Paul’s Thing

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June 2016
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The Blahs, Mitigated by Events in the Public Sphere

Little to report. I felt feverish and headachy after Friday morning’s workout at the gym, then worse as the day went along. I begrudgingly accepted the obvious—I was sick—and bailed out of Saturday’s social activities. I drank a lot of water, ate very little, and Saturday night (judging by the condition of the sheets Sunday morning), sweated it out.

Along with the mysterious, short-lived illness came a toothache, which persisted. Our dentist was able to work me in Monday—he discovered a dead tooth, one of my upper left molars—and referred me to an endodontist for a root canal. I endured that lovely procedure (my first) Tuesday. The tooth and the jaw around it is still sore, but that’s from the shock & awe done to it yesterday, and will fade away in a few days. Otherwise I’m well again.

Poorer, though. Remember me raving about my new movie star front teeth? Turns out that exercise in vanity maxed out my dental insurance for the year, so Monday’s emergency consultation and Tuesday’s root canal were out-of-pocket expenses. Show of hands: how many of you have any kind of dental insurance? I ask because I keep meeting people who don’t have any. They go to Mexico when they have to have anything expensive done.

If you read this blog you know me well enough you won’t be surprised when I tell you I felt sorry for myself and whined about all this on Facebook. One friend in particular was sympathetic and supportive. I suddenly remembered he and his wife nearly died in a car accident a few years ago. Her injuries were horrific but his were horrificker: they had to keep him in a medically-induced coma for days, and when that was over he spent weeks in an inpatient rehab facility, followed by months of physical therapy. I wrote back and said: “Yeah, but I have a TOOTHACHE!”

Well, enough about me! How are you today?

I’m pleased Hillary Clinton has the delegate count sewn up and is the presumptive Democratic nominee. I wasn’t willing to acknowledge it until today, since it was only early this morning the California Democratic primary results became official.

Monday evening the Associated Press announced that Hillary had the magic number of delegates required to win the nomination, but their count was based on telephone calls to officially-unpledged superdelegates or some such, not on primary results, and it felt to me the AP had thrown a sopping-wet blanket over the citizens of six states who’d been planning to vote in primaries the next day, Tuesday. The voters, thank goodness, ignored the premature AP announcement and turned out anyway, and now Clinton’s delegate count seems rock solid: we can safely plan on her winning the Democratic Party nomination on the first ballot.

But, but, you say: Bernie Sanders! To which I say: Who? Let’s move on to the general election and get this shit over with! By the way: yay, California! I love you!

I could not have written that Friday or Saturday. I really must be feeling better!

Donna’s at a Tuesday through Saturday sewing retreat at old Hilton (it’s something else now) a few miles from here; the critters and I won’t see her until it’s over. She goes every spring, then spends the rest of the year planning for the next one. I’m happy when she’s happy, and she’s happy with her sewing (read “sewing and wine-drinking”) friends.

Polly’s home with me and making dinner tonight: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn. I’ve been outdoors all day in 100°F-plus heat at the air museum, so letting Polly do the cooking sounds good to me. Plus I get to catch up with all the violent and scary streaming TV shows Donna won’t watch with me. Life is good.


My Not-So-Wild-One Motorcycling History

This post is from September 2008. According to my blog stats it still gets lots of hits, so I took a glance at it today … to my horror, all the photos were missing. It’s fixed now, and I’m going to put it at the top of the queue.

Lately I haven’t written much about motorcycling, but I ride — and think about riding — all the time.  Today, riding the Goldwing up Mount Lemon to get out of the heat, I began mentally cataloging the motorcycles I’ve owned and ridden, and it occurred to me I ought to write about them before dementia sets in.

I learned to ride in 1959 in Laramie, Wyoming, on Dad’s 1948 Harley Panhead.  The photo shows a ’48, but it’s much nicer than Dad’s was.  I remember the machine well: it was solid red (where it wasn’t covered with oil) and had a great long dual saddle, black leather saddlebags with studs and fringe, and a windshield.  You worked the throttle with your right hand, the clutch with your left foot, the rear brake with your right foot, and the front brake and gear shift with your left hand.  You had to be able to chew gum and walk at the same time to ride a motorcycle in those days!


