My Corona … Day 47**

** I think … At this point I am having a hard time just keeping track of what day of the week it is.

Tuesday, April 28 was an exciting Day 47.  The combined flights of U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds conducted coordinated America Strong demonstrations over New York City, northern New Jersey, and the Philadelphia region to salute COVID-19 healthcare workers.

As a dutiful patriot, this was an opportunity to share with those unable to witness the spectacle first-hand, using my drone’s live-broadcasting capability.  We get very few opportunities to see and record our military’s precision and power on display, especially from the front yard.

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Photo Credit: James Beaver

But as Murphy’s Law goes, several aspects of the operation went awry. This due largely to the Navy and Air Force’s inability to be predictable, practical, and cooperative!

Sons of bitches …

Anywho … An intricately laid plan was dreamed up roughly an hour before the scheduled flight down the I-95 corridor towards Center City Philadelphia, then out north towards Doylestown.  A Cranky Man aficionado, located to the northeast of Drone Central in the Langhorne area, was an obliging volunteer spotter. Far enough north – I believed – to give plenty of warning as the DoD’s Finest passed to the east from NYC.  By either sight or sound, I should have sufficient notice to get Little Bird off the ground and into position.

images-1But no … no, not at all …

Our Heroes of the Flight Line evaded my spotter through stealth and a general reluctance to cooperate. Our frustrated spotter claiming to have neither seen or heard our elusive subjects. (Frankly, I think she wasn’t really paying attention.). After waiting five minutes past the expected FOP (Forward Observation Post) alert, I launched Little Bird and took it to its maximum altitude (400 ft).

Expecting – at best – to catch a glimpse of the 12-plane formation zipping down the I-95 corridor somewhere in the vicinity of NE Philly, I trained the drone to the east.  In assuming the flight would be traveling high enough, but likely be too far for Little Bird’s camera to pick them up, Plan B was to look for them heading north up Rt. 611.  The drone’s dedicated WIFI allows me to link my personal devices with the drone camera.  On my iPhone, I could see Center City as a slight rise of tall buildings well out to the southeast.

philly-flightpathAfter 5-10 minutes of fruitless searching a neighbor announced that they were already flying out over West Philly; and I had the sinking feeling that my op was lagging far behind the action.  Plan B was executed, and I scanned the skies to my immediate south, hoping to catch the flight on what I was assumed to be a direct line from Philly towards Doylestown.

Of course this was where the Greatest Military on the Face of the Earth decided to prove –  once again – their complete disregard for best laid plans.

Perhaps I missed an important tidbit of information, difficult as that may be as its a 1000-acre property no more than a 1/4 mile from my house.  Somehow I never considered the potential for a flyover of the largely abandoned Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove.  Also missed was the only military presence at JRB Willow Grove was an Air Force drone facility (oddly enough) and that the Thunderbirds were – ya know – in the Air Force!

Seconds after my neighbors started screeching, “There they go!”, came the realization … I was now at the mercy of events.  Trying to multi-task, a dangerous development, especially when trying to do three things at a time (fly, watch the video, and eyeball a large uncooperative 12-plane formation).  All the while a large formation of military jets speed where they aren’t expected and quite obviously flying a lot lower than predicted.

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Photo Credit: James Beaver

Remember the drone?  I had it at 400 ft, as I expected a fairly far-off sighting at altitudes approximating that of the tall buildings of NYC and beloved Philadelphia.

Suddenly the roar of jet engines grows, reminiscent of days-gone -by when JRB Willow Grove hosted airshows with bi-annual appearances of the Blue Angels.  Yep … They used to fly right over the house at treetop level!

Right over the house they screamed, and at that instant I realized Little Bird was in big danger!  Not to mention the potential for damaging a $18-30 million copy of an American fighter … The thought, “How much damage a drone could cause if sucked into an engine intake”, came from my professional though vague familiarity with the intricacies of military jet engines.

I frantically looked to spot the drone, which at that height is visible to the naked eye, but barely.  When I found it, I realized the Thunderbirds had just passed it to the south.  But the Blue Angels were actually flying directly BENEATH IT!

