I Hereby Order … Oh, Never Mind

Screen Shot 2019-08-24 at 10.06.40 AMI’ve been getting these notices for some time now, but they usually don’t appear before the 29th or 30th of the month. This one came today and it’s only the 24th. It doesn’t bode well for our August Xfinity bill.

The company website says we get a terabyte of data usage every month, which it goes on to say is enough to cover 600 to 700 hours of streaming TV, 12,000 hours of online gaming, 15,000 hours of streaming music, or uploading and downloading 60,000 high resolution photos. We watch two to three hours of streaming TV at night and I probably upload and download 200 photos a month. Even if our neighbors cracked our wi-fi password, we should still be within the one terabyte limit. There’s a hole in the data boat and I need to find and plug it. But how?

I spent twenty frustrating minutes with Xfinity customer service this morning. I don’t want to be That Person, the one who complains about Southwest Asia call centers, but there were, ah, accent difficulties on both sides. I grasped enough to realize they can’t remotely troubleshoot my system. I had an old phone number from the local Xfinity rep who helped us set up our TV and high speed internet connection a few years ago. I called and got a message, but at least the message indicated he’s still with the company. I left voicemail asking for help. Would sure love to get to the bottom of this.


The neighbor at the end of our cul-de-sac, he of the garage fire, is well on the way to recovery.

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I haven’t spoken to him, but I’m guessing his insurance is covering most or all of rebuilding the garage. Hope so, anyway. Last month, the contractor who tore down the old garage brought in a tracked excavator. For some reason they didn’t trailer it to his driveway and unload it there, instead parking the flatbed carrier on the highway and driving the excavator into the subdivision, damaging our freshly resealed streets. The paving contractor came back in earlier this month and repaired the damage … no word yet on how much of an assessment we’ll get for that. Home ownership! It’s fun!


Mister B’s been playing a game with me, acting eager to go on his morning walk and then changing his mind once he’s out in front of the house, digging in and refusing to go a step further. We’ve aborted five or six morning walks in a row. Yesterday I loaded both dogs in the truck and drove them to McDonald Park. Different place, different rules, and we had a nice walk there (not such a great visit to the park’s dog runs, but more on that below). This morning, it was back to normal with Mister B. We walked up to the end of our cul-de-sac to check the progress on the neighbor’s garage, then walked back home, with good poopage along the way. I think Mister B feels he’s made his point and the game is over.

So … those dog runs. As I walked Maxie and Mister B through McDonald Park to the dog runs yesterday, I could see people with big dogs in the small dog area. I was kind of pissed about it … there are always one or two “oh my big dog is gentle and gets to use the little dog area” types there, but this was a bunch. I didn’t notice until we got there that the big dog area was empty. Turns out it’s closed for grass reseeding, and the small dog run is now the temporary big dog run. The county put up temporary fencing to enclose the narrow corridor between the big and small dog areas, and it’s now the temporary small dog run. It’s about twelve feet wide by fifty feet deep … also muddy, lacking in trees, totally an afterthought.

As a displaced small dog owner, I felt like a second-class citizen. Of course I could have taken Maxie and Mister B into the enclosure with the big dogs, but I’m not comfortable doing that. If something were to happen, it would happen fast and I wouldn’t be able to break it up before one of my little guys got hurt.

Well, I did get a couple of nice photos while we were there. As you can see, the dogs were happy to be out and about, untroubled by the crappy little temporary enclosure. We didn’t stay long … I took them back into the people section of the park and we walked around for a while before heading home.

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Maxie

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Mister B


When we got home my phone chirped and there was a message from a member of Mister B’s original family, who wanted to know how he’s doing. Mister B’s first companion (“owner” and “master” are words we shun) was an elderly woman who lived alone, but who had family nearby. When she died the family took Mister B to the dachshund rescue where we found him. He was in holding, though … we couldn’t adopt him until the family decided whether they could take him in. Since they already had several dogs, they eventually elected to let Mister B live with us. They checked in on him right after we adopted him, and then yesterday checked again. It’s nice to know he was well-loved … and still is, as you can probably guess that by all the space he takes up on this blog.