1948 Harley-Davidson

You’d think a 14-year-old kid who’d been taught to ride a Harley would’ve had a fool for a father, but I was quite the straight arrow in those days and never did any joyriding.  I only rode it with my Dad riding behind me.  Dad taught Mom to ride it too.  One day she dropped it in the driveway while Dad was at work.  Mom, who weighed all of 98 pounds, picked it right up and put it back on the sidestand.

After I started college in Sacramento, California in late 1964, Dad got tired of paying for all the gas I was pouring into our ’58 Ford and bought me a used Honda 50.  Hondas were everywhere in those days, and you met the nicest people riding them.  There were two models of the 50, and Cub and the Sport.  I had a Sport, which was the cool one.  It would have been cooler if it were red, but alas, mine was white.  I was six foot four then, as I am now, and used to take Donna for rides on that tiny machine — we must have been a ludicrous sight.

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1964 Honda 50 Sport

Donna and I moved to Germany, got married, and had a child, and there were no motorcycles in our lives for a while.  In 1967, back in California, we bought a new Honda CL90, mainly for me to ride to and from Sacramento State.  I wanted a 160 twin but couldn’t afford it.  Still, the Honda 90 was plenty powerful for our needs, and would get up to freeway speeds.  Mine was blue.  I rode it every day for two years, eventually putting a knobby on the back and using it as a trail bike.

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1967 Honda CL90

In 1969 I finally got my twin, a Honda CB350.  Today a 350 cc machine would be considered tiny, and even then, when British twins ran 650 to 750 cc, the Hondas were quite small in comparison.  But to me it was a big, powerful bike, and I always rode it with respect.  All the Honda 350s were two-tone; mine was green & white, and after owning it for a few years I repainted it solid green and bobbed the rear fender with a hacksaw (I shudder to think of that now) to make it look cooler.  My first long motorcycle trip was on the CB350, riding with two buddies on Harley Sportsters: Sacramento to Napa, over to the Pacific, up Highway 1 to Mendocino.  I got the thing up to 100 coming down the hill into Vallejo and nearly crapped my pants when the forks started to wobble.

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1969 Honda CB350

We sold the 350 in 1972 when we moved from California to Montana, and I didn’t have another motorcycle until 1974, when I bought an old BSA Lightning.  It was, I think, a ’65 or ’66, and had been used hard.  But God was it fast — both the BSA and Triumph 650 twins of those days were faster than Harleys, and the BSA in particular was considered a real hot rod.

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1965 BSA Lightning

The Beezer was my pilot training bike.  I rode it during T-37 and T-38 training at Vance AFB in Oklahoma, then started having second thoughts about motorcycling.  Donna and I had a young son, and shortly after finishing pilot training and starting my flying career, we decided to have a second child.  Risking life and limb on motorcycles while simultaneously risking same in fast jets seemed a bit much, so, in 1975, I sold the BSA and quit riding.

I didn’t get my next motorcycle until 1986, once our son was grown and our daughter was a young teenager.  I should have waited longer, but just couldn’t.  I’d always wanted a Harley; by this time I was a major, working for US Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, and I thought if I can’t afford a Harley now when will I ever be able to?  So I bought a new 1986 Super Glide.  I loved that bike and wish I still had it today.  This is the actual machine in front of our house in Tampa:


1986 Harley-Davidson FXR

I rode that bike all over Florida and loved every minute of it.  Old softie that I’ve become, I wouldn’t last 25 miles on a low-slung ride like that today.  The USAF sent me to Okinawa to fly jets again in late 1988, and everyone counseled me not to take the bike because the salt air would rust it away.  So I sold my beloved Harley and shipped out for Japan, where of course there turned out to be a big Harley scene, both American and Japanese, and I kicked myself the whole time I was there.

I wanted to buy another motorcycle in Honolulu, Hawaii, our next duty station, but there weren’t many places to ride and I couldn’t justify the expense.  So I waited until 1995, when we got to Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, Nevada, where I picked up a secondhand Honda Goldwing.  This was a 1988 GL1500, the first year of the six-cylinder engine.  Compared to the Super Glide it was incredibly sophisticated, but unlike the Harley, it didn’t sing to me.  The handling was stodgy, it didn’t swoop into curves, it was top heavy.  It also had some irritating features, like a cruise control that wouldn’t engage above 75 mph.


