Chili Today, Hot Tamale

Sunday was primo, with highs near 70°F. I took the motorcycle out for a spin, no destination in mind. My right knee is still a little stiff (I had knee replacement surgery last July), so I often try to think of what I can do to be more comfortable on long motorcycle rides. It has crossed my mind, more than once, that Harley baggers have forward-placed floorboards. And so I found myself pulling into the H-D dealership parking lot on the northwest side of town. Guess I had a destination in mind after all.

I sat on a couple of Electra Glides and found the riding position surprisingly cramped. Which is odd, since I owned a Glide before buying the Goldwing I ride today, and always thought it a comfortable ride. Anyway,  I guess I’ll be sticking with my faithful old Wing a while longer … it really is the roomiest of all the big touring bikes.

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The knee, by the way, is not a show-stopper. It smarts when I first try to bend it 90°, so I have to sit on the motorcycle with my right foot on the peg for a minute or two before I take off riding. Once I get going it’s okay. I shouldn’t say this, but it’s really bad when I’m driving a car and have to pull my knee up and back to get to the brake pedal … I’m finding myself using my left foot on the brake, something I was always taught (and therefore taught my children) not to do.

I think I need a consultation with my orthopedic surgeon and a referral for more physical therapy … I’m sure there’s some kind of stretching and bending exercises I could be doing to get my new knee working properly. At least I can walk without pain again.

It was just chilly enough Sunday that I turned the motorcycle’s heated handgrips on, but a light jacket kept my upper body warm enough. Monday dawned much as Sunday had, and I almost rode the bike to Pima Air and Space Museum. The weather forecast called for lowering temps and rain, though, so I took the truck instead. And boy am I glad I did.

I took this photo around 10 AM, just as the weather began moving in and temps started to drop.

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Monday was President’s Day, so there were lots of children at the museum. This young couple spent part of the morning chasing their little girl around the outdoor exhibits, and it made me happy to watch them. They went indoors just after I took this photo, but I couldn’t.

My volunteer sidekick and I were outdoors all day, driving the museum’s open-air trams, and by the end of the day we were cold-soaked. The museum has a school bus to use as a tram on cold days, but the staff got greedy and sold too many tickets. The bus, you see, only holds 28 paying passengers, while the open-air tram can carry nearly 40. We probably should have refused to drive the last two tours of the day, but we sucked it up and now I fear we’re both in for head colds.

Today is just like yesterday, minus the clouds and near-freezing rain. Clear but just as cold. There’s only one thing to do on a day like this: cook chili and cornbread. It’s dinnertime now, and I can’t wait to tuck into this:

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Air-Minded: Terraplanes

I heard about a Bristol Aeroplane Company worker who, some time after WWII, used the cockpit section of a Blenheim attack bomber as the body of a homemade electric car, which he drove around London for many years. Today, the cockpit is back in the air, used in the restoration of the only flying example of the Bristol Blenheim:

Bristol Blenheim

Restored Bristol Blenheim (photo: George Land)

The story piqued my interest. Over the years I’ve seen occasional photos of aircraft converted into cars, trucks, buses, and motorized RVs. I decided to start collecting them. If you have photos of aircraft/auto conversions, please share them with me!

Air-Minded: Terraplanes

Click here to see My Flickr photo album, “Terraplanes.” I’ll add photos to the album as people send them to me, or when I come across new ones on my own.

Update (19 Feb 2019): new photos added today, including an old-school belly tank speedster, a land speed record car, and an airliner-to-bus conversion.

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Paul’s Book Reviews

“The rocket was beautiful. In conception it had been shaped by an artist to break a chain that had bound the human race ever since we first gained consciousness of earth’s gravity and all it’s analogs in suffering, failure and pain. It was at once a prayer sent heavenward and the answer to that prayer: Bear me away from this awful place.”
—Michael Chabon, Moonglow


moonglowMoonglow
by Michael Chabon
4_0

I hate reviewing books I loved. They’re so much harder to write.

These things happened. OSS officers fanned out across Germany, sometimes ahead of advancing American troops, searching for the Nazi scientists and engineers behind Hitler’s V-rocket program. Some found intact V-2 rockets, some found the underground factory at Nordhausen, some found von Braun and other targets of Operation Paperclip. More than a few of these men must have lived to see von Braun become the Disneyfied American hero of the space race, gnashing their teeth in the first-hand knowledge of von Braun’s Nazi past. It’s even possible one such man existed, one man who was there for all these things, and that that man turned out to be Michael Chabon’s grandfather.

