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February 2016
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Air-Minded: Sweeping Changes

When I take visitors around the outdoor aircraft on display at the Pima Air & Space Museum, I always say a few words about these Republic F-84s, early jet fighters that show the evolution from straight to swept wings:


F-84C Thunderjet, left; F-84F Thunderstreak, right (photo: Paul Woodford)

The aircraft with the barber-striped tail is an F-84C Thunderjet, first flown in 1946 and later employed as a strike fighter in the Korean War. As with other early US jets, it was designed with straight wings. The closer aircraft, wearing the colors of the USAF Thunderbirds, is an F-84F Thunderstreak, a swept-wing redesign of the Thunderjet, first flown in 1950.

The museum has another example of the transition from straight to swept wings, namely a pair of pre- and post-Korean War Grumman F9Fs:


F9F Panther (photo: Paul Woodford)

Grumman TAF-9J Cougar

F9F Cougar (photo: Paul Woodford)

The straight-wing F9F Panther, left, first flew in 1947. The US Navy began flying it in 1948; like the USAF’s F-84 Thunderjet, it was a strike fighter extensively used during the Korean War. The F9F Cougar, right, an evolutionary design with swept wings, began replacing the Panther in 1952, shortly before the end of the Korean War.

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Me-163 Komet (photo: public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Swept wings have appeared throughout the history of aviation, but it was the Germans who first researched the application of swept wings to high speed flight, starting in the 1930s and continuing through the war years of the 1940s. Other than the rocket-powered Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet (left), Allied air forces didn’t encounter swept-wing German aircraft in combat, but German research and designs had begun to find their way into Allied hands, and after the war so did a number of German aeronautical engineers and scientists. Leading the charge to introduce swept-wing jet aircraft in the post-WWII years, then, were the British, the Russians, and the Americans.

Britain was the first Allied nation to fly a swept-wing jet: Geoffrey de Havilland’s experimental DH 108 Swallow of 1946. The first British jet fighters, developed during WWII, were straight-wing aircraft like the Gloster Meteor and the deHavilland Vampire. The first operational British swept-wing fighters, the Supermarine Swift and the Hawker Hunter, didn’t enter service until 1954, long after the Russians and Americans had fielded swept-wing fighters.


DH 108 Swallow (photo: public domain/Wikimedia Commons)


Supermarine Swift (photo: public domain/Wikimedia Commons)


Hawker Hunter (photo: Mike Freer/Wikimedia Commons)

The USSR’s first jet fighter, first flown in 1946, was the straight-wing MiG-9. A follow-on design, the legendary MiG-15, first flew in 1947 and later became the world’s first combat swept-wing jet fighter when it was introduced into the Korean War in 1950.


MiG-9 (photo: Mike1979/Wikimedia Commons)


MiG-15 (photo: public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

I think I can safely say it was only in America that earlier generations of straight-wing aircraft were redesigned with swept wings. The Republic F-84 and Grumman F9F aren’t the only examples: the first was the North American FJ-1 Fury, a carrier-based jet fighter for the US Navy, first flown in 1946. The straight-winged FJ-1 Fury was the basis for the USAF’s swept-wing F-86 Sabrejet, first flown in 1947. The F-86 Saberjet in turn was “navalized,” becoming the FJ-2 Fury, first flown in 1951.


FJ-1 and FJ-2 Furies (photo: US Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

Another early jet project, one that went from a straight-wing concept on paper to a swept-wing design in production, was a bomber, the Boeing B-47 Stratojet. Initially designed in 1943 to compete for a US Army Air Force jet bomber contract, it began life as Boeing Models 424 and 432. Upon learning of German wartime developments and seeing early wind tunnel data from Langley, the chief of Boeing’s technical staff, George S Schairer, sent his designers back to the drawing board with orders to develop a swept-wing bomber. The design evolved into the conceptual Models 448 & 450, and eventually into the actual swept-wing, six-engined XB-47, which first flew on 17 December 1947.*

boeing model 424

Boeing designs (photo:

B-47A (1)

