Paul’s Thing

blogprofile The weblog of Paul Woodford, a veteran USAF F-15 pilot living in Tucson, Arizona
March 2015
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Making Allowances

May I speak frankly?

We have a elderly out-of-town friend who comes to visit two weekends a year. He can barely walk, he has a constant wet cough, and lately he’s taken up belching (we think he has an esophageal obstruction of some kind). We’ve had to take him to the emergency room more than once. Lately he smells of pee, probably because he’s catheterized (we aren’t sure, and he won’t talk about it). He’s nearly deaf, so when he speaks he shouts, and when he watches TV he cranks it up to the point where we (half deaf ourselves) have to leave the room.

Beyond his health, he’s a handful in other, perhaps less forgivable ways. He makes a mess in the guest bathroom and never cleans up. He doesn’t listen to what we and others are saying; he’s too busy planning what he’s going to say next, which rarely has anything to do with what the rest of us are talking about. He doesn’t shower when he’s here, slathering himself with cologne instead (his presence lingers after he’s gone). Over the years he’s broken with several friends and family members, turning his back on them and acting as if they’d never existed. Inexplicably, he hasn’t turned on us.

He’s an old friend and we make allowances. Who knows what we’ll be like ten years from now? If we abandon old friends when they no longer please us, what might our younger friends do to us some day?

It hit us during his most recent visit that we’ve known this man since the early 1990s, when he was in his 50s. Comparing recollections in a private moment, we realized he was the same way then, minus the belching, odors, and mobility problems. We’ve been making allowances for him all along.

Should I admit we both sort of hope he’ll turn his back on us some day, as he’s done to others? Should I admit we’re already planning excuses to fend off his next visit?

Well, at least he hasn’t turned teabagger on us. He’s an old pinko, and we old pinkos have to stick together.


Spring Cleaning

No matter how much space my server company gives me, I’m always pushing the limits. Before I got smart about photos I loaded them onto the server, where they took up an ungodly amount of room. Four years ago I started uploading blog post photos to Flickr, where I have unlimited storage. The photos you see in newer blog posts on Paul’s Thing actually reside on Flickr, not my server.

But what to do about all those older photos on the server, still taking up room? This morning I moved them all to Flickr, and as I get time I’ll replace missing photos in some of the older blog posts. Not all of them, but the important ones, the ones blog posts won’t make much sense without … those I’ll replace.

It’s not my highest priority at the moment; you’d have to be deep in the archives to find posts with missing photos, and most readers don’t go there. But some of you do, and I’m thinking of you. The photos, at least the important ones, will be back soon.


Air-Minded: Heritage Flight Photoblog

Once a year, civilian warbird and USAF fighter pilots meet at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona, to practice close formation flying for the upcoming airshow season. The program, which features historical and current military aircraft, is called Heritage Flight. The annual practice session at DMAFB is the Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course.

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Mixed formation with Sabres, Lightning, Mustang (photo: Paul Woodford)

I don’t think the training session gets much publicity, at least not from the USAF, as you can tell by the out-of-date USAF links above. Sometimes I hear about it through the air museum; sometimes I don’t know it’s happening until I see Mustangs and Sabres flying overhead. When I know about it in time I’ll drive to the base, park at base operations, and head out to the flightline with my camera. There are never more than 20 or 30 other spectators on hand. So it is with this year’s training meet. Heritage Flight practice started yesterday but I didn’t learn of it until late in the afternoon; this morning I drove to the base and joined a small group of spectators on the ramp by base ops.

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P-47 Thunderbolt (photo: Paul Woodford)

These days active USAF participation is small. There were three F-16s and two F-22 Raptors on the ramp. No doubt DMAFB will contribute an A-10 or two, but there were no F-15s, as there have been in the past, and somewhat surprisingly no F-35s either, even though there’s a training squadron just up the road at Luke AFB. The rich guys with their restored warbirds outnumbered active USAF participants: there were at least four P-51 Mustangs, one P-38 Lightning, one P-47 Thunderbolt, one P-40 Warhawk, and two F-86 Sabres.

Here are a few thumbnails: as with the photos above, you can click on them to see the full sized images at Flickr. You can also click here to see my full Heritage Flight 2015 Flickr album.

