Thursday, June 27, 2013

Permanent Lightning Storm

There is a more or less permanent lightning storm over Maracaibo, and it's been going on since at least 1597. The lake is boxed in on three sides by mountains, so the air moving across the lake rises and produces thunderheads. The lightning that results is called Catatumbo Lightning, based on the Cataumbo River that flows into Maracaibo; it's also called the Lighthouse of Maracaibo, since it can be seen for miles around the lake.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Delta Airlines and the Trip From Hell

On Monday night we left for Canada. The flights were:

Monday   6/24
4.53 pm  Delta 7300 to LaGuardia  -- delayed due to weather
7.00 pm Delta 6217 to Montreal -- cancelled

Tuesday 6/25
8:40am Delta 6202 to Montreal -- delayed due to maintenance issue

Returning Wednesday   6/26
7.05am Delta 3907 to Detroit  -- delayed due to maintenance issue
10.20am Delta 3653 to Norfolk -- missed because 3907 was delayed

When we landed at LaGuardia, there was a theoretical possibility that our second flight might also have been delayed and we could still catch it. However, there were no gates available, so we (and other planes) sat on the taxiway for over an hour. It literally took us less time to fly from Norfolk to New York, than to get from the LaGuardia runway to the terminal. We would definitely have missed the second flight, if it hadn't been cancelled instead.

All the hotels around LaGuardia were full, so for dinner we went to a sports bar in the airport, where Josh said "I could microwave better burgers than these." Around 1am, the LaGuardia staff started setting out cots; they were under bright fluorescent lights but they were more comfortable than hard plastic chairs and, unlike Philadelphia's airport, they didn't have an ad blaring every ten minutes on why the city is so great and you should really spend a lot of money there. Josh still didn't get any sleep, but I managed a couple of hours.

Sleeping in the airport and waking up at 5am made it easy to catch our 8:40am flight, which left the gate on time, made it almost to the runway, and then went back to a maintenance area. The crew told us that they didn't know how long it would take, and they might be putting us on a shuttle to go back to the terminal. It was looking like we might miss Mum's funeral entirely, and I was considering just chucking the trip and going back to Virginia Beach. But, an hour late, we got airborne, and landed at Montreal at 11:30. Josh and I had our suits with us, so we decided to forego picking up our checked luggage; we raced through the airport, found the Customs and Immigration hall miraculously empty and blitzed through, and got a cab directly to the church, arriving about 12:10, just before the limo with the rest of the family arrived. We had just enough time before the service to find a washroom and change into our suits, before taking our places.

The next morning, we got up at 4am and headed to the airport at 5:00 to catch the 7.05 flight. Needless to say, that one was delayed also. A passenger seat had been broken the night before, and the clean up crew hadn't fixed or reported it. The flight left about an hour late, long enough to make us miss our 10:20 flight and leave us sitting in Detroit until 2:10. Delta gave us $6 meal vouchers, which isn't enough to buy a meal in an airport; but at least the Detroit airport has free WiFi, unlike LAX or LaGuardia. Instead of getting home at noon as we should have--which would have let Josh get to work at his usual 1pm--we landed a little after 4pm and made it home at 5:15.

I wrote a letter to Delta to say: "The front line people were almost all at least okay, some were good, some went above and beyond. They just weren't the people responsible for getting the planes from A to B on time. "Getting from A to B" is the reason for spending $1500 on a pair of plane tickets in the first place. So, you were polite while completely failing in the whole point of your business.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Stupid and Evil

"We have a two-party system in America: The Evil Party, and the Stupid Party. And every once and a while the Evil Party and the Stupid Party get together to pass something really evil and stupid. That’s called ‘bipartisanship.’ " -- attributed to a Congressional staffer circa 1989

I'd say that each party is evil on some things, and stupid on some things, and there's some overlap.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

