The End of the World As We Know It

Facebook challenge posts: gussied-up “pokes” or unsolicited invasions of privacy?

So of course yesterday, when for the first time a friend challenged me and not someone else, I jumped on it with both feet. I’m doing a “seven-day book challenge” thing where you post covers of books you love and, with each post, challenge different friends to do the same.

It’s the last part I hate, the chain mail aspect of it, which I have to believe most of my friends hate as well. Plus, which seven? I’m tempted to give my friends a break and instead challenge Facebook celebs: Stormy Daniels, Crusoe the Dachshund, Sarah Palin (“Which books do you read?” “All of them, Katie!”)

The Upside-Downs who celebrate the unelected president’s cowardice, racism, treason, and overall assholishness at last have a superior moral justification* for abandoning the values civilization is based upon. Such behavior is “very common among celebrities and people of wealth.” Well okay then!

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* “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” —John Kenneth Galbraith

Going back to books, I’ve been posting book reviews on Goodreads since 2011, and for two years before that on Virtual Bookshelf (RIP). But I don’t review every book I read, like for example the ones I rotate in & out of the throne room: short story anthologies, David Sedaris essays, and the like. I have at least a hundred classic science fiction short stories and novellas on my Nook, most of which I read as a teenager and now re-read from time to time: I don’t review those either.

Anyway, I wanted to mention the throne room livre du jour, “The End of the World,” a collection of apocalyptic science fiction stories by generally well-known authors of the 19th and 20th centuries, ranging from Lord Byron to H.P. Lovecraft. I’m halfway through, and so far most of the stories attribute the end of life as we know it to comets and asteroids, though one involved a mad inventor and the unintended consequences of manipulating “ether.”

Then, this morning, this cell phone video greeted me on Twitter:

A grown-ass man in a fucking biker shirt picking a fight with high school students protesting gun violence. Wanna guess who he voted for?

Tell you what, planet-destroying asteroid, you can’t get here quick enough.


Air-Minded: PASM Photoblog XI

If you follow me on Facebook and Instagram you know I post Pima Air & Space Museum photos every Monday. That’s the day I work at PASM as a volunteer docent, driving and narrating tram tours. Between tours there’s often time to take photos, and if I get enough bars on my iPhone I’ll post them on the spot.

Here are some of my most recent Monday at the Museum photos:

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Fairey AEW Mk. 3 Gannet

Our Gannet shows the effects of sitting outside in the Arizona sun, but it’s still an imposing sight (and my favorite ugly duckling). This was the Royal Navy’s airborne early warning radar version of the Gannet; other versions were used as anti-submarine aircraft.


Western Electric APS-4 Airborne Search Radar (1943): check out those vacuum tubes!

The APS-4 was a pod-mounted airborne search radar for airborne interception and air-to-surface-vessel applications. It was first used by US Navy F6F Hellcats and F4U-2 Corsairs, later by RAF Mosquitos. Post WWII, it saw service with the Royal Navy and Swedish Air Force. I can’t find any info on its capabilities, but imagine its range was extremely limited, probably in the neighborhood of five miles. I base this on my knowledge of fighter/interceptor aircraft radars of the late 1940s and early 1950s. If any readers know more, I hope they’ll post clarifying comments.


Vought F4U-4 Corsair

The Corsair, as noted, was one of the aircraft to carry the APS-4 radar during WWII, mounted in an underwing pod. A similar podded radar was fitted to the TBM Avenger, below:


General Motors TBM-3E Avenger

One of the docents I work with claims his first flight as a Navy aircrewman was on a TBM. Avengers served on with the Navy after WWII in training and carrier onboard delivery capacities, but were retired in the mid-1950s, so I’m a wee bit skeptical. We both agree on one thing, though: the Avenger is enormous, and must have seemed even more so when it was introduced in the early 1940s.


Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Oscar)

No radar here. Just two nose-mounted machine guns and an iron sight. Agile and fast, it surprised American and allied fighter pilots.


Korean War adversaries: MiG-15 and F-86 Sabre

When the Sabre and MiG first went on display I wrote a talking paper on the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two fighters for my fellow docents. I just got around to posting it here last week, and yesterday revisited the exhibit to take a fresh photo.