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Raptor showing its weapons bays (photo: Paul Woodford)

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Mustang & Raptor (photo: Paul Woodford)

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P-38 Lightning (photo: Paul Woodford)

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P-40 Warhawk (photo: Paul Woodford)


Critters, Car Trips, Culture Wars

The dogs had their teeth cleaned Tuesday. You who do not have dogs might not know what a big deal this is. Antibiotics and anesthesia, and in Maxie’s case more antibiotics after, because in addition to the cleaning she had to have a couple of rotten teeth extracted. The girls were just coming out of anesthesia when we picked them up that afternoon, groggy and disoriented. Maxie actually fell down when we took her out back to go potty. They slept all night, cuddled in our laps until bedtime, then burrowed down between us under the covers. By Wednesday they were back to normal. We, of course, feel awful for putting them through the ordeal.


Schatzi & Maxie, good as new (now with Better Breath™)

Chewie the cat, who reveled in her dog-free day, was visibly crushed when we brought them home. Maybe we should take her in for procedure or two.

I’m planning a trail for an upcoming Hash House Harrier event, one that will start and end at our house. My knowledge of our neighborhood, thanks to all the hashing trails I’ve set through it, is almost carnal. This morning I mentally laid out a route, then checked it on Google maps. Later today I’ll ride it on my bicycle to get the feel of it.

Speaking of hashing, it’s starting to look as if we’ll be able to attend the big InterAmericas Hash House Harrier event in Portland, Oregon, this coming Labor Day weekend. We didn’t think we were going to be able to go: we, along with several hundred other InterAm wannabes, missed the registration deadline. Now, though, a friend of a friend whose plans have changed has agreed to sell his two registrations to us. We’ll be traveling by car, visiting friends and relatives in Nevada, Washington, and California along the way. Our 50th wedding anniversary is this coming December; September’s close enough to allow us to call it a golden anniversary road trip. We’re already excited.

This Bill O’Reilly thing escapes me. Everyone knows he’s equal parts bluster and bullshit, and in any case he’s not a newsman. He’s not expected to be honest or objective; his job at Fox News is to stir up the rubes and keep their resentment at a fever pitch. A lie from Bill O’Reilly is not at all the same thing as a lie from Brian Williams, who is supposed to be objective and self-effacing … even though what Brian Williams was doing on the NBC Nightly News could hardly be called reportage, as Bill Maher so hilariously points out:

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And now the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert McDonald, has been caught exaggerating his military record, saying he was Army Special Forces when in fact he was not. Honestly, I can’t work up any outrage; it’s not like it’s a case of stolen valor. McDonald not only served (unlike all the chickenhawks posting angry tweets about American Sniper not getting more Oscars): he was a West Point grad who jumped out of airplanes with the 82nd Airborne Division, way way closer to special operations than anything I ever did. To my mind an Airborne troop or officer is just a tiny notch below a Ranger (and by the way, McDonald graduated from Ranger school, no easy task), a Ranger almost indistinguishable from a Green Beret.

I know special ops folks will disagree with me on that. It’s a touchy subject. I have to be careful myself how I talk about my time with the US Special Operations Command, lest people think I’m claiming a special ops background. I served a joint tour with USSOCOM J3, but I was not a special operator. I was an Air Force fighter pilot who happened to find himself on the USSOCOM staff after the Goldwater-Nichols military shakeup of 1986. Almost all of the officers and enlisted people I worked with at USSOCOM, however, were special ops, so I can at least claim to know something about it.

Last night MSNBC, in conjunction with NBC’s Telemundo network, aired an hour-long town hall interview with President Obama on immigration. Obama’s interlocutor, Telemundo correspondent Jose Díaz-Balart, repeatedly engaged with the live audience in Spanish. Obama heard a translated version of Díaz-Balart’s remarks through an earpiece and responded in English. Those of us watching at home, if we didn’t speak Spanish ourselves, could only guess at what had been said by Obama’s responses.

Granted, Telemundo is a Spanish-language network serving a huge Latino audience in the USA, and I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of the bilingual Jose Díaz-Balart on NBC and MSNBC. Nevertheless, my inner conservative became increasingly restive as the interview, with all the untranslated Spanish language exchanges, went on. My inner conservative felt as if something was being shoved down its throat by the smug, superior liberals at MSNBC. I sent my inner conservative to bed without dinner, never fear, but I took note of his resentful reaction: at the very least, its intolerance helped me understand Bill O’Reilly’s popularity with the Fox News shut-ins.

¡Buenos días, amigos!


I Don’t Know if Scott Walker’s a Shoplifter

After all, I’m not a scientist.

Why are Republicans still fixated on President Obama’s otherness? Especially now, when Obama’s in the final year-and-a-half of his final term in office, soon to join the ranks of former presidents? You’d think after Obama decisively won his second election, and after it became clear the threat of impeachment was an empty one, Republicans would have moved on to trashing Hillary Clinton, Obama’s likely successor. And why is trash-talking Obama even news? Look, media executives: we already know he’s black; we already know Republicans can’t get over it. Isn’t there any serious news you could be reporting on?