So David Koch is dead, is he? In his honor I’m putting a dead car battery and four quarts of dirty crankcase oil in our residential garbage bin. That’s the kind of personal and corporate freedom he dedicated his life to, and it seems the least I can do.

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This Epstein Thing

I don’t want to believe anybody who ever knew Jeffrey Epstein was complicit in forcing minors into sex. But if the investigation survives his suicide and it turns out some or all of Epstein’s acquaintances and friends were complicit, well then let the guilty be named and judged.

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Photoshopped parody of a John McNaughton painting, by Pete Hassett

What do I mean by complicit? I mean everything from accepting sexual favors from Epstein’s stable of teenaged girls to knowingly taking his money after 2008, when he was convicted of soliciting prostitution from underaged girls and became a registered sex offender. That’s not necessarily everyone who ever went to one of Epstein’s parties, stayed on his island or in one of his mansions, or accepted a ride on his airplane, but it’s a lot of people.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a pedophile. Have you? Sure, it happens (I mean, who didn’t know about Michael Jackson?), but it has to be uncommon. Or am I being hopelessly naive? Was there something behind that Tom Cruise movie, Eyes Wide Shut? Maybe I’ve been keeping my own eyes wide shut. My god, look at all the people being named as Epstein associates—royals, politicians, entertainers, society figures, businessmen, publishers, academics, scientists—it’s enough to make you think the elite, after all, really are different from you and me.

For a couple of years now, as a lark, I’ve been following QAnon lunatics on social media, those right-wing cultists who believe a gang of cannibalistic pedophiles led by Hillary and Bill Clinton, along with prominent left-leaning actors like Tom Hanks, have been running an international sex slave ring in plain sight, and that Donald Trump has been sent by Jesus to lock ’em all up. Never mind that of all the prominent people said to have had sex with one or more of Epstein’s teenagers, Trump is probably numero uno, and never mind that The Storm, the promised roundup of Democrat and leftist pedophiles, keeps being put off until next month, or the month after that. Trust the plan, they tell one another, and up until a month or so ago I thought their antics simply hilarious.

Now people on my side of the moral and political fence are saying pretty much the same thing, that there’s a huge international ring of pedophile sex-slave traders, and even though the rich and powerful usually get away with it, we should trust the plan: the investigation will continue and heads will roll.

Yeah, I’ll believe that when I see it. I mentioned Trump a minute ago. He’s been more than credibly accused of raping a 13-year-old girl at one of Epstein’s New York City apartments. He has factually cheated on two wives. He’s on tape bragging about grabbing ’em by the pussy. Has any of this gotten him in the least bit of trouble?

With Trump in the White House and Bill Barr running Justice, it’s likely some form of Epstein prosecution will be pursued, but I think we all know it’ll be focused on Bill and Hillary Clinton. The day after the election in 2016 I predicted to my wife that Trump will never stop going after Hillary, that those mini-Nuremberg rally “lock her up” chants are deadly serious, that he’ll keep coming back to those fucking emails and obsessing over losing the popular vote to her … and by now I think any objective observer would say I was right. Maybe Hillary got wise and sneaked off to Greenland, leaving a stunt double behind with Bill in Chappaqua. That would explain a lot! There, QAnon, enjoy your new Clinton conspiracy and don’t say I never did anything for you.

No, I do not believe the Clintons were complicit in Epstein’s underage sex operation. Trump? Yes, absolutely; it fits with everything we know about him. Prince Andrew? Don’t know. Alan Dershowitz? No doubt. The academics and scientists who took money they should have known was dirty from a man they should have known was dirty? Well, that’s going to be hard, maybe impossible to prove, and so long as they weren’t personally involved with the nude massages and blow jobs, I’m not going to lose sleep over it … unlike Xeni Jardin, who this week has been leading a Twitter campaign against anyone who ever took Epstein money.

Will Epstein’s victims get any justice? That remains to be seen. A pessimist would point to Christine Blasey Ford and Anita Hill. An optimist would point to the American Olympic gymnastic girls who exposed Larry Nassar and saw him bundled off to prison. But I have to note that Nassar is no Trump. He isn’t Prince Andrew or Michael Jackson. So we’ll see.