B-47 (photo: public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

When it came to breakthroughs in aircraft design, the 1940s and early 1950s were heady days. The Germans, of course, get credit for understanding the usefulness of wing sweep in transonic and supersonic flight, though they built few practical examples, and, despite rumors, probably never achieved supersonic flight. I’m not sure how to score the rocket-powered Me-163; it did see combat in the waning days of WWII, but of course it was not a jet, and apart from takeoff and climb, it was actually a very fast glider. The Allied countries of WWII benefitted greatly from the groundwork laid by the Germans. The British were quick to experiment with German ideas after WWII, though they didn’t begin fielding swept-wing fighters of their own until the early 1950s. The Russians, clearly, were the first to fly a swept-wing jet fighter, the MiG-15, in combat; the USAF had concurrently developed a swept-wing jet fighter, the F-86 Sabrejet, which quickly gained dominance over North Korea skies when it followed the MiG into combat.

What, exactly, did we gain by replacing straight wings with swept wings on some of our early fighters? The F-84 Thunderjet topped out at 540 knots in level flight; the Thunderstreak at 604. The Panther could achieve 500 knots, the Cougar 620. The FJ-1 Fury maxed out at 475 knots—the F-86/FJ-2 around 590, and it could go supersonic in a shallow dive. All three redesigned aircraft gained in range and ceiling as well. The Germans were onto something.

*When we think of early swept-wing jets we tend to think of fighters. It’s interesting to note that the F-86 Sabrejet’s first flight, on 1 October 1947, preceded the first flight of the XB-47 Stratojet bomber by just two and a half months, and that the first MiG-15 didn’t fly until 30 December 1947, two weeks after the XB-47 (and two months after the F-86).


Punxsutawney Phil Carries Iowa

corn-rocket-2The news industry, cable news in particular, is having a protracted campaigngasm, unable to spare a thought for anything but presidential politics. I hate it that Rachel Maddow, once my favorite, has lost her perspective on the larger world, but she’s hardly the only talking head obsessing over the horse race.

Do the Iowa caucuses mean anything, or is kissing that state’s rural ass every four years a reflex, something we do for reasons lost to history? In 1992, Democrat Tom Harkin won an overwhelming Iowa victory over Bill Clinton. In 2008, among Iowa Republicans, Mike Huckabee (to whom good riddance, by the way) came in first. I would have said no, but when I Google “states that matter in presidential elections,” there’s Iowa, right up there with Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada (why those particular states matter is beyond me, but I’m sure Rachel Maddow can and will explain at length, night after night over the coming weeks and months).

I don’t know if Ted Cruz’s victory last night will hold up. I keep thinking Marco Rubio, who came in a strong third, will be the eventual GOP nominee, but don’t hold me to it. The big news, to me, was the 50/50 finish between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Sure, Hillary won by a decimal point, but Bernie could just as well have claimed victory. Who’s to say, this early in the race, who the Democratic nominee will be?

Tell you what, though … Bernie Sander’s negatives, those troublesome aspects of his past that have been largely ignored so far by Hillary Clinton and the media? We’re going to start hearing about them now.

I’ve started work on the book. That’s all it is so far, “the book.” It may turn out to be a memoir. It may turn out to be the introduction to a collection of Air-Minded articles. Last week I met an old friend, a published writer with several novels to his credit. He wants to help, and has given me some good advice. One of the things he says disturbs me: a manuscript must have two spaces between sentences.

Over the past two or three years I’ve taught myself to use a single space after a period (it’s true: if you look in the archives, you’ll see I used to be a double-spacer). Every source I turn to says double spacing after periods is a quaint artifact of the typewriter era. But my friend submits manuscripts on a regular basis, and moreover sells them, and I have to believe what he says. I must unlearn my modern ways!

Polly thinks her interviews in Scottsdale went well; she expects to hear one way or another this Friday. Our fingers, crossed for months now, are beginning to cramp. Baby boomer parents know what we’re going through … a lot of them, anyway.

The same folks who want to keep Harry Potter books out of public school libraries tell me Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, predicting an early spring.


Tubac Collector Car Show 2016 Photoblog

car show panorama

Back-to-back car show photo posts? Hey, don’t blame me … I don’t schedule ’em!