1988 Honda Gl1500 Goldwing

Since I never cottoned up to the Goldwing, I decided to replace it with another Harley, and in 1999, after three years of off-and-on nagging, Donna finally broke down and let me buy another new one.  This time around I went for the Electra Glide, the touring model.  It was a great choice, and if it had been more reliable I’d have it still.  But 1999 was the first year of a new engine design, and mine crapped out with just 13,000 miles on the clock.  Harley paid to rebuild the engine but I could never trust it after that.  Here I was with a long-distance tourer I was afraid to ride more than 50 miles from the nearest dealership lest it leave me in the lurch again, standing on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.  Very disappointing, and I’ve never quite forgiven Harley for it.  Still, those first 13,000 miles were a blast.


1999 Harley-Davidson FLHT

After that experience, I decided bulletproof and perhaps a little less fun to ride wasn’t a bad way to go, and started thinking about Goldwings again.  Then, in 2001, Honda came out with a totally new Wing, and everyone said the new model handled like a race bike.  I test rode one, fell in love, and wound up buying it the same day.  Fun to ride, powerful, comfortable — you talk about swoopy — and you can set the damned cruise control at 110 if you want to (not that I would ever do such a thing, Donna).  Bulletproof and fun!


2001 Honda GL1800A Goldwing

I expect I’m back with Hondas for good now, though I occasionally lust after BMWs, Moto Guzzis, and — oddly — Urals.  But Donna has been far more patient with me than I have any right to expect, so I think I’ll be keeping my current ride for many years to come.

Four years ago I inherited a project bike from a friend, a 2000 Ducati Monster 750 Dark.  It was partially disassembled when I got it, though not by any means a total basket case; I put it back together (adding new tires, battery, and brakes) and gave it to my daughter Polly. She rode it for a couple of years, not always safely, and to my great relief she finally sold it. Here she is in her glory days:


Polly on her 2000 Ducati 750 Monster


¡Reporto Colosal con Chicas!

7a596a75-salsaDid I mention picking up where I left off at Anytime Fitness? As before, other gym patrons have a habit of setting the wall monitors to Fox News, where old grievances are always fresh and raw. I swear, you can’t watch Fox for 10 minutes without seeing some reference to Bowe Bergdahl, Benghazi, or the time Barack Obama refused to drink a beer with Mitch McConnell.

Tuesday, though, was different. I didn’t notice at first, because I usually get on the stationary bicycle and lose myself in a Kindle book, but after pedaling for a few minutes I realized I wasn’t hearing the words and names that normally bubble up in the background—email, Monica Lewinsky, indictment, Ambassador John Bolton—so I glanced at the nearest screen. There was a reporter up to her ankles in water, talking about floods in Texas. She didn’t mention politics, nor did the chyron running underneath. I squinted to make out the logo at the bottom left of the screen: HNL. Well, that explained that. If it had been Fox News, they’d have found a way to slag Obama and Clinton for those horses on the porch.

This morning the wall monitors at the gym were set to a variety of channels. When I was on the leg machines the closest TV was set to Univision Arizona. Remember Colberto Reporto Gigante, where Stephen Colbert lampooned Mexican TV? Without wanting to seem like I’m picking on Univision or its viewers in any way, I must say … Univision Arizona is just like that, right down to the chicas!

Speaking of Mexico, I tried another of Polly’s south-of-the-border frozen fruit bars last night. This one was called Pepino con Chile, a cucumber & chile popsicle. And I liked it, though my lips and tongue burned for a while after I finished it.

Here are my chicas, by the way.


With Angie & Donna at the corner coffee shop

Shifting gears, I was happy to see Hillary Clinton hogging the oxygen in the room yesterday. It’s about time: for the past few weeks El Trumpo has been breathing most of it, at least from what I see on the media, with Bernie Sanders huffing up the rest. But one good speech, and how things change.