It would have been the Video of all Videos … if only its camera were pointed down, not out.

I do not take lightly the ultimate stupidity of allowing Little Bird to get anywhere near any aircraft, let alone high-performance jets. It was a brief, terrifying in moment.

I take all the blame, but never ever expected to see the fly-bys so low and that close.  I should have known better though.

In the end, the balance sheet has no videos, no photos, no property damage, no federal prison time. Could have been worse …

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The shot would have been epic, if I had gotten it. On the other hand, the pilot would likely be giving Little Bird a one-finger salute!

 

 

 

 

My Corona! Day 36

18Techfix-illo-mobileMasterAt3xTeleworking is either the bane of our civilized existence or the greatest invention since the beer keg … depending on your personal perspective. Being an old school diehard, I have avoided teleworking, despite the encouragement of the US Navy, largely because I did not trust myself around so many home-bound distractions.

Before big, bad Corona reared its ugly dangerous head, I was forced by Necessity to experiment a bit with the whole work-from-home phenomena when – somehow – The Most Powerful Navy in the World tripped over their Internet cord.  We have many alternate definitions for the acronym NMCI (Navy Marine Corp Intranet), and none of them are flattering.

On such occasions I suggested to Carol that this might be our retirement dry run, as I am painfully close to pulling the plug on my illustrious civilian Navy career. Those practice sessions improved neither my views on teleworking or the prospects for a stress-free retirement. Let’s just say, when you aren’t around as much, people get used to you not being around.

My first mistake teleworking was setting up the Command Center within sight and sound of the Activity Monitor. It was impossible for the monitor to avoid observing – and commenting – on how many “breaks” I took for silly things like eating, drinking, and personal hygiene.

Retirement-wise, I began to wonder what working into my 80s would look like.

z-funny-75-1When Corona confronted me with the prospect of living for WEEKS in constant, uninterrupted work-from-home contact, I knew we had to make this work. If not, one of us – likely me – would end up buried beneath my thick, weedless, pillow-like Best Lawn in Horsham, Pennsylvania.

The first couple of days were tough. You know … The usual “Are you eating again?!?” and “Do you do this at the office?!?”

It was time to get realistic.

So I moved lock, stock, and barrel to the basement apartment. Comes with it’s own half-kitchen, Keurig, fridge, TV and semi-comfy furniture! It also has a bed (wink wink). The benefits in peace, quiet, and unlimited, unjustified man-breaks are a boon to navy supply support!

It’s been an enlightening experience. And I found a solution to the inevitable post-retirement “What the … You’re still here?!?” adjustment period!

I will only have to disappear for 10 hours a day … five days a week!

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My Corona! Day 27

img_2447As this unprecedented health event hopefully approaches “curve flattening” – if not it’s true apex – continued uncertainty, a myriad of stressors, and a drastic curtailing of normal life, I am trying to look at some of the positive aspects of Life’s disruption.  This is not always easy, particularly when you wake up each morning wondering if that cough, sneeze, or runny nose means anything.

Just allergies, I think/hope/pray.

The biggest positive is the timing of this COVID-19 crisis in the beginning of Spring.  Here in Southeast Pennsylvania the crocuses are blooming; tulips have already pushed up through the soil and are blooming; and the landscapes are a verdant green (assuming of course that you subscribe to Cranky Man’s Lawn’s Program for Lawn Love).  Bought a new lawnmower the weekend before the lockdown hit, and cutting the lawn has been more “fun” than usual!

I’m hopeful that warmer temperatures and how it entices people outdoors could be a positive effect.  It’s a welcome benefit to spend at least an hour or so each day outdoors when temps and weather permit.

Outdoor exercise is always a benefit when the weather is nice.  Carol and I have been taking semi-regular walks together just to get out and about.  It lifts the spirits a bit and invigorates … important when trying to avoid the potential for anxiety and depression, given the constant media obsession.

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Try a puppy instead of The Media

Here’s a solution for Constant Media Obsession: Turn off the TV. Get off the internet. I don’t even read the newspaper much anymore. Try NOT reading any corona-related stories and see just how quickly you can read a newspaper!

