A friend of mine wrote this on Facebook, and I think it's an idea worth sharing.

     "There is a staggering lack of understanding regarding even the most basic of concepts in our populace.

     I used to get in trouble all the time, starting in pre-school, for asking the "wrong questions". Asking questions that didn't follow the lesson plan, that the teacher didn't know or didn't want to answer. I got singled out, punished for "insubordination", had my parents called for parent-teacher conferences.

Teacher:"Well it seems young Geoffrey has a problem with authority..."
Dad:"No he doesn't."
Teacher:"Well he does things differently from the class and asks lots of questions..."
Mom:"Is he being disrespectful? Is he speaking out of turn? Has he said anything inappropriate?"
Teacher:"Well, no..."
Mom:"Then I don't see the problem here, he's actually engaging in the learning process and he is doing everything we raised him to do, unless there is anything else I think we are done." (Thanks Mom and Dad)

     My point in illustrating this is that it seems I was either at the beginning or the middle of this "Gimme" generation. This society is consistently catering to the lowest common denominator, restructuring ourselves so that we "don't leave anyone behind". What we are doing is dumbing and watering ourselves down. We are groomed to believe whatever information "They" force feed us.

     And do you want to know the horrible truth? There is no "They". There's only us. Like some 70s robot dystopian film they make fun of on Family Guy, we are our own worst enemies. There is no massive conspiracy. All of the problems we have as a nation come from the fact that it is a nation governed by people. Slow, lazy, manipulative, self-centered people. Catering to and providing short term easy answers to slow, lazy, manipulative, self-centered people...and on and on the cycle goes.

     Most people want to be chiefs but very few want to be the Indians. And that's just not how it works. The entire focus of our education system is to get us used to working in a post-industrial, service based economy, to expect someone else to do it for you. How can one expect to be a leader and also be provided for. Yet that is what most of our young people (and older people) want.

     When I grew up, my parents said I could do anything I wanted to do with my life, as I'm sure most of yours did. My mother was hoping that I would grow up to want to be a scientist or a great artist, philosopher, professional intellectual, what have you. Sounds great on paper, but that's just not me. My dad always said it doesn't matter what you do, just do it well and be happy doing it. The world needs ditch-diggers, he always said. He never expounded but what he was saying was not everyone is going to be the CEO, not everyone is going to own a company, sometimes at the end of the day all you're going to have is the sweat on your brow and possibly the fruits of your labor. And that's okay. That's a good life, one well worth living, as long as you are happy doing it. Life is short, brutal, and inherently not fair...unless you choose to have some fun with it and be happy with who and what you are.

     I'm constantly hearing the people around me ask themselves and one another what we are going to do. More precisely, ask what someone else is going to do about all the troubles we are in. You're going to get a thousand different answers and most of them aren't really going to be answers at all, it will be someone vomiting a world view that they think is the "right path".

     I don't subscribe to any political views. I think if you start doing that you're missing the point entirely. But I do have two suggestions that I think would fundamentally change the world that we live in over time. There are no easy answers, anything that happens to us is going to be hard on us, but maybe with some hard work on the front end we can make our lives easier in generations to come (it's not going to happen but a guy can hope).

     1) Ask "why?". Take a couple of extra seconds and actually think about every thing that people tell you. Why are they saying this, what do they have to gain from this, is what they are saying true, could there be something more to this, is this the best course of action, who will ultimately benefit from this, WHY DO THEY NEED MY HELP OR MY COMPLICITY IN THIS?

     2) Don't be afraid to work hard.

     As you start to question and stumble over finding the answers, there is your answer right there...oh wait, maybe this is flawed, what can we do about this? Then don't be afraid to work on it. Not every person can, needs to be, or wants to be an activist. It can be just as simple as creating change in the people around you by challenging them to ask questions. Fairly soon, with more and more people asking questions, you have a ton of people asking questions that are not getting answered, and hopefully a ton of people not afraid to work hard. Then what do you have?

     A revolution."

     (This message brought to you by me being tired of seeing political, moral, social, and cultural memes and "news" articles all over the damn place)

     - Police Officer Geoff Betchel

I'd love to hear what you think. Maybe you think it's a worthy idea. Maybe you hate it. Maybe you want to share it, and spread it around. I think it's a fantastic idea, and I think it deserves to spread.



