Panorama Playtime – March 27th

If you follow the instructions, move your iPhone in a slow, steady pace, keep it in the vertical plane, better yet use a tripod, then you’ll get a nice, wide, perfect panorama.

If you don’t give a crap about the rules…

(Click to enlarge to full size!)

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Odds & Sods For Friday, March 26th

Item The First: It was not SN11’s day to fly, although she did have a static fire, they had replaced one engine, and they did try to set up for a flight later in the day. Today’s scrub seems to have been a combination of maybe something just a little touch off on the static fire data plus the weather deteriorating as the day went along. Barring some sort of emergency need to do something on a weekend, they’re not supposed to do static fires or fly on the weekend since any of that activity requires closing Texas Route 4 next to the SpaceX property, as well as closing the beach along Boca Chica. It’s a pretty popular beach, so the powers that be like it to be open on the weekend. So maybe Monday? Or Tuesday?

Remember, it’s better to be down here on the ground wishing that you were up there than to be up there wishing that you were down on the ground. It needs to be as perfect and prepared as it can be before you get a single millimeter off the ground. Once you’re going up, there’s only one successful way to get back down in one piece.

Item The Second: I wonder why I haven’t done an “Odds & Sods” bit in a long, long time. One of these days I should probably do some behind-the-scenes admin work to put just a tiny bit of structure into this site. It was pretty much random and whatever I felt like when I started it, but 2,980 posts and I don’t even know how many photos and videos and sound clips later, perhaps a bit of order out of chaos is in order. I’ll put that right up there near the top of my to-do list…

Item The Third: Is the ship still stuck? I’m truly not a huge fan of anarchy, chaos, and having the price of gas and oil rising exponentially overnight, but I have to admit, the memes and humor and unadulterated snark coming out of the Ever Given’s blockage of the Suez Canal is tickling my fancy. And I do love to have my fancy tickled!

Item The Fourth: I saw that tickets have gone on sale (AGAIN!) for Hamilton when it comes back to Los Angeles at the Pantages Theater in October. They’re hoping to re-open for some performances of “The Lion King” this summer, and then “Hamilton” will start up. Tickets must be going fast – I had picked a random weekend and kept finding pairs of tickets that I liked, but would click one to reserve and by the time I tried to pick the seat next to it I would find the whole row all of a sudden not for sale any more. But I was stubborn and finally got two for a Sunday afternoon in mid-November!

YEAH! What Lin Manuel said!

Item The Fifth: About a millisecond after I hit “Purchase” on the non-refundable “Hamilton” tickets I realized that it was a Sunday evening show in football season. Murphy’s Law is more unforgiving than the Theory of Gravity and the speed of light and it’s now GUARANTEED that my beloved Chiefs will be playing a Sunday Night Football game against the Chargers, in Los Angeles, THAT night. (For those in the back trying to put the pieces together, when the Chiefs are here in town we always go – but I can’t be at two places at once.)

I might just be snarky at the moment (it is my basic state, after all) but one of these days in about five or six weeks when the NFL schedule is released, I’ll repost this picture and a copy of the Chiefs’ schedule, and the rest of the post will just be page after page after page of “AAAAAHHHHHHHGGGGHHHHHHH!!!” and massive cursing. And you’ll remember this post and know what’s going on.

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Is Tomorrow The Big Day For SpaceX’s SN11

It could be – they’ve done a couple of static fires and they seemed to go well, no signs of any engine abnormalities.

There are road closures planned for tomorrow, as well as TFRs (Temporary Flight Restrictions) for tomorrow and Saturday.

Elon Musk is on his way to Texas.

The notice regarding road closures says that they’re for a static fire and a flight – that’s unusual, since the flight is usually a day or two after the static fire, not later in the day. We’ll see, but who am I to think that something outrageous and never done before won’t be done by SpaceX?

Keep tuned in tomorrow to the Lab Padre feed on YouTube, the NASASpaceflight channel (not actually associated with NASA, BTW) on YouTube, or, about ten minutes before launch, on SpaceX’s own feed on their website at SpaceX.com.

(I’m betting they launch about 1:45 to 1:55 in the afternoon, just because I’ll be somewhere I can’t watch for a couple hours around that time. Murphy’s Law…)

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I’ve Never Met This Dog In My Life

Okay, since you’ve got photographic proof…

Wait, is that even me?! It does look like my bushy eyebrows and heavily wrinkled forehead…

And while I thought that it might be our old dog, Jessie, it’s not. But with those eyes…

But where were we? Who do I even know who plays the piano, let alone owns one?

It’s…a mystery.

Did I have my head with me all day long?

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Random Old Photos – March 23rd

Mr. Peabody, set the WayBack Machine to April, 2006, a bit less than fifteen years ago. I was in my MBA program at Pepperdine and I remember being out in the Riverside area for something. It just so happened that there was an airshow at March ARB out there that weekend, so I stayed the extra day and went to see the Thunderbirds and all of the other planes.

