Paul’s Thing

blogprofile The weblog of Paul Woodford, a veteran USAF F-15 pilot living in Tucson, Arizona
October 2015
« Sep    

Air-Minded Index



Paul’s Tree-Reading

Paul’s E-Reading

Paul’s Book Reviews


Paul’s Daily Kos Diaries



© 2004-2015 Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

Monday Bag o’ Parse Error

YOU-SHALL-NOT-PARSE-Bags-Last Thursday I tried to update this blog with the latest WordPress and third-party plugin releases. Normally that’s the sort of transparent admin action readers never see, but this time something went wrong and for four days all my two readers and I got when we tried to come here was this sad error message:

Parse error: syntax error, unexpected ‘[‘ in /home/flyboog/public_html/blog/wp-content/plugins/portfolio-slideshow/lib/Plugin.php on line 57.

Sure, a real man would have tracked down that .php file and deleted the unexpected ‘[‘ himself, but have you ever opened a .php file? They contain contain hundreds of lines of code, and good luck finding the needle in the haystack! I took the easy way out and went crying to my server administrator, who patted me on the back, said there there, and kissed my widdle boo-boo.

I should have known that particular plugin was going to cause trouble some day, because it never worked in the first place. I guess that’s why they call them “third-party” plugins, so WordPress can’t be blamed. Well, portfolio-slideshow has been banished, and Paul’s Thing is back from the dead.

Over the weekend a friend invited me to a county library book sale. There’s a central warehouse in town where all the county library branches send older books they’ve taken off their shelves, and once a month or so it’s open to the public. I’ve been looking for a first-edition copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, so I headed for the rare book room as soon as I got inside. The rare book shelves were crowded with rude, pushy people, and at first I couldn’t understand why everyone was being such an asshole, but then it dawned on me they were all looking for books they could resell at a profit on line.

I don’t mind buying books from individuals who sell them on eBay or Amazon. I have a very good friend who does just that, in fact. I just don’t like being physically crowded in tight spaces.

I ran errands at lunchtime and while I was driving heard part of an NPR program called Here & Now. The segment I caught was about transgender people using public locker rooms and toilets. The host of the show and his guests used convoluted language and it was difficult at times to parse (there’s that word again) their meaning, but I gather the issue was women not wanting to use locker rooms or toilets when there’s a transgender person in there walking around naked with a penis and testicles. Or just being in there, naked or not.

The guests, a cis woman and a trans woman, pretended not to understand why people have problems with this, and the host wasn’t ballsy enough to challenge them. Well, I understand. Look, I have a problem pissing if there’s another man in the restroom. If a woman were to walk in, forget it, I’d die of a ruptured bladder before I peed in front of her. Seriously, who doesn’t understand why gender’s a big deal in locker rooms and toilets?

Unisex restrooms are not an issue. There’s only one person in there at a time, and who cares if the person who’s in there now is a woman or a man or a trans person, as long as they clean up after themselves? I don’t think transgender people who have had sex reassignment surgery are a problem either. If trans men and women have the genitals to match the genders they identify as, why even use the transgender label? They are what they are, men or women.

No, what makes us uncomfortable is the thought of men and women sharing locker rooms and restrooms, and by “men and women” we’re not talking about self-identified gender, we’re talking about physical genitalia. Multiply by ten when it comes to kids and teenagers: would you want someone with a dick showering in the locker room with your daughter, even if the school hung up curtains?

It’s impossible to discuss any of this without coming across as a buffoon. Maybe that’s why Here & Now’s host was so mealy-mouthed, and why his guests wanted to pretend only uneducated rubes think there’s a problem with mixing sexes in locker rooms and restrooms. But to the overwhelming majority of us, the thought that genitals don’t enter into gender is a very new thought, one we’re not yet ready to embrace.

I get mad when NPR tries to play both sides of every issue. But this time I felt I was listening to PC transgender propaganda. Where was the voice of the unsophisticated masses, the sexually-repressed rubes who don’t want their daughters showering next to girls who really aren’t girls?