Also. Is Hollywood done patting itself on the back yet? From the SAG Awards to the Golden Globes, from the Emmys to the Oscars, I’m burnt out on red carpets and vapid celebrities. I never want to see another awards show. Get back to work and shut up.

There. I’m glad I got all that off my chest. In local news, the dogs are at the vet’s getting their teeth cleaned. Since they have to be anesthetized they haven’t had food or water since last night, and the look in their eyes when we didn’t feed them this morning! We are almost as beside ourselves as they are.


You Can’t Read That!

You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and news roundups.

Great news! Instead of trying to preemptively ban controversial material in state schools, Florida instead plans to proactively expose 8th graders to new ideas. Oh, wait….

In previous YCRT! posts I’ve followed the battle between conservative parents and teachers over textbooks and reading assignments in a Dallas, Texas suburb. Here are the latest updates from Highland Park:

What happened in Texas, sadly, isn’t staying in Texas. The fever to whitewash American history has spread to Georgia, where the state senate is considering a statewide ban on AP history classes. Oklahoma too.

Oddly enough, conservative parents and elected officials in Jefferson County, Colorado, where the current round of opposition to teaching actual, as opposed to idealized, American history began last year, have dropped their efforts to ban AP history classes.

Meanwhile, in Kansas, a new front in the battle over education has formed. A bill making its way through the state legislature would allow for the arrest and prosecution of school teachers and administrators accused of exposing minors to “harmful material.” What kind of material are they worried about? Why, anything to do with S-E-X, of course!

Are American public libraries purging old books that reflect the racist assumptions of their time? This journalist says they are. If true, it’s something to be concerned about.

A British journalist offers a succinct summary of book banning in modern times, useful catch-up reading for those new to the topic, then outrageously claims Oxford University Press is telling prospective British textbook writers not to mention “pigs, pork or sausages for fear of causing offence.” I didn’t buy that … until I Googled it. Alas, it is so.

In some countries, accepting a copy of The Watchtower from a Jehovah’s Witness could land you in prison.

Here’s a pretty great infographic from the American Civil Liberties Union. Scroll away, banned book lovers!


Thursday Bag o’ Links


Many months ago I said I’d monitor news coverage of the trials of the 11 motorcyclists arrested after a videotaped beating of a motorist in New York City. I believed then, and believe now, that the motorist did something to start the fight, but unfortunately whatever happened to set things in motion was not videotaped. I hoped that once the bikers came to trial more information would come out and we’d learn what really happened.

From day one, the media, public opinion, and of course law enforcement came down on the side of the motorist, portraying the bikers as a vicious gang of thugs who’d gone after an innocent driver for no reason. As a long-time motorcyclist, I know better: the motorist did something to start the fight. I’ve seen it happen more times than I can count.

I was naive to believe the trials would be more honest than the press coverage. I see now what’s going to happen. The district attorney is going to pick off the motorcyclists, one by one, pressuring them to plead guilty to lesser crimes in exchange for reduced sentences, and then the judge is going to impose gag orders to prevent them from ever telling their stories out of court. Okay, this article doesn’t mention any gag order, but I’m willing to bet it’s part of the deal. We’re never going to find out what the son of a bitch in the SUV did to start the fight.

I guess I’ll have to content myself with the one bit of information that managed to slip through the media’s biased coverage of the incident, never to be reported on again: one of the bikers involved said the driver swerved into the bikers as they passed his SUV in the fast lane, hitting one motorcycle and causing its rider to crash, then speeding away, a classic hit & run. I’d have gone after him too.


If you read one thing about Harper Lee’s “new novel,” read this.

When I worked at the VA, I couldn’t help but notice that every elderly vet living on full disability had one or two unemployed adult children sponging off him. You can only imagine the kind of sponges an elderly, infirm, semi-senile author with a million-dollar-plus annual royalty income will attract. People are greedy and awful, and I’m not going to read the damn book.


What is so hard to understand about this?

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he refuses to describe the Islamic State and al Qaeda as groups fueled by “radical Islam” because the term grants them a religious legitimacy they don’t deserve.

“They are not religious leaders; they are terrorists,” Obama said during remarks at a White House event on countering violent extremism. “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Obama said the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is “desperate” to portray itself as a group of holy warriors defending Islam. It counts on that legitimacy, he said, to propagate the idea that Western countries are at war with Islam, which is how it recruits and radicalizes young people.

“We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie,” he said.

