Here Be Bitmojis

UntitledA quiet weekend at Casa Thing. Donna’s helping her friend Millie take care of horses and chickens at Millie’s son’s ranch near Queen Creek, southeast of Phoenix—I’ve been pestering her for pix and she just sent this one. They left Friday morning and will be back Monday afternoon. Polly works a ten/four schedule (four ten-hour days with three days off); Friday to Monday are her on days. Which means I’m home alone, unless you count the dogs … which one must, as anyone who has dogs knows.

Our tastes in TV and movies differ, so when Donna’s away I binge on the stuff she won’t watch with me. I’m re-watching earlier seasons of The Man in the High Castle and The Expanse. It’s amazing how much more one sees the second time around, at least with well-crafted shows like these. Friday night I watched Bohemian Rhapsody on HBO (sound bar on, volume set to eleven), and last night on Amazon the imaginatively-titled Some Guy Who Kills People. In between shows I’m reading a Michael Connelly novel, Dark Sacred Nights, which features his new LAPD cop character Renée Ballard working alongside his more well-known character Harry Bosch.

Donna’s been shopping around for a kitchen do-over: we want to take out a low ceiling, replace the cabinets and countertops, and make the island a little larger. I hope we have the budget for it. Well, even if we don’t, we’ll figure out a way to make it happen.

The first monsoon storm hit downtown Tucson last night, but our northeast neighborhood was on the periphery of it and while there were dark clouds, wind, and lightning, there wasn’t much rain. I hoped for another chance today, but the forecast calls for mostly sunny. At least whatever front moved through yesterday knocked the temperature down below 100°F. Donna says they had lightning at Queen Creek, but no rain.

Our son has switched jobs again: he’s back in the food service industry, where he started his sales career many years ago. He came in, this time, at an executive level, but one that will require a lot of travel. I enjoyed my defense contractor road warrior days … until, one day, I no longer did. I’m proud of our son and all he’s accomplished, but man, I could not work like he does. I’ve always been a slacker at heart.

Learning more about the iPhone camera portrait mode. When you take a photo in portrait mode the phone stores two versions of it: one with normal focal depth and one focused on the object you’re trying to capture. Here are side by sides of Mister B, helping me out in the office yesterday morning:

IMG_0158 Mister B, desk buddy (photo: Paul Woodford)

I always have the hardest time setting depth of field with my regular DSLR camera. It’s true what they say: we’re all photographers … until we try to shoot in manual mode.

I joined a closed Facebook community called “A Group Where We Pretend to be Boomers.” As you’d expect, members are baby boomers who make fun of themselves by posting as if they don’t understand the first thing about computers, email, the internet, and social media. To me, that’s more of a “greatest generation” thing, but I do know boomers my age who fit the stereotype well. But hey, isn’t Facebook mostly a boomer thing anyway? Aren’t all the youngsters on Snapfilter or whatever?

Anyway, here’s my first post to the boomer group:

Screen Shot 2019-07-14 at 10.31.44 AM

Too subtle? BTW, when I ask Google if there’s a way to block bitmojis from appearing in my Facebook feed, the only links to come up lead to instructions on how to add them to my Facebook posts, so I guess that’s a non-starter. Nor is there a way to block those fucking Minion graphics.

Speaking of the lowest common denominator, Twitter today is full of shocked (shocked, I say) reaction to Trump’s latest racist outburst and the (former) British ambassador’s leaked note about Trump canceling the Iran nuclear deal to spite Obama. As if Trump’s racism and spitefulness hasn’t always been obvious; as if racism and spitefulness isn’t exactly what his base sees in him. As if any of this is news. As if any of this portends his downfall.

I hear you: less Trump, more Mister B. Okay, I’ll try harder.


Evangelical Pigs … in Spaaace!

il_794xN.341775485The Mississippi politician we learned about yesterday, the one who won’t allow a woman reporter onto his campaign bus unless she brings along a male chaperone, comes from the same strain of evangelism as former Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who won’t allow himself to be alone in a room with any woman not his wife.