I don’t know, I didn’t hear the show all the way to the end. Maybe later they opened up the switchboard and a few sexually-repressed rubes phoned in. If they did, they probably came across as idiots, as I am doing now.

You think an unexpected ‘[‘ is hard to parse? Oh lordy, try sex.


Air-Minded: Air Tanker Photoblog

Last week, during a break between tram tours at the Pima Air & Space Museum, I spent an hour exploring a seldom-visited back lot where we keep retired air tankers and water bombers. These are civil and military aircraft converted to carry and drop water or retardant on forest fires. Most of the aircraft on display have long since been retired by the US Forest Service and its contractors, but at least one Douglas DC-7 is still fighting fires, according to Wikipedia.

This is our Douglas DC-7, a modified civil airliner which can carry 3,000 gallons of water or retardant:

Douglas DC-7B (T&G Aviation Inc. Chandler, Arizona)

The other air tankers in the back lot are former military aircraft: a Fairchild C-123 Provider, a Lockheed P2V Neptune, a Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar, and a Grumman AF-2S Guardian.

The first three are multi-engine aircraft in every sense of the phrase: they’re powered by a combination of piston and jet engines. The Neptune’s supplemental jet engines burned the same avgas fuel used by its piston engines, and were added to improve heavyweight takeoff performance. Intake doors closed when the jets weren’t in use so that the drag of a windmilling engine wouldn’t slow the aircraft down. I believe the same is true of the supplemental jet engines on the Provider and Flying Boxcar. The Guardian, alas, had to make do with a single piston engine (but I bet it’s a big one).

Fairchild C-123K Provider (Ryan Air Attack, Hemet, California)
Lockheed P2V Neptune (Black Hills Aviation, Alamogordo, New Mexico)
Fairchild C-119C Flying Boxcar (Hemet Valley Flying Service, Hemet, California)
Grumman AF-2S Guardian (Aero Union Corporation, California)

A few things about these aircraft caught my eye and I went in closer to capture some detail:

C-123: crew door w/company logo
C-119: deteriorated fabric on flight control surfaces
C-123: closed jet engine intake doors
C-119: clamshell cargo doors

I can’t resist sharing some other photos I took that day. The restoration yard adjoins the back lot where the air tankers are parked, and there are some fascinating aircraft behind the fence.

Boeing YC-14 prototype
Lockheed EC-121T Constellation
USAF C-119 (no jet engine)
Recently restored Boeing B-52D


Trumped Again, By Golly!

No, I wasn’t thinking of The Donald. I was thinking of this guy:

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 2.02.33 PMPretty much shows you where the battle lines are drawn today. Thank you, Antonin Scalia, for perverting the meaning of the 2nd Amendment and giving the gun nuts something to hide behind. Hide behind the 2nd Amendment they might, but sensible people will continue to fight them.  A friend (I’ll call her B) signed a Stop the NRA petition today and posted the link to Facebook (the link’s embedded here so you can sign too, if you want — just click on the image): Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 2.03.07 PM

A gun nut (I’ll call him D) jumped in with the obligatory defense of the NRA. B stood up to him in fine fashion, but he wasn’t through. D’s response to B’s response is what really got my attention:

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 1.49.59 PMI’ve heard this argument before, the suggestion that you’re committing treason if you don’t carry a gun. You know, so you can stop bad guys, as the Constitution requires. I couldn’t resist pimping our gun-humping, NRA-loving friend: Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 2.13.17 PM copy 2

Now that’s one I haven’t heard before! Not only are you not in compliance with the 2nd Amendment (and thus the Constitution) if you don’t carry a gun, the NRA is now the same as the 2nd Amendment (and thus the Constitution)!

Funny, when I see Wayne LaPierre spewing race war rhetoric with his robotically oversized rectangular mouth, sending mobs of uneducated whites running to the gun stores with ooga-booga tales of rampaging inner city blacks, it’s not the Constitution I see, it’s the KKK.

By the way, I thought long and hard before calling D “that guy.” Should have stuck with my first choice, “cunt.”