Let’s face it. Ten minutes of COVID-19 coverage and you know all you need to know. There is no (confirmed) cure, no significant flattening of The Curve (yet), no loosening of the isolation standards.

Back to the positives …

  • Although spending a lot of time with family offers opportunity. Spending quality time – even an inordinate amount – with your children can work with a little creativity and ingenuity. Examples abound on social media.
  • Take advantage of your backyard.

Spent early evenings the previous two days (rain today) on our backyard deck and saw more neighbors than you would normally see, even on the most glorious of Spring Saturdays!

  • Working from home?  I have avoided it up to now, actually enjoying my suburban commute to work and the socializing the office provides.  But there are a few extra benefits to working two flights from the bedroom.  And that’s even as I refuse to work in my PJs!
  • Cannot remember the last time I had to buy gas for the car.
  • With everyone under our roof being home all the time and no eat-in restaurants open, home-cooked meals almost every night. (Disadvantage Carol)
  • People are friendlier. Every time we take a walk or step outside, someone is around getting exercise and fresh air; walking the dog; trying to exhaust their pent-up children; doing outdoor chores, etc. And all seem ready with a smile or a wave.
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Sunset over Horsham (PA) this evening

They say hard times make tougher people, truer friends, closer families.

What I think is that these difficult times force us all onto a relatively common level of hardship, challenge, and vulnerability.  It strips down the barriers that tend to keep us apart and prevent  interaction.

Take advantage of that!  But only from a safe distance …

 

My Corona! Day 4

Dear Readers: 

It’s been awhile with some very, very long stretches in between.  My reasons for – in all practical purposes – abandoning the art of blogging are as varied as the random directions my brain-streamings often led me.  The biggest reason, however, is the nagging suspicion that I was – for the most part – talking to myself.

Nothing has really changed … aside from that huge Blanket of Uncertainty now hanging over us and the realization that the Human form is damn fragile!

But it does give me something to write about, even if I’m the only one reading it.

Day 4 is my personal accounting from the first day, Friday – the 13th day of March, when the Most Powerful Navy in the World – semi-officially – told me and those I work with to “Stay the hell home!” (my wording, not theirs)

So here I sit, fretting not so much about the virus, but more so how I might survive another “pre-retirement practice drill” with my loving, private-time-loving spousal unit.  As I’m pretty sure, if this lasts more than a few weeks, death by COVID-19 might be the LEAST of my worries!

I am was a corona virus skeptic. Not skeptical that the virus is real, dangerous, potent, and deadly … I have read enough about pandemics and live with a very experienced registered nurse to know better. More skeptical about the way its presence has been made the focus of hyper-caffeinated media hysteria, the ridiculous conspiracy theories about origins and transmissions, and the public panic which ensued.

I have no doubt this is serious or that The Authorities know more they are not sharing to be taking such drastic public measures. But that will be the last I say about it. My posts here will be more about coping with what is simply – at least for now – a personal inconvenience and intrusion.

I won’t be making light of what’s going on.

OK … maybe a little.

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Until next time …

Springtime in Cranky Man Land

 

Springtime in Cranky Man Land

When it’s Springtime in Cranky Man Land

Soft dewy footprints impress the fluffy verdant,

Though some may wax eloquent as a spectacular Lawn,

To Cranky Man it’s simply Heaven’s Dawn!

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So green, so soft … You don’t want to get off!

 

If you like what you see above and below,

There’s a link below to help make YOUR lawn so!

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Coming Soon: Lawn Therapy for Tired Souls

Lawn Care Tips for the Consummate Lawn Amateur:

Cranky Man’s Catalogue of Lawn Tips

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Stare long enough, you can feel stress melt away!

Horsham light display vandalized by Philadelphia Eagles fan

You never know just how vulnerable you are until you are the victim.

Woke up this morning to find my Christmas lights had been almost completely removed.  When I called Horsham Police, they sent out a squad car and commenced an investigation. One of the officers confided in me that this has been happening all over Horsham, and they suspect roving bands of Philadelphia Eagles fans originating most likely from the crime-infested Talamore development on the other side of the Township!