Hey, I believed it. Swallowed it whole. Of course, this was my first “fictionalized memoir,” so perhaps I can be forgiven. I’ll be more skeptical with future memoirs. But then again, why be skeptical? Because this is about as good a memoir a novelist like Chabon could write, truthful in its essence, reflective of the writer who gave us “The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” and “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.” It explains much. It satisfies deeply.

I’m not even coming close to doing “Moonglow” justice. The memoir doesn’t just focus on Chabon’s semi-fictional grandfather. The tale spans three generations and a hundred years of history. It’s about life. It’s a memoir and a novel, and, as a memoir, it paints a truth despite it’s fictional basis. As a novel, it’s as good as anything Chabon has written.


overstoryThe Overstory
by Richard Powers
4_0

Unconnected characters with a common connection to trees come together to fight the deforestation of the world. I don’t know if what I read about trees and living forests in “The Overstory” is true, but it feels profound and fills me with dread over mankind’s unstoppable rush to harvest every last scrap of the bounty nature gives us.

The way the ensemble cast of disparate characters is drawn together reminded me of the 2004 movie “Crash”; the chapters where forest preservation activism evolves into direct action and eco-terrorism reminded me of Stuart Archer Cohen’s novel “The Army of the Republic.” I felt the same stirrings toward activism I feel when I read Paolo Bacigalupi’s cautionary near-future science fiction about climate change and man-made ecological disaster. And yes, I know it’s fashionable to put down the movie “Crash,” but there’s a reason it won a best picture Oscar; like the books “The Overstory” brings to my mind, it was powerful stuff.

The last section of the novel, Seeds, where it begins to dawn on people around the world that trees and forests are living things with much to teach us, and that must be protected, seemed wildly optimistic to my cynical mind. It took me a while to realize that people were getting these too-late insights by playing a computer game designed by Neeley, not doing a goddamn thing to change reality, and I thought it weak stuff. And then I thought, yeah, that’s probably how it will be once it’s too late and the forests are gone. We’ll realize our mistake … and start importing lumber from Siberia instead.

“The Overstory” is powerful stuff, full of poetry and revelation. I was moved by it.


terranautsThe Terranauts
by T. Coraghessan Boyle
3_0

This is my book club’s selection for March. It’s hella long, over 500 pages, and during ploddier chapters I wondered if T. Coraghessan Boyle might be one of Stephen King’s pen names. Nevertheless, I persisted.

As a lifelong science fiction fan, I kept telling myself “The Terranauts” is science fiction, but it’s not and there’s no use pretending. It’s a fictionalized what-might-have-been extrapolation of the actual Biosphere 2 project of the early 1990s, and makes no pretense of being anything beyond that.

From the very first pages, you realize the science of closed ecospheres is going to be mere backdrop to a novel about friction, conflict, and betrayal between study participants, first between those vying for selection as part of a Biosphere crew, then between members of the selected crew as they spend two years inside the dome.

Three narrators … Ramsey (a right shit, that one), Dawn, and Linda … tell the story in alternating chapters. They’re entertaining, each in their own cheesy myopic selfish ways, and if you wanted to explain the concept of the “unreliable narrator” to a creative writing class, having your students read and compare representative chapters from each would be a good start, but beyond reminding us that we as a species are nothing special Boyle doesn’t have anything earth-shaking to say.

“The Terranauts” would make a good TV movie, edited down to 90 minutes’ running time, and the novel itself could (and should have been) edited down to about 300 pages.


jack and joeJack and Joe (Hunt For Reacher #6)
by Diane Capri
3_0

There’s only one reason to read Diane Capri’s Hunt for Reacher books, and that is Jack Reacher. Honestly, if the stories were about FBI agents hunting a mysterious character we never heard of before, who would read them?

So does Capri scratch the Reacher itch? A little, and I’ll probably try another in the series. This one started off strong, but by the end felt flat and formulaic. I didn’t much like FBI Special Agent Otto, her partner, or her supernaturally-aware boss. Actually I didn’t like any of the characters in this novel, except maybe Joe Reacher’s ex-wife.