My photography skills weren’t quite up to snuff at the time (I think I had just gotten the telephoto lens and was deep into the learning curve of how to use it) but if you take 1100+ pictures in a day, a few of them probably won’t suck.

It’s odd to see some of our current CAF SoCal aircraft there, although it’s before the name change, and I don’t recognize the pilots. (It was about seven years before I got involved with the local Wing, but I might have been a member by that time.)

It’s also odd in today’s world to see tens of thousands of people packed together in the shade under a B-52 or up against the flight line fence when the jets are flying, and not a single face mask in sight.

The face masks may linger in the future, and it’s not impossible that they’ll become the norm in crowds just because the world has changed, but I am looking forward to at least getting together with 100,000 of my closest friends to watch aircraft fly for the day. Maybe later this year, more likely next year – most of the local airshows are either canceling or on the brink for 2021.

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Fifty Years Ago At The VT DMV

With the “significant” birthday last week and the memory jog provided by the opportunity to “avoid” a student driver today, I remember that it was exactly fifty years ago last Friday that I got my driver’s license. I know that because that would have been my 15th birthday. As the oldest of eight kids, my parents wanted me driving as soon as possible. This was for their benefit, not mine, but I wasn’t going to look at gift horse in the mouth.

We went down to Bellow Falls where the nearest Vermont DMV office was located. I don’t remember much of the test itself, just that I passed, which didn’t surprise me. I had driven quite a bit in my year with a learner’s permit, I had taken Driver’s Ed the previous summer with one of the football coaches as my instructor, and I wasn’t really nervous or shy. It wasn’t that big of a deal…until afterward.

We were in the family station wagon and with my new license in hand my mother decided to sit in the back seat for the drive back home instead of in the passenger seat beside me. It was the closest we could get at the moment for me to be driving solo. But we needed gas, so I pulled into a station for our $0.30/gallon fill up. (This would have been about three years before the Arab Oil Embargo panicked the nation and shut us down hard while gas prices went ALL THE WAY UP **OVER** $1/gallon!! 😱😁)

Once I was done pumping, I got back in for the drive home – and the car wouldn’t start. I tried and tried, getting more and more panicky. What was wrong? What had I broken? What was I doing wrong?

I finally looked in the rear view at my mother and found her cracking up. She knew exactly what was wrong, but she wasn’t going to give me a hint to save my life. And the more I freaked out and got frustrated, the funnier she thought it was. (And you wonder how I got this way…)

After five minutes or so I figured out that I had left the car in “Drive” instead of putting it in “Park” when I pulled into the gas station. A late 60’s Dodge station wagon didn’t have much in the way of warning bells and alarms and safety interlocks compared to today’s vehicles. In fact, it had *NO* little warning bells and alarms that might have given me a clue. But it did have an interlock to make sure the vehicle couldn’t be started with the automatic transmission still in “Drive.”

In my defense, I had done the vast majority of my driving training in the beaten up, POS, rusted out Chevy II named “The Max.” It had a manual transmission, so this wouldn’t have been a problem – but either way, I should have taken a few minutes less to figure out.

My mother had a good laugh, and of course promptly told my father and all of her friends right away. (Let’s go with, “I’m glad I could bring some joy into her life that day…”) I’ve done okay in fifty years of driving, with only two tickets (both recent, both for speeding, one a total speed trap in Kansas which was a bum rap and one which I totally earned) and minimal body damage inflicted due to my stupidity. On the other hand, other folks have bashed into me while stopped or parked or otherwise faultless, totaling the vehicle (but leaving me and my passengers unharmed) at least four times that I can remember.

Here’s to the next fifty years. And new and better warning bells and alarms. And manual transmissions, FTW!!

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No Context For You – March 21st

It’s not food.

Well, at least I’m pretty sure that it’s not food.

Speaking of food (smooth segue, amIright?), on the way home from the weekly grocery shopping trip this morning, a GREAT song came on my favorite SiriusXM channel. (Looking up the video for the link makes me pretty sure that I’ve linked to it in the past. That’s okay – it’s a really good song!) I found out that it sounds really, really good on the Volvo’s premium sound system, especially turned up to eleven. (Which makes me think that I’ve written about a very similar circumstance in the past. This might be a serious deja vu thing going on.)

The sourpuss woman who was stopped at the light next to me probably would disagree (hey, I didn’t have the top down, didn’t have the windows open, it wasn’t that bad!) but just gave her a grin, a thumbs up, and mentally composed a series of physiologically improbably suggestions for her.

Her loss for not headbanging along with the tunes. There was unbridled joy, right there for the taking. If she had some need to turn her back on it and scowl at me… Via con Dios!

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Fine Feathered Friends – March 20th (Birthday Birds)

We have hummingbirds, which are the neatest little buzzbombs around, even if they are sometimes assholes when it comes time to try to photograph them. There have been numerous attempts to wait them out or sneak up on them, which have resulted in a lot of blurry photos at the feeder.

At least it’s enough to ID what species we have. As expected, there are Roufous hummingbirds (above). They have a fan-shaped tail with orange, black, and white horizontal bands on the tail.

