Air-Minded: Call Sign Protocol (Wait, What?)

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From Navy to Change Pilot Call Sign Protocol After Minority Aviators Report Bias:

“The head of naval aviation has directed the creation of a new process for approving and reviewing pilots’ call signs after two African-American aviators at an F/A-18 Hornet training squadron in Virginia filed complaints alleging racial bias in the unit, from which they said they were unfairly dismissed.”

To outsiders, military aviators must seem like spoiled children. To some degree, we are. And this is why we can’t be allowed to have nice things.

During my year in USAF pilot training and the three years that followed, during which I taught new student pilots to fly the T-37 in Air Training Command, I didn’t have an individual call sign. The understanding back then was that you didn’t get one until you were checked out in a weapons system, a real airplane that could go to war: a fighter, bomber, tanker, or transport … not a lowly trainer.

After my tour in ATC, I was assigned to fly the F-15 Eagle. During RTU at Luke AFB, a crusty old major named Alex Hardwick told me to pick a call sign. “You’ll earn a new one once you start flying in NATO,” he said, “but you need one for now.” I had no idea what to name myself. Since his call sign was Tiger, I suggested Wolf. “No, we already have a Wolf in the squadron,” he said. We settled on Warlock, and I flew with that call sign for my first few months with the 32nd TFS in the Netherlands. Soon enough, I did something nameworthy and a new call sign was bestowed upon me. For the rest of my career I flew with this one:


Call signs are informally assigned to air crew members by their squadron mates. As with nicknames in general, call signs often reflect something about a person’s mannerisms or personality. Speak quietly and your call sign might be “Mumbles.” Sometimes they’re based on memorable feats. Blow a tire on the runway in front of Dutch royalty and you’re “Skid.” Some call signs are just shortened versions of actual names, like “F,” a guy I flew with in Alaska whose real name was Fearneyhough.

In my day, you only used call signs when you were around other squadron members, inside the building or out flying. You never spoke them aloud in formal settings. When you were shopping at the BX or conducting official business at headquarters, you wore your official name tag, the one with your actual name.

The idea is that in combat, if you see a MiG at your wingman’s six, you can say “Hendo, break right” a hell of a lot quicker than you can say “Alpha Kilo Two-One, break right”; that no one else in the flight will be confused over who you’re talking to; that Hendo (who like you has to remember a different official call sign on every flight) will instantly respond to his own name.

The Air Force (I won’t pretend to speak for the other services, but I bet it’s much the same) has an on-again/off-again relationship with call signs. Sometimes their use is tolerated, sometimes flatly outlawed. In the view of many senior commanders, the use of call signs undermines discipline. You can’t have some first lieutenant wingman addressing the full bird colonel leading the flight as Wildcat!

But we all got that. We knew when it was the right time to use them and when it was not. And when it came to giving our peers call signs, we self-policed. I only flew with a few black pilots. There weren’t many then and there aren’t many now, but I never knew one who’d been given a name that had anything to do with race. Ditto woman pilots. They weren’t part of the fighter force when I was in it, but I’ve met several since, and can’t think of any who’d been given disrespectful or sexist call signs.

If a new pilot’s buddies lose their heads and try to give a new guy or girl a disrespectful, racist, or sexist call sign, that’s when your crusty old majors and lieutenant colonels weigh in. “Try again,” they’ll say.

Well, that’s how it was when I was in the business. And that’s how it should be today: an informal, peer-level process, self-policed by senior officers in the unit, and nobody’s business at higher echelons.

But then we got Top Gun, and everybody discovered call signs. And wanted one. Training command instructor pilots have them now, even student pilots. I’m not saying that’s bad. What’s bad is when self-policing breaks down and a minority or female aviator gets a racist or sexist call sign. Because that’s when senior leaders, busy protecting their own careers, feel forced to step in and take over, and all of a sudden generals and admirals are reviewing and approving new call signs … and inevitably existing ones too.

I posted the link to the article to Facebook last night and a friend, a retired Navy captain, reminded me that one of the F-14 pilots listed in the credits at the end of Top Gun is Lt. Peter Caulk, call sign Horse. How long do you think a call sign like that would last in today’s Navy or Air Force?

The easy (career-protecting, spotlight-avoiding) solution to the whole mess is to outlaw call signs altogether. I’m sure the thought has occurred to Admiral Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, and to General Goldfein, USAF Chief of Staff. It won’t be long now.