Like I said, I’ll probably try another one. If my feeling persists … that the series is a cynical ripoff of Lee Childs’ work … I’ll stop there. And now I sound just like an alcoholic saying he can quit whenever he wants.


girl most likelyGirl Most Likely
by Max Allan Collins
3_0

I agreed to read and review an uncorrected proof prior to publication in April 2019.

“Girl Most Likely” is a readable combination of mystery and police procedural set in a small midwestern town. The lead character, the youngest female police chief in the nation, has potential, and I would not be surprised to see “Girl Most Llikely” to become the first of a series of “Krista Larson” books.

To make his characters more vivid to the reader on first encounter, Collins lavishes attention on outward appearances, and in a couple of early chapters indulges himself in detailed descriptions of clothing, makeup, jewelry, and accessories, frequently name-dropping expensive high fashion brands. This, to me, was jarring, pulling my attention away from what is supposed to be a story about a small-town cop solving a series of brutal murders, and I think it’s a mistake on Collins’ part.

In later chapters, as Krista interviews potential suspects, Collins peels away layers of his small-town characters’ histories, and we learn about unexpected sexual connections, rapes, secret same-sex affairs, alcoholism, and long-suppressed hatreds. This is far more interesting and on point. More of that please, less Vanity Fair!

Minor, but a clunker nonetheless: Collins has one character say to another that one of the murdered women, a Chicago investigative reporter, had been putting together a workplace sexual harassment story, inspired by “the #MeToo thing.” Yes, hashtag included, as if we can hear hashtags in verbal speech. Ugh.

There’s a promising subplot about Chicago gangland corruption, but it doesn’t go anywhere. A brutal attack on Krista’s father, a retired policeman deputized to help solve the case, is never resolved. As for the murders at the center of the story, I was annoyed with the reveal but don’t want to divulge the plot, so I’ll just say it’s a little too surprising, a little too out of left field.

Otherwise, as I said at the top, “Girl Most Likely” is a readable mystery and police procedural with an engaging lead character.


outsiderThe Outsider
by Stephen King
2_5

I went to the library for something else and saw “The Outsider” on the New Books shelf. I picked it up on impulse, even though I long ago decided Stephen King is too windy for me. Some of his earlier horror novels were pretty good in spite of the way he draws everything out, and I had hopes this would be another.

Sadly, I have to put this one in the “just okay” category. Overly wordy and drawn out? In spades. Horrifying? Meh. Making things worse, a big chunk of the narrative involves a tertiary character, Helen the private investigator, and past crimes she had helped solve. Her backstory is never fully explained, and I got the impression Helen and the crimes she had worked on were part of an earlier Stephen King book, even though “The Outsider” isn’t labeled as part of a series.

“The Outsider”: readable but mechanical. Overall a disappointment.


Books I Didn’t Finish

swan songSwan Song
by Robert R. McCammon
0_0

The devil is loose upon the land and … sorry, not my cup of tea at all. Maybe it’s yours: a lot of reviews come in at 4 to 5 stars. I picked it up last November, read a page or two at a time but kept putting it down, and ultimately realized I was avoiding subjecting myself to more of it.

“Swan Song” is high-schoolishly dark, like the muscle-bound rabbit in the movie “Donnie Darko,” the very sort of doodle I might have drawn in the goth moments of my teenage years … dark for darkness’ sake.

“Swan Song” is stale, overdone, used up.


slayerSlayer (Slayer #1)
by Kiersten White
0_0

My love of young adult fiction goes back several years, when I began reading imaginative tales with imaginative yet adult themes like Michael de Larribeiti’s “The Borribles” and Paolo Bacigalupi’s “Ship Breaker.” I still feed my need for good YA from time to time, and, as an admitted and unashamed Buffy fan, could not resist checking our Kiersten White’s “Slayer.”

I made it to page 113, then gave up. Perhaps if the narration was not so repetitive? Nina chews the same angsty teenaged thoughts over and over until they are a soggy mess. Despite occasional mentions of Buffy, left like pieces of candy to lure me on, the story didn’t hold my interest.