Do people have any idea what declaring a holy war on Islam would mean? If the leader of the free world called ISIS “radical Islam,” he’d be condoning holy war against all of Islam, starting with the nearly 3 million Muslims living in the USA, then on to 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide.

Want to guess what the original Crusaders did while marching to the Holy Lands to kill Muslims? They stopped in several German cities to massacre Jews. But of course. Not only that, they dragged them out of the Christian churches where they had sought refuge. You can’t tell me today’s wanna-be Crusaders will turn out any better. Their ranks are already infested with racists and anti-Semites.

As far as I’m concerned, Fox News has crossed the line and is now shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater. I’d pull their fucking FCC license.


The story of the Las Vegas mother who was gunned down in her own driveway by some road rage maniac with a gun turns out to be, well, rather different than first reported. What a surprise. I wonder how things might have turned out had neither of the belligerents had guns. If this confrontation had happened in Australia or the UK, that mother would still be alive (says the man who just mailed in his CCW permit renewal today). She’d still be an asshole, though.


I see the Oklahoma legislature is moving toward cutting state funding for advanced placement history classes in public high schools. This fits right in with the culture wars going on in other red states, where similar campaigns are underway to replace recorded history with the whitewashed version favored by uneducated, jingoistic America-Firsters.

My kids got a decent public school education. They learned about the scientific method, evolution, slavery, the Civil War, and the civil rights movement. All this will disappear from pubic schools in states where the forces of ignorance hold sway. So what do you do if you’re an Oklahoma mom, say, who wants her kids to get a real education, but can’t afford to send them to Groton or Exeter? What are the options? Do charter schools in red states offer a classic liberal education, plus college-credit AP classes for the strivers? I don’t know, but I sort of doubt it. How about parochial schools? If you don’t mind your children getting some religious instruction along the way — even if it’s not your religion — that might be an option. Of course even that is beyond the financial reach of many parents.

Home schooling? I know there are textbooks, lesson plans, and home-schooling curricula for conservative and fundamentalist parents, but what do you do if you want your kids to get a proper education? Few of us are qualified to provide such an education on our own, and where would we get the teaching materials and lesson plans? Do these things even exist?

You can always move your family to a blue state, I guess — if you have the resources to relocate and find a new job.

Damn, sheeple, just how far down are we going to let the stupids drag us before we start fighting back?


I’ll close today’s linkfest & commentary with two photos shamelessly stolen from this Wonkette entry. Count the Muslims!

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Now you see why I want to wage holy war against the stupids!


Catch-Up Bloggage

Donna’s Aunt Joyce is here. Locking myself in the home office to blog seems anti-social, but I do sit down at the computer a couple of times a day to check email, and while I’m here I’ve managed to do a little blog housekeeping: cleaning up the sidebars, fixing broken links, stuff like that.

Donna and I have been trying to think what to do for our 50th wedding anniversary, coming up this December. We had decided to take a long car trip to the Pacific Northwest over Labor Day weekend, spending a couple of days at a Hash House Harrier event in Portland, then heading north to check out Seattle and visiting our niece Rebecca while we’re there. Last month Norwegian friends invited us to Oslo for an August housewarming party. And now Aunt Joyce tells us there’s going to be a big family get-together in somewhere in California around the end of September.

We can’t do all these things. Norway, now we’ve looked at airfares, seems out of reach, as much as we’d like to go. The car trip to the Pacific Northwest in early September is doable, and so is a California road trip in late September … but not both. With half the money we’d spend on airline tickets to Oslo, though, we could throw a big-ass 50th wedding anniversary party for our friends here in Tucson, and that would be in addition to the road trip, whichever one we choose. Now I have to tell our friends in Norway we can’t come, and that’s the hard part.

Donna and I, since we were first married, have always loved long road trips together. I don’t know what it is about being in a car all day, but we like it. We get closer, not just in the sense of sitting shoulder to shoulder. We talk, we make plans. We get all lovey-dovey in the motel at night, but I know you don’t want to hear about that!

Since I opened up comments on my blogs, the only people trying to register have been spammers, twenty or more attempts every day. The stupid thing is, registering just isn’t necessary. Anyone can post comments to my blogs, including spammers. The filters catch the spam comments and I periodically delete them, which is a one-click operation. But the bogus registration attempts come to my email inbox and I have to delete each one by hand. And that, dear friends, is why you no longer see a “register” link on the blog. I was thinking of this today while grocery shopping with Donna, standing in front of the potted meat shelf.


Would you look at all those tasty flavors? I thought I was in the potato chip aisle at first!

Well, I’ve been locked away in the home office too long and people are starting to think I’m anti-social. More soon, I hope.