Whether the investigation into Epstein’s activities goes on or sputters out now that he’s dead, new and shocking revelations will continue to emerge. I think there’s worse, far worse, to come.

The French had the right idea with those guillotines.

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Eight-Legged T-Shirt Marauders, Oh My! (Updated 8/19/19)

fullsizeoutput_40b9Polly came home late last night and found a small tarantula at our front door. I took its photo because in spite of living in the Sonora Desert we don’t see them all that often. So if it’s all the same to you I’m taking this sighting as a good omen.

When we first moved here and lived in a rented house on the west side, our son Gregory came to visit. We were sitting on the patio one day, keeping Greg company while he swam. And in one of those perfect moments he looked up at us from the far side of the pool and said “I thought this place would be crawling with tarantulas.” “Look behind you,” Donna said. A full-grown specimen, somewhere between a big mouse and a small rat in size, had picked that moment to amble across the pool deck behind Greg, and when he turned around it was at eye level, not a foot from his face. Looking back on that day, we’re lucky we didn’t have to drain and pressure-wash the pool.

So this critter on our doorstep last night? Probably a young adult; not very large as tarantulas go. There were plenty of bugs out front, attracted by the porch light, and no doubt he was enjoying a good nosh when Polly and I started making a fuss. When I traveled for a living I usually ate out alone and hated it when strangers decided I needed company and came over to talk to me. I bet this guy felt the same way.

The object by the tarantula is one of our shi shi dogs from Okinawa. Technically they’re shisa; not dogs but lions (though everyone calls them dogs). Okinawans place them in pairs on the roof or by the front door to guard their homes. The one with the toothy open mouth goes to the right; it keeps evil spirits out. The one with its mouth closed goes to the left; its job is to keep good spirits inside. Ours are still on the job, 28 years later and half a world away from the Ryukyus.

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While Donna was in California last week, she made a side trip to my old school, Sacramento State College. Today it’s California State University, Sacramento, but everyone still calls it Sac State. She picked up a nice T-shirt and coffee mug at the bookstore and here I am with my alma mater swag:

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That’s the T-shirt I was wearing when I went all paparazzi on the tarantula. I wonder if he noticed?

Speaking of T-shirts, over on Twitter people are posting photos of Walmart shoppers wearing challenge shirts. These are Ts with generally belligerent sentiments on the back; one I’ve seen says “I’m a DRY WALLER. I love FREEDOM. I drink beer. I like BOOBS. I own guns. I PROTECT MY FAMILY. If you don’t like it, MOVE.”

Naturally people are turning the idea into occupational memes. As in “I’m an OPHTHALMOLOGIST. I love 3 DAY WEEKENDS. I eat CATERED LUNCHES. I don’t know how to change the OIL in my CAR. If you don’t like it. MOVE.”

Mine would say “I’m a retired MILITARY OFFICER. I get a PENSION. I’m SET FOR LIFE and you can SUCK IT. I judge you on your SPELLING and GRAMMAR. If you don’t like it, GET AN EDUCATION.” Except I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Walmart.

Another meme making the rounds: this political cartoon.

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Ah, the things liberals love: Segways, porn, abortions, man/sheep love, man/man love, dopers on skateboards, Bill and Monica of course, fuel-efficient cars, and, not to be forgotten, flag-burning. Thanks to a friend who took the trouble to run the cartoon down for me (shockingly, most of the versions reposted to Twitter had the caption cut off, and none of the tweets I saw bothered to name the artist), I now know the cartoonist is Dan Collins. My friend also suggests that, based on Collins’ other work, this one may be satirical.

Well, it may be satirical (who can even tell these days?), but one thing that stands out to me is the cartoonist’s familiarity with internet porn: where else would he get the inspiration for scissoring lesbians?


The other day I mentioned Pima Air and Space Museum’s Martin Marauder. As with most of my flying-related entries I cross-posted it to an aviation group on Daily Kos (you can see it here). Judging by the comments there, what folks remember about the Martin Marauder is its reputation as an aircrew killer. One a day in Tampa Bay. The Widowmaker. The Flying Prostitute (no visible means of support, haw haw). And so on.