I’m not going to join the chorus of men who say Hillary sounds strident in her campaign speeches, but I will say this: to me at least, she doesn’t present well when she yells slogans into the mic like a traditional candidate. I never feel I’m seeing the real Hillary when she does that, and if she seems phony to me, a die-hard Hillary fan, how about to less committed voters? Listening to her speech yesterday, though, I felt I was seeing the real person behind the candidate. She was smart, conversational, armed with facts, and entirely persuasive. I think she’s found the right voice to use for the rest of her campaign. I hope she sticks with it. Not to mention, she’s dead on in her assessment of Donald Trump and the chaos he’d inflict on our country and the world should he get elected.

I have little to say about the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels crashes yesterday, other than to honor the pilots: Blue Angel #6, who died on impact, and Thunderbird #6, who ejected safely but then had to endure a grip & grin with his commander-in-chief. I’m not sure which fate I would have chosen, and I don’t say that lightly.

Flying fast and maneuvering hard at low altitude is dangerous work. There’s no room to recover when things go wrong, as any demonstration or aerobatic team pilot will tell you. There are days when I take a dim view of the military’s love for bread & circuses public displays. This is one of them.


You Can’t Read That!

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

Duke Humfrey's Library

YCRT! News

Right-wing conservatives get upset about book banning too. But are schools in Portland, Oregon, actually banning textbooks that deny or call into question climate change? Not really.

Texas schools were encouraged to teach Mexican-American history. They’re off to a great start with the adoption of this racist textbook, which accuses Chicanos of having “adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society.” Huh. I’ve heard that kind of talk before, right here in Arizona.

After a parental challenge and administrative review, The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been banned by the Pasco School District in Florida.

Creationist homeschooling mom Megan Fox wrote a book accusing an Orland Park, Illinois public library of protecting pedophile patrons who use library computers to watch porn in full view of children. Her attack is so similar to the long-running campaign waged against public libraries and the American Library Association by an organization calling itself SafeLibraries, the editors of the political blog Wonkette might be excused for wondering if Megan Fox and SafeLibraries are one and the same.

Good to know there’s an ongoing Twitter exchange between authors about taboo subjects in young adult literature. The hashtag is #Gdnteentaboo. The Guardian helpfully provides a summary of recent issues being discussed.

Also from The Guardian, a good explainer on the Facebook trending topics controversy. As I suspected from the beginning, it’s all bullshit.

YCRT! Banned Book Review

beyond magentaBeyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
Susan Kuklin

I reserved a library copy of Beyond Magenta after seeing it on the American Library Association’s annual top ten list of frequently challenged books. According to the ALA, Beyond Magenta has become a target of book-banners, who say it’s anti-family, filled with offensive language and references to homosexuality, sneaky attempts to teach kids about sex, politics, and religion, and wrong for the age group at which it’s aimed. Moreover, the ALA cites evidence that Beyond Magenta is prompting some librarians and school administrators to consider pre-emptive censorship  (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).

In a separate essay, the ALA discusses challenges to books about diversity, noting that while only a tiny fraction of books written for American children and students are about people of color, LGBT people, and/or disabled people, such books almost always become the targets of angry parents who want them removed from classrooms and libraries. When books about diversity are challenged, diversity itself is almost never stated as a reason; instead, parents complain of sex … and yet hundreds of other books written for children and students contain sex and are never challenged.

While “diversity” is seldom given as a reason for a challenge, it may in fact be an underlying and unspoken factor: the work is about people and issues others would prefer not to consider. Often, content addresses concerns of groups who have suffered historic and ongoing discrimination.

To be sure, to be transgender (or gender fluid) is to diverge significantly from societal norms, and Beyond Magenta is most likely being attacked for exploring a kind of diversity many people find confrontational and uncomfortable.

By encouraging six young transgender people to share their experiences with readers, I believe Susan Kuklin’s intent is to inform and educate, and also to give other young transgender people the knowledge that they are not alone. In this she succeeds. If there is any sex in Beyond Magenta, it is only at the most abstract level: two or three of the transgendered kids she interviews mention sexual preferences, but none go into detail. Sex is not what these kids are about. Gender is, and the book makes the difference clear.