The notion that women exist to seduce and ensnare men crosses cultures and religions, but is especially strong in American Protestant evangelism. Let me tell you about a former squadron mate of mine, a graduate of the US Air Force Academy in the days when Protestant evangelism was beginning to get a foothold (today it’s almost an official religion there). One day, sitting in the ready room of the alert shack, I opened a magazine to a full page ad featuring a woman in a bikini. The young lieutenant walked into the room, saw what I was looking at, and almost literally tore his eyes away—he shuddered, then quickly slapped himself on the cheek while rolling his eyes up and whipping his head to the side, for all the world like a Looney Tunes cartoon character. My god, I thought, what if I’d been looking at a Playboy centerfold or watching porn on the ready room TV?

Speaking of which, a week later another alert crew put “Debbie Does Dallas” in the Betamax only to discover our holy roller had recorded PG-rated movies over every porn cassette in the aircrew library. None of us who were there then will ever forget that act of Taliban-like cultural desecration, but what sticks in my memory is the way he shuddered while slapping his own face as he averted his gaze away from the woman in my magazine. “This kid is fucked up,” I thought then.

And fucked up is what these other men are, these creepy Christian Sharia Law dudes who think of women as satanic seductresses. Didn’t they grow up with sisters? Didn’t they go to school with girls and chase after them when they grew into horny teenagers, like the rest of us? Sure they did. So what happened? How did those mega-church pastors get their hooks in them and teach them to fear women?

I’ve always loved movies and TV shows like “Starship Troopers” and “The Expanse,” which depict futures where men and women have become truly equal in every field, no assumptions made and no questions asked. And believe me, that’s the future I want, the one I grew up believing it and still dream is possible. And though things do seem to be getting better for women … working women in Western societies, that is, who still have to do the two steps backward for every three steps forward dance … there’s such a goddamned long way to go, and men like Mike Pence and this asshole in Mississippi keep grabbing the headlines and reminding us that the next two-steps-backward regression could see us living in the Gilead of Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale.”

I’ve written more than a few posts about women in the military, specifically rated woman officers in the US Air Force. Academy-graduate male evangelicals have moved into all levels of Air Force leadership, looking out for and promoting one another. Yes, some women are moving up into leadership roles, but here’s my question: how much resistance do these women face from senior male officers whose first thought about them is that they’re out to lure them into some kind of sexual trap?

Another question: what do evangelical women believe? Mike Pence’s wife. What’s-her-face in Mississippi. They go to the same mega-churches and listen to the same pastors. Do they buy into this women-as-agents-of-temptation shit being preached to the men? What about Academy-graduate female Air Force officers? Do they plan their career-advancement strategies around the fact that male superiors who share their faith don’t trust them and will never think of them as equals?

I guess I ought to ask my senator, Martha McSally, because she’s one of them (and also an example of a successful woman Air Force officer and pilot). Maybe she can explain these mysteries to me.


p.s. The inset graphic at the top of the post is a Soviet poster honoring Valentina Tereshkova, who in 1963 became the first woman to travel in space. I thought of her just now when writing about the future worlds depicted in Starship Troopers and The Expanse. I know it’s kind of a leap for a post about creepy evangelical men who hate women, but it’s also where the title of the post comes from, and that’s how my mind is working this morning.

p.p.s. If anyone needs an explanation of my reference to former Indiana Governor Mike Pence, it’s for the same reason I never use the title “president” with regard to the current occupant of the White House: neither man was elected.


Tuesday Bag o’ Normalcy

Screen Shot 2019-07-01 at 2.35.23 PMGreat graphic for a rant, am I right? I can’t resist sharing it, even though I’m not up to yelling at clouds today. You can expect to see it again in future posts, though.

If I had a rant in me this morning, I’d lay into NPR for its slavish commitment to normalizing Trump, arguably not the worst unelected occupant of the White House (George W. Bush still has that distinction IMO), but certainly the most abnormal.

