June 30, 2020

BW photograph of a small plane flying into some large clouds.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Despite what I said about flying in the “Train, Train” post, every time clouds form, or the sound of a plane is heard, I look up and think about being in the air.  If you look carefully at the upper left of this photograph, that black spot is a small plane making its way to somewhere.

BW photograph looking up into a cloud formation.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

When watching movies from the 6os and 70s, air travel is depicted as (mostly) stress free.  Passengers walk up to the counter, are greeted by smiling ticket agents, purchase a ticket, walk straight to the plane, settle in, light up, and have a drink.  Quite pleasant and sophisticated.  Of course, that is what the airline industry wanted to present to the public to entice said passengers.  Still, absent the smoking, what is not to like?

In a post 9/11 era, though, such is not the case.  Tickets are often purchased months in advance in order to secure a lower rate, packing and dressing must be done with knowledge of the TSA regulations and screening process so as to avoid delays and other unwanted complications, and usually there are long (sometimes very extremely long) lines of fellow travelers.   Forget about just showing up and going right to the plane.  It is fortunate that smoking is no longer permitted on the planes.

BW photograph of cumulous clouds on a clear day.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 presents additional concerns at the moment.

I do still like the idea of flying.  When at 30,000 feet with someone else in the driver’s (flier’s?) seat, one can (hopefully) let go of the need to be in control.  Five hours to the West Coast sure beats multiple days of driving, but there really is a price to pay for that shortened transit.

Incidentally, if one wants a good look at the places in between, then a long, meandering road trip would be ideal.  Someday, I will make that kind of trip.

Be safe and well.


Up There

July 20, 2019

BW photograph of blurred clouds on a very windy morning.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Today, July 20, 2019 is the 50th anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon.

In 1969, my aunt and uncle managed a drive-in movie establishment.  During that summer, my grandparents and I would awaken on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday mornings to clean up the debris left behind by the customers as it was commonplace for people to simply drop their trash on the ground and drive away-the environmental movement had yet to really take hold and recycling was unheard of.  Given the family connections, it also meant that I could go to the movies, I think, for free.  One of the other benefits was being able to sit in the projection booth and watch as those giant reels of film (remember that?) unspooled their imagery onto the screen.

(As an aside, Hurricane (Tropical Storm) Agnes destroyed that drive-in 1972.)

We were there on July 20, 1969 watching The Green Berets, a movie steeped in propaganda as the war in Vietnam was not going well, when it was announced over the speakers that Neil Armstrong had made those historic steps.  While the significance of that moment did not really register then, I remember the clapping and cheers that arose from the darkened vehicles.  It was quite a moment.

Looking up, it is still difficult to imagine what it took to make those steps happen.  For example, watch Apollo 13.  (I have not seen First Man.)  There is a scene where the flight engineers use slide rules to make their calculations.  I had a slide rule and never did learn how to use it effectively.  Today, smart phones have more capability than the computers NASA also used to make the Apollo program as successful as it was.  The average automobile has more wiring and electronics than did the lunar module.  Such capability is taken for granted and there is a quest for ever greater technological advances.

That quest, though, is part of what spurred the space program.  Most importantly, it was also a race to beat the Soviets to the moon-Sputnik was a significant event putting that race into motion.  That the U.S. and Russia continue to be adversaries demonstrates that some things do not really change.  Today, there are several countries vying for a return to the moon-some to use it as a way station on the journey to Mars.

Go outside tonight and look to the moon…imagine…

Take care.

PSYC 101 NOTE:  The ability to remember where one was and what was happening when meaningful events occurred is referred to as episodic memory-more about that here.


May 16, 2019

BW photograph of a plane flying into a cloud bank.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I fly.  Not too much.  But enough.

BW photograph a plane flying into a cloud bank.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Therefore, the crashes of two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes and the subsequent grounding of that fleet caught my attention.  (I had had a flight scheduled that most likely would have been on one of those planes for just after they had been grounded-otherwise, I would have faced the decision of whether or not to make that trip.)  Later, there were additional reports about quality control problems at Boeing.  That these issues appear to be related to the efforts to remain competitive with other manufacturers’ aircraft exacerbated the concern.  Yes, statistically I am more likely to be injured or killed on my daily commute than when flying.  However, when planes go down, often resulting in scores of deaths, one takes notice.  Given that it now appears Boeing knew about the issues with the 737 Max 8 in advance of the first crash, one begins to seriously wonder about the company’s priorities with regard to safety, communication with constituents, and quality control.   That the FAA has allowed Boeing to largely regulate itself does not inspire confidence.  More on this point in just a bit.

BW photograph of the cloud bank into which a plane just flew.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

On a related note, HBO is currently showing Chernobyl, which is about the nuclear reactor explosion that occurred in 1986.  I am currently reading Midnight in Chernobyl and have started to watch the series.  What is striking, if not surprising, is how similar the issues with that disaster are to the ones that led to the current problems at Boeing-obfuscation, secrecy, and regulatory concerns are examples.  At Chernobyl, those working in the facility, their families and neighbors in Pripyat, the emergency personnel called to the scene, and anyone/anything downwind of the reactor, paid that price.  The book is definitely worth a read.