The obligatory Monday museum selfie

When posting Monday at the Museum photos to Facebook and Instagram, I usually include a selfie (because, hey … Facebook & Instagram, am I right?). This is yesterday’s, taken in front of the main entrance. Note the hat: although I wear it religiously, it’s not enough to protect me from the sun … just ask my dermatologist.


Friday Bag o’ Brimley

brimley bagI’m not going to be coy: my blood sugar started inching up a few years ago; this year it crossed a line and my doctor says I now have type 2 diabetes. At my age I’m probably in for the duration.

It’s totally on me, of course. I couldn’t feel guiltier if, after years of unprotected anal sex, I’d contracted AIDs. I couldn’t feel more shame if I’d gotten hepatitis from mainlining horse with a dirty needle. I judge people whose diseases are the wages of sin. Now you can judge me.

But then I’ve always been one to come down hard on myself for weaknesses of body or mind. The weakness in my case is my love of good food, and, over the past few years, a sweet tooth I never had before.

Time to pay the piper. Diet, medication, exercise. Forty years back, I quit smoking (the hardest physical addiction I’ve ever overcome). Eleven years ago I gave up alcohol (easy by comparison). I can do this too. The good thing is I’ve been losing weight, and other than sore joints (I need to have my second knee replaced) have been feeling great.

TMI? Well, it’s my blog. I don’t do a lot of self-confession here, but I try to be honest.

Donna and I went to the Goldwater Range with a group of air museum docents a couple of weeks ago, where we watched a flight of four F-16s from Luke AFB practice bombing and strafing. The friend who organized the trip took some great photos, far better than mine. I’ll share two here:


Nickel Two on a strafing pass (100 rounds per second coming out of the gun, and one is visible if you look hard)


Our group in front of the range tower (Donna and I are on the right, last row)

There were outdoor speakers on the range tower and we were able to listen to radio calls between the F-16 pilots and the range officer. The Vipers, out of Luke AFB in Phoenix, used the “Nickel” callsign, the same one I used when I flew 555th TFS “Triple Nickel” F-15s on the same range in 1978. The 555th left Luke for Aviano AB in Italy in the 1990s, but it remains a part of Luke AFB’s legacy, which must be why they still use the callsign. I’m pretty certain the pilot in my friend’s photo, above, is Nickel Two, the one female pilot in the flight. Kinda hard to tell with the helmet and mask, though.

I sat down at 7:00 AM to check Google News for the latest headlines. Now it’s 8:30 and I haven’t walked Mr. B yet. Here he is yesterday, smelling the flowers. Such a refined gentleman.


Wild rosemary grows everywhere in our neighborhood, and he loves to sniff that, too.

Much as I hate the Kims and the horror dystopia they’ve created in North Korea, I’m (naively?) encouraged by yesterday’s meeting between Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in. Bootlickers are already talking up a Nobel for Trump, who as far as I can see is piggybacking on something started by North and South Korea (and encouraged by China) months ago, but bootlickers gonna do what they do, and I’m trying to keep an even keel here at Paul’s Thing, so I’ll just say this: fuck Trump.

One of our dearest friends retires today and we’re having her over for dinner. I’m making Salade Niçoise with ingredients I bought yesterday: Boston lettuce, small potatoes, tuna, Greek olives, anchovies, Roma tomatoes, green beans, hard boiled eggs, and a vinaigrette. If I skimp on the potatoes, dinner should be well within the parameters of my new diet. But here I am thinking of myself when I should be thinking of our friend, finally able to enjoy the fruits of her lifelong labors. Congratulations, Mary Anne!


Air-Minded: Sabre vs MiG

A few years ago, restoration staff at Pima Air & Space Museum parked a USAF F-86E Sabre and a North Korean MiG-15 next to one another in an exhibit hangar. As leader of the museum’s walking tour team, I was asked to write a background paper to help bring the other docents up to speed on the jets and their role in the Korean War.

Korea Panorama

MiG Alley panorama copy

This is my background paper, as written, with an absolute minimum of re-editing and/or polish:

Sabre vs MiG Background Paper
Paul Woodford

Note: this paper does not attempt to address the full scope of the air war in Korea. These talking points are USAF-specific and generally confined to the F-86 and MiG-15.