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B-26 Marauders fly above England in 1944 (AP photo)

The B-26, introduced in 1941, had a higher wing loading than other medium bombers of the day and consequently a higher stalling speed. That meant you had to fly faster on final approach to landing: 120 to 135 mph depending on aircraft weight. The B-25 Mitchell, a contemporary medium bomber, flew final at 100 mph. That’s what set the Martin Marauder apart and gave it its deadly reputation. In fact they did crash a lot of them in training at MacDill Army Air Field in Tampa (one a day in Tampa Bay), but once aircrews learned to fly the airplane properly, the B-26 proved to be a great medium bomber, and I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out why virtually all of them were scrapped and melted down at the end of the war, while lesser medium bombers like the B-25 Mitchells and A-26 Invaders continued to serve into the Korean War and beyond.

Speed is relative. People ask me what it’s like to fly at more than twice the speed of sound. I tell them that while you can sense resistance as you pass through the transonic shock wave, a feeling of pushing against an invisible soft pillow in the air, once above the Mach everything feels normal again. And since you’re usually way up there when supersonic, far above the earth and clouds, there’s nothing whizzing by to give you a sense of speed. It’s numbers on gauges. By contrast, when you’re on final approach to landing you’re close to the ground and more aware of your speed than you are at altitude.

Was it really that big a deal for a WWII pilot to transition from an airplane that took off and landed at 100 mph to one that did it 20 to 35 mph faster?

Once, when I was flying F-15s in the Netherlands, I hitched a backseat ride in the two-seat trainer version of a Canadian CF-104. The 104’s nickname was “the Zipper,” because with its tiny thin wings you had to fly fast or not at all. It too was called the Widowmaker, and not without reason.

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CF-104D (photo: Chris Charland)

My F-15 flew final at around 175 mph and touched down at around 140 (I use miles per hour instead of knots because that’s the speed measurement used by the WWII bombers mentioned above and I want readers to be able to compare). F-15 landing speeds were similar to those of the F-4 Phantom and most other jet fighters.

The Zipper, though … damn. You flew final at 195 mph (adding speed for higher fuel weights) and touched down around 175. If you had to fly a no-flap approach you added another 25-30 mph. The 104 was insanely fast compared to anything else I’d flown … but I didn’t notice the relative difference in speed all that much when the Canadian pilot up front let me fly an approach from the back. When the Zipper was on speed it just felt right, but of course I kept one eye on the airspeed indicator as well.

In pilot training in the 1970s our primary trainer was the Cessna T-37, a fat-wing little jet that flew final at 115 mph and touched down around 90. Halfway through the one-year program we transitioned to the Northrop T-38 Talon, a supersonic trainer with thin, stubby wings, intentionally designed to fly like the F-104. The Talon flew final at 155 (again, adding speed for heavier fuel weights) and touched down at around 140 mph. The speed differential between the T-37 and T-38 was even greater than that experienced by WWII aircrews coming to the B-26 Marauder from similar but slower bombers, and yet I don’t remember it being any kind of deal. We never, for example, called the T-38 a widowmaker. Speed is relative, and anyway, that’s what training is for.

I think the thing with the Martin Marauder was psychological. Whenever I took non-flyers up on incentive flights in two-seater F-15s, without exception the main thing they worried about was throwing up. Their friends would set them up to be airsick by talking and joking about it nonstop in the hours and days leading up to the incentive flight, and in nine cases out of ten they would indeed fill a couple of barf bags. I think something similar happened with aircrews learning to fly the B-26 Marauder at MacDill in WWII. They knew they were going to tangle with the Widowmaker, a notoriously treacherous airplane, and those planted fears became a factor. The Marauder had a rep and new aircrews allowed it to live up to it. Naming calls, to use an archaic phrase.


Well, thanks for hanging with me. I have to get back to hating freedom, beer, and boobs.


Update (8/19/19): replaced the political cartoon with a complete version and credited the cartoonist.

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Dearest Beloveth

I forgot about this old post from eight years ago until this morning when a comment spammer tried to piggyback on it. I think it holds up well! —Paul

Found poetry, composed of subject lines from spam email sent to my Yahoo! account:

#FIRSTNAME# hey,
With due respect,
Hi.
I want a business partner.