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Air-Minded: Little Friends & Aerial Refueling

In an earlier Air-Minded post, I wrote about the early days of aerial refueling and the initial development of USAF tanker aircraft and refueling methods. This post is about the USAF jet fighters, interceptors, and attack jets that depend on those tankers to get to where they’re going and back home again.

In WWII, US Army Air Force bomber crews called escort fighters “little friends.” In the late 1940s the brand-new US Air Force contracted for a jet escort fighter, a plane that became the F-101 Voodoo. Jet engines use a lot of fuel, but aerial refueling tankers were coming into common use, so the Voodoo was designed with aerial refueling capability. If you’ll indulge me, for the remainder of this post I’ll save screen toner by referring to aerial refueling as AAR (air-to-air refueling, the acronym used in the biz).

In the early 1950s, the USAF was of two minds on AAR: it employed both probe and drogue refueling (the tanker trails a hose with a stabilizing drogue chute on the end; receiving aircraft fly up to the drogue and plug in with a probe) and boom refueling (the tanker extends a boom which connects to a slipway in the receiving aircraft). Probe and drogue was great for little friends but not so great for big friends. Fuel transfer through a rubber hose is slow, and bombers need a lot of fuel. Over time the big friends and boom refueling won out, at least with the USAF: with a high rate of fuel transfer bombers can top off quickly; fighters, whose internal fuel plumbing might be damaged by high transfer rates, take on gas at a lower rate, which can be selected by the tanker’s boom operator.

Even today, though, the USAF still uses both methods. All our bombers, strategic airlifters, command & control and surveillance aircraft, tankers themselves, fighter and attack aircraft, plus certain specialized mission aircraft and VIP transports (think Air Force One) use boom refueling. USAF helicopters & tilt-rotor aircraft use probe & drogue refueling; so do allied nation aircraft and the Navy & Marine Corps aircraft USAF tankers are often called upon to support.

Back to the Voodoo, which became operational in 1957. Both AAR methods were in wide use at the time, so the F-101 was equipped with a retractable probe and slipway. The probe was stowed in the nose when not in use; the slipway was on top, aft of the cockpit. The first photo shows an F-101A, the long-range escort fighter version of the Voodoo, plugged into a KC-97 tanker boom. The second photo shows an RF-101 reconnaissance variant with its retractable refueling probe extended, about to plug into the drogue on the end of a refueling hose (you can also see the closed slipway on top, the light gray panel halfway between the cockpit and the tail).

F-101A boom AAR

RF-101 probe & drogue AAR


Another early jet fighter, the F-84 Thunderjet, although not used in the bomber escort role, also incorporated equipment for both AAR methods: a slipway in the left wing root for boom refueling, and probes on the tip tanks for drogue and hose refueling (the later swept-wing versions of the F-84, the Thunderstreak and Thunderflash, kept the slipway but did not have the tip tank probes).

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F-84 boom AAR

F-84 AAR probe

F-84 probe & drogue AAR


The last of the hermaphrodite* fighters was the F-105 Thunderchief, which became operational in the late 1950s. The Thud had both a slipway and retractable probe, both mounted in the nose. Here are two photos of Thuds taking gas. In the first photo, note how the refueling hose is connected to the end of the tanker’s boom, a method still in use by USAF KC-135 tankers. In the second photo, the F-105 on the boom is a two-seat G model used for Wild Weasel surface-to-air missile suppression during the Vietnam War (with F-4 Phantom IIs waiting their turn on the tanker’s wing):

F-105 AAR probe

F-105D probe & drogue AAR

F-105 AAR boom

F-105G boom AAR


By the way, the Thud was one of the few USAF fighters that could conduct buddy refueling, a technique often used by carrier-based Navy and Marine fighters.

F-105 AAR buddy

F-105 buddy refueling

Curiously, the interceptor variant of the Voodoo, the F-101B (CF-101 in Canada), did not have AAR capability. Well, it did at first … when the F-101B became operational in 1959 it was equipped with the retractable nose probe, but a fleet-wide modification in the 1960s replaced the probe with a nose-mounted infrared seeker and AAR capability was lost. The interceptor Voodoo, perhaps because of its longer two-seat cockpit, never had the slipway. This photo of an F-101B shows the hump of the IR sensor that replaced the retractable nose probe, as well as the absence of a slipway behind the cockpit.