Offensive language? Nope. References to homosexuality? If a biological boy identifies as a girl, and (both before and after transitioning) is sexually attracted to boys, is that homosexual? Not in the same sense in which most of us think of homosexuality, surely. Sneaky sex education? Sex is mentioned, as noted, and I guess that’s enough to send some folks into a tailspin. Political and religious indoctrination? None that I noticed. Wrong for the age group it’s aimed at? The book is clearly meant to be read by transgender teens at a serious turning point in their lives, and how is that wrong?

I suppose I should mention that of the six young people interviewed for this book, none have had sexual reassignment surgery. Each of them, however, takes hormone treatments to develop the secondary sexual characteristics of the gender they identify as.

As I mentioned, I think one of Susan Kuklin’s reasons for writing this book is to offer hope and encouragement to other transgender youth. Which is good, but … she doesn’t address the negative experiences so many transgender youth have to deal with: while a few of the young people featured in Beyond Magenta talked about teasing and resistance from parents, siblings, fellow students, and teachers, each of them managed to transition and move on; some even praised parents, peers, and schools for being supportive.

What, I wondered, about transgender kids who don’t live in socially progressive environments, who encounter non-stop suspicion, bullying, and hatred? None were interviewed in this book, and I thought Susan Kuklin’s focus too limited. Her six interview subjects seem relatively privileged, judging by horror stories I’ve heard. And what of older transgender people? The oldest interviewee was maybe 18; all six were either starting, in the middle of, or just completing the process of transitioning. What happens when transgender teens reach adulthood and middle age? What are their lives like? What are their concerns? What are the downsides of transitioning? Equally, what are the upsides? These questions weren’t addressed at all.

Finally, I have to note some LGBT reviewers have panned Beyond Magenta. Several complained that the author is not a member of the LGBT community herself: “Yet another book about trans people but not for us.” Some complained about the language and labels she uses to express sexual and gender diversity: “… much of the language used around transness was really out of date.” A few reviewers called the book sensationalistic and voyeuristic, and said it reinforces stereotypes.

None of these objections occurred to me. I’m not a member of the LGBT community either, so maybe that is to be expected. My sole objection is to the book’s limited scope. I want to know more.


Air-Minded: Shack!

Last week my friend Chuck organized a trip to the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range in southern Arizona. Chuck and I are docents at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson. Like me, he’s a former fighter pilot. In his USAF days he flew F-4s; later he joined the Arizona Air National Guard, where he flew A-7s and F-16s. He belongs to an organization of local business people who support the AZ ANG; Chuck set up the trip for their benefit.


On the bus to the range

That’s Chuck in the front left of the photo. He started talking about organizing this outing months ago. I told him I’d love to come along, so when the time came he gave me a call. We met our business people at the AZ ANG base at Tucson International Airport last Tuesday morning and boarded a bus driven by our escort, the ANG public affairs officer. A two-hour drive took us to the town of Gila Bend, where we stopped for lunch. Another half-hour drive took us to an entrance gate where we were met by another public affairs escort, this time from Luke AFB in Phoenix. Our two escorts then led us onto Range #2 to watch live bombing and strafing practice.

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Barry M. Goldwater/Gila Bend Range

On the day of our visit Range #2 was scheduled to be used by a four-ship of AZ ANG F-16s from Tucson, a two-ship of A-10s from Davis-Monthan AFB, and a two-ship of F-16s from Luke AFB. At the last minute, the ANG and DMAFB cancelled, so the only aircraft still on the schedule were the two F-16s from Luke AFB. But those two jets provided more than enough excitement for everyone.

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Range #2 observation tower

Most of our group stayed in the shade on the ground, but a few us us climbed the observation tower to take photos. The tower was manned by a couple of Luke AFB F-16 pilots, there to score their fellow pilot’s bombs and strafing. The bombing target was a derelict Army truck about a mile away; the strafe target was a suprisingly old-school cloth panel offset about 2,500 feet from the tower.


On the observation tower

Twenty minutes after our arrival the boys from Luke checked in, and a few minutes later we began to hear them overhead. They flew two dry passes on the bombing target at 5,000 feet, barely visible from the ground, then started making hot passes with 25-pound practice bombs. Though very small, these practice bombs are designed to have the same aerodynamics as actual 500-pound iron bombs. They have a small charge in the nose and emit a large puff of white smoke upon impact: the smoke allows the observers in the range tower to score the hits. Lead was consistently short or long, but his wingman scored a shack (a direct hit) on the truck and I was able to capture a nice photo sequence of him doing it (click on the individual thumbnails to see the full-sized photos on Flickr; you’ll see the bomb hit, followed by the puff of white smoke).