While the scale of these disasters are not equal, Chernobyl presented a genuine global risk, the pain of loss felt is a common denominator.

So, this begs the political question:  to what degree are governments responsible to protect their citizenry from problematic business practices?  The relationship between Boeing and the FAA is one example.  That the U.S. was one of the last countries to ground the 737 Max 8s adds to the mix.  For another example, think about the issues presented by Facebook with privacy in general and the 2016 election in particular.  On a different note, what if the governmental practices are the problem?  That is certainly a large part of the issue with Chernobyl.  In the U.S., the current administration systematically gutted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.   There is enough in the Mueller Report and the Attorney General’s summary to be concerned about as well.

With regard to corporate malfeasance, it often takes individuals within the company to step forward and become what are known as whistleblowers.  There are laws to protect such individuals as otherwise problematic, if not outright illegal, behaviour may not come to light.  The Obama administration had a complex relationship with that practice.

If the above is not enough, there is also the content of this interview.  Please listen for the use of the term “whistleblower” toward the end.  Here is a link to the NPR book review of that which is discussed in the interview.

One conclusion to draw from all of this?  Caveat Emptor.

Take care.



July 2, 2015

BE photograph of the space shuttle Endeavour as displayed at the California Science Center.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

“Space…the final frontier.” With those words Star Trek, the original series, began in 1966.  It was, of course, science fiction and eventually launched several other series and a cult of followers, who are referred to as “Trekkies”.  There is a documentary that bears the same name.

The above photograph is of the space shuttle Endeavour, which was retired several years ago and now resides at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.  Having grown up with Star Trek, I have always been fascinated by, and in not a little bit of awe of, the actual ships, astronauts, and scientists that participated in so much of the creation of science fact.  Being able to see Endeavour is especially poignant given that both Challenger and Columbia and their respective crews were lost to explosions-the former at liftoff, the latter during re-entry. (As an aside, the Challenger disaster is one of the most-often cited examples of groupthink-the extreme pressure that is brought to bear in the support of an unwise decision. Endeavor replaced Challenger.)

Endeavour also played a significant role in the rehabilitation of the Hubble telescope, as documented in the IMAX movie Hubble.  The photographic imagery created by Hubble is just simply stunning and the beauty of deep space is quite overwhelming when seen in the IMAX format.  (Please do visit the Hubble link as there are also important connections between Hubble, Challenger, and Columbia.) The quality of the photography becomes a more significant issue given the technology and effort it took to make the necessary repairs to Hubble’s flawed mirror.  Hubble is worth seeing.  Being able to exit the theatre, turn a corner, and then walk around Endeavour was deeply exciting to the child who lives in this adult.

Take care.


June 13, 2015

B-17 Bomber landing

(C) Copyright 2008 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

They certainly do happen.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to visit a collection of retired military aircraft at a museum several hours from my home.  As the forecast called for rain, and in the spirit of being prepared, I packed my Nikon Nikonos waterproof camera, which was originally designed for scuba diving, and its equally waterproof 35 mm lens.  (As an aside, the Nikonos will give you an idea of how long ago this was as that 35 mm film camera has been out of production for decades.)  That camera/lens combination would be perfect for the subject matter and the anticipated weather conditions.

Both the aircraft and the weather lived up to expectations.  However, I was not worried about the latter as the camera shrugged off the rain as it should.  The only real issue was the need to wipe the lens of raindrops.  Still, it was quite an enjoyable time as the rain kept most others away and I had the aircraft virtually to myself.  The dark grey rain clouds made for a nice background and the inclement weather made for shadow-free exposures.  I happily photographed until my allotted time ran out, packed up, and left for home.

On the drive home, though, a nagging thought began its inexorable journey from my lower conscious and made its way to the forefront of my thinking:  had I loaded film in the camera?  Not being one to multi-task while driving, I did my best to stop thinking about the camera and keep my attention on the road.  That thought, however, would not go away.  Well, did you?  Finally, I could take it no more and pulled off to the side of the road, opened the camera bag, and grabbed the Nikonos.  Nope, the rewind lever spun freely-there was no film in camera.  I had forgotten to load it.

It was a treat to have a nice walk in the cool rain and look at vintage aircraft, still…

Mistakes are inevitable and, in fact, necessary for the long-term learning of new skills-as described by Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born.  It’s Grown.  Mr. Coyle explains how analyzing mistakes, making the necessary adaptations, and then practicing new responses is critical so that one becomes “better” at a given task.  With regard to this particular mistake, I learned to load the camera the night before and to put the flattened film box in the camera bag under the camera as it would provide a visual confirmation that the camera was indeed ready to go.  I also checked again in the morning before leaving.

That particular mistake never happened again.

By the way, the photograph that opens this post is The Collings Foundation’s restored WWII-era B-17 Nine O’ Nine.  This was taken at a different airshow many years after the incident described above.  After all, I have no photographs from that trip.

