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Copyright 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

Comments Are Open (Again)

Dear Paul’s Thing Readers,

Comments are open again, which means you can weigh in on posts here at Paul’s Thing without having to register and log in.

I started requiring commenters to register and log in a few years ago after comment spammers discovered this blog. That got rid of the spammers, but it discouraged discussion from real readers. I’ve installed some anti-spam plugins, which I hope will fend off most of the comment spam. If any gets through, I’ll manually delete it.

I don’t yet know how effective these plugins are. There’s a possibility they might block some of your comments, especially if you write about things like discount sunglasses or boner pills. Stay away from subjects like that and you should be fine!


Air-Minded: Coffins


Enter the museum, if you dare … bwa ha ha ha ha!

Earlier this week the Pima Air & Space Museum stayed open late for its annual Halloween Fright Night, an event for kids. When I went in yesterday to lead my weekly walking tours, the Fright Night decor was still up, so I asked another volunteer to snap my photo by this macabre diorama.

bat patch copyThe coffin and bones are what drew me to that display. From 1989 to 1992 I flew with the 44th Fighter Squadron, aka the Vampires, at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. Our patch (left) featured a vampire bat, the first flight of the day used the Bat 01 callsign, and the guest of honor at Friday night post-flying roll calls was Colonel Joe Vampire, a life-sized skeleton mannequin dressed in a flight suit and helmet who lived in a coffin like the one in the photo, propped up in a corner of the squadron ready room and after-hours bar.

Ah, esprit de corps. Where would we be without it?

I read today of the passing of Colonel Jack Broughton, the F-105 squadron commander who was court-martialed during the Vietnam war for trying to protect one of his young pilots by destroying gun camera film showing him strafing an off-limits target: a Russian ship in Haiphong Harbor. I read Broughton’s Vietnam memoir, Thud Ridge, and always admired the man, though at a distance. To my regret I never met him, but I did fly under majors and lieutenant colonels who had as lieutenants flown Thuds downtown under Broughton’s command.

I was happy to learn today, looking up background information on my old squadron, that my Vietnam-era Vampire predecessors flew F-105s out of Korat and Takhli in Thailand. Wow. A double dose of esprit de corps.

You know, those guys … the Jack Broughtons of the Vietnam war … may have been political troglodytes, ranting and raving that LBJ and McNamara cost us the war in Vietnam and put American aircrews’ lives at risk by micromanaging rules of engagement, ingress and egress routes, and an ever-changing list of targets we could and could not attack, but god damn it, they were right, and I can only imagine what their spirits think of the restrictions being put on our air campaign in Iraq and Syria today.

baka-diagramI’ll close with a few photos of Pima Air & Space Museum’s Ohka “Cherry Blossom” suicide bomb trainer, a literal flying coffin. This item, a spoil of war from a defeated Japan, was first studied by the US military and then put in storage (as you can see from the photo, much of it is still crated). Eventually it was given to the Smithsonian, which in turn loaned it to us. It currently sits in one of our back rooms, awaiting reassembly and restoration. The terms of the inter-museum agreement say it has to be stored and displayed indoors; we’re waiting for a new hangar to be built on the museum grounds before we put it on display.

The Ohka was a rocket-powered suicide bomb, a desperation weapon adopted near the end of the war. The Japanese would hang it underneath a bomber, which would fly as close to the American fleet as it dared before dropping it. Once released, the Ohka kamikaze pilot would glide until he picked his target, then dive and fire the rocket to accelerate to 500+ mph on his final approach, presenting a difficult, hard to track target to naval anti-aircraft gunners.

The standard Ohka had a single seat and a large warhead in the nose: our Ohka is a two-seater, a training variant discovered in Japan after the surrender. Presumably flying a rocket-powered bomb required a different skill set from that needed to fly conventional airplanes, necessitating a ride or two in a trainer first. In these models the warhead was replaced by water ballast and a forward cockpit for the (no doubt very brave) instructor pilot. After a training dive, the instructor and his student would glide to a nearby airfield and land on skids welded to the bottom of the Ohka. I’m going to guess the instructor handled the approach and touchdown; there wouldn’t have been much need to teach the student kamikaze pilot how to do that.