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After expending their 25-pounders the F-16 pilots set up for strafing runs on the cloth panels. Since strafing is done at low altitude (500 to 1,000 feet), and the strafe target was just 2,500 feet from the observation tower, we had a closeup view of the action. Each F-16 made two hot passes on the strafe panel, and Chuck and I were able to get some great photos. With our cameras set to a shutter speed of 1/1600th, we were even able to capture 20mm rounds in flight.

This is one of my photos. In the first image you can see the smoke from the 20mm cannon; in the second I’ve highlighted three rounds in flight. If you click on the photos to see the originals on Flickr you’ll be more easily able to see the streaks of the rounds in flight.



Chuck brought along a professional telephoto lens and was able to capture an even better image of a 20mm round leaving the F-16’s cannon.


Here’s a photo of the strafe panel as almost a hundred 20mm rounds hit it in the space of a second:

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The F-16 uses the same MA61A Vulcan cannon I flew with in the F-15: a 20mm six-barrel Gatling gun firing at a very high rate and at a slight upward angle (which you can see in the above photos). The F-15’s cannon fires 940 rounds at a rate of 6,000 rounds per minute, or 100 rounds per second. The F-16’s cannon fires 511 rounds at a slightly slower rate: 4,800 rounds per minute, or 80 rounds per second. Still, that’s a hell of a lot of rounds per second, and the sound the gun makes is impressive. Our PA escorts warned us the sound of the guns, when it reached us, would be startling. Fortuitously, one or our guests group took a short video of the group on the ground as two F-16s fired their cannon just 2,500 feet away. You can see several people jump when lead fires; stay with the video a few seconds longer and you’ll hear his wingman fire. Let me tell you, it’s even louder in real life, and I can only imagine what an A-10’s 30mm cannon sounds like!

I have to say I was surprised to see that air-to-ground gunnery ranges haven’t changed a bit from when I started flying fighters in 1978. They’re actually quite primitive. The targets, at least on this range, aren’t electronically or acoustically scored; pilots in the tower grade bombs and bullets by eye, radioing scores to the pilots overhead. The foul line, which pilots must not cross while still strafing, is as basic as it gets:


Foul line

The Barry M. Goldwater Range used to be the Gila Bend Range; most pilots still call it that. It’s used by the ANG, the USAF, and the Marines from Yuma. There are at least three other scored gunnery ranges adjacent to the one we visited; the air-to-air portion of the range is farther to the west.

I flew on what was then the Gila Bend Range when I first checked out in the F-15 at Luke AFB in 1978, firing at a towed dart target over one of the air-to-air ranges in the western part of the complex. The tow pilot cut the dart loose after my instructor pilot closed in on it to count the holes I’d punched through its skin; I assume what’s left of it is still resting on the ground somewhere out there (click here if you want to read an earlier Air-Minded post I wrote about aerial gunnery, which includes a photo of a shot-up dart on the ground at Gila Bend).


Chuck & I reliving our glory days

Chuck’s already organizing another range trip, possibly in October, hoping next time to catch some of his AZ ANG F-16 buddies at work, as well as the A-10s from Davis-Monthan. I have an RSVP in. Now to start shopping for a high-end telephoto lens like Chuck’s!


Five Minutes of Fame

Geeky but funny. A couple of nights ago I read a tweet from a guy who was having a run-in with a birther.

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In another tweet, the birther left a link to his website. I clicked on it. Hey, who wouldn’t jump on the opportunity to get the TRUTH about Obama? One glance and I knew I wouldn’t find it here:

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What followed was what passes for scholarship with these birds: screen shots of the Constitution and letters from founding fathers defining the phrase “natural born,” the same stuff we all learn in middle school civics. At the end, the “proof” of Obama’s birth in Kenya, which of course is no proof at all: Obama is Kenyan because some people say he is, plus he’s blackity black black!

