detailed picture of Venus, you would see that it’s in a crescent phase exactly like the Moon’s phase. It’s a geometry thing over 186,000,000 miles. (Give or take a couple million.)

As always, if click on the photos you’ll get to see them in full-screen or full size.

Also, as always, if you missed it tonight it will still (sorta) be there tomorrow night and every night at sunset for a few days, taking into account the above notes about Mars getting dimmer and sinking down below and past Venus (in a relative way) and the Moon moving up into the sky and getting more towards a quarter moon every day.


Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

What Did The Stones Ever Do To You?

“Leave no stone unturned!”

Wait, what did the stones ever do to you? They were out there in the dirt, or maybe on top of other stones, or possibly in the water. They were MINDING THEIR OWN BUSINESS, eroding a little, maybe cracking if a little water got in a sliver of open space and then froze, having mass, comfortable in their own sedimentary or metamorphic selves, but all in all just existing, when you come along and start flipping them over!

For what? What did you accomplish? You ruined some perfectly good lizard or bug hiding spots, taking away a little shade and exposing them to hawks and vultures and sparrow and feral cats and anteaters and iguanas and dolphins. You exposed the bottom side of the rock and now that mud there is drying out – AND THE NON-MUDDY SIDE IS NOW MUDDY!

If you need to know something, Google it like everyone else does! If you don’t know how to Google, how are you computer savvy enough to be reading this on this site, so why am I even talking to you? So the rest of you, get your act together and Google, leave the rocks alone!

This incomprehensible rant brought to you by random neurons short circuiting following an off the cuff remark by a baseball announcer at the end of another blown game by the Angels bullpen.

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Filed under Farce

They Just Don’t Write Them Like THAT Anymore

I listen a LOT to Sirius/XM Channel 33, “1st Wave,” both online and in the car. It’s the 80’s “alternative” music – Depeche Mode, Eurythmics, Smiths, Police, Violent Femmes, Talking Heads, New Order, Oingo Boingo, Erasure, Ramonex, Fixx, Cult, B-52s, Billy Idol, and so on. While they have an extensive playlist, it’s not infinite. It’s hundreds of songs long, unlike some of the BPM channels that are literally a dozen or so songs long, but there are things I remember from that era which don’t get played regularly.

But there are a couple of shows that get a bit more eclectic, like the Friday night “Party 360” show with Dave Kendall. Which just played…

Indeed, they don’t write them like THAT anymore!

Now if I could get them to play some TonioK…

Does anyone but me remember “Life In The Foodchain”? Anyone? Bueller?

There was some really weird stuff back in the late 70’s, and I wasn’t even on drugs…

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Filed under Music

No Context For You – July 08th

To about 99.99% of us, this is a “You took this picture on purpose? WHY??” image. It’s ordinary, routine, boring, background, about as noteworthy and memorable as a bucket of old, cold, filthy mop water.

To about 00.01% of us, that’s exactly why the picture got taken. It’s routine and ordinary, but it’s a tiny bit of life that will someday be forgotten, a jumble of detail that actually say quite a bit about us with its patterns and flaws.

And having one of those brains, I can’t help but wonder what an alien intelligence would make of it, desperate for information about us, trying to understand and learn. How many boring, routine, ordinary pictures like this would it take to build up a semi-detailed picture or simulation of our world, to fill it with context?

But it’s just one picture, without explanation, without the accompanying Muzak. No context for you, at least not without much more content to build an overarching context in which this image adds additional context.

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Filed under Paul, Photography

Circle Of Life

I went out today to find a better resting place for Monsieur Badass than the middle of the driveway under Hissy’s wheel. While the ants and crows might have appreciated it, the bushes where he used to hide seemed more appropriate. When I looked up from placing him there, I spotted something under the Volvo.

Can you see it? He’s tiny, probably less than an inch long.

All I had was my iPhone, not the good camera with the telephoto lens, and he was deep in the shadows. But it was a brand new little lizard, probably in the sense of “very recently hatched” given his size and also in the sense of “first time I’ve seen it!” He was EXTREMELY skittish and bolted as soon as I made the smallest step toward him to get a better picture. That’s good! That’s how you stay alive long enough to get to the size of M. Badass or Dr. Lizardo!

A couple hours later I went out on a break and took the aforementioned good camera with the telephoto lens, hoping to find the tiny, tiny guy, but instead finding this guy.