Just one tiny, wafer-thin example of NPR’s habit of pretending everything’s okay: during an Independence Day speech, our very stable genius said this: “Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do, and at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, it had nothing but victory.” I know this isn’t the first time you’ve heard of this. It’s been all over the news, and even if you never watch the news, every other entry on Facebook and Twitter has made fun of Trump for saying it.

And here’s the thing: I listen to NPR news every morning on the bathroom radio as I make myself ready to face the day. Five whole Morning Edition shows have aired since Trump made that speech, and I’ve yet to hear NPR mention those Revolutionary War airports. The meme the lady has painted on her fingernails sums up NPR’s Trump coverage to a T: everything’s cool, both sides do it, this is fine.

I’m going to the gym and might have to finish this entry later. Such a drag, psyching myself up for a workout, but I always feel better afterward.

I’ll stop at the library on my way home to turn in this month’s book club selection, “The Friend,” by Sigrid Nunez, purportedly about a woman and her dog but actually about suicide and the miseries of being a self-absorbed writer, not my cup of tea at all and one I don’t mind not finishing. Hey, though, I did get through most of it.

I took Mister B out for a walk this morning but as soon as he saw the garbage and recycle bins on the street he hunkered down and refused to go a step further. I should’ve remembered: he’s afraid of the garbage truck that comes Tuesday mornings. I normally step off the road with him and onto a neighbor’s yard when the truck comes up the street, but sometimes that’s not enough and I have to pick him up and hold him until it’s out of sight and earshot. Today it was no way Jose, take me home now! One of Polly’s stray cats got squished by a delivery truck a couple of months ago, and maybe he remembers that. I’ve learned not to underestimate Mister B’s intelligence, powers of observation, and memory. If he’s concerned about the garbage truck, it’s probably justified.

So that’s as far as I got before gym time. And just as I thought I would, I feel great now. So great I’m ready to hit the gym again. But I know that next time, and the time after that, I’ll have to psych up all over again. No wonder I have trouble keeping resolutions … I’m a slacker at heart.

In a previous post I mentioned Pima Air and Space Museum’s secret plan to replace volunteer docents with paid guides for its Boneyard tours. Not only did the secret get out, they went and did it, hiring three guides (two of them former Boneyard volunteers) to conduct Monday through Friday tours of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (they hate it when we call it the Boneyard), adjacent to PASM. I don’t know if similar changes are planned for the tram tours on PASM grounds, my volunteer docent speciality, but I would not be surprised.

For now, though, my services are still in demand at the museum and I volunteer every Monday. Since the first scheduled tram tour isn’t until ten, I have time to wander around the grounds beforehand. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know I post photos of one plane or another every Monday. These days I’m trying to master the portrait mode on my new iPhone camera. Here’s a selfie from yesterday, with a Beechcraft Expeditor in the background:


There’s a small restoration building next to the Beechcraft, and the side door is usually open so that visitors can take a peek inside. I wandered over to take a peek of my own, and this is what I saw:


I try to stay up on what’s going on in restoration, but this was new to me and there wasn’t anyone around to ask. Two clues, the roundel and the way the horizontal tail mounts partway up the rudder, suggested a late- or post-WWII British fighter. I started looking through photos of piston-engine and turboprop fighters of that era but couldn’t find one with a T-tail configuration. I expanded my search and found an early jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor (the only Allied jet fighter to fly combat missions during WWII), that matched. A friend on the museum staff later confirmed my guess: it’s a Gloster Meteor T.7, the two-seat training version, and he told me the museum has “most of it.” Well, that’s intriguing … I wonder what parts are missing?


Gloster Meteor T.7 (photo: Steve Tron on Flickr)

I’ll share an additional photo, one I took the previous Monday morning, of some aircraft sitting in front of the main restoration hangar.


Visible here are an F/A-18, a Coast Guard Dassault Guardian, and a Cessna 172. I’m particularly interested in the Cessna, which came to the museum wearing white and red civilian paint but has now been stripped down to a bare aluminum finish, and I can’t help hoping the museum will restore and display it as a T-41 Mescalero, the military version of the Cessna 172 I soloed in during USAF flight screening at Hondo Airfield in Texas back in 1973. That would be cool.


