Flying an airplane above the clouds sometimes can be a rather spiritual experience. Ordinarily we don’t think of it but when we are standing on the ground and the day is overcast and rather dreary, we tend to forget that it only looks that way to us when we are on the ground. The dreary look is, like most things in life, only one side of it. It’s the underside of the clouds that look dull. If we could see the tops we would see it is all bright and sunny and fluffy white. If the angle of the sun is just right you can even see the shadow of your airplane following you.
Occasionally, when atmospheric conditions are in sync you might see a thing called The Pilots’ Cross. It doesn’t happen often because the angle of the sun and the atmospheric conditions need to be just right. I’ve only seen it once in several hundred hours of flying above clouds. When the conditions are right a beautiful circular rainbow gently surrounds the shadow of the plane and follows it across the sky.

I’ve been searching the Internet for a picture and more information about this phenomenon known as The Pilots’ Cross. I’ve been unsuccessful so far and my attempt to describe it certainly doesn’t do it justice. I’ve never seen anything to compare it with.

There will no doubt be many who see this occurrence as an omen of some kind. I just saw it as a thing of beauty and treasure the memory of having seen one once.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 30, 2008

PS I attempted to fake a drawing using my graphics software but I couldn’t draw anything that came close to showing its beauty. I doubt that anyone could.



Occasionally it slips my mind that people from all over the world read this stuff. Well, people all over the world could read this stuff if they wanted to. A few choose not to and I can see their point.

Recently I received a note asking what something I had mentioned meant. Then a light bulb went on and I realized my knowledge of what I said was based on television commercials and all people do not have the joy of sitting though those and probably would have no idea what I meant. The product in question was “Cialis”. My e-friend didn’t know what Cialis was so I wrote a short note explaining the best I could.

As I'm sure you know most of our TV stations are commercially sponsored. Hence, most of what we watch is interrupted every 12 minutes or so while the wonders of some product are meticulously explained to us. One of these products is Cialis, which is a "male enhancement" drug. The first one of these drugs to gain popularity was Viagra, which I understand temporarily overcomes "male impotence". (Is there a female impotence?) Excuse the fragile language usage but the way they say it is, "The inability to sustain an erection." I assume they are talking about some construction project such as a garden shed, for instance. If one were to use Viagra the shed wouldn't keep falling down. These are only assumptions, as I personally have no first-hand experience with this never having built a garden shed.
Well, Cialis is like Viagra except it is supposed to last 36-hours for "times when that special moment is interrupted". One of the commercial bits for this product shows a couple playfully "fooling around" in the kitchen and apparently they are getting ready to head to the bedroom or wherever their Special Moment place is when "that Special Moment" is interrupted. It's interrupted because the man happens to lean on the faucet (I have no idea why) and breaks it causing a minor geyser to erupt in the kitchen.
"No problem", implies the voice-over announcer explaining that since the man had taken Cialis, they have 36-hours to get the faucet repaired and complete the "special moment".
Now personally I have never gone through such a thing but can imagine how I might feel after fixing a faucet that had broken off. My Special Moment might involve my seeking the plumber who did the shoddy installation and administering a Special Moment to him.
There is another Cialis spot where the daughter is making a surprise visit, apparently from college, and she interrupts the Special Moment. I'm assuming it's the daughter since she looks a lot like her mother. In this case the interruption might make a bit more sense in that the surprise visitor is probably a direct result of a previous Special Moment and therefore entitled to do her best to prevent that from happening again.

So there.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 24, 2008



Yesterday I needed to repair a kitchen faucet. This is a fancy kitchen faucet so this meant going to a Fancy Kitchen Faucet place to buy some parts. I looked around and while I was waiting for a young lady to retrieve the part from the backroom I noticed something strange. I saw a fancy toilet and there was a fancy sign on it that read "DO NOT SIT".I called the young lady’s attention to the fact there was a letter missing between the ‘S’ and the ‘I’.
She giggled.
Even if it were spelled correctly I still don’t understand the need for the sign. Why would anyone want to spit on a toilet?

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 15, 2008



This happened back in the “old days”. Fire had been discovered many years previously and dinosaurs no longer roamed the streets. It was 1950 and we had recently moved into our brand new house -– the $12,000 one. There was a little more room than the $10,000 model.

We, perhaps it was I, decided to make some homemade root beer. It was easy. All that was needed was to save all the old soda bottles, buy the extract and follow the directions. There was the rub –- the follow the directions part.

First, we needed bottle caps, which were of no use unless we had a capper. The capper was basically a hand-operated press that crimped the edges of the metal caps to hold them on. So we bought a capper. I suppose about this time I should be saying, “I bought the capper”, as my SATT (Spouse At That Time) displayed little enthusiasm for the whole project. I attributed this to the probability that she had never tasted homemade root beer. At least not my homemade root beer.

The process is amazingly simple. First, you get a fairly large container of water -– just plain water. Then a measured amount of sugar is dissolved in the water, which, as I recall, is done by boiling the water. Then a measured amount of yeast is added followed by a small bottle of Hire’s Root Beer Extract. (The last ingredient is a secret formula and, because there was no Google in those days, the only way anyone could learn the secret would be to marry into the Hires family.)

Then the brown liquid is poured into each clean bottle and the bottle is capped. So far you have yeasty tasting root beer with no fizz. Making the fizz part takes time, so the directions say to store the bottle in a cool spot for a certain number of days. This allows the yeast to “work”. I made about a dozen or so quart bottles and took them to the basement of the house where it was nice and cool.