Cherry Bomb Restoration

Ohka “Cherry Blossom” trainer in storage

I wrote about our Ohka before, and I sneak into the storage room from time to time to see if they’ve worked on it or uncrated any additional parts. Wednesday, I discovered a new tail section, wings, and canopy sitting on a pallet, wrapped in plastic:

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New wings, tail section, and canopy

I can’t believe these are factory originals; I think they were fabricated by our restoration shop to replace the heavily-damaged original parts. In this photo, you can see the original tail section, much the worse for wear:

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Original damaged tail section

Hey, Ohkas weren’t built to last. The crates, on the other hand … don’t these photos remind you of the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, when they’re putting the Ark of the Covenant into that enormous underground warehouse of precious and wonderful artifacts? Doesn’t that give you a bit of a Halloween vibe? It does me.

Happy Halloween, everyone!


Hey, Baby

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I thought this video, which has been widely shared on Twitter, would be all over Facebook by now, but so far no one in my small circle of friends has posted it.

Too often, when women try to explain the sexual harassment they experience on the street, fending off or trying to ignore comments and cracks, men, though they may not say it out loud, think “Girl, if you’re not talking actual assault or rape, I’m tuning you out.” It’s a lot more effective to show it in action, as this video does.

I was going to post it to Facebook myself, because I think it’s a good teaching tool (Jessica Williams recently did a Daily Show segment that makes the same point about sexual catcalling, and I was going to post it too), but then I started overthinking it, as usual.

If I post it, as a man, will I look like one of those creeps who take women’s studies classes as a ploy to get laid? If I forward it to women I know, hoping they’ll post it so I can share it, will they see right through me?

Then I read an article in Slate pointing out that out of ten hours of footage, whoever put it together edited out catcalling white men and left only men of color. So it’s a racist video, and now I’m a racist because I didn’t pick up on that the first time I watched it, no doubt because my inner racist saw those dark-skinned men hey-babying that woman and subconsciously thought, “Well of course, they were all raised in primitive cultures where boys are valued over girls.” Now I’m an awful person just for thinking about posting it!

Like I said, overthinking. Watch the damn video, guys, and try to understand what women are telling you.


Evil Twitter, Saintly Dogs

evil twitterI’m souring on Twitter. It’s still of use as a check on breaking news, but god, so many assholes piling on other assholes. It’s not just #gamergate: the other day I read a long series of tweets that seemed to be accusing actor Rainn Wilson of being a rapist. That was news to me, so I Googled it: apparently Wilson is a rapist, if by “rapist” you mean he once tweeted a date rape joke that fell flat, and is making some videos with a man who was once accused of rape by an ex-girlfriend (I’m not going to link to any of this he said/she said stuff).

Author John Grisham is in the Twitter crosshairs for saying something in support of a friend accused of downloading porn videos with underaged women in them. Date rape accusations against Bill Cosby are making the rounds again. OMG and what Twitter veteran can forget the steaming heap of abuse Woody Allen was buried under, the hatred directed at singer Michelle Shocked, or the poor PR lady who tweeted an AIDS joke as she boarded a flight to South Africa only to land 12 hours later and learn her company had reacted to the Twitter firestorm by firing her?

In Orwell’s 1984, the Two-Minutes Hate was a daily event. On Twitter it’s constant, its targets shifting from minute to minute. What the hell is with all this self-righteousness? Haven’t we all done things we wouldn’t want dredged up and hurled at us on social media?

I wonder how many more of these “recent converts to Islam” are going to go on the attack in Western cities? It occurred to me, watching the news from Ottawa last night, that young white men with Muslim-looking beards can from now on expect to be profiled and treated as potential terrorists. And dark-skinned men with Muslim beards? Katie bar the door!

Well, enough of that. Our daughter Polly dropped by this morning to pick up her bicycle and take it back to Ajo with her. I gave her a bicycle tire pump and a motorcycle nose wheel stand she can use when she changes the oil in her Ducati. Not to worry, she still has tons of things in our garage. As every parent of adult children knows, they’re not really gone until their stuff is gone too!

When Polly got here, before we knew she was here, the dogs saw her through the window and ran back to the office to let us know it was Polly! Polly! Schatzi normally barks, and so does Maxie, but this time Maxie was so excited she whined. It’s the first time we’ve heard her do that. I don’t know why that seems important enough to mention, but it does.

Speaking of kids, we’ll spend Thanksgiving with our son, daughter in law, and grandson in Las Vegas. I’m not sure if our granddaughter Taylor will be there too … I hope so … and according to Polly this morning, she’ll be there too, with her boyfriend David.