And it’ll be our own damn fault.

And that’s why we can’t have nice things.


Paranoia Strikes Deep

Two months ago Pima Air and Space Museum announced mandatory training for all volunteer docents. The training turned out to be something else entirely … they wanted us to sign liability waivers. On the surface, the waiver looked like a simple agreement saying we wouldn’t sue the museum for injuries received on site. Staff told us such waivers are standard across the museum industry. I read mine as carefully as any non-lawyer could, didn’t see any threat, and signed.


Pima Air and Space Museum

Now I see this, an article in Sunday’s Green Valley News: Titan Missile Museum Losing Volunteers, Revenue over Liability Waiver.


Titan Missile Museum

The Titan Missile Museum, located 20 miles south of Tucson in Green Valley, is part of PASM. The docents identified in the article are my colleagues. In fact some of them volunteer at both sites, and presumably those who left TMM after refusing to sign the waiver have also left PASM. They think the waiver puts volunteers on the hook for attorney fees and potential damages should a third party (i.e., a visitor) sue the museum.

When museum staff conducted the liability waiver “training,” rather than hold one or two large group sessions, they pulled in just the volunteers working on any given day. That meant many small sessions, seven days a week over the course of several weeks until they got to everyone. It also meant that when we were given the choice of signing the waiver or resigning, there were only one or two of us in the room, with no opportunity for group discussion where issues like those identified in the Green Valley News might have surfaced.

What do I know? The volunteers who left rather than sign the waiver may have spun themselves up over nothing. As I said, I didn’t see any compelling reason not to sign the waiver. But I’m not trained in such things, and had there been an opportunity for group discussion, I would have been able to make a more informed decision. And now I can’t help wondering if museum staff intentionally broke us up into ones and twos to prevent just that kind of discussion.

Yeah, you know the song:

Paranoia strikes deep,
Into your life it will creep,
It starts when you’re always afraid,
You step out of line, the man come and take you away.

Adding to my suspicions, up until the beginning of this year every volunteer docent team (walking tour team, tram team, Boneyard tour team, etc) had volunteer team leaders. I used to be a team leader, and one of my responsibilities was to keep and distribute an up-to-date roster of current team members’ names, email addresses, and phone numbers. That way we could contact one another when we needed a substitute, or share info when it was impractical to have face-to-face group meetings.

What happened in January? Museum staff eliminated the volunteer team leader positions and took those duties on themselves. Since then there have been no rosters, and when I asked a staff member when we could expect a new one she said they weren’t sharing other volunteers’ contact information over privacy concerns. Hey what? A paranoid person (and I’m rapidly becoming one) would take that to mean they don’t want us to be able to get together to discuss issues affecting us.

If that’s their plan, I wish them luck. Have they even heard of email and social media?

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound,
Everybody look what’s going down,
Stop, hey, what’s that sound,
Everybody look what’s going down,
Stop, now, what’s that sound,
Everybody look what’s going down,
Stop, children, what’s that sound,
Everybody look what’s going down.


IDGAF, Except When I Do

exo_vaticanaDonna and I are in our 70s. Donna’s birthday is next week and once again she’ll be an official older woman … until October, that is, when I’ll catch up with her. But the less said about that the better.

We have a lot of friends our age, some a bit older, some a bit younger. Sadly, it’s nothing new to hear from a contemporary who doesn’t have long to live and has decided it’s time to read his or her friends in on the fact. No doubt you’ve had the same experience. You and me, we’ll experience it again and again, and some day it’ll be our turn. Never gets easier, though. It sucks, and it sucks every time.

When we were stationed in the Netherlands we became close friends with our squadron’s Dutch/American military liaison officer, Peter. We stayed friends, and some years later worked together again, organizing a squadron reunion in Las Vegas. Peter and I exchange email and holiday cards all the time. He had a minor stroke a couple of years ago, and then this April, on the train to Den Haag, suffered a minor heart attack. When he was in hospital for that they discovered a not-so-minor cancer. He wrote to us and a few other friends this morning.

I never know what to say to friends when they get bad news like this. Who does? I’ll be working on that, and in the meantime calling up good memories of our times together.