Riding with Distinguished Friends

This morning I turned out for The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, an annual motorcycle event. This year Distinguished Gentleman’s Rides were held in 401 cities and towns in 79 countries. The rides are organized to help raise awareness of and fund research on prostate cancer. Individual riders or groups of riders raise funds or donate directly, and on the day of the ride–the fourth Sunday in September–they wheel their classic rides to designated locations, dressed as gentlemen.

I signed up to raise funds and donated some of my own as well. I also took a stab at dappertude, if putting on a necktie counts as such. I did think the hat was a nice touch, though of course I couldn’t wear it on the ride itself (by the way, click on any of the photos below to see the full sized originals on Flickr):

DSCN1547 DSCN1551

Other riders got into the spirit of the thing as well, especially the guy with the long-tailed tux! I’ll try to do better next year, although I admit I was very pleased a few riders noticed and commented on my McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle tie. One of the riders who noticed it is organizing an October 2016 air show at Marana Airfield north of Tucson, and I was able to give him some names of some air museum high rollers who might like to participate and help out.

DSCN1550 DSCN1548

Some of the bikes were pretty sweet. That BMW K100, by the way, is a first year model from 1982: it was the first motorcycle to have anti-lock brakes, and was wildly modernistic for its day. We started the ride with 20 motorcycles and riders, a respectable group.

IMG_1857 IMG_1856

There were two pit/bar/regroup stops along the 70-mile route. The first was at Hot Rods in Vail, and since we got there ten minutes before opening, everyone occupied themselves in the parking lot by checking in on social media (I was no exception). The second stop was a taco bar at La Encantada, the upscale mall at Sunrise & Campbell, where we took over the designated motorcycle parking area.

IMG_1861 IMG_1863

I split off after the second regroup. The final destination was a bar on South 4th Avenue, and we had already made two bar stops. Since I quit drinking bar stops have lost some of their luster–in fact I no longer go on motorcycle poker runs or toy runs because too many of the participants ride drunk. This event, however, was different: yes, a few riders ordered beers at Hot Rods and the taco bar at La Encantada, but most of us just asked for water. It was a riding group, not a drinking group, and I’ll definitely be back for next year’s ride.

Now where can I find me one of them Groucho Marx suits?


Air-Minded: PASM Photoblog IV

Last night I drove to the Pima Air & Space Museum to give a sunset bus tour to a group of football fans here for today’s Arizona/UCLA game. The tour never happened, because my bus didn’t make it to the museum. Six of us signed up for what was supposed to be six bus loads of UCLA boosters, but only the first three buses showed up. The three of us who were to take buses four, five, and six went home, broken hearted, about 7:30 PM. Apparently our assigned football fans never got past the bar at the La Paloma Resort, where they were all staying.

Just kidding about being broken hearted. The real reason I offered to help out was to gain access to the museum grounds at sunset. They lock the gates at 5 PM, well before sunset, and no one is allowed to be on the grounds after that. Every now and then, though, there’ll be a special evening event, and the back gate will be open for staff and volunteers scheduled to help out.

It’s a different kind of light, sunset, warmer and richer. I love the way the photos, which I took with our big Canon DSLR, turned out. Next time–you can bet I’ll be volunteering for other evening special events–I’ll bring a tripod too. Here are two I particularly like (there are more in my Flickr PASM album).


North American F-86H Sabre, USAF (photo: Paul Woodford)


Douglas A4D-2 Skyhawk, USMC (photo: Paul Woodford)

Earlier in the week I wandered into one of the display hangars on my lunch break. I hadn’t been inside that hangar since I gave my last walking tour in July; I discovered they’d taken out the Mitchell B-25 bomber that used to be there and arranged three WWII trainers in its place: a Royal Canadian Air Force Yale, a US Army Air Force Texan, and a Vultee Valiant (aka the Vultee Vibrator) that once belonged to a civilian flying academy contracted to train USAAF pilots. I took some photos with my trusty iPhone 5S and was pretty happy with how they turned out. As before, the rest of the photos I took that day are in my Flickr PASM album).