Sunday Bag o’ Background Noise

I took the GoPro out last weekend. As with every motorcycle video I’ve taped, the audio is overwhelmed with wind and road noise. I can add music during editing, but it has to compete with the background noise that’s already there.

I had a Eureka moment when I discovered the audio level setting on the GoPro camera menu, but it turns out it’s just for the loudness of the beeps it makes to let you know which buttons you’re pushing when you’re doing it by feel.

Next I looked for ways to edit noise on videos once they’re taped, but the application and software links that come up on Google are vague about audio functions, which tells me they don’t have what I’m looking for. The GoPro program that came with the camera can’t do it. Neither can Quicktime, which came with my iMac. iMovie, which I just found on the iMac, might have such a function, but so far I haven’t been able to figure it out. For now, what you see above is what I get after editing my videos: wind and road noise mixed with music.

So if any of my excellent readers know of video editing software that’ll do what I’m looking for, please let me know in the comments.

Donna opened the front door an hour ago and Mister B bolted. After a frantic search I found him in the shiggy between our house and the neighbor’s to the north, a corridor through which coyotes, bobcats, and javelina traverse the neighborhood. It was clear he went there on purpose, probably in response to something he smelled. Note to self: be super careful about opening that front door when Mister B’s around.

While I was out chasing our runaway dog, I noticed a couple of things and went out later to take photos.

fullsizeoutput_3cb7 IMG_0126

I want to hold the first photo up in front of Mister B’s face and say “See?” I posted it on Facebook with the caption “Gee, someone’s doggie must have gotten loose,” and I’m just waiting for someone to tell me those are coyote tracks, because I have some very literal-minded friends who never understand when I’m joking, and of course I know those are coyote tracks because that’s why I took the photo, innit?

The second photo shows the shiggy where I found Mister B, the wildlife corridor between our house and the neighbor’s. If you look behind my left shoulder you’ll see a tall saguaro cactus hiding in the branches of a mesquite tree. When we moved into this house 21 years ago it came up to my chest. I’m standing five or six feet in front of it in the photo, so with foreshortening it may not be obvious to you that it’s almost 20 feet high now. There are three more saguaros on our property, though none as tall as this one. Even though ours aren’t visible from the road, we’re content with the secret knowledge that we have saguaro parity with our neighbors.

I watched part of the opening episode of The Orville on Hulu last night. The first thing I noticed was the poor fit of the actors’ clothing. The second thing was the blue makeup spread over the sheets when the main character found his wife in bed with an alien lover. And then, of course, the crew of the captain’s new command contained a host of aliens, all humanoid but with cheesy Spock-like facial prosthetics. The cheesiness has to be intentional, right?

I suspect the show’s creators were taking a tongue-in-cheek poke at Star Trek. Sort of like Galaxy Quest, but nowhere near as well-done. Maybe low production values are meant to be part of its charm, but I was put off and gave up after a few minutes. Excellent television science fiction like The Man in the High Castle and The Expanse have spoiled me.

This Epstein business is going to be interesting, and probably adds a new layer to the meaning behind Trump’s rage-tweets against New York’s attorney general earlier last week. Epstein was arrested yesterday evening and reaction instantly broke down along partisan lines, as reflected in this tweet, posted earlier today:

Screen Shot 2019-07-07 at 12.57.57 PM

If Bill Clinton, when he was palling around with Jeffrey Epstein, did any of the things Trump’s said to have done when he was palling around with Epstein, of course he needs to go down. I have no problem with that. But I know the right, and if it turns out Trump really did rape a 13-year-old girl after a party at Epstein’s penthouse, they’re going to have to find, to paraphrase the words of John Kenneth Galbraith, a superior moral justification for boning children. It’ll be especially interesting to observe the mental gymnastics of the QAnon crowd, whose entire raison d’etre up to now has been the mass arrest and punishment of pedophiles.

Tell you what, give me GoPro audio problems any day. At least I’m not sweating whether or not a billionaire child sex trafficker is going to spill his guts and take me down with him!


