It’s the Year of the Dragon!

The Year of the Dragon in 2024 is associated with the element of Wood. The combination of the animal sign (Dragon) and the element (Wood) designates the year as the Year of the Wood Dragon. Wood isn’t on the periodic table…but in Asian folklore, it’s an element just like fire, air, and water.


Bullet Points:

** Your ancestors didn’t die for their freedoms. They killed for them.

** From Rogan

** Rental Car reservation hell…as told by Seinfeld. I had this happen a week ago and stumbled on this clip.





After discontinuing the B-49 project, the Air Force funded the transformation of the tenth YB-35 (42-102376) into a test platform for an unarmed, long-range photographic reconnaissance variant. This conversion was designated as the YRB-49A; in company terms, it was known as Model NS-41.

The aircraft was equipped with four 5000 lb. s.t. Allison J35-A-19 engines, two per side, integrated into the wings. Additionally, two more J35 engines were mounted in pods beneath the wing’s leading edge. The decision to place two engines in nacelles allowed increased fuel capacity within the wings, a necessity for the aircraft’s intended long-range reconnaissance missions. Moreover, the engine pylons served a dual purpose as vertical stabilizers, intended to address and improve the yaw-axis stability issues encountered during the testing of the YB-49A.

At the beginning of 1952, the YRB-49A was transported to Northrop’s facility at Ontario International Airport in California to install a stability-enhancing device. However, during this period, the Air Force ceased providing further funding for the YRB-49A project. Consequently, the aircraft was left outdoors in inactive storage for some time. Ultimately, in November 1953, the Air Force decided to scrap the YRB-49A.



Water under the Desert

Crystal Spring at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada. The area is part of the Amargosa River hydrology and is home to a species of pupfish that has existed virtually unchanged since the Pleistocene era.

Like the Mojave River, the Amargosa is unusual in that the greater portion of its course is below ground.

These springs are common in areas of Nevada, the greater Death Valley area, and parts of Arizona and occur when underground rivers broach the surface – only briefly.

The Mojave Mail Route (fortified by the US Army) that crossed from the Colorado River to Barstow (Camp Cady), California, which I’ve crossed several times, went from water to water in a parched landscape. You just had to know where the water was.

This is Devil’s Hole. Devil’s Hole is a geologic formation located in a detached unit of Death Valley National Park and surrounded by the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nye County, Nevada. It’s another example of a swiftly flowing underground river where the “roof collapsed.” The hole, later termed the ojo de agua, is 315 feet (96 m) below the surface and large enough for a diver with equipment to fit through.


Identify the Hardware






  1. I go over rental cars very carefully.

    On our honeymoon (a few days back, plus 20 something years) we went to Tasmania. After a late flight and long wait at the Avis counter got the keys and was told the car is just outside.

    Just outside apparently means over half a mile in Tasmanian. Just on dark and I saw a dint (nothing on paperwork). Dug torch out of bag and stopped counting at 35 large dints.

    Went back in, waited in line and asked to speak to the manager. He started with “Whats wrong” and was rude from the start. I’m trying to be patient as it’s been a long day and I know I have a bad temper. Finally I get a that must be one of the cars that was in the hailstorm on the mainland. After being told there are no other cars. I get paperwork that says there are an estimated 50 marks or dints on the car.

    Was not surprised when a few years later they got fined millions for claiming the same damage three or four times.

    Had one similar incident since at same airport plus overcharging by Eurocar.

    That said I have found a couple of family owned local businesses who go out of their way to help with vehicles. Refer anyone I know going to those towns.

    • Went to St. Croix on a getaway, it’s Danish hence why that island was picked. Arrived at night, looked over the rental with the agent, noting any prior dings, dents, and scratches. Left-hand drive in a right-hand drive place…which is very weird until getting used to the brain switch. I drove, no sense in both of us learning…plus, it’s a guy thing.

      Upon returning to the rental place at trips end looked over and saw no less than 3 rentals totally wrecked, most with front-end damage. Was pretty pleased with myself for no extra damage to our ride for the week. For island travel like that I would prefer a Smart Car, like a go-kart with lots of leg and head room.

      • My car was in the shop and insurance paid for a rental.
        Went to Hertz at the airport.
        All kinds of confusion and a long wait. Couple hours.
        Finally got a car and in the hurry, neither of us did a check.
        Drove all week, to work, park, and back in driveway.
        Turn the car in and the passenger side has a big smash in the quarter panel.
        They let it go.

  2. Like Harry Potter, I’m a Snake; in my case I’m a Metal (Gold) Snake, though I can’t speak it as well as he can.
    Has anyone ever floated a camera (with light) along the Amargosa River?

    • If you’re a Snake, according to what I was told by the Chinese, you were born in a year with a 1, such as 51, 61, etc. I too am a Snake, 41 variety.