Korean War lasted from June 1950 to July 1953.

At the start, NK’s inexperienced aircrews, flying prop-driven WWII Soviet planes, were no match for USAF aircrews flying B-29s, P-51s, F-80s, and F-84s. The US quickly gained complete air superiority over the peninsula.

NK pressed USSR for relief: MiG-15s with Soviet pilots were introduced in late 1950.

First MiG-15 encounters occurred in Nov 1950: P-51s & F-80s were shot down by MiGs, followed by successful attacks on USAF bombers.

By April 1951 MiGs were shooting down so many B-29s the USAF suspended bombing for 3 months, then switched from day to night bombing. To counter the MiG-15, the USAF accelerated the introduction of the new F-86.

MiG Alley was the name given to an area along the China/NK border. Stalin ordered MiG-15s to operate from bases on the Chinese side of the border; since the MiGs had limited range much of the fighting occurred in MiG Alley.

For the first year of the war, most of the MiGs were flown by Soviet pilots. The relative equality between Soviet and American pilots, as well as the relative equality between the MiG and Sabre, resulted in close to a 1:1 kill ratio.

In 1952 and 1953, most MiGs were flown by Soviet-trained Chinese & NK pilots, but a few Soviet pilots remained (and were called Honchos by USAF pilots). Chinese/NK pilots were inexperienced and the advantage passed to the Sabres and their pilots. Sabres finished the war with anywhere from a 10:1 to 6:1 kill ratio:

– Official figures (based on claims) are 762 MiG-15s to 78 F-86s, close to 10:1
– Counting airframe losses as recorded by participating air forces, more realistic numbers are 566 Mig-15s to 104 F-86s, closer to 6:1
– Above numbers factor out Sabres & MiGs lost to other factors such as fuel starvation, engine failure, etc

Supplemental notes:

The MiG-15 was developed after WWII, first flown in 1947, introduced in 1949. Its swept wings were based on WWII German designs; the engine was a reverse-engineered British design. More than 18,000 MiG-15s were built (12,000 in the USSR, another 6,000 built under license in other countries), making it the most-produced jet fighter in the world.

The F-86 was also developed after WWII, first flown in 1947, introduced in 1949. It had initially been designed with straight wings, but to give it increased speed designers adopted swept wings based on WWII German research. Close to 10,000 Sabres were built by North American, Canadair, and CAC (Australia).

Both aircraft first saw combat in the Korean War.

Relative strengths of the MiG-15 over the F-86 included a heavier punch (it employed 37mm & 23 mm cannons), faster rate of climb, and higher combat ceiling. MiGs could enter the fight from above and escape by climbing back up where Sabres couldn’t follow. At very high altitudes, the MiG was slightly faster than the Sabre in level flight.

Relative weaknesses of the MiG were its slow rate of fire and limited ammunition capacity, an antiquated manual gunsight, and instability at high speed. The MiG had conventional, unboosted flight controls and there was no G-suit for the pilot: it was exhausting to fly at transonic speeds and, while fast, became dangerously unstable approaching the Mach. It had a very short range, never operating very far from its own airfields.

Relative strengths of the F-86 were its rapid rate of fire and larger ammunition capacity, lead-computing gunsight tied to a range-only radar in the nose, hydraulically boosted flight controls, stable handling at transonic speeds, and a G-suit for the pilot. It had a faster instantaneous turn rate, better cockpit visibility, and longer range. The F-86E and later models incorporated an all-flying tail, giving the Sabre even better transonic handling. At low altitudes, the Sabre had a slight speed advantage over the MiG in level flight.

Relative weaknesses of the Sabre were its lighter punch (0.50-inch machine guns), slower climb rate, and lower combat ceiling.

The Sabre was fully controllable in transonic flight and could go supersonic in a dive, whereas the MiG became dangerously unstable approaching the Mach (some MiGs were actually seen shedding vertical tail assemblies in high-speed dives). Later models of the MiG-15 incorporated speed brakes that auto-deployed above Mach 0.92 to keep it from exceeding that speed.