What, Me Worry?

Madhk1The first issue of Mad came out in 1952. I would have been six and wouldn’t have known what to make of it had I seen it. I bought my first issue in a drug store in 1958. I was twelve, and instantly hooked. Although everyone calls it “Mad Magazine” today, as far as I know it was still just “Mad” when I started reading it. Hell, as far as I know it’s still just “Mad,” as it prepares to print its last regular issue.

When I started reading Mad, it had a habit of recycling material from early issues. I may be confused on that: it’s equally possible friends had copies of older issues and let me read them. Either way, I particularly remember the cartoons of Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood, and I definitely preferred the older stuff. Some of the new stuff was good, though: Don Martin was drawing for Mad in 1958, with his floppy-footed characters and wet-your-pants hilarious farty sound effects like “FLEEN!” and “FOOSH!” Mad made me feel grown up and wise to the world in my early teens. I fell away from it when I was 14 or 15, but I’ll always remember it fondly.

Speaking of falling away from things, I see some folks feel they can no longer celebrate Independence Day, what with the evils that have been revealed about the nation’s past and new evils being uncovered every day. I get that, but the evil springs from human nature and crosses all national and cultural boundaries, and I’m hard pressed to think of any other nation or population that isn’t dealing with the same issues, past or present.

I wonder if the woman who wrote the linked letter didn’t learn about our nation’s past in school. She writes as if it’s new to her, which I suppose would make it quite a shock. They certainly didn’t teach the squirmy stuff, let alone the really bad stuff, back when I went to school. I think that’s a mistake. We should be taught our nation’s past, bad and good. We’d be better adults for it, and less tolerant of those who want to do evil in our name today.

When it comes to my own relationship with Independence Day, it’s kinda like Christmas. I quit believing in Santa Claus a long time ago, and then Jesus, and when I look at the holiday now I see an orgy of consumerism. In spite of that I still feel the Christmas spirit and appreciate the idea of a holiday where we think more of giving than receiving. Similar feelings spill over to Independence Day. Much of my country’s past is horrific, and some of what’s being done in our name today is just as horrific, but we did once stand up to powerful colonial masters and rebel, and what we fought for then, liberty and justice for all, remains a worthy goal and an idea to celebrate.

Sure, when our forefathers said “liberty and justice for all,” they were thinking only of white men, and property owners at that, but today we extend the idea to all men and women, and when we practice what we preach the USA really is a beacon to the world. Independence Day, to me, is as much about celebrating that aspiration as it is about celebrating our freedom.



So, as we do every year, we celebrated. Our neighborhood parade was small but spirited. And look at those freshly-paved roads, would you? Really highlights the red, white, and blue everyone was wearing! This year we moved the parade up from 9 to 8 AM, and I’m sure Maxie and Mister B appreciated that … if we’d waited an extra hour the pavement would have been too hot for their paws. The parade was followed by a potluck brunch at a neighbor’s home.

Polly’s battery died, so after brunch I wheeled out the charger and later helped her get a new battery from the car parts store on the corner, happily open on the holiday. I grilled dry-rubbed ribs, which we had for dinner with corn on the cob and cole slaw, followed up by Stranger Things on Netflix (man, I must have read a dozen articles and posts this week about how the Stranger Things kids have grown, but that turned out to be hype—of course they’ve grown, but they’re still young teenagers, and look very much the same as they did in the first two seasons).

One thing we did not watch was Trump’s thing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, with the tanks and planes. My impression, from reading news coverage this morning, is that attendance could have been better and that the display of military might, while not exactly a fizzle, was hardly Red Square-worthy. I predict Trump will be unable to resist complaining and that his supporters will blame the military for not putting on more of a spectacle.

I wonder who or what they’ll blame for the part of the Dotard’s speech where he said “Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do, and at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, it had nothing but victory.” The fake news media? A teleprompter shorting out in the rain? Demoncrats? Anything but senility, that’s for sure.

Let’s get back to being a beacon to the world, okay?