North American T-6 Texan, USAAF (photo: Paul Woodford)


North American BT-14A Yale, RCAF (photo: Paul Woodford)


Vultee BT-13A Valiant, Polaris Flight Academy (photo: Paul Woodford)

Shoot, that iPhone camera ain’t half bad.


For Purity in Blogging

one weird trickI’m having a hard time relating to, or even understanding, this: a popular blogger throwing in the towel because advertisers were taking over.

The idea of a sponsored blog is alien to me. A blogger is an individual with something to say and the time and energy to set up a domain and website, right? True, some bloggers put ads in their sidebars, looking to earn a few pennies from readers who click through, but many resist the temptation and don’t have ads at all.

Apparently, over time this woman’s super-popular blog became dominated by a corporate sponsor, to the point where the sponsor was telling her what to write. Somewhere back along the line, though, she’s the one who invited that sponsor on board. She made a bargain with the devil and … well, we all know how that story ends.

My favorite blogs are the ones with no ads. No ads doesn’t necessarily mean those blogs just got started and have only a few readers; some ad-free blogs have been around since the blogosphere’s big bang and have legions of loyal readers: Digby’s Hullabaloo, for example; Unfogged, Mimi Smartypants … I could name dozens off the top of my head.

Not that my blogs are in that league, but I don’t have ads either. I’ve been blogging for more than a decade now and have never been tempted. I bear the cost of putting what I write online, but it’s a small cost. I may not have legions of readers, but I have some, and once in a while they tell me they like what I write (and when they don’t, too).

I blog because it makes me happy. Isn’t that enough?


You Can’t Read That!

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

Hey, guess what? September 27 to October 3, 2015, is Banned Books Week in the USA!

poster poster2

Ironically, the American Library Association’s first crack at a poster for Banned Books Week 2015, the one on the left, was attacked by social justice warriors who declared it insulting to Muslims. It has since been replaced by the censored version on the right.

YCRT! Red Alert

This is disturbing as hell:

This week, high school students in Mayfield, Kentucky, were given a current events assignment: to read newspaper articles about police use of deadly force against minorities, and to write reports on the subject. After the Kentucky State Police learned of the assignment from the student child of an officer, it intervened directly with the school district to have the assignment cancelled. KSP’s reason? A state trooper had been killed by a black suspect during a traffic stop earlier this month.

“I just think with the state of mourning the community is in and law enforcement,” Nall said. ‘It’s just a bad time to have students reviewing and analyzing law enforcement deadly force issues with minorities.”

In past YCRT! posts, I’ve linked to, and commented on, several stories about political interference in school textbook selection and class content, most often in the form of attempts to censor textbooks and restrict discussion of hot-button topics like evolution, science, sex, and abortion. But up to now such campaigns have been conducted in public, with open hearings and school board reviews. In this case, it appears the Kentucky State Police contacted the school district directly, and the district ordered the assignment pulled. There was no review process, no opportunity for students or parents to participate in the decision.

No word on what will happen to the teacher who thought up the assignment, but it’s not hard to guess he or she will be looking for another gig soon.

p.s. Here’s my favorite Facebook comment on the story:

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 1.21.54 PM copy

YCRT! News Roundup

In the spirit of Banned Books Week, the National Coalition Against Censorship presents five book banning stories from the field.

After an outcry from a Christian group, an award-winning young adult novel, Into the River, has become the first book in more than 20 years to be officially banned in New Zealand.

Remember how, in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, the ALA and a few courageous librarians stood firm against federal efforts to track the reading habits of library patrons? You do realize the feds haven’t stopped trying, right? The Department of Homeland Security recently ordered a New Hampshire public library to shut down its anonymous server, which made it impossible to track sites visited by library patrons.

A few parental complaints can change the curriculum for everyone’s children, including older students. What literature will parents challenge in the future, knowing that they have the power to stop an entire school from studying a book?”

A mother from Knoxville, Tennessee, labels the New York Times bestseller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks pornographic. The author responds, saying the complainant is confusing gynecology with pornography.