F-101B

F-101B at the Strategic Air Command Museum

USAF F-80 Shooting Star and F-86 Sabre fighters (except for a very few modified for test programs) were not AAR-capable. Nor were the first USAF jet interceptors, the F-94 Starfire and F-89 Scorpion. The F-102 Delta Dagger, the single-seat delta-wing interceptor that became operational in the mid-1950s, did not conduct AAR on normal missions, but could be fitted with a removable refueling probe for long overseas flights. Photos of F-102s with the removable probe in place proved hard to find, and I thank my friend Joe Coles of the aviation blog Hush Kit for coming up with this one:

F-102 removable boom

F-102A with removable AAR probe

The later F-106 Delta Dart interceptor was not AAR-capable when first introduced, but was later modified with a slipway for boom refueling.

Other USAF jet fighters and attack aircraft of the 1950s and 1960s were fitted with AAR probes for hose & drogue refueling only. These included the F-100 Super Sabre, F-104 Starfighter, A-37 Dragonfly, and the F-5 family of Freedom Fighters and Tigers.

Later USAF jet fighters and attack aircraft, including all those in the current inventory, are fitted with slipways and can only refuel by boom. These include the F-4 Phantom II, F-111 Aardvark, F-15 Eagle & F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-117 Nighthawk, A-7 Corsair II, A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-22 Raptor, and F-35 Lightning II.

*I used the word “hermaphrodite” to refer to jets equipped with both probes and slipways. This is the tweet that started me thinking about the subject, posted by aviation journalist Tyler Rogoway in January. After posting, Tyler was set upon by social justice warriors who thought the term was used disparagingly, but I think it’s precisely the correct one and see no problem with it.

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A Night in the Fever Swamp (Updated & Clarified)

Q-ever-expandingMy worldview has always been based on observation; I strive to interpret what I see in as straightforward and commonsense a manner as possible. I see smoke, I expect to see a fire somewhere nearby. I see cops routinely beating and killing black people while treating whites with deference and respect, I see institutional racism. I see the body of established fact about Donald Trump’s business practices and marital infidelities, along with credible accusations of other misdeeds, and I see a man who’s not to be trusted.

And yet there are those who can observe the same things and interpret them differently. The worst of the lot are QAnon followers. They see what you and I see and conclude instead that Trump is a savior sent by god to break up, arrest, and punish a vast network of pedophiles. That the 50,000 pedophiles he’s after are all people who have spoken out against Trump or his policies almost goes without saying. That it’s all wrapped up in fascism, racism, and anti-Semitism also goes without saying. The ring is led by Bill and Hillary Clinton, who run a giant underground child sex trafficking operation out of the basement of a pizza parlor in Washington DC. But wait, they’re not just pedophiles … they’re pedovores! That’s right, they eat children after having their way with them, then inject themselves with adrenochrome, a drug distilled from the adrenalin of their victims. Tom Hanks is addicted to the stuff, and Oprah too!

Oh, and Mueller isn’t really investigating Trump. That’s a false flag to lull the pedophiles into complacency. In actuality, Mueller is working in secret with Trump and the military (shhh!), and any day now they’re going to declare martial law and start rounding up the enemy, not just the 50,000 but the entire Deep State, the CIA and FBI included (never mind their conflicting attitudes toward Mueller; they’re experts at coming up with spur-of-the-moment rationalizations of contradictory beliefs). They call the coming roundup “the Storm” and keep telling one another it’s almost upon us, that Hillary will be frog-marched all the way to Guantanamo any day now, just you wait and see. The battle plan is spelled out in a series of coded messages and tweets by an anonymous figure who calls himself “Q.” Some of Q’s followers claim Q is none other than JFK, Jr, who faked his death several years ago in order to go underground and lead the fight against the Clintons and their blood-stained satanic followers. Occam’s Razor? Never heard of it!

Think I’m kidding? They’re even crazier than that … or so they pretend. Rather than roll over and accept that some of our fellow humans, equipped with brains at least biologically similar to yours and mine, can smell smoke and think it means someone left the freezer door open, or listen to Trump’s third-grade schoolyard taunts and hear a fourth-dimensional chess master at work, I trust my own powers of observation. And I come the same conclusion about QAnons that I have come to with Flat Earthers: neither group believes any of the shit they say. They want to provoke. They want to own the libs. That’s what I think is going on. There’s no other interpretation that makes sense.