Air-Minded: Douglas F3D Skyknight

This Air-Minded post is from March 2014. I was thinking about the Douglas Skyknight yesterday, and after reviewing what I had written about it earlier, decided to move the post to the top of the queue. —Paul Woodford

F3D_Skyknight_3-view_Greg_GoebelThere’s a Skyknight on display at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona, where I work as a volunteer tour guide. It catches my eye every time I walk past it, maybe because it’s so different. I decided to take some photos, do some research, and write about what I learned. Turns out the old tub—also known as Willie the Whale, the Turtle, and the Drut (spell it backwards)—was a far more significant aircraft than I had imagined.

I remember building a model of this airplane during the 1950s. I built a lot of models as a kid and have surely forgotten most of them, but that one stuck in my mind. All I knew about the Skyknight at the time was that it had been one of the Navy’s first jet fighters. It struck me as antiquated with its straight wings, bulky fuselage, and side-by-side seating, so unlike the other jet fighters developed after WWII. If anyone had told me then that Skyknights were still flying, or indeed that they would continue flying for many years to come, I would have scoffed—surely the type had been long retired, replaced by sleeker designs like Douglas’ F4D Skyray or A4D Skyhawk.


Douglas F3D-2 Skyknight, Pima Air & Space Museum (photo: Paul Woodford)

The Skyknight originated with a 1945 Navy requirement for a jet-powered, radar-equipped, carrier-based night fighter. The prototype flew in March 1948 and the Navy ordered 28 production F3D-1 aircraft few months later. In August 1949 the Navy ordered a second batch of 237 aircraft, an improved version called the F3D-2. The first F3Ds entered USN and USMC service in 1950, and although production ended in March 1952, Skyknights remained in service until the 1970s.

The F3D-1 never deployed outside the United States, but was used to train aircrews who then flew the F3D-2 in combat in Korea. In 1962, when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered the military services to adopt a uniform aircraft designation system, the remaining F3Ds became F-10s. An electronic warfare variant, the EF-10, saw combat in Vietnam. The last military Skyknight, an EF-10B assigned to the Marine Corps, was retired in 1970.

After the Skyknight’s retirement a few aircraft were given to Raytheon to use in missile and radar testing, and at least one of these was still flying in late 1978 at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, where I used to see it while going through USAF fighter lead-in training.


Douglas F3D-2 Skyknight, Pima Air & Space Museum (photo: Paul Woodford)

What was so significant about the Skyknight? For one thing, it was built around three separate radars: two search and tracking radars located in the nose plus a tail warning radar in the aft fuselage. The size of these early vacuum tube radars dictated the Skyknight’s wide, deep fuselage, side-by-side crew seating arrangement, and the location of the engines in pods located on the outside of the lower fuselage. The search radar was surprisingly effective for its time, able to pick up bomber-sized targets at 20 miles and fighter-sized targets at 15. The tracking radar could lock on at 4,000 yards and guide the Skyknight all the way in to a firing position behind the target. The tail warning radar could detect attacking aircraft as far as 4 miles away, giving the Skyknight crew ample time to react.

In the pre-missile days of the Korean War, the F3D made its mark as a night fighter. Skyknight crews used the radar to acquire enemy aircraft and close in, unobserved, for the kill. The F3D was actually the most successful Navy or Marine Corps air-to-air fighter of the war: USMC Skyknight crews were credited with six kills (one Polikarpov Po-2, one Yakovlev Yak-15 and four MiG-15s). During the initial part of the war Skyknight crews got their kills with the four 20mm cannon located below the nose; later on they used air-to-air rockets to supplement the guns.


Douglas F3D-2 Skyknight, Pima Air & Space Museum (photo: Paul Woodford)

Also of significance (at least from my point of view as a former USAF fighter pilot): immediately after the Korean War the Skyknight was used to test the first generation of air-to-air radar-guided missiles, and in fact it became the first Navy jet to carry an operational air-to-air radar missile: the Sparrow I, the ancestor of the AIM-7 Sparrows I carried on my F-15 Eagle.