Open the attached,
Read carefully,
Please help me from this danger,
My financial benefit and yours too.

Congratulations!!! Your email has won you One Million!
Great joy kindly open the attachment to view your winning details.
Attention: this is important, please get back to me.
Apostolic greetings!!!

Remote Modbus Devices monitored from Internet,
Grow your manhood longness you deserved!
Thunder hard super massive penis pill,
Hope this email finds you in good health.

Good news from Smith Nana,
Too busy to go back to school?
Top Luxury is selling designer handbags,
Get youself a quality branded watches from $130

Dont worry my dear,
God is the ultimate giver!
Good day Mr.Mrs
CONGRATULATIONS!

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Any Lap in a Storm

fullsizeoutput_406bSouthern Arizona has a monsoon season. It runs from mid-June to the end of September. This is when the 100-year rains come. We lived in Phoenix during the summer and fall of 1978 and had two of them back to back. Since we’ve been in Tucson, though, 21-plus years now, we’ve had just one or two. For some reason our eastside location doesn’t get as much rain as other parts of the valley, and I remember only a few monsoons that were worth writing home about.

Last week, after Donna flew to California to be with her Uncle George during his last days, we had the first good rain of the 2019 monsoon. It poured, with lightning and thunder all around, so much so that I actually ran back to the home office and unplugged the computers.

Mister B, as you can see, is not a fan of lightning and thunder. He and I hunkered down with a good book. When the worst of it had passed, our swimming pool was full to the brim (how nice not to run up the water bill keeping it full, at least for a while). Of course, it was still coming down at that point. By standing in the rain myself I was able to coax Mister B out from under the patio roof to do his business, but Maxie wasn’t having any of it. Later, when it stopped raining, she went out through the doggie door, pooped on the patio bricks not a foot from the house, then darted back in … I guess she thought it was going to start pouring again any second, and didn’t want to be caught under the open sky when it did.

Donna comes home tomorrow. She left on the 6th, and even though she’ll have been gone for less than two weeks, it already feels like three and she’s not even home yet. But Polly and I are doing well and the house is as tidy as when Donna left.

Donna’s flight gets in at 4:30 PM. As per established Woodford tradition, the dogs and I will get to the airport a few minutes early so we can visit the little park by the cell phone waiting area while Donna deplanes and gets her checked baggage. We’ll meet her curbside when she’s ready and stop on the way home for takeout.

During Donna’s absence I’ve been watching some streaming TV series she doesn’t like. I watch them when she’s here, too, but only after she goes to bed (and by then I’m generally tired myself, so I don’t watch nearly as many of my shows as I do when she’s away). Your mileage may vary, but I started rewatching season one of The Man in the High Castle on Amazon, and it’s really rewarding. I’m seeing so much more the second time around, and making all kinds of connections. I’m a little bewildered by the science-fiction series Another Life on Netflix, which is all over the place and seems to be a mix of every space opera ever filmed, but I have to say that apart from the very silly episode #5, it’s holding my interest. One that totally surprised me is Amazon’s The Boys. It’s purportedly about superheros, a subject that normally repels me, but it’s really about corporate power and corruption, and the more I get into it the more enthusiastic I become. This is some heavy shit, with lots of surprises to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Once Donna’s home I hope we can get our kitchen remodeling project moving. Life’s going to be miserable here while it’s going on, but the sooner we can get started the better. I’m hoping the new kitchen will be in and operational by Thanksgiving. What’s being done? Well, per Donna’s plan, raising the drop ceiling a foot or so, new cabinets and countertops, a new island with a built-in range top, and altering the wall between the kitchen and living room to make it a waist-high partition. I don’t have the clearest picture of Donna’s kitchen vision, but I trust she does and that it’ll be just what this old house needs.

Then, if there’s any money left in the bank, I want to buy a motorcycle lift table, similar to the one in my friend Ed’s garage.

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The lift table (this is the one I have in mind) runs a little over 1,200 bucks, and I’ll probably have to buy a stronger air compressor to power it, but tell you what, being able to bring the bike up to where I can work on it without having to lay down on the garage floor will be worth every penny. With my knees, getting down on the floor and back up again is a major accomplishment, and the reason I don’t kneel in solidarity with victims of racism and police brutality during the playing of the national anthem … I’d never be able to get back up again.