There are a number of events in one's life that will let you know just how much things in your life aren't working.

I've recently found myself in one of these life-changing moments, and am realizing that despite my ability to do so, and my love of being, or even becoming organized.. many aspects of my life are a mess. Layer upon layer of mess strewn over mess. This will not do.

From the very surface, organization is neat and tidy. I'm not so daft as to think that life is, or should be, or even can be put into a number of index cards, and shuffled about, or even with modern technology, stuffed into a database, all searchable, and indexed. However, I think many aspects of it can be. The challenge is figuring out how; the rules of how you categorize the things in your house or apartment, the tasks that you have to deal with on a regular basis, even the friends that you want to get together with for a drink, or to write a consoling letter. I think this is part of the thing that wasn't working for me.

I've cataloged my music at some great cost of time and energy. It's not hard to file papers, it just takes time. Even cleaning a house from top to bottom isn't tough, it takes a bit of muscle, and time, but it's not hard. The difficult thing is not the work, or even finding time to do it in, it's planning howto do it, and what to do with it. I have a system that's worked fairly well over the years for my music, and it takes some work, but again, it's worked for me. But I didn't just do it. I planned it. Perhaps the most frustrating part is trying to stick to it. Converting this into that, and cataloging it properly is a pain. But I can find what I want to when I want to without much searching. That's the payoff.

So, I wonder. If I can define a set of rules for many of the other things in my life, can I organize them much in the same way? Can I sort out the layers of mess, and make sense of it all? Is it worth it? Or is there something else more worthy of my time and attention?



So... I've hinted at it, and talked about it, but have never put forth an effort to really quantify it in many respects. Here, now, is a capture of my current 926 background images that I have set to rotate every 10 minutes on my computer. 

These images have been shamelessly stolen from around the interwebs, and photo collections of friends. I've had some people curious about it, and haven't wanted to think about how to post 1.64GB of images for the curious - so: thumbnails. The original size of this thumbnail image is 3884 x 7018, and all of the images are 4096 x 1152.


Parking lottery

Parking lot repaving: I was required a couple of weeks ago, to vacate the parking spot in my apartment complex by 6:45am, and was asked not to return until 7:00pm. Again, a couple of days later, the same thing. 24 hours out of the lot. In both notices, posted in my parking stall, there was a start time, and an end time. Yesterday, I was asked to vacate by 6:45am again. I came home to a closed gate, and driveways were taped off. I went to the grocery store on foot after parking my car in the remote lot that they suggested we use. I walk back with two arms full of groceries after 7:00pm to find that the gates were open, the tape was gone, and cars were parked inside. So I moved my car into my stall.

This morning I get a note, that I entered prematurely, and I am to be held partially responsible for any damage to the new paving job. o_O There was no return time posted on the last notice. I didn't open the gate, or move the tape, nor was I the first car back in the lot. How is this my fault?


We're Going To Have To Deal With This For The Rest Of Our Lives

You don't have to believe it, but on July 20th, 1969, humans took a step on the moon. There is scientific evidence the prove it, samples brought back to confirm it, and hours upon hours of video, and film from still-photography from the moon. We just lost the first man to step on the moon, Neil Armstrong, to complications from heart surgery, but tell his friend Buzz that the moon landing was a hoax, and he'll punch you in the face. There are a gazillion ways to prove it, but for some reason, there still exist a sub-set of the population that still thinks that the United States Government is capable of keeping a secret for longer than five seconds. If you want to be that... diluted, I don't guess there's anything I can do about it but lead you to water in hopes that you switch to that from whatever Kool-Aid you're on.

But aside from what I guess I would classify as... passion?; there's really no harm in the Moon Hoax theories. Nobody died on the moon. Nobody died on the way there, or on the way back, though we did nearly lose a crew on Apollo 13, but that crew, at the moment is still alive. We must remember Grissom, Chaffee and White who were killed in an oxygen fire in their capsule during a dress rehearsal for the launch of Apollo 1, but they are rarely brought into the moon hoax discussions.

So, I was running through my Twitter timeline the other day, and someone was posting a conversation that they were having with a friend about the conspiracy theories surrounding the September 11th 2001 attacks on the WTC, the Pentagon and Flight 93, and it just plain angered me.