F3D-2M Launch project steam

F3D-2 with Sparrow I missiles

Douglas proposed an evolutionary version of the Skyknight in 1959, the F6D Missileer, in an effort to win a Navy contract for a carrier-based fleet defense missile fighter. The Missileer was meant to carry an advanced long-range air-to-air missile called the AAM-N-10 Eagle. Although nothing came of that effort, the Missileer’s weapon system and side-by-side crew arrangement was later adapted for the General Dynamics-Grumman F-111B, which was to have been the Navy version of Robert McNamara’s joint service fighter, and which was to have carried another advanced long-range air-to-air missile, the AWG-9 Phoenix. The F-111B was built and tested, but the Navy eventually rejected it and developed the F-14 Tomcat instead, which also employed the Phoenix missile. The USAF, of course, flew versions of the F-111 fighter/bomber for many years.


F6D Missileer (never built)


F-111B (tested, then rejected)

Speaking of the side-by-side crew seating arrangement, one of the details I remember from building that Skyknight model way back when was the escape chute. Although ejection seats were in use at the time the F3D was designed, they weren’t yet safe for side-by-side operation, so the Skyknight came with a more primitive escape system. In the event the crew had to bail out, they would depressurize the cockpit and pivot their seats toward each other. The first crewmember would get out of his seat, face aft, and kick open the escape chute door, which would presumably fall out and away through the chute. Grasping a horizontal bar, the crewmember would swing into the chute feet first, then slide out the belly of the aircraft, followed by the second crewmember. Here are some photos of the escape sequence:


1: pivot out of seat


2: grasp bar, kick open door


3: slide down escape chute


4: land on mattress (not included)

I had no idea the Skyknight played such an important role in air-to-air radar and missile development, or that many of the systems and concepts it tested and proved live on today, not only in the F-15 Eagle that I flew, but in fifth generation air-to-air fighters as well. I don’t know about you, but I’m impressed.



Playing the Hero Card

fullsizeoutput_3c9eYesterday was a day for being pigeonholed. As I helped board tram passengers at the air museum, a man pressed this card into my hand and thanked me effusively for my sacrifice. Later, a kid at a drive-thru window gave me the senior discount without my having asked for it.

In both cases, strangers sized me up correctly after one glance. That shouldn’t annoy me, but it did. As I asked my little Facebook friends, am I that obvious? Well, probably the fact that I volunteer at an air museum with hundreds of military aircraft on display makes my being a vet a safe guess … that and my short hair. But until yesterday, if I ever wanted a senior discount I had to ask for it. Are those days really over?

fullsizeoutput_3ca0Here’s the back side of the card, by the way. “Dear American Hero,” indeed. That’s so over the top it makes me squirm.

Pubic displays of support-the-troops sentiment started with Desert Storm, our first big conflict with an all-volunteer military. We’ve all heard stories about hippies spitting on returning Vietnam vets. That never happened, but it is true that the Vietnam War, like the Korean War before it, was unpopular with the American public and those who fought in it didn’t get the level of respect we give troops and vets today. The troops who fought in Vietnam and Korea were draftees. Except for wealthy draft dodgers, they were a fair representation of American society. The troops who fight today are volunteers, and represent just a tiny slice of the population.

According to stats anyone can look up on Google, there are 18.8 million veterans living in the U.S. today. That represents just 7.6 percent of the population. As for those currently serving, the numbers are much smaller: 1.4 million men and women, or half a percent of the population. It’s fair to say that military men, women, and families have become a separate caste within American society. So maybe it really was some kind of big deal for that guy at the museum to meet a veteran. Going by the numbers, I might have been the first one he ever shook hands with!

Look, I’m proud to have served my country. A glance at this blog will show that. But it was also a career choice, and despite a level of personal risk a good one. I didn’t see it as a sacrifice. Uncle Sam paid me to fly jets, and now he gives me a pension, and how many American workers even know what a pension is any more? So lay off the “hero” stuff, will ya?