I want to mention something new I spotted in the restoration area at Pima Air and Space Museum this Monday.

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The photo shows a few restoration projects under the sun shade in front of the main restoration hangar. Three have been there for a few weeks now: a Coast Guard Dassault Guardian, an old Sikorsky Dragonfly helicopter, and a Marine Corps or Navy F/A-18 Hornet. What’s new is the olive drab fuselage in the middle. It’s an Army Air Force Martin B-26 Marauder, a medium bomber from WWII.

In all my life I’ve seen only one other Marauder, the one at the USAF Museum at Wright-Patterson Field in Dayton, Ohio. Nearly all were scrapped at the end of the war and today just three are on display: one in France and two in the USA. Wikipedia says there’s a single flying example at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida, and three more currently being restored at US museums (including my museum’s example). Seven remain of the 5,288 built.

So I guess what I’m saying is this is one warbird you don’t see every day. Now that I’ve looked into it, I believe PASM has had this B-26 for some years, sitting in a storage building in the back lot. There’s a photo of the same fuselage section on PASM’s website (you have to scroll down past a couple of other Martin aircraft to see it). It doesn’t look like work has actually started on the Marauder, but the mere fact that the fuselage is now parked in front of the main resto hangar indicates it’ll start soon. I, for one, can’t wait to see it finally on display.

That’s the haps here at Paul’s Thing. More soon.

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Tuesday Update

I mentioned Donna’s Uncle George the other day, how he was near the end and Donna’s Aunt Jan had asked her to come be with them in his last days. So Donna’s been in Elk Grove, California, helping out and offering emotional support. When George died, Sunday morning, she helped Jan get through the surprisingly many tasks that must to be done when someone dies at home. Police have to register the death, the hospice folks have to be notified, and in Uncle George’s case, the Neptune Cremation Society had to be called to collect the remains (and since they drove up from San Jose, that took a good while). The next day Donna learned from Aunt Jan that Uncle George, a Seabee in his younger days, had continued drilling as a Naval Reservist for many years and may have accrued some benefits, so she helped Aunt Jan navigate those particular wickets. Well, the point of all this is to say that although everything requiring immediate action is now done, Donna wasn’t able to book a flight home until Friday. Polly, the dogs, and I are eager to have her back.

I may also have mentioned, in older posts, how when I worked for the Veterans Administration I met a lot of old coots, mostly men but a few women, who had been estranged from their own families. Aunt Jan has two middle-aged sons who live nearby, one right there in Elk Grove, and neither offered to help or even came to visit. When Donna called to tell them Uncle George had died, it became clear they weren’t planning on coming even then, and did so only reluctantly after Donna read them the riot act. And then their wives didn’t come with them.

My thoughts on parents and children who turn against one another can be summed up in a single sentence: what a stupid fucking thing to do, nursing a grudge all the way to the end. I watched so many old vets grow frail and suffer and die alone, too proud to ask their children to visit, or maybe they did and it was the children who were the assholes, and what was the goddamn point? Family. In the end, it’s all we’ve got.

I’m going to get personal for a moment. I’m mad at Polly right now. Mad as hell. Our middle-aged live-at-home daughter is drinking again and may be on the verge of losing yet another job, if she hasn’t lost it already. The thought crossed my mind, as it has before, to give her the boot. And then I think of those estranged vets, dying friendless and alone. Yesterday I asked Polly point-blank: will she be there for us when it’s our time? Of course, she says.

Well, it don’t get more personal than that. I hope that didn’t make you uncomfortable. It certainly did me.

I’m cooking a small piece of salmon for my dinner tonight. I’ll brush it with honey and dill, and eat it with a microwaved baked potato. I’ve got a good book on the Kindle, and some streaming TV series to finish before Donna gets home and cuts me off. Actually there are two small pieces of salmon, and I’ll offer one to Polly.

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Air-Minded: Puttin’ on the Hustle

This Air-Minded post was originally published in June 2012. I’m moving it back to the top of the blog after removing some link rot and adding new photos. —Paul

If my fighter pilot friends are wondering about me after my earlier post on the F-101B Voodoo air defense interceptor, they’ll surely think I’ve lost my grip now, fetishizing over, of all things, a bomber.