My reading glasses are a mess. I guess I wasn’t cleaning them properly, and the non-glare coating started wearing off in patches. I needed an eye exam anyway, just because it’s been a few years, but what I really wanted was a new prescription for readers. I went in for an exam and prescription this morning, then stopped at Costco to pick out frames and order my new glasses. Here’s what I’m getting:


Yeah, cheap and Clark Kentish, but I won’t be wearing them outdoors, and since I’m in my 70s I can finally, honestly, say idgaf. Besides, I like the traditional look.

p.s. I looked up Perry Ellis to see if he was real. Now I kind of wish I hadn’t. He was in fact a real person, a fashion designer, six years older than me. He died of AIDS-related complications in 1986. He was only 46.

I’m not going out of my way to follow the story of the South Dakota Air National Guard F-16 that crashed into a warehouse off the end of the runway at March AFB in southern California yesterday, but I can’t help seeing posts about it on Facebook and Twitter. On Facebook, one of the posts I saw was to an aviation group, and the comments were focused on the mishap pilot and whether or not he fucked up somehow.

I have no idea what happened yesterday. For all I know the Viper pilot did everything right, the crash was inevitable, and there was no way to avoid hitting the warehouse. But reading those comments I couldn’t help remembering a day in October 1987. I was filling out a flight plan at MacDill AFB, Florida. The TV in the VIP room next to the map table in base operations was set to CNN, which in those days was hard news, 24/7. On the screen was a multi-story hotel, and it was in flames. An Air Force A-7 Corsair II fighter-bomber, attempting an emergency landing at Indianapolis International Airport, had just crashed into a Ramada Inn. The pilot had ejected seconds before impact and was alive. This had literally just happened, and emergency crews were still responding.

Two A-7 pilots were in base ops with me, filing their own flight plan to somewhere or other. One of them, a colonel, got on the AUTOVON and started making calls. Within minutes he had the pilot’s name, and shouted across the room to his wingman, “I knew it, it’s ___________!” “Well, that was only a matter of time,” responded the wingman. The hotel was still engulfed in flames, and no one yet knew if anyone inside had died (turned out nine were killed instantly and another person died of burns 10 days later).

The fighter community is a small one and news travels fast. You can be certain every F-16 pilot in the Air Force knows the mishap pilot’s name by now, and whether he was known as a good stick or a weak dick, and has the inside line on what actually happened. The rest of us will find out when the accident report is released a few months from now.

There’s an old aviator’s prayer, sometimes called Shepard’s Prayer, after the Mercury astronaut. It goes like this: “Please, dear God, don’t let me fuck up.”

And while you’re at it, dear God, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and quit killing off my friends, so if you could do that, that’d be great.


Again with The Thing?

IMG_9062There’s a menu bar across the top of this blog. Click on About Paul’s Thing and you can view a short photo-essay about this blog’s namesake and inspiration, The Thing?, a roadside attraction on Interstate 10 near Dragoon, Arizona, 67 miles from my door in Tucson.

I know the exact mileage because I set the trip odometer to zero before hopping on my motorcycle this morning for a ride to The Thing?, which I heard had been remodeled and improved.

I wanted to see it again, take some new photos, and share my visit with you. Let me tell you, The Thing? really has been remodeled and improved. Everything inside looks brand new, and the exhibit itself, which you have to pay a small fee to see, now has aliens! And dinosaurs too!

It was fun!


My last visit was in 2015. Back then the exhibits were dusty and shabby, as you can see in the photoblog I posted then. Here’s a then & now to give you an idea:


The Rolls in 2015


The Rolls today

If you have a sharp eye you can see they repainted the Roller and put a different passenger in its back seat (and a different chauffeur in the front seat as well).

The Thing? itself is a mummy, originally said to be that of a Native American or Chinese immigrant woman. It’s not real: it was created as a circus sideshow attraction in the early 1900s. In the 1940s and 50s it was a tourist landmark on Highway 91 in California’s Mojave Desert. It’s been in its current southeast Arizona location since 1965. Here’s the mummy in 2015, and in its new display case today:


The Thing? in 2015


The Thing? today

The mummy used to be the centerpiece of the exhibit, but today it’s all about the dinosaurs and aliens, and I guess we’re supposed to think the old girl is an alien? I’m not clear on that. The life-sized dinosaurs and aliens are well done, in any case, and the walls are covered with What If? speculation about alien visitations from the days of dinosaurs right up to the present. Here are a few more photos from today’s visit:

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I had a nice chat with the folks running the place. They told me they’re cleaning up some of the old exhibits and plan to put them back on display, but they’re committed to the dinosaurs and aliens theme. They’re starting to put “alien writing” on some of the walls and plan to give younger visitors decoders. I broke down and confessed to publishing a weblog with a The Thing? theme, but they still charged me regular admission: $4.24. I asked why not $4.25 and they couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me. It didn’t occur to me until I was halfway back in Tucson, but I bet they had a penny pressing machine and I could have turned that odd little penny into a souvenir.