And if you happen to bump into me in person, please tell me I don’t look anywhere near 72 even if it’s a lie, okay?

These last few days have been all about tech. I bought a new iPad to replace my old second-generation one, and traded in an iPhone 6s for a new XS. But here’s the biggie:

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Yes, the ten-year-old 21-inch iMac made way for a new 27-incher. The thought of having to migrate applications and data from one to the other filled me with dread, but it turned out to be easy (that’s what’s going on in the left photo). Apple, IMHO, still has it, and I love the way the tablet, phone, and desktop computer work together and share data.

Polly has the old iPad and is busy setting it up to do the things she wants, which is mostly to stream Netflix shows and movies. The old iPhone is getting mailed back for a trade-in allowance on the new one. The old iMac moved over to Donna’s desk.

I’d been planning to upgrade the iPad and iMac for a while, but honestly the new iPhone was more of a since-I’m-here-anyway-let’s-do-it whim. I got it mainly for the camera, which is better than the ones in older iPhones and has new features, including a portrait mode which allows you to adjust the f-stop for depth. Like this:

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You know I’m going to have fun with that!

The contractors finished patching and resealing our streets last Friday. The county doesn’t maintain the roads in our subdivision. Instead, we and our neighbors pay into a road repair and maintenance fund. There’s another subdivision two miles north of ours. Same builders, same house plans. They apparently don’t have a homeowners’ association, and it’s the difference between the First and Third Worlds, almost. I’m happy to be part of a neighborhood that takes pride in its appearance.

I went for a motorcycle ride early Saturday morning and was one of the first residents to drive on the new blacktop. I taped the tail end of the ride, from the time I turned off the main road into our neighborhood, to pulling into the garage and parking. Turn your volume down, because I haven’t yet learned how to mute the engine and wind noise on these GoPro videos.

Nice looking streets, eh? All that blacktop soaks up the heat, though, and for the next few months Mister B and I are going to have to take our daily walk at the crack of dawn, when the pavement won’t burn his little feet.


Steaks on the Barbie

Here are Pima Air and Space Museum’s F-15 Eagle and F-16 Viper. When I went in Monday they were missing from their regular places. Looking around, I spied them on the wash rack in front of the restoration hangar, drying in the sun after getting a good cleaning. By the time I go in next Monday, they’ll be back in their regular places, looking better than they ever did when they were flying the line.


Full disclosure: this isn’t my photo. I took an almost identical one, but from a greater distance with an iPhone zoomed to the max. Mine, needless to say, didn’t turn out this well. One of the museum staffers, John Bezosky, took this. Thanks, John!

Came home from Costco yesterday with a new iPhone and iPad, and some time next week will replace my current 21-inch iMac with a new 27-incher. The old iPhone went back to Verizon for a trade-in allowance. The old iPad went to our daughter Polly, and the old iMac will go to Donna, whose ancient desktop PC died a while back.

Setting up the new phone and tablet was quite the drill. The kids at the Verizon kiosk in Costco did most of the phone stuff for me, but not all of it, and I was totally on my own when it came to setting up the iPad. I’ll be on my own next week too, transferring data and files from one iMac to another, then setting the old one up the way Donna wants it … I anticipate the destruction of additional brain cells.

The new phone is pretty cool, and has a great camera. I hope you’ll notice an improvement in the quality of the photos I post here.

It’s Friday and we feel like celebrating. Steaks on the barbie!

Tomorrow I’m riding the motorcycle up to the top of Mount Lemmon. It’s a monthly outing for a little motorcycling group I started, but I haven’t heard from anyone and suspect I’ll be going by myself. I put a new GoPro mount on the side of my helmet and plan to record the ride.

Other than playing with the new toys, there isn’t a lot going on here. Donna’s sewing me a new patriotic shirt for the 4th of July. Pavers have been busy out front resealing our subdivision streets, and today is the last day. Our neighbors have been shuffling cars from their own driveways to neighbors’ driveways on the other side, and as I write our driveway is packed, but I prepositioned the truck earlier today so I could get out to buy steaks.

More soon!