What made me laugh was that after exposing the TRUTH about Obama, the birther’s argument just sort of dribbled off, ending with—I swear—a block of classic “lorem ipsum” filler text. I couldn’t resist taking a screen shot and jumping into the conversation:

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Wouldn’t you know, the birther responded. Four times:





Well, naturally, I had to take a look at the NEW ENDING! Lorum ipsum is gone. Now there’s this:

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As you can see, my name is highlighted, and links to my Twitter account. I expect, sooner or later, to hear from her (sorry about misidentifying your gender, dear lady) friends. Which is why I didn’t fuzz out her Twitter handle on these screenshots. As for Mr. Elleithee, he’s kind of a public figure and I didn’t think he’d mind, so I didn’t fuzz him out either.

Like I said, geeky but funny. And any time a birther troll denounces you by name, it’s a badge of honor!


Friday Bag o’ Camel Spit

camel spitOur friend Angie’s here for a week, visiting from Tampa. She and I once worked together in the A-10 program at Davis-Monthan AFB here in Tucson. Her company, CAE, sent her from Tampa to Tucson when the USAF awarded it the DMAFB A-10 training contract. I signed on a year later and that’s when we met. She’s back at the company’s main office in Tampa now but comes to visit every year. Not only are Angie and I still good friends, she and Donna and Polly are thick as thieves … she and Polly went clubbing a couple of nights ago, the first time Polly’s gone out for fun in over a year.

Yesterday I wrote a post about our Sunday motorcycle ride; our friend likes to hike and ride bicycles too. Tuesday, while I was at the Gila Bend gunnery range with a group of Tucson business people, Donna and Angie went hiking in the Rincon Mountains with another friend, Dee. Yesterday Angie borrowed Polly’s bike and went for a long ride; she just left for another ride, and tomorrow the two of us will ride downtown to scout a bicycle trail for an upcoming Hash House Harriers event (sadly, she’ll be back in Tampa the day of the hash, and I’ll have to hare the trail alone).

I guess my point is that visitors … this visitor in particular … keep us up and off our asses. And that’s a good thing. Photos or it didn’t happen, right?


Donna, Angie, and Dee hiking in the Rincons



You can see why this guy’s house is a mandatory selfie stop on bicycle rides in our neighborhood

A good thing about living close to the southern border: local Ace Hardware stores stock Mexican soda and ice cream bars. It’s a big deal because the Mexican stuff is still made with real sugar, not fructose corn syrup, and Tucsonans in the know go there to get the good stuff. I’ve never been one for soda pop, but Polly, who works at the Ace store near our home, keeps us supplied with ice cream bars, and I must say you can tell the difference. I guess I’ll have to try a soda, although since I never drink American sodas I probably won’t be able to tell the difference.


The good stuff … it really is, too

I worked out for an hour at Anytime Fitness this morning. When I got home I broke out my set of metric Allen wrenches and installed a cell phone holder on the handlebar of Donna’s bicycle. Afterward, Angie and I put a new tube in the rear tire of Polly’s bike. There’s a whole morning, right there. Now I’m back trying to catch up with the bloggage.

I took almost a year off from Anytime Fitness. Now that I’m back, it’s like I never left. Fox News, which is invariably playing on all the monitors, is still relentlessly flogging the same outrages: Bengazhi, Obama vacations, Democratic (oops, Democrat) politicians using teleprompters, Solyndra. And now, of course, Hillary’s emails. This under the guise of what Fox News labels straight news reporting, not editorial comment from its stable of right-wing pundits. If you want to know what Ambassador John Bolton, as they invariably call him (has any Fox New correspondent ever uttered the words “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton”?), hates today about that black fellow in the White House, just turn on Fox News. Bolton’s target this morning: Obama’s “apology tour” in Hiroshima. This in spite of objective reality: the Hiroshima visit is over and Obama uttered not a single word of apology. No matter. Fox News will flog the Hiroshima apology tour story for years to come.

Ear plugs? I guess that’s my only option. All the other gym rats seem to think Fox News is a legitimate news source, judging by the rapt attention they pay to it as they pump and pedal.

This started popping up on Twitter and Facebook yesterday:

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Never mind that the douche with the beard (who is so faux-manly he appears gay) may have been copied from an anti-syphilis public service announcement, I thought the #ManEnough4Hillary hashtag had a lot of satirical potential. I was one of the first to jump on it, using my iPhone to post this during my pedicure yesterday:

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What, just one retweet? I thought it was brilliant!