For every tragic event, the generation that experiences it, that event is cruelly burnt into their memory. My wife's Grandmother recalled not too long ago where she was and what she was doing when she heard the news that WWII was over. I bet she can give you even more detail about where she was on December 7th 1941.

I will forever remember exactly what I was doing, exactly where I was, and exactly what happened that morning. It only takes a moment of reflection for me to become enveloped in the pain and uncertainty of the day, and feel scared and isolated all over again, and I was on the West coast - nowhere near New York, and no one that I knew at the time were anywhere near New York that I knew of. I really didn't have any reason to be concerned for what was going on over there, other than the fact that I try to be a generally decent human being, and I kinda don't like it when tens--or hundreds of thousands of people lose their beloved mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, uncle, aunt, husband, wife or best friend. The fact that these people were simply removed from humanity in an instant is not something that should be made light of. Like in Star Wars when Ben Kenobi felt the pain of the people of Alderan crying out as their planet was destroyed, we all felt some sense of loss that day. We all know someone who was directly affected by the events of the day - someone who dropped their life to enlist in the military, or to go dig up rubble in New York. So, it makes no sense to me to mock this event with theories of conspiracy. It is insensitive, disrespectful, and inhumane.

But somewhere deep inside, I know that we're going to have to deal with this for the rest of our lives. There will always be someone, somewhere, that will find what they believe to be some nugget of truth in one of these fabrications because of their ignorance or some other infliction, and these ridiculous theories will somehow live on. If you are one of these people, and you want to live in denial, feel free; but do us all a favor, and for one day, put it to rest. You can have your arguments throughout the year if you so choose, but do this - on September 11th, simply remember. Be somber, and respectful of those who lost something that day. Have a moment of silence along with the decent people of the world, and remember the feelings of their families and friends - most of all, be respectful. Because no matter the reason, the loss is real, and it will forever hurt those that it has affected.

To not end this on a sour note, I thought it might be appropriate to share how I have chosen to remember since 2002:

It might help first, to know where I was and what I was doing. I was on my way to work from Rowland Heights to Glendale - I was on the 605N, just entering the transition road to the 210W. My routine was to listen to the local Alternative Rock radio station - 106.7 FM KROQ. That week, the personalities were on vacation, and they were re-running past shows. Their News man, Producer, and Showbiz reporter/man-at-hand were in studio to make sure everything ran smoothly, and they broke in on a commercial to inform their listeners what had happened, and what was happening.

Through Kevin and Bean weren't in the studio when it happened, on the anniversary, Kevin Ryder put together a clip montage to remember, and generously made it available for download to listeners. Since then, I have made it my memorial. Regardless of how I feel leading up to it, whenever I listen to it - well, it gets me every time.

I remember.

Do you?

NROL-36 Launch Viewing

This Thursday, September 13th, Vandenberg AFB is again attempting to launch the Atlas V carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Once again, we are going to attempt to drive up and view the launch from a location that is about as close as we can legally get.

I'm not going to tell you where I am going to be, and I can't promise that I'll get any media out of it, but I will try.

I am excited! This will be my first Atlas launch, and it will be the closest that I will have ever been to a real rocket launching.

Are you going to watch it? From where?

More info:




YES, the California Science Center is uprooting about 400 trees along the 12 mile route from LAX to Exposition Park where Endeavour will spend the rest of its life. But they are re-planting more than twice that after the fact. News media is hyping this like crazy - to what end, I don't know, and they always miss the last part - THEY'RE REPLANTING MORE THAN 800 TREES WHEN THEY ARE DONE!

Understand what's going on here:

First off, it's only a 78' swatch down three major streets in the greater L.A. area, so they're not running into parks or apartment complexes to uproot random trees all across L.A.. Most of what will be cut down or removed are trees that reside in the MEDIAN OF THE STREET - surely you don't propose that these are great trees for shade, recreation, and having a nap under - at best, they dampen some sound. I have also learned that several areas along the route are sue to be construction zones soon, and many of these trees were to be uprooted anyway. Additionally, the city of Inglewood is not in favor of keeping the species that is currently planted, and when the trees are replaced, they will be replaced with a different species. I have heard that only 10% of the trees being uprooted are actually being destroyed. Take a look at the route, seriously, there's three major streets that this thing is traveling down, and all three of them at some point have a median that has trees planted in it - all but maybe 5-6 trees are relatively small, and relatively young anyway - it's really not as big a deal as news sources seem to be making it out to be.