DTP to the rescue

Sometime last night, Diana and Willa realized there was a mistake in the bulletin with the order of service for Mum's funeral. One entire hymn was wrong--the title was similar but everything else was different. The church office that did the bulletin is closed till Tuesday--Monday is St Jean Baptiste Day, which is a national holiday for Quebec--and Tuesday will be too late to fix it.
They have the file but it's PDF rather than the original. So...they send it to me because I know computer magic. I felt like saying "Yes, I'm a computer wizard...a first level computer wizard..." but one must rise to the occasion. After reading the bones and muttering mystic words, I passed it on to Barbra, who a) determined that it wasn't really editable without messing up the formatting, but b) got the fonts and pictures and send them to me. After that, it was just a matter of putting everything into a new document and fiddling with finicky formatting until the new document looked just like the old one. That was about two hours last night and four more this morning--but I've gotten three separate phone calls to say "Thank you so much!" and "That was awesome" and "You saved the day!"

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Buffy passed away a little before 1pm today. Willa was there with her.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


It turns out the Caribbean islands weren't just inhabited by Arawaks and Caribs; the Ciboney people lived in caves and rock shelters on the northwest coasts of Hispaniola and Cuba.

Korean food

Josh brought home Korean food: beef bulgogi, barbecue chicken, rice, bean sprouts, garlic broccoli, and macaroni salad. I have no idea why macaroni salad is Korean, and neither does my Korean co-worker, but she says that it is typical of Korean restaurants. The beef was thin sliced beef, a bit gristly, no particularly unusual flavor. The barbecue chicken was barbecue chicken, a bit on hot side, but nothing distinctive (other than being overcooked and dry).

Josh wisely did not bring home kimchee.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


In October 1780, the Great Hurricane hit. The storm surge was over 25 feet; the wind, estimated to be over 200mph, stripped the bark off trees and threw cannon into the air. It destroyed every house and tree on Barbados, dropped a ship on top of a port town's hospital, sank or wrecked ships across the Caribbean, and killed 20,000 - 24,000 people.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism, by those who don't have it".

--George Bernard Shaw

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Out kayaking this morning, saw a small copperhead sunning (clouding?) on the rocks on the other side of the river. As soon as he realized I saw him, he vanished into the rocks like magic.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


"Those of us who have been so fortunate as to have been born in a free society tend to take freedom for granted and regard it as a natural state of mankind. It is not."
--Milton Friedman

Conspiracy Theorists

From a Facebook post, slightly edited:

Conspiracy Theorists suck at their jobs!
Where was the outcry warning us that the IRS was secretly attacking right wing organizations in an effort to stage a coup by fixing the results of a presidential election in the United States?
Where was the outcry that the DOJ was illegally harassing journalists to force them to disclose their sources on stories which relate to national security?
Why, for the love of God, didn't the Conspiracy Theorists warn us that the NSA is reading Verizon subscribers text messages?
And I'm being told that list is a comprehensive list of the stuff the Obama Administration has actually been doing, and been caught at just in the last 30 days. 

Sadly, none of this really surprises me. 

D Day

Sixty nine years ago today, 12,000 men gave their lives in the invasion of Normandy.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Male / female color spectrum

Josh and Diana and I were all in the living / dining room at sunset, which was lavender and ciel and azure and eggplant and so on. Diana gasped "Look at the sunset!! Look at the colors !! What color would you call that sky??"

Completely in sync, Josh and I looked at the sky, looked at each other, and said, "Blue."

Sunday, June 2, 2013


There was an aerobatic show at the beach today. They started off with skydivers, two sticks of two with square chutes and smoke canisters on their feet to make the maneuvers more visible; all four landed, one at a time, on the beach in front of us. After that the stunt planes started coming in. We saw tumbles, an octagon loop, hammerhead stall, and in intentional inverted flat spin, which is not something I'd ever care to try. However...after half an hour or so, you've seen the same maneuvers done by three different planes in a row, and it didn't seem worthwhile to sit out in the sun and watch it for another two hours.
Now, if it'd been military planes...

Now reading

Two books on writing:

Both of these having me taking notes and getting excited about getting back into writing.

And I'm also reading the rules to Impetus miniatures rules, which also look quite interesting