The initial batch of MiG-15 pilots were the pick of the USSR’s crop; some were WWII aces and others became aces in Korea. Their tactics were similar to ours.

We gave our pilots better training, and over time this made a huge difference. Experienced and inexperienced Sabre pilots alike went through extensive and realistic training at Nellis AFB in Nevada before deploying to Korea. Once the Soviet presence was reduced and the bulk of the fighting turned over to inexperienced, hastily-trained Chinese and NK pilots, the advantage shifted decisively to American and allied pilots. The introduction of improved F-86Es and, in the closing months of the war, F-86Fs made a big difference as well.

Reference materials:


Saturday Bag o’ Sweet Jesus

jute-sugar-bag-500x500Sugar is insidious. It sneaks up on you and before you know it you’re a deranged addict, passed out at the stoplight with a crying infant strapped to the car seat next to you, the shame of the world. Just sayin’.

I’m scheduled for three skin cancer surgeries in May. Each is on a Tuesday, which should allow me to proceed past the Kotex-pad-strapped-to-the-face stage to the normal-bandage stage by the following Monday and my regular stint at the air museum. Ugh.

Our truck started confusing us with random malfunction warnings: steering assist out, anti-theft system failure, a couple that popped up and then disappeared so fast I wasn’t able to read them. Activating the turn signal would shut off the cruise control. Last week, while turning into a parking lot, the engine died, and when I tried to start it all the electronic screens went blank and nothing happened. On the second attempt it did start, for which I’m thankful, since we were way up on the Goldwater Range and I don’t know what we’d have done if it had died there. I made an appointment and took it in, and it turned out to be a bad negative battery cable. Such a simple thing! So many bizarre symptoms! Something similar was going on with my Honda Goldwing a couple of months back; cleaning the negative battery cable connection fixed it instantly.

Other than that, how are things going? Pretty well.

I remember Barbara Bush saying disdainful things about poor and minority people, but I kept mum on Twitter and Facebook and am glad I did. The few people who dared say she wasn’t the matronly saint the media made her out to be are probably sorry they did. Twitter users in particular can turn into an angry mob in a New York minute, piling on anyone who deviates from the party line, and yes I’m talking about liberals and leftists. I imagine it’s even worse with righties and deplorables.

I did take a stand on Starbucks, though. What business doesn’t have a policy on loitering and restroom use? I’d sure as hell have one if I had a business, and so would you. As more details come out about what happened at that Philadelphia Starbucks, the more it looks like the manager overreacted and that racism was a major factor, but the basic concept of restrooms for paying customers only is a given almost everywhere.

Oh, but I was talking about Twitter mobs. Here’s me (Rogue Lead) sticking my nose in where it don’t belong:

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Here’s me getting my nose bit off for sticking it there:

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And, just because it’s interesting, here’s one that implies rather more was going on that morning at Starbucks than The Man wants us to know about:

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I’m just glad I wasn’t on a 12-hour flight to South Africa at the time, thinking I’d still have a job after I landed, not knowing I’d already become a worldwide hashtag: #HasRogueLeadLandedYet?


You Can’t Read That!

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

The ALA video, above, highlights student activism in the face of censorship and book-banning attempts. Here’s one activist student’s story, and it’s an inspiring one.

Long as I’m throwing lists at you, here are the top 40 censored movies.

Decades of scientific research about LGBT people, much of which did not exist in other than paper document form, was destroyed in the Nazi book burnings of the 1930s. Here’s a sad but illuminating Twitter thread about it.

“One day, I saw a tract that had been donated by a special interest group. In my ignorance, I said, ‘Throw that away.’” This librarian’s op-ed argues for libraries to present all points of view on current and historical issues. Wait a minute. Wouldn’t “all points of view” include Jack Chick tracts, pamphlets promoting white supremacy, and other forms of propaganda? 

Something to put on your watch list: the HBO premiere of “Fahrenheit 451,” set to air on May 19. Trailer here.

What is free speech, anyway? “Days later, when a professor tweeted that the late Barbara Bush was a ‘racist,’ the university’s tone was different: the faculty member would be investigated for her remarks, which, a campus president said, went “beyond free speech.”