IMG_2985After my brush with agoraphobia at the Barrett-Jackson auto auction Thursday, I couldn’t wait to get down to Tubac for the annual collector car show on Saturday. Organized by the Santa Cruz Valley Car Nuts, the Tubac show is held on the resort community’s golf course, outdoors and nicely spread out. Even when there’s a crowd, it doesn’t feel crowded. There’s room to breathe, even to wave a selfie stick around (at BJ, I started getting stinkeye the minute I pulled one out of my pocket).

Temperatures were in the low 40s when I left home on the Goldwing, wearing a heavy leather jacket. By the time I got to Tubac, a little over an hour later, it was in the high 50s. I stuffed the leather jacket into a saddlebag and put on a light cotton windbreaker. An hour later it hit 70, and I ditched the windbreaker. At Barrett-Jackson, you walk on hard concrete, and there’s a lot of it … four miles easy if you want to see everything. At Tubac, you walk maybe a mile, all of it on grass. I felt a lot better after Tubac than I felt after BJ.

Another nice thing about the Tubac show: types and makes of cars are arranged by row. One row is for classics from the 1900s through the 1940s, another for 1950s cars; then there are specialized rows for Mustangs, Porsches, Thunderbirds, Brit sports cars, hot rods, antique motorcycles, and so on. If, like me, you’re not particularly interested in muscle cars, you can skip those rows and concentrate on the cars you like.

You want to drive to Barrett-Jackson: there’s valet parking for cars at the main entrance, whereas motorcycle parking is a mile away. You want to ride to Tubac, because there it’s the car parking that’s a mile away, but if you’re on a motorcycle you get to use the north entrance to the golf course, the same one used by exhibitors, and you park on the green with the show cars. Local high school volunteers hand out flat wood tiles to put under kickstands so they don’t make divots in the turf. You hand over your six dollar entrance fee, get your hand stamped, and you’re not only at but in the show … visitors’ motorcycles, parked next to the last row of show cars, draw as many spectators as the cars.

IMG_2137 copy

Tubac, as I noted, never feels crowded, but there were a lot of people there and I had to be patient while waiting to get clear views of some of the cars and motorcycles I wanted to photograph. At BJ, there were times I was ready to snap; at Tubac it was a lot easier to keep my cool (except for once, when two guys got into a long discussion about the cars they had in high school and I finally had to politely ask them to move a few inches to one side so I could get a shot of a 1957 Nash Ambassador).

Okay, here are some of my faves from yesterday. Click on them to see the full sized originals on Flickr. Click here to see my full Tubac 2016 album on Flickr.

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Barrett-Jackson 2016 Photoblog


IMG_2963Yesterday I drove to Scottsdale with three friends (Ed, Chip, and Loren) for the annual Barrett-Jackson auto auction. My friend Dick Herman, who lives near Sacramento, California, was also there. We set up a rendezvous by the food stands and spent about an hour together, making plans for future visits back & forth. In the meantime I got separated from my Tucson friends, but I was there to take photos and would have held them back, so that was okay. I hooked up with them again at three in the afternoon and we hit the road back to Tucson.

Every year B-J seems more crowded; so much so this year it wasn’t all that much fun. Someone was always between my camera and the cars I wanted to photograph, and the mass of slow-moving people in the dark display tents was aggravating. On the way home I told Chip, also an enthusiastic photographer, that I wasn’t feeling it this year and didn’t expect my pictures to be very good. To my surprise, once I got home and downloaded them, there were some good ones after all. I’ll share a few here:

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IMG_2045 copy IMG_2004 copy
IMG_1993 copy IMG_2041
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IMG_1990 IMG_2014 copy

My Barrett-Jackson 2016 album is on Flickr, if you’d like to see all the photos from yesterday.

On the way home Ed remarked on the lack of motorcycles this year. I didn’t think of it when I was busy taking photos, but he was right. I saw maybe two motorcycles, and they weren’t even antiques. Wonder what’s up with that?