It’s also worth noting that as outrageous as QAnon followers pretend to be, they have animal cunning in spades. What’s the one accusation no one can contest without looking even more guilty? Pedophilia. It’s the oldest smear in the book.

Last night a prominent QAnon figure on Instagram said of Trump that he is “the only president to combat sex trafficking.” He’s what? I lost it and lobbed a turd into the punchbowl:

More like the only president to be credibly accused of having it off with a 13-year-old girl in a friend’s penthouse, then threatening to harm her and her family if she ever talked about it.

In Q’ville such things are not said. Here’s one of the milder responses to my comment:

Maybe you should have a family member murdered or raped by an illegal alien but then you wouldn’t even get it you probably wouldn’t get it if they raped you. And you might get it if they murdered you you make the choice.

Here’s another:

Dude, by the look of the people you hang with in the pictures I bet you wear a pussy hat. You look like a typical cookie cutter liberal and probably a baby rapist yourself.

The second response makes it obvious that’s it’s all about owning the libs. And do I feel owned!

Did you know you can buy a pink pussy hat on Amazon? You can. And I’m thinking about buying one, just because of what the National Enquirer tried to do to Jeff Bezos (but at least Mr. Pecker didn’t lead off by accusing him of pedophilia … as QAnon followers have already done). Oh, and also so I can wear it next time I hang with these baby rapers:

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Or these cookie cutter liberals:

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But maybe he was thinking of this photo:

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Yeah, that guy looks like a pussy.


Update & clarification: I cross-posted this to my pwoodford diary on Daily Kos, where a commenter pointed out that QAnon is just the latest manifestation of racism and anti-Semitism that’s been around forever. I agree. I was being tongue-in-cheek when I asserted QAnons only say the shit they say to own the libs. Sure, that’s part of it, but many of them mean what they say. Every insane word of it. Like this young lady, who goes by robotinteriors on Instagram:

Just today RobotInteriors decided to revive the anti-Semitic “poisoning the well” trope of the Middle Ages, using a recent fentanyl bust as her springboard. She literally suggested the shipment was destined for the nation’s water supply, and praised Trump for stopping the plot. Another QAnon cheerleader (lizcrokin on Instagram) often uses images of Pepe the Frog (a racist/white nationalist symbol popular with the alt-right) in her posts.

Fifty or sixty years ago, these people would have been background figures in newspaper wire photos from Little Rock, faces distorted by hatred as they scream at black children being escorted to school by federal marshals. Today they have a powerful social media platform and are capable of doing immense damage. Despite my flippant comments above, I take the threat very seriously indeed.

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My Sweetheart’s a Mule in the Mines

110th_Bomb_Squadron_-_EmblemI’m continually taken aback by how little I know about my own family, things my sisters all talk about but for whatever reason are revelations to me. Vast portions of the life and times of my father Charles, my mother Eileen, and dad’s second wife Lois … who passed away over the weekend … are a mystery to me.

Today I heard, for the first time, a great anecdote about Lois.

By way of background, here’s part of a post I wrote in 2007: “My father did an interesting thing a few years back. He had assumed, like most Missourians, that the mule was the state animal. Not so, it turned out—Rebuplicans in the state government had resisted repeated attempts to enshrine the mule as state animal, fearing that people would confuse the mule with the jackass, symbol of the Democratic Party. My dad took it on as a project, mobilizing his American Legion Post, crisscrossing the state to speak at public meetings and press the flesh with politicians, and in 1995, then-Governor Mel Carnahan signed the bill naming the Missouri Mule state animal. My dad did that. How about that?”

What I didn’t know until today was that Lois was a key player in dad’s campaign, at one point standing in front of state legislators in Jefferson City and singing My Sweetheart’s a Mule in the Mines.

My sweetheart’s a mule in the mines
I drive her without any lines
On the bumper I sit
And I chew and I spit
All over my sweetheart’s behind

I cannot but believe her performance is what finally won over those small-minded Republican state legislators, and it’s just the kind of home-spun humor Lois would from time to time surprise me with. I wish I’d known this story earlier.