Oh, did I mention souvenirs? God, I am such a mark!


p.s. Click here if you’d like to see my complete The Thing? photo album on Flickr.


On the General Coarsening of Society

Donna and her sister Georgie are back from their 10-day California trip. Last night they dragged me, kicking and screaming, to a quilt show at Tucson Botanical Gardens. The exhibit, put on by Quilt for a Cause, will be at TBG through the end of September, so if you’re a local or if you’re planning to be in Tucson anytime soon, do put it on your list. I was more than pleasantly surprised, and had a great time. Donna had many friends there, and so, it turned out, did I: my riding buddy and motorcycle maintenance guru Ed was there with his daughter Hannah, a student at U of A, along with his wife Sue, a prize-winning quilter.


Donna & Georgie


International Man of Mystery™


Cactus flowers


Group selfie w/Donna’s sewing guild friend Millie

On the way home we stopped at Mariscos Chihuahua for camarones rellenos, and while there I discovered a type of hot sauce I hadn’t encountered before (if you can’t make out the label, it’s Mexico Lindo Salsa Picante Negra). It’s on my must-have list now. There are plenty of Mexican specialty markets in this little cow town, so finding it shouldn’t be a problem.

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Georgie brought a freeze-pack of venison with her from Michigan, and today I pulled out a roast to thaw. I’ll make it in the slow-cooker tomorrow, my contribution to Mother’s Day. Georgie heads back to Michigan on Wednesday, and then Donna and I will settle in for a long hot summer.

One of my favorite bloggers, Nancy Nall, said this two days ago: “I no longer watch Jeopardy but will start again once this James Holzhauer guy goes back to Vegas. He’s taken all the fun out of the game, at least for me, so someone let me know when he flames out.” Yes, that’s it. I’ve been trying to put my finger on what bothers me about that asshole. She nailed it. I think he’s ruined the show and that it’ll never be the same. I expect other professional gambler types to copycat and wreck other game shows too. Hey, it’s easy money, and isn’t that what it’s all about? The only game show I could ever stand to watch was Jeopardy, and I don’t really give a shit what happens to the others, but this guy, to me, puts a face on the general coarsening of society.

Speaking of bringing society down, why is it that whenever I see a sexually crude, grossly inappropriate post on Facebook, it was put there by a fellow Hash House Harrier? What are we, a pack of sniggering 13-year-olds?

Our neighborhood, grandly called Sunnywood Estates, is a modest subdivision of 34 homes built in the late 1980s. One of the original residents, Bob Hawks, died last year. He was our unofficial mayor, a more-or-less permanent member of the homeowners’ board and the organizer of our yearly 4th of July parade and block party. He could be seen walking his dog every morning right up to the end. There are two dead end streets in the hood (I was going to say “cul-de-sacs” but I looked it up and the plural is “culs-de-sac,” which looks so ugly in print I can’t bear to see it on my blog). Each has a circular common area and roundabout at the end. We’re all chipping in to make the common area nearest Bob’s old house into a memorial mini-park, with a flagstone path and bench. Everything’s done now but the bench. As you can see, Mister B approves.

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I have a love/hate relationship with Google News. Lately it’s hate. Not Google’s fault … the problem is the media outlets Google News links to. You see headlines on Google News, but when you click on them for the rest of the story, nearly everything is blocked. You either hit a subscription paywall or a screen demanding you disable your ad-blocker first. They say we shouldn’t get our news from headlines, but in the online world that’s increasingly all we can get, and it’s a poor way to stay informed. Of all the online news sites, two good ones I’ve found that don’t require subscriptions are Reuters and The Guardian. Both British, yes, but with excellent US coverage, and nothing’s blocked.