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B-58A Hustler with weapons (photo: USAF)

You have to admit, the B-58 Hustler was a mean machine, IMO the coolest bomber ever, a product of the speed-is-everything 1950s. I’m sorry to say I never saw one in the air, despite growing up in the 1960s when they were flying. But perhaps that’s understandable: only 116 B-58s were built, and they were based at bomb wings in Texas, Arkansas, and Indiana, far from any of the places I lived then. I would love to have seen and heard one of these beautiful machines.

Well, at least there’s one I can look at whenever I want: it’s on display at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, where I volunteer as a tour guide. I can never walk past our B-58 without stopping and staring. Even standing still, paint fading in the sun, its engine intakes covered, it looks like it’s busting through the Mach.

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PASM’s B-58A Hustler (photo: Paul Woodford)

The Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb in 1949, four years after ours. By 1953—one year after we tested our first H-bomb—they had those too. Even though the USSR was right behind us in nuclear bomb development through the late 1940s and early 1950s, the US Air Force thought it was still possible to get a leg up on the Soviet Union with a high-altitude supersonic nuclear bomber—at the time the USSR simply didn’t have the capability to shoot one down. This was the genesis of early research and the USAF’s 1951 Supersonic Aircraft Bomber project, which in 1953 resulted in a contract for Convair to begin work on what became the B-58.

The prototype B-58 flew in November 1956, followed by a three-year flight test program involving up to 30 test aircraft. Designing and testing a bomber built to fly twice the speed of sound at altitudes in excess of 50,000 feet was still scary stuff in the mid to late 1950s, and that perhaps explains the lengthy flight test process—we were exploring new territory with this exotic and complex airplane.

The USAF declared the B-58 operational in March 1960. In addition to the test aircraft, Convair built over 80 production B-58As, with the last one rolling off the line in October 1962 (as it happens, my museum’s B-58A is the last one delivered to the USAF). Starting around 1960 Convair began converting the test aircraft to operational status, for a total B-58A fleet of 116 aircraft.

The Hustler had a short life span: the fleet flew for just ten years.  By the end of January 1970, they had all been retired.

By the time B-58s began flying for the USAF’s Strategic Air Command, the USSR had of course caught up with us again and now had surface-to-air missiles capable of shooting down high-altitude supersonic bombers (a capability they convincingly demonstrated in May 1960 when they shot down an American U-2 spy plane flying up around 80,000 feet). Because of that threat the B-58 was never employed in the role for which it was designed; instead SAC employed it as a low-altitude penetration bomber. The B-58 flew well at low altitude, but it was only barely supersonic in the denser air and its fuel consumption went through the roof, limiting its range.

SAC had initially resisted the B-58, feeling it was an unnecessary weapons system that had been forced down its throat, an expensive and dangerous one at that. A B-58 cost approximately three times as much to acquire as a B-52, and over its life cycle proved to cost three times as much to maintain. It was a handful to fly with high cockpit workloads for all three crew members (pilot, bombardier/navigator, and defensive systems operator). Loss of an engine at high speed, especially an outboard, could put the airplane into a high yaw condition that was particularly treacherous. Over its life, 26 Hustlers were lost in accidents, nearly 25% of the total fleet.

In spite of the Hustler’s shortcomings, once SAC started flying the airplane it adopted a more proprietary attitude and began developing tactics for its use. By 1965, when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara declared the B-58 non-viable and directed its retirement, SAC had become a staunch defender of the Hustler. SAC and Convair had plans on the books (never to reach fruition) to acquire 185 improved B-58Bs, and was even thinking about a Mach 3-capable B-58C.

One of the more interesting components of the B-58 was the escape capsule, designed to protect its occupant in the event of a high-altitude supersonic ejection (the pilot’s capsule actually incorporated flight controls so that he could continue to fly the aircraft once he’d closed the clamshell around himself).