I should have known it earlier. Everyone says I’m just like my dad, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself it’s that when it comes to persuading people to do things they aren’t naturally inclined to do, my own powers are rarely enough … I need Donna by my side, and her help is what makes the difference. Why should it have been any different with my dad and Lois?

The mule patch, by the way, is that of the 110th Bomb Squadron, a B-2 Spirit-equipped unit of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing based at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Missouri.

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Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

A short day at Pima Air and Space Museum. The grounds are soaked from Sunday’s rain and we can’t run the visitor trams. Here I am arriving this morning at 0845, then departing for home 20 minutes later.

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What to do with this unexpected day off? Send flowers for Lois’ funeral services and make a donation to a charity, for one thing. Help Donna get ready for her four-day trip to Las Vegas … she leaves tomorrow and will return on Saturday. Figure out what I’m going to do while I’m on my own (one idea: watch Buffy).

I feel terrible we can’t fly out to Missouri for Lois’ funeral, but the visitation is tomorrow and the burial is Wednesday, and as I said in an update to yesterday’s post, we had a happy visit with her just a few months ago … those memories are the ones we want to keep fresh in our minds.

But damn, when it rains, it pours. My best friend from my teenaged years, Jeremy, is in hospice with esophageal achalsia. He knows he’s dying and sent out a farewell message over the weekend. I can’t say how important my friendship with him was to me, and I hope to him. We went to junior high together in Laramie when we were 14 and 15. We lost our virginity together with a friendly girl named Diane. We read Kerouac together and decided to join the beat generation together. I left for California, but came back after graduating from high school and we spent part of a summer together bumming around the country, beatniks at last (albeit very young ones). We didn’t see each other again for more than 50 years. He joined the Navy and went to Vietnam; came home, went to school, and became a librarian. I jinked hard on Vietnam and went to school instead; then tried to get there as a fighter pilot but the air war ended just as I got my wings. But enough about me. Over the years we both made attempts to find one another and rekindle our friendship, and about four years ago we did. Would you guess Facebook? Living clichés, both of us. I met him in Seattle in 2015, along with his lovely wife Phyllis, who will soon be on her own. As with Lois, all I can do is revisit a happier past, and grieve.

Last week we put an old hashing friend to rest, and today I learned that another hashing friend, Pat, a woman I met only briefly but with whom I’ve had a long friendship by correspondence, has breast cancer. Well, at least with breast cancer one can be hopeful, and I choose to be. Knowing Pat, that will be her choice as well.

Tell you what, though, when you reach your 70s the hits come fast and hard. Be positive, Paul (I tell myself). And don’t let this blog become an ossuary. To that end, a happy treat for us all:

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Lois, RIP

10171144_10152611220077346_1362366293367521907_nLois, my father’s second wife, died yesterday in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

My dad took this photo on the flight line at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. It was December, 1978, and I was finishing F-15 training, soon to leave for the Netherlands and my first fighter tour. Dad, who had taken the death of my mother two years earlier very hard, had recently met Lois and was coming out of a long depression. He wanted me to meet her before I went overseas, so they drove to Virginia.

Lois was pretty, outgoing, vibrant, and happy (in that, very like my mom). She bowled me over just as she had my dad. And my sisters. And all our in-laws. We all loved her. Who knows what would have happened to my dad if he hadn’t met her? She may have saved  his life. Dad and Lois married shortly after I met her in Virginia and were happy together for 28 years, until he passed in 2007. Now the matriarch of our extended family is gone.

Donna and Lois were especially close, so we’ll both be flying to Missouri as soon as the arrangements are set and we know the date. Gosh, we’re going to miss her.

Later, same day: Sadly, for a variety of reasons Donna and I won’t be able to fly back for Lois’ services. We were in Missouri in October and had a wonderful time with Lois and the rest of my family. It was a happy occasion.

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With Lois and my sister Charlie, October 2018

These are among the memories of Lois we console ourselves with. I called my sisters a few hours ago to explain our circumstances and to get the funeral details so we can send flowers. I’m hoping some of my comments above can be shared with those who are able to attend. Lois had said, on more than one occasion, that all she wanted was for those who loved her to donate to a charity in her name, and we will certainly do that.

Once again, gosh, we’re going to miss her. We’ve thought about nothing else all day.

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