Safe Libraries says its mission is to promote “public awareness of crime, sexual harassment in libraries, and inappropriate books and web sites in schools due to American Library Association policy.” This Safe Libraries blog post, though, is an attack on former U.S. Deputy Attorney General and Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, an attack offering only the flimsiest connection with libraries and the ALA. Maybe now, in addition to going around the country with its scary slide show, designed to stir parents up about the dangers of books and libraries, Safe Libraries can join Ted Nugent in calling for Democrats to be shot on sight.

What comes after Howard Zinn and “A People’s History of the United States?” “By the People,” by historian James W. Fraser, soon to be banned at a high school near you!

Here’s a follow-up to an earlier YCRT! item on the banning of “A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl” at Cody High School in Wyoming, where “… the public library is stocking up, townspeople are buying copies for themselves and others, and Tanya Lee Stone’s Facebook friends are ordering in droves.”

I guess it’s only appropriate, then, that this YCRT! banned book review address the book in question:

YCRT! Banned Book Review

bad boyA Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl
by Tanya Lee Stone

As a reader with an interest in banned books (and a writer of a periodic column on same), I read Tanya Lee Stone’s young adult book “A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl” after learning it had been pulled from a high school library in Cody, Wyoming.

In November 2017, after one parent complained the book was trashy and inappropriate for high school students, a school trustee unilaterally removed it from the Cody High School library, warning there’d be “more to come.” True to his word, the trustee has since pulled two more books, David Levithan’s “Two Boys Kissing” and Herbie Brennan’s “The Wizard’s Apprentice.”

After learning what the trustee had done, Cody High School conducted a formal review and recommended keeping “A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl” in the library, but the school board went along with the trustee and the book has been permanently removed (no word yet on the fate of the other two titles).

Here’s part of what the original complainant said about the book and about Cody High School’s library in general:

Parent Amanda Minor said her child nearly checked the book out, at which point she looked into what it was about. “People are unaware of what is in library,” she said. “People should know what is available. The high school library is worse than the public library.”

From the same source (see link above), here is what the trustee had to say about the book:

The book’s junk. It’s erotica, pornographic.

So is it? I read it to find out.

Briefly summarized, it’s three first-person stories told by different high school girls: a freshman named Josie, a junior named Nicolette, and a sophomore named Aviva. At different times in the same school year, all three are attracted to a handsome senior on the football team, the bad boy of the title, whose thing is to “nail” girls and brag about his conquests to his buddies. The girls deal in different ways with their own teenage hormones and the pressure the bad boy puts on them. Josie, though sorely tempted, resists and later tries to warn other girls at her school. Nicolette, sexually experienced but still naive, jumps into his arms and only learns she’s made a reputation-destroying mistake afterward. Aviva thinks he shares her level of commitment and succumbs, but the minute she says “I love you,” he loses all interest.

The book is a paean to Judy Blume’s great YA novel “Forever,” also about a high school-aged girl’s first sexual encounter. “Forever” is in fact part of the plot in “A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl.” After resisting going all the way and enduring the football player’s scorn, Josie finds the school library’s copy of Judy Blume’s book and writes a warning about the guy on the blank end pages. She then tells every girl she knows to check the last pages of the book in the school library. Eventually Nicolette and Aviva read the pages as well.

Judy Blume’s “Forever” has been and continues to be banned in school districts around the country, but young women treasure it and pass copies around, and that apparently is what’s happening in Cody, Wyoming with “A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl.” Parents and school trustees can ban it from the school library, but they can’t stop girls from buying and sharing copies.

Is the book junk? Is it pornographic? If you’re one of those parents who cannot deal with the thought of your daughter growing up and having sex, a parent who won’t allow a daughter to get the HPV shot that will help prevent cervical cancer and a horrible death some day, you will by shocked by “A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl.” Why? Because in it 14- to 16-year old girls think about, come close to having, and actually do have, sexual intercourse. There are no pornographic descriptions of the sexual act, but there is some heavy petting, and of course there’s no getting away from the fact that the book is about girls and sex and the dangers thereof.

If you’re another kind of parent, this is exactly the sort of thing you’d want your 14-year-old daughter to read, because it might help her make better choices when those bad boys start coming around.