(If anyone actually knows more about hummingbirds and can spot me getting something totally wrong, please let me know.)

There are also several of these guys. I think they’re black-chinned hummingbirds, but the Cornell Lab Merlin app identifies it as an Anna’s Hummingbird. More data is needed, obviously. Their tail is more a compact wedge, iridescent green feathers on their backs, lighter white and green on their stomachs.

I also got a lot of pictures of hummingbirds perched waaaaaaaaaaay on the other side of the yard, or twenty-five feet directly above my head.

So, yesterday I was out with the camera trying to get pictures of a new bird that I hadn’t heard before, which had a very distinctive song. As usual, I was using my big telephoto lens and taking pictures of the very nervous, skittish bird on the other side of the yard. Suddenly I heard the unmistakable buzz of a hummingbird VERY nearby. I realized I was standing about five feet from the feeder, and the green (Anna’s? Black-Chinned?) hummingbird was feeding.

The first amazing thing was that I was juuuuuust far enough away so the big lens would focus. Any closer and it would have been out of luck again. The second amazing thing was that the little hummer sat there for two or three minutes, feeding, not flying away, even with me right there. I was moving very slowly as I focused and shot picture after picture, but the little hummer just stayed there long, long after I expected it to take off for the trees.

And the pictures are…amazing. I wish there had been just a bit more light under the awning, but they prefer it to be in the shade, so…

As it took off finally, there was a tiny bit of that long, thin tongue still hanging out.

I’m going to go with this being my birthday gift from the avian community in the back yard!

Now to see if I can get some better pictures of the roufous!

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ISS Pass – March 19th

It figures – an excellent ISS pass for tonight, starting at 19:56. I check the sky at 16:00 and it’s clear and a million. I’m surprised after dinner at 19:00 that it looks cloudy outside. At 19:45 when I go out to set up, it’s almost totally overcast. Off in the distance over Calabasas there’s a layer of fog that’s crept in, very spooky. I can see the moon, or at least where it’s at through the clouds, and there’s some areas where the clouds are thinner, so let’s give it a shot!

With the moon shining brightly above, a fairly thick layer of high clouds, and a series of stacked 10-second exposures, it looks as bright as day, when it was actually full dark, almost a full hour after sunset.


Of course, it was also the one-year anniversary of California and Los Angeles going on full lockdown for COVID. Let’s hope that by the next time we do the giant, numeral-shaped balloon thing a year from now, this is all just a bad memory we’re recovering from.

And if this post looks weird, it’s because WordPress just changed their page all around again and I’m taking fifteen minutes of hunting to find where the command is hidden to do something that I could have done on the old version in fifteen seconds, but now all I can do is find it, accept that it looks wrong but for the life of me I can’t figure out any way to make it look “normal,” and move on because it’s close enough for government work. Not the best way to end what should have been 100% a day of celebration – not the worst, either.

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ISS Pass – March 18th

Tonight’s pass was fairly low to the horizon and not that bright (low = lots of atmosphere to look through = dimmer), but the winds had died down and while it was cool (52°F), the crescent moon was up there, so let’s give it a try! Practice, practice, practice!

Not bad! Low, almost due west, climbing at a shallow angle up and to the right, where it doesn’t even get high enough to get above that huge pine tree across the street.

Image from Heavens-Above.com

As the prophecy foretold!

Shift a little to the right as the ISS clears the big pine tree, only to watch it fade into orbital night just before it gets to the Italian cypress trees. The airplane track starting just above the cypress trees and heading north (bottom center)? That’s Fedex #1839 from San Diego to Oakland, at 36,000 feet.

But wait – there’s more!

The faint line coming from center upper right to center lower left? That caught my eye just as the ISS was fading. It’s going due north to due south, so it’s got to be some sort of polar satellite. Possibly a weather satellite, or a spy satellite. Possibly ours, possibly theirs. No clue.

But I shot a much longer string of photos, continuing after the polar satellite had faded into darkness. Merging all of them you can get a great view of how stars near Polaris, the North Star, the pole star (at the lower left) don’t appear to move at all in a time lapse photograph like this (they’re dots) while stars much further away from the pole (on the right) will trail into little arcs as the Earth turns beneath them.

Still can’t find Polaris? Here’s your handy-dandy tutorial, learned lo these many decades ago on some Boy Scout camping trip. Find the Big Dipper (outlined in magenta), it’s easy, a big, bright constellation. On the far end of the dipper portion are the two “pointer” stars. Follow the direction they point (green line) about five times the distance between the two pointers, and you’ll se the one semi-decently bright star in the area – that’s Polaris!

Now go back and blow up that first picture up above. Polaris here is to the upper right of the top of the telephone pole. Again, a dot, not an arc. Now look at the stars on the far left side. See how much they appear to have moved in the two minutes of time covered by this series of pictures?

Flat Earth my ass!

(Should be another great pass tomorrow night, much higher, much brighter!)

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