As the root beer was working life went on and one Saturday morning we headed out to buy a new mattress. (Hmm. I have no idea why I remember it was a mattress.) Before leaving the house I had an idea. If I brought the bottles upstairs, where the temperature was a little warmer, the whole process might be hurried up some. SATT objected to this but I assured her it was perfectly all right and brought up the bottles from the basement and put them in a corner of the kitchen counter.

When the mattress-buying safari was finished we headed home. I drove home thinking how nice it was going to be to get refreshed with a large glass of homemade root beer. When I went in the house and looked into the kitchen I was stunned. It looked like a war zone! There was shattered glass and premature root beer everywhere, even on the ceiling. I think one or more of the bottles had exploded thereby setting off a chain reaction. I don’t mean the caps popped off. These bottles had exploded – every one of them!

On the bright side, though she hid it well, I think I made SATT very happy that day. I volunteered to clean it up.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 13, 2008



When I was growing up the system in our family required that the kids be involved with the mundane tasks that need to be done in any family situation. I recall being about 12 years old and my job was to wash the dishes after the evening meal.
One particular evening I was sloshing around up to my elbows in soapy water. My mother happened to be in the kitchen and asked, “Do you know who Bob Feller is?”
“Bob Feller? Sure. He’s a baseball player.”
My mother then asked, “Is he a good baseball player?”
“Is he a good a baseball player?” I echoed senselessly. “Probably the best pitcher there is.”
She went on to say, “ I was listening to the radio yesterday and he was being interviewed.”
“What did he say?”
With a straight face my mother went on, “He said the reason he can throw a baseball as fast as he does is because when he was younger he used to always wash the dishes after every meal.”
I paused the dish washing and turned towards her titling my head to give her my cute quizzical look with the slight frown that meant to say, “ Are you kidding me?”
She couldn’t hold it in and burst out laughing.
It’s just as well she did because in those days children would never accuse a parent of lying yet I knew she was. Just the day before my father had told me that Bob Feller's ability to throw a ball with such speed was a direct result of his younger days when he always mowed the lawn.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 11, 2008



California has long been referred to as, “The Land of Fruits and Nuts.” On June 18, 2008 I posted a blog indicating I thought I had heard one of the latter –- a nut, that is. This was shortly after California decided to recognize same sex marriages.
Some reporter was interviewing a Man on the Street and asked this man’s opinion of the new action by the State of California that now recognizes same-sex marriages. He replied, (and I’m not making this up), “God doesn’t like it and he will punish us. He’s already started by sending jobs overseas.”

To be honest, I thought that was about as off-center a comment as I could imagine. I was wrong. Today I imagined one that might be is even nuttier.
I pictured God sitting up there. He might have turned to whoever sitteth next to him and said something like, “Those Californians just don’t get it and it’s beginning to really annoy me. They did that same sex marriage thing so I sent some of their jobs overseas. That didn’t slow them down at all so I raised the cost of their gasoline. Still nothing. I think I’ll try fire and see if they get the idea then. If that doesn’t do it I’ll be forced to go to the brimstone. I hate to do it but fire and brimstone always works.”

Now please note, I did not say this did happen but it is possible. Anything’s possible.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 10, 2008

PS Ordinarily the current weather condition here can be seen by scrolling to the bottom of the column at the right. Usually it's a beautiful view from the veranda of a restaurant about 20 miles south of here -- very near the fires. Today -- not so pretty. Click here if you are interested in seeing smoke.



Very uncharacteristically I feel no joy with my blog today. We have fires. Newspapers report as many as 1500 fires have been burning in California.

Approximately 25 miles south of here there is a gorgeous scenic area called Big Sur. (Click on map to enlarge) It’s a National Forest area but also many beautiful homes have been built there and residents are being forced to evacuate.

Today they say there are about 19,000 firefighters from all over the country trying to contain the fire that has been burning there for about 2 weeks now. We are in a very dry season and it seems as soon as they contain the fire in one area it will jump the lines and start again.

This is a typical Big Sur view.

This is what it looks like at 8:45 this morning:

If you are interested, the picture is from The Nepenthe Restaurant and it can be viewed live. Hopefully it will improve soon.

Very sad.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 3, 2008



This is the story of an incident that took place one day in December of 1947. It tells how I came to be alone, 5000 feet over Indiana and hanging from a seat belt in the open cockpit of a biplane, which was flying upside down. It might teach someone a lesson. It certainly did me.
The book told me how to execute a loop.
Dive down a little to pick up speed. Then pull the joystick back to climb up and keep climbing until you have made a complete loop.

Simple enough. Instructors told us not to try it but how difficult could it be?
I was alone in a practice area and no one was watching.
Just remember the book said, ‘Not too tight’.
Diving down.
Climbing up and up.
Too tight?
Push stick forward. Slow the climb down.
Too much!
Plane stops climbing and I am at the top of the loop and the plane is inverted.
Centrifugal force had been holding me to my seat but it was gone.
No one had mentioned having a tight seat belt so I was dangling about 2 inches off the seat.
I had never been that frightened before. Or since, for that matter.
I started pushing things and kicking pedals in all directions until somehow the plane was right side up and I headed back to the base.
I landed and told no one of my adventure.
Subsequently I spent much time flying in inverted position but I always had my seat belt tightened and was firmly attached to the seat. I think, even today, if my car were to suddenly be in an inverted position I would still be firmly attached to the seat.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 2, 2008