IMG_5288Mr. B’s on my lap! We went for a chilly morning walk with Lulu & Fritzi, and all three wanted to sit with me afterward. Sorry, girls, it’s your older brother’s turn.

The holiday hump is here … and it’s not the only one.

We’re feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day, but that always happens this time of year. We need to get two letters out before we leave for Las Vegas, one to our neighbors informing them of HOA dues for 2023 and how to pay them, one to family and friends, aka the annual Christmas letter. The letters, at least, are written. It’s what comes next … printing and signing them, making address labels, stuffing envelopes, licking stamps … that’s the real work, always more time-consuming than we think it’ll be. Gifts for the kids and a few special friends are still works in progress. Donna and I, as mentioned, are exchanging new iPhones (hers is already here, but I have to wait for mine), but I won’t feel right until I at least think of a stocking stuffer for her, and so far haven’t come up with one.

We’re not going to be home over Christmas and haven’t put up decorations, but Polly will be here and will probably string a few outdoor lights before we go. My days of getting up on a ladder to hang them are long gone. Plus it’s cold outside! Cold for southern Arizona, that is. After 9 years of back to back tropical postings … Florida, Okinawa, Hawaii … followed by 25 years of desert living in Nevada and Arizona, we’ve lost whatever tolerance we had for winter weather.

I’m at a hump point on banned book news roundups. I’m but one of many sounding the alarm; others have taken up the cause, doing it better and more frequently than I can, notably Book Riot and the American Library Association, through its Intellectual Freedom Blog (whose coverage is remarkably detailed and thorough).

From experience and self-knowledge, I know that when I get to the point of sharing thoughts on the direction of my blog with readers, I’ve already come to a decision. I probably won’t quit entirely … if a really interesting or provocative bit of book-banning or censorship news comes my way I’ll have something to say about it, and I’ll definitely continue to read & review books others want to burn. Banned book posts aren’t going away, but they’ll grace the front page of Paul’s Thing less often.

Former Kadena F-15s arrive at Kingsley Field, Oregon (USAF photo by SMSgt Jennifer Shirar)

Flying the hump, of course, refers to crossing the Himalayas from India to China on WWII cargo and resupply missions. The closest a fighter pilot comes to doing that today is a transoceanic deployment, so moving F-15s from Okinawa to Oregon, some 5,200 nautical miles, is a modern-day hump crossing, no?

The first U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagles from Kadena Air Base in Japan have arrived at Kingsley Field, Oregon, prior to being reassigned to Stateside air national guard units or retired to the Boneyard. Over the next month or two, all remaining Kadena-based F-15s will be withdrawn, ending an era in the Pacific I’m proud to have been a part of.

I was surprised to see, in the above photo, that they flew the jets over the hump with just two external tanks. Every time I ever ferried an F-15 across an ocean, it was loaded with all three externals, one under each wing and one under the belly. Air refueling tankers accompany fighters on transoceanic deployments, each fighter getting on the boom to top up multiple times along the way, so technically there’s no need to carry external tanks at all, but …

Kadena’s shutting down F-15 operations, and there’s tons of stuff to move back to the States: not just the actual 40+ jets, but entire stockpiles of external tanks, conformal tanks, spare engines, hangars full of avionics and spare parts, tires, Eagle-specific ground equipment, and I could go on because it takes not just a village but a whole damn city to make a single F-15 fly. Most of this stuff will be carried back aboard C-17 and C-5 cargo planes, and some by ship, but at minimum, if I were in charge of moving F-15s from Kadena to Kingsley, I’d load them up with three externals and conformals. Those pylons and attach points are there for a reason … put something on them!

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