      • A dozen animals, so the cycle repeats every 12 years. Then there are five elements. Animals X Elements gives a great cycle of 60 years.

        Knowing someone’s Zodiac sign doesn’t really tell you their age. But knowing that someone is a “dragon” usually tells you because most people* look within a dozen years of their age. And knowing the full sign of, say, “water dog” absolutely locks down the age.

        * long-term homeless and hardcore drug addicts excepted

        • Interesting…pattern development by certain cultures is more practical than I knew. Thx. (Sep 60…officially an old-er guy but not “old”…and hanging onto that thin thread for as long as possible/feasible, which usually entails finding something to do each day that energizes the soul.)

          • But are y’all Stainless Steel Rats?


            (I learned something from that Wiki article, BTW. About the MIT class ring. But it’s moot. I was probably more traumatized by MIT than by Swedish Girl, and I’d tattoo her name on my butt before getting a Brass Rat. Then again, as our mutual friend the millionaire socialist — and Professor of Mathematics and Statistics* — says, “Why not do both?”)

            * yeah, I know. I can see an innumerate person falling for some form of collectivism, but a guy who is world renowned for his predictive statistical models? That ain’t right, Mr Nachural! Also, how is he going to maintain his Bordeaux collection under glorious socialism?

  3. Pupfish: If you put them in salt water, do they grow into dogfish?

    Devil’s hole: I thought that was located on the Vice President.

    – Kle.

  4. I couldn’t get the audio on the Seinfeld clip, so I’m going by the subtitles. Why did he go off on the counter girl like that? At that point, I mean. She said they were out of MIDSIZE cars. The smart person’s response would be, “Oh! I’m sorry to hear that. Now’s your chance to upgrade me and create a loyal customer!” A wink, if you can pull that off, or at least raised eyebrows followed by a big smile. See what happens. If she comes back with “We have NO cars” then you escalate to the next step. Which still isn’t berating the counter girl who after all doesn’t make policy.

    I probably never “got” the Seinfeld show. I guess the self-centered assholishness of the characters WAS the gag. (I don’t have a problem with Seinfeld the human being, but didn’t care for the character.) But I didn’t need to spend my free time watching assholes on TV. I work in Medicine after all. That’s what surgeons are for. (Heh. A little inter-service humor. It’s like soldiers and Marines. Most surgeons are okay. The bitchiest speciality is OB/GYN, and the men are worse than the women.)

    One time I was going to Würzburg after business in Amsterdam and was going to drive. I’d reserved a moderately wretched Opel with automatic transmission at Schiphol. Day of rental “I’m sorry, sir, but we have no automatic vehicles left.” I nodded, “Okay. I’ll take whatever you have. But do you really want an American trying to drive, and park, a standard transmission belonging to you here in Amsterdam traffic?” The clerk screwed up his face in thought then ran into the back room. About two minutes later a standard-issue upperclass Dutchman, dressed in an elegant black suit, came out. Peering down at me from his nearly 2m of altitude he asked, “Are you certain you cannot drive standard, sir?” I looked up and said, “Well, I’m sure willing to try!”

    SIUCD stepped out from behind the counter, said “follow me please” and led me to a gleaming E Class Mercedes. “This is the only automatic vehicle we have today,” he announced. Then his face screwed up and he looked like he was about to cry. “Enjoy your VERY NICE car, sir.” I had fun driving around Bavaria in that thing.

    • Epic play!

      You don’t get unless you ask. Anytime we flew/rented a vehicle, etc, operating as Christ would have us (or just being a decent person) – polite until otherwise needed – buys one a huge amount of capital with those on the other side of the counter, flight personnel, waitstaff, etc.

      • Somewhere around my early 30’s I started learning to get my head around my ego, if that makes sense. Looking a bit dumb or helpless as a tactical maneuver is under-rated.

        A few months after we started keeping company the Pretty Korean Girl commented on this. (Which pleased me that she noticed.) Then she started to help. For values of “help”. I can’t remember exactly the situation, but I do recall her saying to someone, “He’s not PLAYING dumb, just so you know.” Ahahaha! Mange takk, mo chroí.

    • Seinfeld, like many tv shows, only makes sense to those who live in NYFC. Like most of the jokes on Saturday Night Live, or a host of other shows too numerous to name.

      I also never thought it was a funny show. Stupid? Yes. Lame? Yes. Pathetic waste of electrons and money? Yes.

  5. Water underground. During high school, I lived with my uncle’s family on their ranch southwest of Tulelake, CA not far from the Lava Beds National Park. You can spend a day at the park exploring underground lava tubes. Much of the northern California lava country is so honeycombed below the surface.