The Hustler carried fuel in internal wing and fuselage tanks. The jettisonable belly pod carried additional fuel, in addition to a single free-fall nuclear bomb. With later versions of the pod, the fuel-carrying portion could be jettisoned, leaving just the bomb. At some point hardpoints were added to allow external carriage of four additional free-fall nuclear bombs (the B-58 carried only nukes—it had no conventional bomb capability whatever). Self defense was provided by a 20mm rotary cannon in the tail, controlled by a tail mounted radar but activated by the DSO in the aft cockpit.

The B-58 could be fitted with a photoreconnaissance pod; there were plans for electronic countermeasures and cruise missile-launching pods as well. One B-58 was modified to carry and flight test the J93 engine designed to power the XB-70 Valkyrie bomber, and during flight test of the XB-70 a B-58 was used as a chase plane. Another B-58 was used to test a prototype air-launched ballistic missile.

B-58 escape capsule (USAF Museum)

B-58 escape capsule (photo: USAF Museum)

Despite the Soviet Union’s demonstrated capability to shoot down high-altitude supersonic bombers, at some level the USAF has never abandoned the dream. I think immediately of the previously-mentioned XB-70, developed in the 1960s even after the high-altitude supersonic bomber concept was clearly no longer viable; a less obvious follow-on (mainly because no one is yet openly talking about it in this context) is the USAF’s unmanned X-37B space plane prototype, which recently returned from a 15-month orbital mission (during which no one but the USAF was able to track it). Heh. Shoot that down, Putin!

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Saturday Bag o’ Conspiracy Theories

Screen Shot 2019-08-10 at 10.56.15 AMI don’t want to do a lot of digging, but I could swear I read in a news report that the baby in this photo sustained broken bones when its mother and father threw themselves on top of it to shield it from the El Paso Walmart murderer’s bullets, sacrificing their own lives in the process. So when I saw this photo of the Trumps flashing movie star grins with an apparently uninjured infant, I questioned other news reports that the child’s aunt and uncle had brought it back to the hospital for a staged photo op. Must be a different child, I thought.

I said so on Twitter, and no less a person than journalist Nancy Nall Derringer, whom I esteem, responded, saying the reports she read didn’t mention broken bones but instead said a bullet had grazed the baby’s hand, and if I looked at the photo more closely I’d see his fingers are wrapped. So I looked closer and indeed they are, so apparently the Trumps really did the shit-and-grin thing with the youngest survivor, tragically orphaned, of one this gun-worshipping country’s latest mass murders.

My god. But my point is, you can’t believe a damn thing you read or hear or see in the news, because they’re firing professional reporters and editors and hiring minimum wage temps in their places, and those temps’ll write any damn thing they please because no one’s checking their work.

So far today I’ve seen at least a dozen tweets from reputed journalists claiming Jeffrey Epstein was on suicide watch in the Manhattan Correctional Center, but not one word from MCC officials confirming it. Was he really on suicide watch? Because if he was, how did he manage to kill himself? And I just read a tweet from Carol Leonnig, a Washington Post reporter and MSNBC contributor, claiming “Epstein told authorities someone tried to kill him in a previous incident weeks earlier.” He did? Really? Was that in the news? If it was, I don’t remember hearing about it. So can I believe what Ms Leonnig says?

Okay, things are settling down a little bit. No less a source than The New York Times now reports that Epstein was not on suicide watch … he’d been taken off a few days ago. But if you read the linked article, even that is anecdotal … there’s still been no official word from MCC officials. So can I believe that?

Best not to believe anything. But I’m human, and I need to believe something. Which opens the door to conspiracy theories, and now I’m no different from some poor deluded QAnon loon. But the core of the Epstein story—decades of Epstein recruiting, sexually abusing, and sharing underaged girls with his famous and monied “friends”—is itself a conspiracy, and a real one. A conspiracy that, in fact, doesn’t sound a whole hell of a lot different from the Pizzagate sex slavery stories dear to the hearts of QAnon loons!

They’re saying Epstein’s suicide won’t end the revelations about sexual abuse and pedophilia at the hands of rich and powerful people because the records seized when Epstein was arrested have now been unsealed, but I have a sinking feeling the story’s going to fizzle away now, at least as far as the media is concerned, and Trump & friends will continue to skate. I hope I’m wrong. But I fear I’m right.

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