We once planned to retire in Grass Valley, California, so when stories about the town appear in the news I always click the link. This one caught my eye: Bizarre Conspiracy Theory Cancels Grass Valley School Fundraiser (there’s a small “please turn off your ad blocker” popup on this site, but you can click it away and actually read the story). The story is off-the-rails insane. Conspiracy nuts have always been with us, but today the crazies (QAnon members in particular) have more tools than ever before—the internet, email, and social media—and with those tools they can do real harm. Have you heard of “swatting“? The Grass Valley Charter School Foundation didn’t get swatted, exactly, but what actually happened came pretty close.

I’m planning to ride to the site of this blog’s namesake and inspiration one day next week. Yes, I’m talking about The Thing?, the infamous roadside attraction near Wilcox, Arizona, about 100 miles east of Tucson. They’ve renovated the place and added new exhibits, and it’s time for a return visit. Yes, I’m bringing my camera, and there’ll be a photoblog.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print, at least for now. More soon!


KDH3 Mash Trash: 4/28/19

Members and guests of the Knuckledraggers H3 Baja Arizona Riding Club met at the Triple T truck stop bright and early on Sunday, the 28th of April, for the monthly mash (motorcycle hash). As is only right and proper, the hare, Wankers Aweigh, arrived first, followed by Just Kirk, Loose Nut, Flying Booger, Snot Rocket, and a surprise last-minute masher, Is It In Yet?, astride the very Yamaha XJ650 Turbo that starred (along with Sean Connery, that is) in Never Say Never Again. Or was it?


L to R: Snot Rocket, Wankers, Just Kirk, Loose Nut, 3IY and the 007 bike

Wankers, Loose Nut, and Flying Booger are all regulars. Just Kirk knows two of us, and we’re working on convincing him to try regular hashing so he can become a member. Snot Rocket is Flying Booger’s sister-in-law from Michigan, a named hasher who cut her teeth during previous visits to Tucson. 3IY, as we call him for short, is a member of the jHavelina, Mr. Happys, and Pedalfiles hashes, and this was his first Knuckledraggers mash.

Wankers led us on a merry chase down beauteous State Route 83, over Santa Rosa Pass to Sonoita and the wine country near Elgin, then continued southeast on 83 through what was to the rest of us unfamiliar territory. Flying Booger was sorry he didn’t bring his GoPro, because the winding, hilly two-lane road was almost too scenic for Arizona, and came complete with unfenced cows wandering about. We left the cows alone and they didn’t seem too bothered by us, unlike their free-range brothers and sisters outside Arivaca, another Knuckledraggers destination, who startle easily and have a tendency to bolt out in front of approaching motorcycles. Anyway, you get the idea …. scenic as fuck.

Alas, our progress was interrupted by the locked west gate of Fort Huachucha, and we began to wonder if Wankers knew what he was doing after all. We backtracked to Elgin, then got on State Route 82 through Whetstone and on to SR 80, which took us south to the Town that Wouldn’t Die, Tombstone.


In Tombstone: Seabiscuit & Secretariat, 3IY, Flying Booger, Loose Nut, Wankers, Snot Rocket, Just Kirk

Lunch, circle, and on-afters were held at Big Nose Kate’s, followed by a group ride through Benson and back to Tucson on I-10, with Knuckledraggers peeling off at their individual exits.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a photo, but Loose Nut brought a guest along for the ride, a pack rat that’s moved into the heater under his dashboard. If you’re wondering what kind of motorcycle has a heater under the dashboard, don’t burn too many brain cells over it: Loose Nut keeps saying he’s going to get a motorcycle, but promises, promises … he tags along in his minivan. (Hey, here’s an idea: if Loose Nut is going to continue tailing us in his minivan, why don’t we make it the official KDH3 Baja Arizona B van?)

The next KDH3 Baja Arizona Riding Club mash will be Saturday, the 25th of May. Flying Booger is haring, and the tentative plan is to ride from Tucson to Kitt Peak, then stop for a circle and on-afters at Fred’s Arena near Three Points. Details TBA by email and on our Facebook page.

This is a #HashHouseHarrier post. See the Half-Mind Weblog Archives if you want to know more about the Hash House Harriers and hashing.