Tomorrow, Saturday, I’m riding the motorcycle down to Tubac, a resort community halfway between Tucson and the US/Mexico border at Nogales, for another car show. This one’s on a golf course, outdoors, and while there’ll no doubt be plenty of spectators, at least there’ll be room to breathe and stretch out. Something about those gloomy Barrett-Jackson tents makes crowds seem crowdier. Next year, don’t be surprised if I skip B-J and just go to Tubac instead.


Tuesday Bag o’ Motorcycle Mania

Sunday felt like a motorcycle day, so I grabbed the GoPro and went for a ride on two of my favorite local roads, Arizona Highway 83 and a curvy section of Old Spanish Trail. The first order of business, however, was a freeway truck stop breakfast at the Triple T.


If I were better at this, you wouldn’t see my hand holding the selfie stick!

Fortified with eggs and bacon, I took AZ 83 south toward Sonoita, crossing the Santa Rita Mountains. Close to the summit I pulled over, set the GoPro to take stills every 10 seconds, clipped it to my helmet, and hit the twisties. Looking back, I should have selected a shorter interval, say one photo every 5 seconds, because out of two dozen photos only three or four caught me leaning into a curve. Here’s one of the better ones.

Santa Ritas_3

Riding the Santa Ritas on AZ 83

Once over the summit I pulled into a rancher’s driveway, reset the GoPro to video mode, and taped the ride back over the hills toward Tucson. Later I recorded parts of the ride through Vail and up the Old Spanish Trail, but those roads are so bumpy the videos are uncomfortable to watch, so I’ll just share this short clip of the climb back up the Santa Ritas toward Tucson, fun as hell until I got stuck behind a truck pulling a horse trailer. Thanks, Obama!

santaritas_trim_1 (Converted)

Oh, what the hell, here’s the bone-jarring ride on Old Spanish Trail. You might want to pop a Dramamine first.

oldspanishtrail_trim_1 (Converted)

In other news, Polly says yesterday’s job interview in Scottsdale went well. Now standing by to see if she gets the job. If so, she’ll have to move to Phoenix, and Donna and I will have to figure out what we can do to help. We’re cautiously optimistic once again … at least this time the prospective employer isn’t in the used car business!


Best You’ve Ever Seen?

A quiet Saturday morning with little to do until later, when Donna and I go to our bimonthly cooking club meeting. Our club meets every other month.* Two years ago, when we started, we’d cook ahead of time and bring prepared dishes to the designated host’s home, but for the past year we’ve been bringing ingredients instead, then prepping and cooking together before sitting down to eat. The theme tonight is Cajun, and we’ve been assigned recipes from the late Paul Prudhomme. Donna and I drew dessert, some sort of pecan praline thing (not a pie, which is a relief … our record with crust is a poor one).

The downside to prepping and cooking together is it always takes longer than we think it will, and sometimes we don’t eat until nine. Some members have big kitchens with lots of counter space and all the utensils; some don’t. And even in the biggest of kitchens, eight or nine cooks is a crowd. The upside? Working together’s a hell of a lot of fun, and by the time dinner’s ready we’re all good and hungry.

I watched the final episode of Continuum on Netflix last night. I’m going to miss that show. I said the same thing about Firefly, and Rita, and Breaking Bad, and after five more episodes I’ll be saying it about Veronica Mars. Sometimes we think about canceling cable and streaming and going without. Between Comcast, HBO, Amazon, and Netflix, we’re spending crazy money; stacks of books are waiting to be read. But then there’s this: How do you know when people don’t have a TV? Just wait, they’ll tell you. Yeah, we don’t want to be like them, so maybe we’ll wait until Game of Thrones is over.

For a change, an employer contacted Polly before she contacted them. Apparently someone she once worked with saw her profile on LinkedIn and thought she’d be a good fit for the company he’s now with. The job, if she gets it, is in Scottsdale, two hours north of here. She has an interview Monday afternoon. I’m not sure how it’ll work if she gets it; clearly she’ll have to move to Phoenix and she doesn’t have much of a bankroll, just the money from the motorcycle she sold. One step at a time. Get the job, then we’ll figure out how to help her get started again in Phoenix. Fingers? Crossed. Toes? Ditto.