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It was evident that in addition to removing most of my lights; they added green lights; and promptly smeared Crisco all over the bushed and tree trunks.  The helpful police said the Crisco would disperse sufficiently to permit restorative work in about two weeks.

Sounds about right …

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GO EAGLES!!!

Horsham (PA), It’s Primary Tuesday in Pennsylvania!

Tomorrow, May 16 (2017) is Primary Tuesday in Pennsylvania.

No …. The Choices are neither sexy or controversial.  There were no debates, no surrogates flooding the cable wires, and – thankfully – no commercials or robo-calls.

I doubt even the Russians are interested …

But you should be!

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Tip O’Neill

The following excerpts (with one edit) from an important township election in 2013 rings true in every election. One of my favorite quotes comes from Tip O’Neill, “All politics are local.”

Local elections have a greater direct effect on you, the Taxpayer; the community in which you live; and the schools your children attend.

No other election will affect your quality-of-life more directly than local government offices that control spending, your schools, property, income and township taxes, not to mention the potential for your township’s Economic Future.

No other elections will affect you more directly or intimately.  From the state of your schools, neighborhoods, finances, emergency services, local public works … Most things you touch on a daily basis in the course of normal life are managed by the people your friends, neighbors, and supermarket/soccer/PTA semi-strangers will elect FOR YOU, if you decide a local election is not “important enough”.

There are important School Board and Judge selections to make tomorrow.

Make the effort and cast your ballot!

Horsham’s Water: The Way Forward

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Horsham residents listen at June 27 Council meeting on water quality. (Bucks Courier Times)

On June 27, 2016 the Horsham (Pennsylvania) Township Council held a meeting with residents where the issue of Horsham Water Quality was addressed in a presentation, followed by a period of Q&A.  This was the latest in a series of informational meetings specifically addressing perfluorinated compounds PFCs (PFOS/PFOA) in the township water supply as a result of operations at the now-closed NAS-JRB Willow Grove.  Previous information sessions were organized and staffed by elements of the U.S. Navy’s Base Review and Closure (BRAC) office, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Horsham Water and Sewage Authority (HWSA).

Of all the points to be made in writing this blog post, it must be recognized that pollution issues existing at the base for decades prior to BRAC are hopelessly entwined with the redevelopment effort.  Their impact in the redevelopment effort was anticipated by all parties from the very beginning.  The officials responsible for its management, Horsham Township Council, HLRA, and the U.S. Navy have always been up front and transparent, presenting all known information directly to area residents!

For this reason, I have been able to blog about the various complications that hazardous materials and pollutants pose to the community on at least FOUR occasions, marking Horsham’s progress in efforts to control the future of the NAS-JRB.

  1.  Horsham’s Big Wait, status of the airbase redevelopment (April 2013)
  2.  A Look at the NAS-JRB Willow Grove Environmental Impact Statement (February 2014)
  3. Water Contaminants and NAS-JRB Willow Grove (December 2014)
  4. Playing Politics with Horsham’s Water (October 2015)

images-2Regardless of how one feels about the U.S. Navy’s role of environmental indifference since the 1940s at NAS-JRB Willow Grove, the present-day Navy has been proactive, transparent, and honest about what was done on the Base; how it affects the residents of the surrounding communities; and identifying solutions for remediation.

You can find the latest information from the Horsham Water Quality presentation – available on-line.  The 38-page Powerpoint slideshow taught me a few new things about PFCs.

Some interesting points:

  • Just two months ago, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drastically lowered its PFC Health Advisory Level (HAL) from a high of 400 parts-per-trillion (ppt) for PFOA and 200 ppt for PFOS to 70 ppt.
  • PFCs are a National and International problem, with wide-ranging allowable levels for the substances’ projected effects on humans outside the U.S.  For example, in comparison to the current EPA standard (70 ppt), Canada allows 600 ppt for PFOS/200 ppt for PFOA; Germany and Great Britain allow 300 ppt for both substances. (This illustrates the largely unsettled science on PFCs and their potential health impacts.)
  • 98% of people tested around the globe have tested positive for PFCs.
  • One part-per-trillion (ppt) equals one drop of liquid to 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.  The recently revised EPA HAL at 70 ppt would allow 70 drops of liquid over those 20 Olympic-sized pools!
  • Most PFC applications were phased out of production in 2015.