Halfmindistan SITREP

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First, a quick recap for anyone who may be unfamiliar with my blogs. I have three: Paul’s Thing, my personal blog (the one you’re reading now); Crouton’s Kitchen, my online cookbook and recipe collection; and the Half-Mind Weblog, where I write about the Hash House Harriers.

Lately I’ve begun to think of the Half-Mind Weblog as Halfmindistan. My forces have been engaged there for 15 years, almost as long as my country has been in Afghanistan. It may seem inappropriate to use a military metaphor for blogging about the hash, but I feel as if I’m at war with the Half-Mind Weblog, so here’s a SITREP to bring you up to date.

There’s been something wrong with that blog’s software for a while now. It’s gotten worse: I can no longer add new posts to it. The simplest solution, it seemed to me, would be to start a new blog, then import the contents of the old blog. This is proving to be an even knottier military problem, and I cannot guarantee my forces will prevail.

For now, I’ve decided to keep the existing Half-Mind Weblog online as an archive site. Visitors can still read everything that’s there, including years’ worth of Ask Doctor Down-Down advice columns, interviews with notable hashers, rants about hashing, hashing history, the hash dictionary, how-to posts for new hashers and hares, the hash party cookbook … basically everything I’ve ever written about the Hash House Harriers. You just won’t see any new posts there, because that function no longer works.

Instead, when I have a hash trash or something new to say about hashing, I’ll post it here on Paul’s Thing. This blog, thank G, still works perfectly.

This may only be temporary. I may still figure out how to transfer the old blog’s contents to a new blog. And we may eventually defeat the Taliban and turn Afghanistan into a peace-loving suburb of the USA.

In other words, don’t hold your breath.


Danger at the Door

Up early on a beautiful Sunday morning. Fed the dogs, started a few loads of laundry, wrote a book review, walked Mister B, and made myself breakfast. Now for some bloggage.


While I was working on the book review, this critter sauntered up to the house. Polly’s cats often sun themselves outside her bedroom window, so I hollered down the hall at her to call them in. I needn’t have worried … yes, the cats were out, but they had an eye on the coyote the whole time and were in no danger. Not so the hairless Rex cat we had several years ago, who liked to wander but one day wandered too far and never came home, a fate shared by many a neighbor’s pet. In addition to a pack of resident coyotes, our subdivision is home to a squadron (look it up, sheeple) of javelinas, two bobcats, and several large hawks and owls. The small pets who survive are the wary ones, like Mister B, who constantly checks six on our morning walks. I never see what he sees, but I take it on faith this or another coyote is lurking nearby, and Mister B knows it.

My friend Ed and I changed the Goldwing’s rear disk brake pads a few days ago, and the new pads are so thick they rub against the rotor … not a lot, just a little. For these first few miles, this means there’s a tiny bit of resistance on the rear wheel when I’m at a stoplight, enough to keep the bike from rolling forward or backward, something I normally have to control with my legs. I’m going to miss this when the new pads wear in and I have to start using my muscles again.

Finally saw my first Kentucky Derby … actually my first horse race of any kind. Now here’s a televised sport I can endure while pretending to be as into it as everyone else in the room. I can do anything if I only have to do it for two minutes! Actually it was quite fun. One of my book club friends, Mary, hosts a Kentucky Derby party every year, and since I was invited and she’s a friend, I went. Some of the guests dressed up, just like the rich white people at the actual event, and there were mint juleps on hand (and regular old lemonade for teetotalers like me). It’s good to have friends, especially when you’re home alone with not much to do. I’m just sorry I left right after the race. There was probably a riot at Mary’s when race officials took the win away from Maximum Overdrive and gave it to Country Home. That would have been fun, too.

This is cute: a low-flying F-15 Eagle in afterburner sets off a parked Tesla’s “sentry mode” alarm (if you listen carefully, you can hear another car’s alarm go off as well).

Actually this happens all the time. We get the occasional loud jet at Davis-Monthan AFB here in Tucson, and when one takes off parked cars start honking all over the city. Locally based A-10s and C-130s aren’t loud enough to trigger alarms, but a visiting B-1 or a formation of F-35s? Hoo boy. Back in the day piston-engined B-36 bombers were even louder, but on the other hand cars then didn’t start honking at the slightest provocation.