Speaking of Scottsdale, I’ll be at the Barrett-Johnson car auction with some Tucson friends next Thursday. A friend from my flying days who now lives in California will be there too. I’m bringing a selfie stick so we can snap an iPhone photo of us in front of a cool car. Of course I’ll be lugging the big DSLR and flash attachment too, taking photos to add to my car show collection on Flickr.

I probably shouldn’t say anything about the latest social media witch hunt, but when has common sense ever prevented me from talking about things that upset people? By now I’m sure you’ve all seen this photo:


The girls are seniors at a Phoenix-area high school. The photo was taken yesterday or the day before. One of the girls, or possibly a friend, posted it to Twitter, where it caused an immediate stir. I first saw it yesterday in a Phoenix newspaper’s tweet, the faces blurred out. Half an hour later I started seeing uncensored copies with the girls’ faces visible and identifable. Within a few minutes someone had posted all six girl’s names; without a doubt their addresses, Facebook pages, and phone numbers are out there too. I know, from another news article, the girls are already receiving threats, as is the principal of their high school, and that police were on campus Friday afternoon to prevent violence.

Whew! That escalated quickly, but these days that’s how it goes. Remember Justine Sacco? She’s the woman who posted this immortal tweet in 2013: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” By the time her 11-hour flight landed in Cape Town, she was the top trending topic on Twitter, the object of the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet, quite possibly the most hated woman in the world. The second or third call she answered after deplaning was from her employer, letting her know she no longer had a job. All over a joke … an insensitive one, but still, a joke, no different than the kind of joke TV comedian Daniel Tosh gets paid for. You can click on the link to see what Justine’s life has been like since her brush with infamy.

I wonder what these girls’ lives are going to be like now. Personally, I think they were joking. That it’s a terrible joke and they shouldn’t have done it is obvious. They probably thought so too, once they did think about it. And I’m sure they’re damn sorry now, what with being suspended and getting death threats and all.

Before the damning photo was taken, the girls had been part of a senior class photo lineup, wearing black t-shirts with letters spelling out “Best*You’ve*Ever*Seen*Class*of*2016.” It’s not hard to imagine one or more of these six girls coming up with the idea to spell out a forbidden word. God knows my mind works along similar lines. If only they’d had the right letters, they might have gone with “fuck off” or “eat shit,” and at worst gotten a stern lecture from the principal. But they spelled out “ni**er” instead, probably thinking it would come across as sarcastic or intentionally ironic. Oops.


No, I don’t think these six girls are members of the Aryan Sisterhood. I think, like Justine Sacco, they were trying to make a joke. Still … take a good look at the class photo. See any black faces? Funny, neither do I. Which makes me wonder about school integration in Phoenix, and school integration in general. Somehow great swathes of America have become segregated again. Or maybe school integration never really took, save for schools in a few target cities, and then only for a little while after the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. But that’s a subject for a more well-thought-out and researched post, not one I’m prepared to tackle today. Instead, I’m going to be busy dodging hateful comments accusing me of making excuses for these stupid girls.

*I’m bothered by the nonexistence of separate words for “twice a month” and “every other month.” It offends me that bimonthly means either, and that I have to go out of my way to specify which of the two meanings I intend to convey. How did English-speaking people, with such a sloppy language, ever manage to come to grips with engineering and science?


Thursday Bag o’ CW

i_love_conventional_wisdom_jumbo_tote_bag-r2582e97965d74e4e9e358d2ec8dd77fc_v9w72_8byvr_324Two recent encounters with Fox News viewers:

The first was at a weekend dinner party, where one guest tried to ignite rage over the detention of American sailors in Iran. When that didn’t get a rise out of anyone, he changed the subject to the movie 13 Hours, clearly hoping it would lead to a spirited round of Hillary-bashing. It didn’t, and he finally took the hint and shut up.

The second came yesterday, when one of my fellow air museum docents started in on Clinton’s use of a private email account when she was Secretary of State. He seemed totally unaware of the White House email scandal of 2007, when someone in the Bush/Cheney administration deleted millions of official emails after congressional Democrats threatened to subpoena them. I believed him when he said he’d never heard of that. After all, he admittedly gets all his news from Fox, which despite its well-known slogan is the polar opposite of balanced.