Of course none of these cute little facts serves to minimize the real health concerns of Horsham’s residents (or Warminster’s or Warrington’s).  Those concerns are real; should be researched and studied to determine the potential for effects on human health; and those effects – if any – mitigated with the costs accruing to the U.S. Government.

So what will be the way forward for Horsham’s water quality?

epaMy experiences in following the BRAC/HLRA processes have proven that Township officials and the U.S. Navy have been up-front, practical, and immediately responsive to all issues affecting the community. From making the earliest decisions on an airport; developing a redevelopment plan; and setting in place the organizational infrastructure to move the effort into its next stages.  This was no different when the EPA triggered the recent groundswell of public attention by significantly reducing the HAL levels for PFC compounds.

When the original HAL (400 ppt PFOA/200 ppt PFOS) levels were set in July 2014, both the Navy and Horsham Township responded quickly, and two municipal wells that tested above the HAL limit were taken off-line.  The same reaction was witnessed this past May when the EPA dropped the safe HAL level by several orders of magnitude.  The Navy set out immediately to test suspect wells; and the Township quickly removed HAL-exceeding wells from the municipal water system.

From this point-of-view, the problem of PFC contamination has been fairly easy to manage.  Removing offending wells from the municipal water system effectively reduces the level of contaminants in the system.  This approach is so effective, Horsham’s current PFC level is 18 parts-per-trillion … or less than one-third the current EPA HAL standard of 70 ppt!

Some suggest that all confidence is lost in the safe-ness of Horsham’s water supply.  For me, the experience is quite the contrary.  If it’s relatively easy to remove bad-testing wells from the water supply, Horsham’s water supply remains safe insofar as PFCs are concerned.  I continue to drink the local water as I did 30 years ago (or more), drinking water right out of hand pumps located on the old Hidden Springs golf course (now Commonwealth National Golf Club)!

However, safe water decisions resides with each township resident!  Nothing in my discussion is intended to downplay the seriousness of the issue. My approach here is rooted in a confidence based on the demonstrated reactions by those who manage our Township and its infrastructure – above and below ground.

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Granular Activated Carbon Filter

The long-range view is even more promising water-quality wise.  The solution is in the construction of Granular Activated Charcoal (GAC) filters.  The filters are large, custom-made, and housed in buildings roughly the size of a garage.  The filters are roughly $1 million per copy; and the U.S. Navy has agreed to pick up the costs associated with the construction and installation of the GAC filters!

The Township expects to have all five filters currently needed on-line by years end, resorting to temporary GAC filters while permanently housed filters are manufactured and installed.  It’s a solution that is reasonable, practical, and most importantly prompt and decisive!

One of my neighbors plans to invest in something called a reverse osmosis filter.  EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection do not recommend in-home filters as being particularly effective.  However, the reverse osmosis system is available with carbon filters which are effective in eliminating PFCs from the home’s water supply.

The most important point to remember however is that regardless of which choices you make in regards to your family’s water quality, none of us would have the information we need to make these choices, if those in charge of the NAS-JRB redevelopment effort were not completely forthcoming and demanding of the U.S. Navy in ensuring Horsham’s quality-of-life is protected!

 

Have a Merry Global Warming Christmas!

Yeah, yeah … I know.

“That’s not “climate”, it’s just weather!”

Still …

I’m really getting into this Winter Global Warming/Cooling/Wetting/Drying/Changing thing.

I also picked up the parts I needed to get my snowblower into top working condition, thereby ensuring we will not get any snow this Winter. Maybe in July …

So here’s an apropos Christmas song for the new tropical Eastern United States!

Merry Christmas from the Cranky Man!