Dis-assembly of the shuttle is prohibited by the terms laid out by NASA in the acquisition process of the disused Shuttles. It would also be nearly impossible to reassemble the Shuttle once it is taken apart, and ensure its structural stability for the rest of its life. When I was at the California Science Center, they said that they intend for the permanent installment of the Shuttle to be structurally sound for the next 250 years. It is the responsibility of the organization awarded the Shuttle to arrange for transportation and storage - which has to be environmentally controlled - which, for example, is why Enterprise, on the deck of the USS Intrepid in New York is in a blow-up cocoon rather than just being out in the open - even though it is a temporary storage location. The same is true with Endeavour at the California Science Center; a temporary shelter was constructed from the ground-up, at considerable expense, which is to be climate controlled--which is expensive; it protects the orbiter from rain, and sun. And when the final display facility is constructed, and Endeavour is moved to that location, there will have to be sacrifices made there as well. Endeavour is going to be displayed in its launch configuration with two Shuttle SRBs that have already been moved from Florida to Edwards AFB for temporary storage, and an External Tank that the science center is going to have made specifically for display purposes (probably with some interior space for displays or education).

From the California Science Center's website regarding dis-assembly:

"Is Endeavour going to be moved from Lax to the Science Center in one piece?

"Yes, we want Endeavour to be as close as possible to its post-flight condition immediately following touchdown from its last mission. Removing either the wings or the tail would destroy the protective tiles on the vehicle as these are very fragile. Even if the tiles could be removed and replaced, NASA cannot safely separate and reattach the wings or the tail without the infrastructure that is provided in the orbiter processing facility, meaning that the vehicle could not be reassembled if it were taken apart."


The media seriously needs to stop with the headline sensationalism, and present the whole story - and when you see something that upsets you - go dig a little, and see if it really is what you think. Better yet - stand up to the incorrect source and hold them accountable for their misinformation.


If it makes you happy...

A friend of mine posted this photo on twitter today that I thought was funny, but it reminded me of a story that I want to share.

I adopted a Beagle about 10 years ago. Beagles are curious creatures. If they are not constantly entertained, they will show you just how much trouble they can get into - TRUST ME.

So, we needed to find something to keep her occupied at all times. We found that rawhide bones would usually keep her busy enough to stay out of trouble... for a couple of minutes. You see, she would eat through them very quickly. We had to monitor them so she didn't eat too much. We found that when it got down to just be smaller pieces, and it was time to put it away for the night, that she would defend her bone with her life--biting clawing, scratching, etc. I always won - I had to, because I was alpha.. or was trying to be, but fighting her for them every night got old real quick, and really wasn't healthy for either of us.

Walking through Pets Mart one day, I saw a rawhide bone that was four feet long. That's literally, 48" of chewable goodness. I figured that at the very least, if she still fought for it, I'd at least have options for a place to grab that wasn't an interference fit with her teeth, and we could eliminate or reduce the fights for the bone every night before bed. Plus, it was going to be SO funny to see her walk around with that thing in her mouth.

We brought it home, and introduced her to her new chew toy. She was quite cautious about grabbing it and lifting it. Once she got started on it though, she seemed to enjoy it. She had to adjust her postures, and normal positions for chewy goodness because of the size of the bone.

This is a very smart dog.. usually. She knew that it was bed time, probably from our routines, and mannerisms. But she got up from her treat, grabbed it square in the middle of the bone, and began wandering around the living room with it. She walked it over to her food bowl, and tried to place it behind her bowl. But that didn't look right. There was just something about it that didn't satisfy her. So, a couple seconds later, she grabbed it again, and went over behind the couch, and placed it very carefully on the floor, trying to hide it behind the couch. But there was something about that spot that just wasn't sufficient. So, back she was, a couple of seconds later to grab it again, and search on for another hiding spot. She jumped up on the love seat, and paced back and forth, finally setting the bone down. She's getting smarter - this time, she turns around, and in the middle of the couch, she digs herself a hole in between the cushions, and places the bone in this hole, and then she used her nose to cover the bone back up. She turned around, ready to walk away, but there was something about this spot that wasn't quite right.