Is there a new Hillary Clinton email scandal? So they say, but I don’t buy it. Consider this: everybody knows we have spy satellites. In the military, at least, any and all information about spy satellite programs (including the universally-known fact that we have them) is classified top secret/special access … you have to first have a hard-to-get top secret clearance, then be “read into” a special access program before you can learn anything about American spy satellites or see any of the photos they take.

I remember my reaction when I was first read into one of these programs: Is that it? Hell, I already knew all that and more just from listening to the news and reading Tom Clancy novels. Any civilian can talk about this stuff. Does the fact I’m now read into this top secret/special access program mean I have to leave the room when my civilian friends start talking about spy satellites? Technically, yes. What is common knowledge is now, at least for me as a military member, a forbidden topic, and I can go to Leavenworth for talking about it.

This or something similar, I suspect, is what’s going on with accusations Hillary Clinton discussed top secret/special access intelligence in her emails. She probably mentioned something she’d read in the New York Times, something the person she was writing to had also read. But whatever the topic was, it was probably also protected under one of many top secret/special access programs. You’d be surprised how many things are.

Are these new Clinton email accusations politically motivated? I’d say you can safely bet the farm on that. The GOP is clearly terrified of running against her; far less so of running against Bernie Sanders. Over the past months several negatives about Bernie have come to light, any of which you’d expect Republicans to seize upon and use against him, but so far they’ve directed all their attacks at Hillary. That says something to me, and what it says is go, Hillary!

But never fear … if Bernie gets the nomination and becomes the Democratic candidate for president, all those negatives will quickly find their way onto the front pages. Here are a couple of paragraphs from an article titled “With Bernie Sanders as Their Nominee, Democrats Can Kiss the Presidency Goodbye“:

Ask yourself this question: why have Republicans stayed largely silent about Bernie Sanders while collectively bashing Hillary Clinton? Better yet, why were Republicans blasting out pro-Bernie press releases during the last Democratic debate?

Simple: they are on their knees praying for Sanders to defeat their most feared opponent.


When the conservative machine cranks up and kicks into high gear, Bernie will be eviscerated, turned into an aging cartoon Commie, a flip-flopping America-hater, a 60s holdover writing bizarre essays about free sex and child rape fantasies, a non-Democrat Democrat whose embrace of the NRA undermines his claims to purity, a politician who voted against the Amber Alert system, a draft dodger, and a man who thinks women’s rights are a distraction.

I’d almost forgotten those embarrassing college essays, briefly mentioned in the media months ago. I’d almost forgotten the fact that Bernie applied for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam war. I didn’t know about the Amber Alert vote at all. Not mentioned in the article (I can’t imagine why not) is Bernie’s religious status: a self-avowed secular Jew who describes himself as not “particularly religious.” I’d vote for Bernie on that ground alone, but most Americans?

I have to agree: if Bernie defeats Hillary in the primaries and becomes the Democratic candidate, all this and more will be in the spotlight, endlessly flogged on MSNBC and CNN and Fox News, accompanied by serious-with-a-smirk think pieces in the New York Times. And that’s not all. Have you heard this story? You’ll hear plenty more about it if Bernie’s the nominee.

I don’t mean to be CW Guy™, but give me Benghazi! and private email accounts any day.


Friday Bag o’ New York Values

pkxaxezczahkmd1vihksWhen self-styled heartland conservatives disparage New York City, what they’re really trying to say is “There be Jews.” It must have killed them to pretend to love NYC after 9/11. Well, time has passed, and it’s safe now for them to go back their old ways.

I for one am delighted to see a political party that embraces hatred and spite tearing itself apart in an orgy of negativity. At the same time, I’m horrified by the thought that Donald or Ted might win the nomination and become the Republican candidate for president. Not that any of the other GOP hopefuls are much better … to a man, and woman, they’re running on platforms of negativity.