Take care.







August 10, 2012

Please read this one with Pink Floyd’s “Time” playing in the background.

Had a flight scheduled for 6 a.m. this morning to Los Angeles and arrived at the airport at the requisite two-hours before boarding time (yep, awoke at 3 a.m.) only to be informed that the flight had been cancelled due to weather.

The options presented were thus:  take another flight at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow; take an 8:00 a.m. flight later this morning at another airport in a city one hour away (not sure how one would have gotten there in time due to the already building rush-hour traffic, especially with the road construction between here and there); or fly out at 6:00 p.m. this evening.  The decision was made to take this latter flight as the purpose of the trip out-weighed the irritation of the process.

So, I rode back to Long Term Parking and picked up the car after being at the airport for about two hours.  Fortunately, the charge was only $2, which was a surprise-I was expecting to pay the full $8 per day fee.

Interestingly, when checking email as soon as I arrived home, there was a message from the online booking agent, one who advertises heavily in all media, saying to “Please call us immediately regarding your 8/10/2012 flight.”  as there was a problem.  The kicker in this story:  the sent time for the email was 6:13 a.m.-thirteen minutes after the flight was supposed to have left.

How is that for a head’s up?

I did call the listed phone number to discuss the flight only to be immediately put on hold for a “longer than usual wait time”.  After 5 minutes, I hung up.

To re-cap:  I had driven to the airport, been told the fight had been cancelled by airline personnel, waited in line to discuss the options with the counter-person, made a choice, re-booked, got the car, and drove home all before the online service had sent the email advising me of the problem.

The saving grace in this mess was the counter-person-she was quite patient and pleasant and aside from automatically booking the next day’s flight, she calmly explained the situation and the options and allowed time for a decision.  That was customer service.

On a different note, with time still the theme here, I realized that I could have driven to Ithaca, New York and arrived at 8:30 a.m. after a 5-hour drive.  The original touch-down time for the flight to LA was also 8:30 a.m. after a 6:00 a.m. departure.  Time zones sure do mess with continuity as the distance to LA is ten-times that to Ithaca, but it would be covered in half the time.

This bring me to the final comment (for now-we’ll see how this trip plays out after this inauspicious beginning) in this post.  It really is possible to get anywhere in the world within 24 hours due to the sophistication of modern air travel.  However, weather is local.  If the plane on which you are scheduled to fly gets hammered by a storm in another city, then it may not be available for your flight, which is a point that you may, or may not, be informed of in a timely manner.

Take care.


December 10, 2011

200,000 miles on the car's odometer

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

My car, a 2004 Subaru Forester, turned over 200,000 miles last week. Other than the few miles the mechanic has driven when diagnosing problems and testing repairs, I have driven every one of those miles. No one else in the family drives a stick.

And now, Blue seems to have come to an end. I recently replaced the clutch and now the rear differential is grinding; she needs a new timing belt; and her tires are more than halfway finished. These repairs will cost more than the book value of the car, which makes doing this work a poor financial choice.  Given that I drive approximately 100 miles per day, it is likely that Blue will continue to need more work.  It is a sad time. Read the rest of this entry »

Space Shuttle "Enterprise" at the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Copyright 2004 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The last of the NASA Space Shuttle missions is currently in progress.  Thirty years of rocket rides with two well-publicized disasters-Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003-is ending once Atlantis returns home.   The Challenger explosion was a watershed moment for the space program and is used as a teaching-point in Sociology 101 classes when we discuss the topic of groupthink.

I am old enough to remember televisions, black-and-white televisions, being wheeled into classrooms as the networks broadcast the Apollo missions.  These historic launches were America’s entry in the race to beat the Soviets to the moon.  While many children were no doubt inspired by these launches and went on to careers in math, science, and the aerospace industries, I was just glad to not have the regular class content forced upon us for that time period.

I also clearly remember being too young to have had any conception of what it meant to have traveled to the moon and back. No, I was much more influenced by the original “Star Trek” as I thought THAT Enterprise was far cooler than anything in NASA’s fleet at the time.

(The photograph above is the Space Shuttle Enterprise currently housed at the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center)

And so just as “Star Trek” eventually reached the end of its missions,  this era of NASA has just about come to a close.  With the retirement of the shuttle program, NASA will rely on Russian spacecraft to transport American astronauts into space as the United States will no longer have a vehicle for this purpose.  Quite ironic as it was Sputnik that provided a scientific and cultural motivation for the American space program leading to that race for the moon.

Take care.

For the best protection…

January 23, 2010


Nikon 12-24 lens and HB-23 hood

(C) Copyright 2010 Kevin P. Mick. All rights reserved.

…attach the dedicated lens hood that has been specifically designed for the lens being used.  

Two stories:

I have already established in previous posts that most of my early photographic adventures involved being out in snowy and icy conditions.  I enjoyed the crispness to the air and the fact that, most of the time, there were not many people out and about.  The pristine quality of the scenery was enticing. Read the rest of this entry »