At this point, I am following her actions very closely, not out of concern - she's clearly occupied - but out of entertainment. I didn't want to interrupt what she was doing, but I wanted to watch.

A couple of seconds, and she was back at the bone, grabbing it from the abyss of a hole that she dug, and she was off looking for a better hiding spot. She started walking toward the bedroom, and that's when it got funny. With a thud, rawhide bone met door jamb. She was startled. Not quite sure what was going on here. What force-field is this, that she couldn't take the bone in the bedroom? She tried again, and bumped into the wall. She rotated her head as much as she could, and still couldn't get through. She was confused, but figuring it out. She dropped the bone, and clawed at it, turning it, trying to change her grip or something. Finally, she got herself turned around backward in the doorway, and grabbed the bone in her mouth, and backed through the doorway.

Once she got into the bedroom, I snuck around the corner, crawling on the floor, again, so as not to disrupt her. She took the bone over into the corner, where there was a built-in vanity in a kind of cut-out in the wall. Under the counter of the vanity, she clawed at the carpet several times from different angles, clearly digging a hole. She wasn't actually lifting the carpet, or anything more than some lint, or dust, really. After a minute of digging, she grabbed the 48" long bone, and placed it in this "hole" that she had dug. Then using her nose, she kind of bent over, and "nosed" the "dirt" from her "hole" back into place, "covering" her bone. Slowly. Methodicallly. When she was done, she turned around, happy as can be with the fine work she'd done.

I don't know if there's a morale to this story or not, but I hope that at least it entertained. Amazing the part that our pets play in our lives. Love that dog. Always will.


One of the Silly Things I've Done Behind the Wheel

Many (many) moons ago, I was young and dumb, and I had a license. We've all been there. I've done some silly things behind the wheel of a car. I'm sure you have as well. Here's one of my stories.

My way to work was relatively uneventful, traveling mostly boring stretches of freeway, but one place where I did enjoy having a bit of fun is the onramps, offramps and interchanges. I have always been one to know exactly where the point of convergence was between my talent, and the capability of my car, and I often drove close to, or right at it. Of course, in finding this point, there were times where I unintentionally exceeded one or more of those limits. Needless to say, I understand physics as they apply to cars, and how changes affect these parameters.

I had gotten larger wheels and wider tires not too long before this, and was still in the process of testing to see where that line was, but on this particular piece of road, I knew exactly what could be done, because I had been doing it for a couple of weeks every day. I had to cross over the freeway and enter a descending cloverleaf onramp that had two lanes: the inside was the normal lane, and the outside was the 'carpool only when metered lane', but I got there before it was to be metered. As I was crossing over the freeway, I see a semi-tuck enter the cloverleaf ahead of me. Devious and impatient, I move to go around him on the outside, right at my limit of adhesion. He quickly realizes that he turned in too soon and too tight, and begins to expand his radius so that he doesn't drag the trailer up on the inside curb. This reduces my lane... significantly, and I'm near enough to passing him that I'm confident that I can squeeze through before the lane merges back with the non-carpool lane, or he reduces my lane such that I can't get through - so I go for it.

I am already committed. I know through my extensive physics research that with less steering, I'm going in the grass. If I apply the brake, the rear-end is going to take over the charge and press on without me. More steering input and one side hits truck, one side hits grass, and I can't guarantee the shiny side will remain facing up. More gas will likely do about the same. I've got a real nice four wheel drift going on, and while the gap I have available to me is closing, it is going to remain large enough until I am past the truck.... and that's when I see that some service worker has strewn gravel on the cloverleaf, right in my path. Pucker factor +10. The rear end comes around a bit as I counter, and add more gas. The Colin McRae in me looks out the side window to see where we are going, keeps the power on, and controls it with steering input. I can tell you, that's the beauty of all-wheel-drive. I maintain the slide until the cloverleaf straightens out enough for me to let all four wheels come to grips with traction, and I continue my acceleration onto the freeway. It wasn't until I was in top gear at cruising speed with the cruise control turned on that I think I was able to breathe again, and contemplate just what had happened.