The left gets much of the blame for political correctness, but they’ve got nothing on the right, the true masters of obfuscating doublespeak.

Remember Peyton Place? Before Peyton Place, there was The Boy Came Back.

Author Judy Blume talks about her struggles with book banners.

Just for fun, here’s an interview with Dav Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants series of children’s books, on what it’s like to hold down the top spot of every banned book list in the world.

Have a great Banned Books Week, everyone! I don’t know about you, but I’ll be ordering a copy of The Boy Came Back — it sounds like a fun read.


Thursday Bag o’ Hugs

hug bagOur summer rainy season (laughingly called the “monsoon” in Southern Arizona, as if …) is officially over. For the past two months I’ve been driving the truck to the air museum. When I take the truck there are always a pair of prescription eyeglasses along for the ride, either the sunglasses in the center console or a pair of readers stuffed in a side pocket of my cargo pants. Yesterday, with no rain in the forecast, I reverted to type and rode the motorcycle in. There are no prescription glasses in the saddlebags, and I didn’t remember to bring the readers. When I sat down between tram tours to look at Facebook updates on my cell phone, I could barely make out the posts and comments.

By squinting a little (a lot, actually), I could tell that one of my sisters had posted heated comments on a police brutality thread I’d participated in before leaving for the museum. I could make out enough of what she said to get the gist: we shouldn’t question the police; they put their lives on the line every day and if they deem it necessary to beat, taze, or shoot unarmed civilians, we should keep our heads down, move along, and respect their authority. Nor should we share or repost stories about police wrongdoing and abuses, because that makes their job harder and puts them at risk.

I’m not sure if she said anything about not videotaping police as they go about the important work of savaging and killing anyone who gives them lip, because by that point I had a headache from squinting at the tiny print. I put the cell phone away, meaning to catch up with the conversation later on the big monitor in my home office, but by the time I got home she’d deleted her comments.

So I’ll just say this: the issue I have with law enforcement administering extra-judicial beatings and killings is that police are almost never held accountable for their actions. Accountability goes along with respect. The president of the United States is held to account for his actions, and is often subjected to disrespect. So too are doctors. So too are commercial pilots. So too are military officers and soldiers. Why should the police, alone of all the professions, be unaccountable, respected even when they break the laws they’re sworn to uphold?

So it’s a tough job with a certain amount of risk. Yes, and …?

A couple of months ago the air museum put out a request for tram docents to come in on Friday, the 25th of September, to give bus tours to UCLA football fans here for a weekend game. The deal was the football fans would show up in six tour buses: we’d meet them in front of the museum, board the buses, then narrate a tour through the museum grounds.

What lured me in was the detail that the tours will start at 6 PM, after the museum is closed for the day, close to sunset at this time of the year. I saw an opportunity to take sunset photos of some of the outdoor aircraft, something I’ve been wanting to do.

Over time a few details have been clarified. The buses won’t show up until 6:30 PM, and the fans are supposed to be inside the main hanger for a catered dinner fifteen minutes later. We’ll just have time to board the buses, figure out how to turn on the mics, and introduce ourselves as the buses drive around the back side of the museum to the hangar where dinner will be served. I should be able to wander around with my camera afterward, and for that it’ll be worth driving 40 minutes each way to the museum and home again.

Speaking of the museum, a teenaged boy with Down Syndrome, along with his family, boarded the tram for my tour yesterday. At the end the young man came up to me and held out his hand. After I shook his hand he wrapped a big old hug around me, and I gave him a big old hug back. Things like that make everything worthwhile. Made my day, anyhow.

Our beloved dachshund Schatzi has paid her post-surgery visit to the vet and has been pronounced healed. We’re a happy family once again (especially now that Polly’s evil cats have been banished to a friend’s mountainside workshop, where I hope they’re earning their keep by killing vermin).

Ha! I just found an older but still serviceable pair of prescription glasses. I’d put them aside a year ago, meaning to drop them in the donation box next time I visit the BX optical shop. They have a new destination now: they’re going in one of the motorcycle saddlebags!