I haven’t gotten around to writing about my trip to the Gila Bend gunnery range. That’s coming up, I promise.


A Good Ride, Not Spoiled

Lotta things going on, and the blog’s been down. I’ll start with Sunday’s motorcycle ride and try to catch up over the next two or three days.

Our friend Angie’s here for a week. Among other things, she’s a motorcyclist and member of our riding club, Harriers MCH3. We wanted to work in a putt during her visit, so when our mutual friend Dave proposed a Sunday ride we said yes. Two of Dave’s friends, Kirk and Mark, came along. Angie’s bike is in Tampa, so she rode pillion with me.


Kirk, Dave (hiding), Mark, Angie, me

We took AZ Highway 83 south to Sonoita, then AZ Highway 82 west to Patagonia and Nogales. After Nogales, we bombed up I-10 back to Tucson. Both 83 and 82 are great motorcycle roads with curves, mountains, and rolling hills. I-10 is just a freeway, nothing special, but it’s a quick way home. I led our pod of four motorcycles down 83, normally deserted on Sunday. And it was … until we came around a blind curve at 65 mph and suddenly saw brake lights ahead. I managed to get the Wing stopped in time (thank you, ABS!), but Angie and I could both hear Mark, who had been staggered behind us, skidding. He stopped too, just in the nick of time, but then he and his bike went down.

We’d been going around a curve with a steep canyon wall to our right, blocking our view ahead. We certainly didn’t expect to come upon a solid line of stopped cars and trucks, but that was what awaited us halfway around the curve. Not only did the road curve, it was banked: high on the left, low on the right, dropping away even more steeply at the inside shoulder. What happened to Mark, once he skidded to a stop a foot from the back bumper of the tail-end car in the traffic jam, was that when he put his right foot down there was no road under it. Over he went. His motorcycle didn’t just come to rest on its right side, it wound up partly inverted, the handlebars and saddle lower than the wheels. Dave and Mark had a heck of a time getting it back upright (Angie and I watched, while Kirk turned around and rode back to flag down traffic approaching the blind curve, and it’s probably a good thing he did).

Turned out there was no hurry … we were there for fifteen minutes before traffic started to move, and by then we were all back on our bikes, none the worse for wear (if Mark’s bike was damaged at all, it didn’t show .. he didn’t even break a mirror). We crawled ahead through two or three more twists and then traffic came to another stop. This time we had a good view ahead, all the way to the summit of the Santa Ritas. We were looking at a two-mile line of stopped cars and trucks, and pretty soon a line just as long behind us. At the top was a medevac helicopter, presumably loading an injured crash victim. We turned off our engines, dismounted, and visited with our new neighbors for half an hour or so.

Santa_Rita_Pileup (Converted)

At last the helicopter flew away and traffic began to move again. It was a long, slow ride to Sonoita, but after a pit stop there we had to road to Patagonia and Nogales pretty much to ourselves. I kept the lead on that leg, averaging about 70, but slowed down after I saw the first cop. He let us ride by and at first I thought, “whew, we got away that time,” but then I began to suspect another cop was somewhere up ahead and that the first cop had radioed him about us. Sure as hell there was a second cop, but luckily for us he was giving a cager a ticket. I pretty much stayed on the double nickel after that.


The old train station at Patagonia


AZ 82 between Patagonia & Nogales

After a photo stop at the old train station in Patagonia, Mark took the lead, since he knew of a back road around Nogales (not that going through Nogales is any kind of big deal, but it’s always nice to find roads you didn’t know about, and this one turned out to be pretty). He stayed in front until we cleared the Border Patrol harassment checkpoint on I-19, then took the Amado exit and led us to the Cow Palace for lunch.


Border Patrol checkpoint on I-10 south of Amado


Lunch at the Cow Palace in Amado

After lunch I got back in front of the pack, and once we hit Tucson we split apart to take our separate ways home. A lovely ride in the country, miraculously unspoiled by what could have been a very unpleasant spoiler indeed!

Next: a visit to the Gila Bend gunnery range.