Don't try this at home kids, we're what you call 'experts'.


Dryden Flight Research Center #DrydenSocial Part 1

All of my life, I've wanted to be an Engineer. Well, except for that time when I was four, and I told my Mom I wanted to be a trash truck - not the trash man, but the trash truck. But I think that I embody what my wife refers to as endless curiosity, and as she says, I never stop dreaming. Some of the things I dream about I fully well realize that I will never see them in reality. Flying through the sky in a glider that can takee off with little more than a skateboard push towed by a Killer Whale, I never fully expect to see. There are some dreams, however, that while I never expect any kind of realization of them, throw me for a loop if and when they do come true.

Friday, May 4th 2012 I got to go to the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California - a dream come true.

Just being on base, in the same place where history took place as far as aviation is concerned was enough, but it got so much better from there, and in this series of posts, I will attempt to show you just how.

How did...
First off, you're probably wondering (either as a lay-person like me who never had a hope, or as someone who has had to jump through a lot of hoops to do so) just how it was that I was able to get on base. Well, as part of an effort to increase awareness through social media, NASA has been inviting its social media followers from Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to take part in rare and exclusive opportunities to be able to join in all of the fun and science, and see just what is going on behind the scenes to make what reaches the public stage a reality. I know, that when you think of NASA, you predominantly think of the Space Shuttle, and launching rockets, and space stations like ISS and all, but bear with me - there is a connection: NASA is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Aeronautics comes first. It had to come first to develop many of the systems that we now largely ignore as standard, and as you'll see in the next couple of installments, there is a lot of active aeronautics research that is continually going on at NASA, and most of it takes place at the Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC) in California.

Announcements went out that NASA was going to be holding a #NASASocial at DFRC over Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, and on their website (for future reference, and announcements of other social media events, you can look here). As soon as I heard about it, I was foaming at the mouth, ready to submit my entry. When they made their selections, and I got an e-mail saying that I was in, I was over the moon. Immediately, my mind started racing about all of the things that I hoped to see, and what I would love to hear more about.

One of the coolest things about this event, was that from the very beginning, as people started turning up on Twitter with their exclamations over being selected, we all used the tag #DrydenSocial to be able to kind of find each other. Someone started a Facebook group, and we immediately began making travel plans, organizing carpools, and to meet up afterward for more rucus over dinner. Right away the group was sociable, and friendly, and everyone went over and above to make one feel welcome, and to get to know their fellow participants. I have to say that I was impressed, and found several people with whom I would love to stay in touch with for a long time.

The morning of the event, I got up at 0-Dark:30, and picked up my two awesome carpool buddies for the ride up there. The drive really wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I drove up once before to try to see me a Shuttle when one was in town, but with no traffic, despite a couple of construction zones, we were actually making up time all the way there. A quick stop for breakfast, and off to the front gate.

I'm one of those obcessive people that when I know that I'm going to go somewhere, or if there's a chance that I might be going somewhere, I research it like crazy. A couple of reasons: You can see 'stuff' everywhere. Some of it is meaningless. Some of it is cool to look at. But most of it has a history, and if you know that history, then you are better able to fully grasp the magnitude of its importance in history. I like to grasp the magnitude of the stuff that I'm looking at had on history. So, one of the places that I insisted we stop is Century Circle, just outside of the West gate - a collection of the "Century Series" of aircraft on display along with the control tower that served Edwards AFB until 1998. I remember very distinctly, the smell of the air as we got out of the car to look around at Century Circle - it was the smell of history.

Enjoy some photos of Century Circle while I prepare my next installment.

One feature that is accessible to the general public outside the gates of Edwards AFB, is Century Circle. The control tower in the middle is what served the base until 1988 until it was replaced. The aircraft featured here are part of the "century series" of aircraft. LtoR: F-102, F-100, F-101

F-102 Delta Dagger

F-102 Delta Dagger

Another odd shape in the wing of a TF-102 trainer.
F-104 Starfighter
YC-15, a STOL prototype intended to replace the C-130 first flown in 1975. The first of two airframes built.
This shouldn't require explanation
F-104 Starfighter
TF-102 Trainer


We literally got here before the sun came up. It had been ages since I had actually seen a sunrise. Usually, I'm still awake, but this time I actually beat the sun up.