Photo on 10-23-14 at 11.31 AMMy swollen black eye is slowly getting back to normal. The cut under the bandage is vicious-looking, T-shaped, an inch-and-a-half across, and deep. I could post a photo of it, but I don’t want to turn the blog into a charnel house. When the stitches come out Monday I’ll have a nasty mark on my cheek, like those German university students of old with their fencing scars.

The first two days I couldn’t read. The swelling left a narrow slit to peer through and my left eye could only look straight ahead. When I put on bifocals to read the left eye saw through the top while the right saw through the bottom. This made for an unpleasant double vision so I watched TV instead since I could do that without the glasses. Now the swelling is down some, I can probably start reading through my glasses again. As for working on my blog, the monitor, like the TV, is far enough away that I don’t need glasses to see it.

Donna’s scar is pretty impressive too, but should heal without leaving a mark. She’s convinced her nose is crooked now, but I don’t see it. I think she’ll be fine. Man, the things they didn’t tell us about getting old!

The dogs have have smothered us in affection since we came home with our faces cut to pieces. I’m going to reward them with a car trip to Eegee’s for a sandwich and some fries. Yes, they get to share a little bit of my lunch, and I’m honestly not sure which part they like better, going in the car or helping me finish off the fries.

Back now. The answer appears to be c) both of the above. In heaven, doggies ride in cars and eat whenever they want, and damn I hope that turns out to be true.


Tuesday Bag o’ Woe Is Us

Two weeks ago my dermatologist decided he didn’t like the look of a spot on my cheek. He snipped off a sample and sent it to the lab. It turned out to be a basal cell skin cancer, so he scheduled me for an outpatient procedure yesterday.

When I told Donna I had to go in on Monday, she said, “Me too.” Donna sees a different dermatologist—hers too had found a basal cell growth and had asked her to come in on Monday to have it cut out. Donna’s appointment was in the morning; mine was in the afternoon. Here’s what we looked like afterward:


Donna has a one-inch vertical cut on the tip of her nose and I have a horizontal cut below my left eye. Stitches galore for each of us; those will come out sometime next week.

It’s odd we’d go through the same experience at the same time, but there it is. We’ve both been told to take it easy for a few days, to avoid bending over at the waist lest it put strain on our cuts, to sleep with our heads elevated. So we’re taking care of each other, and the dogs are pitching in too. They took one look at us and knew we needed love and affection. As we all know there is no more supportive friend than a dog, so it’s a good thing there’s one for each of us.

Donna’s had suspicious moles removed before, but I think this is the first time she’s had something cut out from underneath her skin. I’ve had five or six subcutaneous basal cell cancers removed, so this was old hat to me. The procedure itself is pain-free (if you don’t count the injection of the anesthetic), but the aftermath is unpleasant. My left eye is black and so swollen I can barely see out of it. Curiously it’s worse with my glasses on, but I’m sure once the swelling goes down it’ll be better. Donna’s not having any trouble with her nose, or at least none she’ll admit to.

I probably should say “Kids, use your sunblock and always wear a hat,” but I’m not certain I believe that’ll keep you from getting skin cancer if you’re prone to it in the first place. Oh, sure, it has to help—I’m religious about wearing hats outdoors, and I try to use sunblock when I go hiking, bicycling, or motorcycle riding—but I know I’m going to keep getting these things anyway. All my sisters are getting them too.

I see my dermatologist three times a year. He always finds several keratoses and freezes them; about once every two years he’ll find a basal cell growth and cut it out. Donna’s way behind me on that score, and I hope she never catches up.

Anyway, we’re fine. The big wrappings are off now. By Halloween we should be back to normal, or what passes for such, and when the neighborhood kids come to the door we won’t be nearly as scary looking as we were yesterday.

Question of the day: what do people who don’t have medical insurance do?


Air-Minded: a Cars & Planes Photoblog

Back-to-back car shows this weekend. Saturday’s show was an annual event at St Gregory’s Academy; Sunday’s was at the Pima Air & Space Museum. As car shows go, the air museum event was a small one, but it gave me an excuse to combine a motorcycle ride, a photo session, and a visit to the museum.