Again, right where M. Badass always hung out, but I’ve never seen him (or her) either. Ever. It could be a huge coincidence. Or it could be that M. Badass was keeping all of the ants and spiders to himself and these guys somehow know that he’s gone and they’re moving in.

Remember that scene in “When Harry Met Sally” where Billy Crystal is talking about how they should combine the obituaries and the apartment ads so that you could see who died and what sort of place is now on the market? This is the lizard version of that in real life!

While moving around and taking pictures I was probably 8′ to 10′ away and constantly waiting for him (or her) to bolt.

He (or she) was pretty patient as long as I stayed well outside his (or her) comfort zone. But in this picture, look behind her (or his) back legs, at that wide base of the tail that then gets much more narrow. Is that a sign that this is a female?

Or, as this picture clearly shows, is that just where she (or he) lost their tail and had to start re-growing it?

It turns out that when I squat down to take a ground level picture instead of standing up, THAT’s the key to “RUN!!!” Or at least scurry like hell to the safety of the tire. Um, let’s talk about that concept for a second…

Looking back, this dude (or dudette) has very distinctive markings and coloration. Those big black splotches behind the front legs, that regenerated tail, the big 3-D spots or warts above the front shoulders, the desert camo coloration.

Monsieur Badass might be off in the final patch of flowers, but there is apparently no shortage of replacements who want a warm spot on the driveway and are willing to risk his fate to get it. That’s good news – but I might wait a while to see if these guys get used to me and are willing to not run at first sight before I start getting too attached.


Filed under Critters, Photography

RIP Monsieur Badass

I guess it was inevitable.

I had gone into the office for the morning, so our favorite tough guy fence lizard was hiding from the birds and cats under the wheels of Hissy. When I got home I found that he had been squashed flat when The Long-Suffering Wife went out for errands.

I checked out the remains to confirm it was him – stumpy tail being re-grown, no feet and only partial legs on his left side. Yep. That’s him.

There are plenty of other lizards running around the yard, but I’ll miss Monsieur Badass. He was the only one that had been around long enough or was badass enough so that he didn’t run like hell as soon as I got within twenty feet of him. He would stick around and even seem to be listening if I felt like sitting down next to the driveway to chat.


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Filed under Critters, Photography

After The Three-Day Weekend

It’s back to work. *sigh*

Coincidentally, it’s also back to the office for me, at least for a couple of hours.

In the last fifteen and three-quarter months I’ve been back in my office maybe five or six times, but it’s always been on a Saturday as I was coming home from the hangar. My office is right next to the freeway so I get off, drop off documents or pick them up, then get right back on the freeway at the next onramp. Easy peasy! But there’s never been anyone there. While I’ve seen everyone on a regular basis in one Zoom meeting or Teams call after another, I haven’t actually seen any of my co-workers (all of whom I really enjoy working with, as unusual as that might be for some, sadly) in 15.75 months. Which is REALLY weird, because I had only been working there five and a half months when the pandemic and quarantine hit. So I’ve now been working remotely three times longer than I’ve been working in person.

But things are opening up a tiny little bit, and while I’ll most likely be continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future, there are a couple of small things that finally need to get taken care of in person, so it’s back to the morning commute! At least for a day.

Have you ever visited a town far away where you grew up and gone back to drive by your old house? Yeah, I’ve done that in at least five or six places. (Not to mention the Pomelo house that we moved out of three years ago after 27+ years, since it’s less than a mile away.) It’s going to be odd like that.

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, Paul

War Zone

The Fourth of July. Last year’s celebration were muted, at best, due to COVID. This year we have to celebrate (I guess?) extra hard, first to make up for last year, second because we survived. There might be a few other things to celebrate this year as well, like the fact that we still have a country.

Anyway, despite the fact that we’re in a severe drought, it’s dry as a bone, it’s been hot as hell, and all of these fireworks are illegal as hell – it was a freakin’ war zone out there for two or three hours. Still some going off now after 23:00.

Here’s what a small sample looks like.

Here’s what a small sample (different sample than the one shown above, to be clear) sounded like.

And here’s what the finale from the Warner Center show (or possibly the Pierce College show) looked like, the iPhone flipping in and out of focus, from about six miles away.

Happy Birthday, America.

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Filed under Fireworks, Video