Whichever kind of parent you are, you should know better than to try to ban books. The anti-sex faction in Cody, Wyoming, virtually guaranteed that every teenaged girl in town will now read “A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl.”


Spring Has Sprung

And with it, spring cleaning here at Paul’s Thing. Although I won’t rule out minor tinkering with site design in the days ahead, I’m happy with the blog’s new look and hope you are too.

I was going to say spring has brought us a fresh new war as well, but I see now Trump’s strike in Syria was a one-time limited attack, like the earlier one in April 2017, telegraphed well in advance to allow Assad and the Russians to move personnel and equipment to safer places. Sound & fury, signifying nothing. What to do about Syria? Hell if I know.

Spring also brings a new season of Bosch on Amazon Prime, but we can’t watch it. The error message says “we can’t play this video at the present time; try again later.” We called Amazon and they say it’s an issue with Roku players (friends in California are watching Bosch through a Roku box, though … very irritating). BTW, I finally read a Bosch novel, the first of Michael Connelly’s series of books featuring LAPD detective Hieronymus Bosch … you can read my review here.

The forecast for Tuesday’s trip to the Goldwater Range near Gila Bend is encouragingly springlike: sunny with a high of 75°. Perfect viewing weather for bombing and strafing passes by fighter aircraft from Davis Monthan AFB, Luke AFB, and the ANG base at Tucson International (A-10s, F-35s, F-16s). Now if only the schedule turns out to include Warthogs with their big guns. Donna’s coming along, and we’re planning to bring hats, sunscreen, and plenty of water.

Don’t know if it’s related to the season, but it started this spring: I’m getting up several times each night to pee. TMI? You wait until you’re older. Anyway, I broke down and made an appointment with my doctor. Hoping there’s something I can do about the problem, which could really raise hell with the cross-country drive we’re planning in October.

And there it is, the first post on the redesigned Paul’s Thing. May it be the first of many.


Thursday Bag o’ Owies

owie bagI took a fall in San Diego last week. Nine days it’s been, and I’m still recovering. They say men over 60 should stay off ladders. Well, someone on Twitter said it at any rate, and I agree. And men over 70 shouldn’t walk while looking through a camera viewfinder. I said that, and have the bruises, scrapes, and aches to prove it.

The road rash on my right knee and elbow is at the most gruesome stage of scabbing over—my dermatologist nearly fainted while looking me over for skin cancer this morning. When he got his breath back he asked if I would have fallen 20 years ago. No, I said, I’d have still tripped, but I’d have recovered and stayed upright. Well, he said, you need to get some of that youth back. Work out, improve your flexibility, lose weight. Right, I said to myself.

And while he was shaming me, he found three new basal cell skin cancers: left temple, right temple, tip of the nose.


The bandaids cover the snips where he took tissue samples to have biopsied. It’ll be Kotex-sized pads after surgery, probably two weeks from now. Not sure what to think about the triangular symmetry of these spots … is that even natural? But hey, we didn’t bleed on the shirt, so there’s that.

Some of you participated in a Facebook boycott yesterday. I hate to kick a billionaire when he’s down, so my boycott wasn’t about Cambridge Analytica … it was an exercise in self-control. Could I make it 24 hours without clicking on the big blue F? Yes, I could, and did. Now that I’m back on, I see I didn’t miss a goddamn thing.

I checked into Twitter a few times to see how my Facebook-hating brothers and sisters were getting along. Wow, you’d think there’d never been a movie about the early days of Facebook, showing how Zucky’s empire grew out of an online application called Facegrab, where male Harvard students could rate female Harvard students’ faces as hot or not. Because social justice warriors on Twitter are pretending they’ve never heard of anything so shocking before.

Well, enough of that. Another trip to the Goldwater Range near Gila Bend is in the offing, organized by a friend at the air museum. This time Donna gets to come along. Hoping for some good high-speed photos of A-10s going BRRRRRRT. And you know if I get ’em I’ll share ’em!

You may notice a few changes from your last visit to Paul’s thing. I’m playing around with typefaces and cleaning up the sidebar. More changes to come. It’s spring, and I feel the need for speed change.

More soon!