    The reclamation of the Tulelake basin is an interesting story, starting in 1920. My uncle’s property was on the far southwest edge of the basin, part in the basin, part in the sagebrush. He leased another field a short distance away and took me there to show me the “drain” for the pre-reclamation lake. It was much like a curb side gutter feed, an opening in the lava rock at ground level, about 2 feet high and maybe 30 feet across.

    From Wiki–
    “Enterprise Rent-A-Car was established in St. Louis, Missouri in 1957 by Jack C. Taylor. Originally known as “Executive Leasing Company,” in 1969, Taylor renamed the company “Enterprise” after the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, on which he served during World War II.” I did not know this until recently.

  6. Rentals- MrsPaulM is one of those million mile flight types, always used United from the early 80’s. Always followed her lead whenever booking trips, getting through the airport, and out to pick up the rental. We tend to pack light (carry on satchel and a carry-on wheelie). Once I figured out the systems we were like a well-oiled traveling duo, and we never had trouble with rentals…except one time on a trip to Philly (just me). Philly gave me a base model Chevy 1500 Silverado pickup (always get a pickup in more urban cities, usually less expensive and my preference for driving in the chariot race hoards). Drove it 2 miles out of the airport and this thing was so uncomfortable and lousy I called the rental place, then turned around. They were very good about it and apologetic once I explained my dilemma, then gave me their best Dodge Ram 1500 they had (just cleaned), which drove and felt like my own. Happy guy. Last time we rented for a road trip to Illinois the rental place in Cheyenne didn’t have the SUV in yet, not for 4 more hours. Went home an hour away, loaded our gear into the pickup and took off…saving 2 hours of waiting around and a more comfortable ride for us and the dogs.

    Rogan- Two things…despite being fascinated with Wild Kingdom, I a) hate field biologists bothering the wildlife regardless of the intent (they fail to see this aspect or simply feel their activity is more important), and b) predators are smarter than we give them credit. Looking around while out is fine, but for cats one has to look up every once in a while. Came across the bobcat tracks on the morning walk, this guy was everywhere around the property.

    No diving in holes for me, leave that to the crazies…well, unless there was a gold vein to be found.

    • I drove to Richmond a few weeks ago for work. Took my F150 instead of flying.
      The mechanic that was meeting me there rented an F150 to carry the stuff he was installing.
      He thought it was loosing a wheel bearing and might not make it.
      He mentioned it to one of the maintenance guys where we were going and the guy asked him if “lane control” was turned on.
      Who knew?
      I knew of no such animal until I rented my next trip.
      Not a fan.

    • Even as corporate discount members, Enterprise was oir last encounter in Cheyenne, which for some reason was cheaper to rent than Laramie. Fall trip back to Illinois (prior was July) we loaded the pickup, totally bypassed Enterprise.

      • I’ve used dozens of rental cars over the years, usually set up by who I was working for at the time. When we started coming “out here”, we drove my Jeep the first time, After that, we flew into DIA and got a rental. Had one bad experience with a brand-new Ford SUV, forget which model. If it got below 20*, it needed a jump. If it sat for more than a day it needed a jump.Last day here, we packed, got ready to leave, and… needed a jump. Really annoying, but other than that, it was a nice car!

      • They’re off-site and if your plane is delayed, they’ll close on you…after you took a cab to get to their operation.

        I used short term rental-roll-overs for surveillance vehicles and developed a good relationship with them. Good except for see above.

  7. Florida also has a non-underground underground river, found at Oleno State Park. The underground river comes up for miles and then goes down again. Nice park ruined by… tourists.

  8. Rentals. All sorts of different experiences from a LOT of free upgrades to 3 series BMWs in the early mid 90s. Hey I was just polite to the counter lady and she appreciated it to a rental car place in Atlanta charging me an extra 500 USD because they had said I dropped the car off in Miami. That took a year to straighten out and required help from the credit card company despite having a ticket stub saying I flew out of Atlanta and hour and a half after I turned in the car. I do start off quiet and polite but, if necessary I do have a volume control that can be turned up.

    Diving, no way on God’s green earth you could get me to dive in an underground river. Well unless there were worse hazards on the surface.

    Didn’t know about the two additional engines on the YB49A, interesting.

    • Budget once said I returned one of their crappy little cars a week late in Houston despite the fact that I was in one of their crappy little cars in Illinois at the time. They were kinda pi$$y about it which caused me to turn my volume control up as well. AMEX straightened them out in the end but it took a couple months.

  9. Cave diving in Mexico in the 90s only 50 ft in the water column 65 ft underground. Me and three Germans with a tiny mestizo dive master . He had a double and 4 pony bottles. Yeah ,,underground and underwater. Once was enough.

    • They’re VERY technical dives. They’re significantly more dangerous than wreck dives because of the currents you might encounter that can take you many miles through underground channels. Maybe the safety line will save you. Maybe not.

    • That makes sense. It’s difficult to compress water. It would be like hydraulics in a brake line on a massively larger scale.


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