I started watching the Hulu TV adaptation of Stephen King’s “11.22.63.” I loved the book, especially King’s notion that the past might actively resist attempts to change it, and that if you did manage to go back and kill Hitler (or, in this case, prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy), the future might be altered in horribly unpredictable ways. Several of King’s novels are unnecessarily drawn out, but not this one. After watching only one episode of the TV series, though, I can see the producers have decided to draw it out and then some, like they did with another recent Stephen King TV adaption, “Under the Dome.” They inserted the past-resisting-change thing in episode one, something that doesn’t happen in the book until one of the final chapters, and I’m wondering what they’re going to do to hold viewer interest later in the series, having shot their wad right at the beginning. Maybe nudity? Even that wouldn’t have saved the awful “Under the Dome,” and it probably won’t help this one either. Oh and one more gripe while I’m at it: those beautiful 1950s and 60s cars driving by in virtually every scene? They weren’t shiny and perfect in real life, guys. They had bald tires, dents, rusted out mufflers, and were generally dirty (kudos to the producers of an unrelated Netflix series, “The Umbrella Academy,” for getting old cars right). The only time the past ever looks like a picture postcard is when it’s depicted on picture postcards.

I recently posted an Air-Minded aviation article centered on the experiences of a friend, one of the Air Force’s first female fighter pilots, a woman who flew the A-10 Warthog in combat. As with most of my Air-Minded posts, I cross-posted it to my diary page on the Daily Kos website. Daily Kos is the hub of a thriving online progressive community with thousands and thousands of members. When I post here on Paul’s Thing, few of my 200-some readers ever comment (I know you read this blog, dear friends, and I thank you for coming back to it again and again, but c’mon, admit it, you rarely engage with what I write). It’s different on Daily Kos, where my posts often generate lively discussions, with some comment threads running into the 100s.

But not this post, and I’m mystified. Stumped. It’s about women flying fighters, a hot-button topic from the 1990s right up to today. It’s progressively feminist. My friend Xena even talks about peeing, something I thought would be a sure draw. What gives, people?

One last thing: I wish prominent people like Nancy Pelosi would stop speculating about Donald Trump trying to hold onto power if he loses the election in 2020. I’m a big believer in the old superstition “naming calls”; the idea that putting fears into words will call those fears to life, a cruder way of warning against making self-fulfilling prophesies. The media loves nothing more than doom & gloom predictions on the part of prominent people and celebrities (unless it’s sex scandals and naked selfies of prominent people and celebrities, that is), and they’re already framing these fears as the end of American democracy, just a little more than a year from now.

I want to go back to something I posted here a few days after the Electoral College took the presidency from Hillary Clinton and handed it to the runner-up, Donald Trump (perhaps inspiring the race officials at Churchill Downs yesterday). I summarized a cautionary article by Masha Gessen, a journalist who lived in autocracies most of her life and spent much of her career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Her article came out the day after the election, and was titled “Autocracy: Rules for Survival.”

Here’s how I summarized Masha Gessen’s main points:

Believe the autocrat. Trump’s not going to seek common ground with those who opposed him. He’s not going to change. All the horrible suggestions he made during the campaign? He meant everything he said and intends to follow through. We have to resist, and resist hard.

Don’t be taken in by small signs of normality. The media is all-in for downplaying Trump’s racism and anti-Semitism, but don’t fall for it. There’s nothing normal about any of what he represents.

Institutions will not save you. We can’t count on the Democratic minority in Congress to resist Trump, as I suggested above. If history’s a guide, they’ll cave. The FBI, as we have seen, is partisan. We the people have to resist, and the massive protests we’re seeing in American cities today is a good sign we will. Join the ACLU if you haven’t already.

Be outraged. Going along with resisting the “normalization” of white nationalism and anti-American values, we have to keep our outrage alive. Once again, there’s nothing normal or acceptable about what’s happening today.

Don’t make compromises. Look at Ted Cruz. Don’t be Ted Cruz.

Remember the future. This presidency is going to be a disaster, and we’d better be prepared to take the reins again. Keep the faith and plan ahead.

Everything she said then holds true today, even more so. I’m really starting to worry … especially now it’s become obvious the Democratic majority in Congress isn’t going to lift a finger to stop Trump … that simply electing a Democratic president next year isn’t going to be enough to fix the damage that’s been done to our government and institutions.

Thank goodness there’s a new episode of Game of Thrones on tonight to help us take our mind off things.