I’m just as worried about the Democrats, but for a different reason: that Bernie’s supporters will stay home on election day if Hillary gets the nomination, or vice versa. If that happens, the candidate with the most negative message will get all the media attention … hell, just look at all the free coverage Donald Trump is getting and tell me that’s not already happening … and that candidate just might win.

I don’t want to lose perspective. Comedian John Oliver said, back in August, “There will be actual babies born on election day 2016 whose parents haven’t even met yet.” Well, it’s the 15th of January 2016 now, and there’s still plenty of time for boys and girls to meet, date, couple, and spawn before the election. Note to self: take a deep breath. At this point, all possibilities remain open.

Americans will never forgive Iranians for taking our countrymen hostage in 1979 and holding them for 444 days. We’ll never trust Iran. Nor will Iranians forgive or trust the USA for deposing their democratically-elected president in 1953 and putting the shah in power. But Iran and the USA are slowly learning to have diplomatic relations again, and the nuclear deal we’ve negotiated with that country, meant to keep it from developing nuclear weapons and destabilizing the Middle East, is a huge accomplishment.

So it was a shock to learn, minutes before President Obama’s last State of the Union address, that Iran was holding 10 American sailors who had drifted into Iranian waters. Even Obama’s most fervent supporters had to wonder it this meant his efforts to negotiate that nuclear deal with Iran was a failure.

The advice I gave myself earlier? Take a deep breath? Yeah, I took that advice, and I’m glad I did, because it quickly emerged that the situation with our sailors and Iran was no biggie. We’d have done the same to them, had Iranian sailors drifted into American waters. Any country would have done the same to any other country’s sailors. Our men and women, along with their boats, were safely returned less than a day later, and you’d have thought that’d be the last of it.

Not with Fox News on the job, it wasn’t. Here’s a link for you: Fox News Pundits Shit the Bed More than Usual Over Iran’s Detaining of US Sailors. After that headline, an article expanding on it seems superfluous, but actually it’s a very good, balanced article, and I hope you’ll click through and read it. Really, it says everything I might have said, and raises some points I hadn’t thought of.

So why are these Fox News pundits trying so hard to turn this non-event into a crisis? Well, it’s another opportunity to snipe at Obama, but more to the point, it’s a manifestation of the hatred and distrust I mentioned four paragraphs back, that lasting anger over the Iranian hostage crisis. We will never forgive, nor, I suppose, should we … but we need to remind ourselves that our hands aren’t clean either, and we can’t let acrimony get in the way of making the world a safer place.

Back to more proximate things. Our daughter Polly finally got work, a full-time job managing the office of a used car dealership. If the “used car” part of that puts you off, know that it put us off too, and sadly, our misgivings were justified.

Sure as hell, Polly rolled her sleeves up and in three days straightened out months of backed-up sales records and car titles. As soon as she had the office whipped into shape the dealer let her go. No doubt he’ll hire another sucker down the road, once the paperwork backs up again.

Polly has been surprisingly resilient through all this. Sure, she gets discouraged, but she keeps looking for work, and when she gets interviews she always puts on an optimistic face. I’d be a basket case if I were in her shoes. Still, it’s a trial for all of us, and it’s hard to be patient. We’re trying, and I’m trying extra hard. Keep those fingers and toes crossed for her, okay?

In the meantime, after three weeks on Craigslist, Polly’s Ducati found a new owner and now she has a bit of a bankroll for the time when she gets a good job and wants to move into an apartment of her own. I have to say I’m relieved. I worried every day she owned that motorcycle, even when she wasn’t riding it. What a hypocrite, huh? Well, you have a daughter some day, and we’ll compare notes.

Speaking of motorcycles, here’s another short GoPro video clip from the New Year’s Eve ride. My son Gregory’s in the lead on my Goldwing and I’m in trail on a rented Harley. We’re pulling into the small mining town of Kearney, up in the hills east of Phoenix, and parking next to an old steam tug for a photo op.


And here’s one of the photos we took, using a tripod and remote clicker:


The ride is a pleasant memory now, and I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to ride with my son. Before then, I hope to go on a solo ride to New Mexico and the mountains of southwestern Colorado, probably in the spring. And yes, I’ll bring the GoPro!