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At the Pima Air & Space Museum entrance

The cars on display at the museum were primarily early Fords, Model Ts and Model As. Some of their owners parked them in the shade under aircraft wings, which wasn’t ideal for photography, but I had a great time trying to get clear shots of all of them. I wish the cars had been of the same vintage as the aircraft on display—wouldn’t it be fun to see a 1949 Cadillac parked under the wing of Eisenhower’s Lockheed Constellation?

Well. Here are a few photos from yesterday’s visit to the air museum. The rest are in my Cars & Planes photo album on Flickr.

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Car Show Photoblog

Every year in October I take my camera to the Tucson Classics Car Show at St Gregory’s Academy, a private college prep school in Tucson. I go early in the morning, when exhibitors are still arriving and parking on the grass, when crowds haven’t gotten out of hand, when it’s still cool.

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As you can see from this overhead shot, there are always plenty of muscle cars on display. I don’t know, muscle cars don’t move me. After I’ve looked at one or two, they start to look the same. What catches my eye are antiques, old motorcycles, engines, the Bulgemobiles from the 40s, 50s, and 60s.

I’ll post a few of my photos here. Clicking on the thumbnails will take you to the originals on Flickr. You can also go straight to my full Flickr gallery to see them all.

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Straight eight

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Indian Chief

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’59 Chevy

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Cadillac Series 355

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Cadillac Series 355

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’53 Kaiser Manhattan

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1920s Indian Chief

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’05 Franklin

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’05 Franklin

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Supercharged Graham

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Supercharged Graham

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’63 Thunderbird Landau


Friday Bag o’ Books

Bag-Of_BooksI’ve been catching up on my reading. No, strike that, there’re be no catching up in my lifetime. I add new books to the pile as fast as I finish the ones already there. The library sent an email alert this morning: an American history text I ordered is in. I don’t normally read textbooks, but this one’s been the target of politically-motivated banning attempts in several states, and I plan to review it for a future banned book post.

Over thirty unread books, mostly novels, are stored on our Kindle and Nook e-readers. Another three are on my Amazon wish list. I like that wish list. It’s a way to keep track of books and products you want to buy when you have the money. The downside is that Amazon shares your wish list with vendors, who help you keep track with tailored ads on your Facebook news feed. I put a self-winding Seiko wristwatch on my wish list a few months ago, and I see Facebook ads for that damn watch nearly every day. I wonder if the ads will stop when I buy it?

We keep thinking it would be fun to have another full-sized pickup truck. We’re interested in the new aluminum-bodied Ford F150, which promises to get better mileage than other large pickup trucks (not that I really believe those promises). I went to the website last night to put together the one we want: cab and bed size, engine, towing package, interior and exterior options. It priced out at almost $38,000, and our wants aren’t extravagant. The truck we want is the equivalent of the one we bought in 1994, which cost about $19,000. Not that we would, but were we to buy it with no down, monthly payments would be about $550. For six years.

What do new cars cost? I’m going to guess at least half the cars people buy today cost more than $38,000. People who buy $60,000+ cars must be spending a grand a month on car and insurance payments, pretty much for the entire time they “own” it. How do you justify making that kind of commitment? Do you plug your ears and sing La-La-La real loud to keep from thinking of the ramifications and consequences?

I think we’re going to wait a year or two and buy a used F150. It’s the only sensible way to do it these days. Or maybe we’ll run out of oil before then and buying another car will be the last thing on our minds.

Tomorrow morning is the annual car show at St. Gregory’s Academy. I go every year (click here to see my photos from last year’s show). It’s starting to look as if it may rain this afternoon and evening, though. The cars are displayed on the grass, and if the ground gets soggy they might postpone the show. If that happens my heart won’t be broken … rain or shine, tomorrow afternoon we’re hosting book club and in the evening going to a friend’s house for cooking club. Busy busy busy.

So far no Ebola in our house. I stopped at CVS yesterday morning for my annual flu shot, and Donna’s going today. Which means if we get something that feels like the flu, it’ll most likely be Ebola, what with all these infected nurses gallivanting here and there (insert ironic emoticon). Bless those nurses. They are the best, although this Alabama paramedic is giving them a run for the money.

Funny how everyone in Congress is suddenly demanding our hospitals act and perform as if they’re part of a well-organized national healthcare system, with layers and layers of robust government support behind them. These would be the same congressmen, of course, who have fought against every move in that direction. Well, we’ll get there someday. Maybe the current Ebola scare will push us a little closer. One can hope.

Well, there’s room in my book bag for one more, so it’s time for a library run!