Boy, did the decision-makers at SpaceX drop the ball on their latest rocket launch.

It happened last Friday evening, and it was spectacular. So spectacular, in fact, that news media across western states were in a frenzy, telling us they had no idea what was causing that strange light in the night sky.

The strange light was, of course, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Vandenberg, something local residents are accustomed to — but still, it never gets old.

By suggesting SpaceX dropped the ball, we’re not referring to the highly successful launch itself, but to the timing. Had they waited until Sunday night to set the giant bird free it would have given the media an opportunity to float the notion of Santa’s gift-laden sled blazing its way across the sky toward anxious kids hyped by the Christmas vibe.

As it turned out, kids who happened to be outside when the Falcon vehicle soared into the skies over the Central Coast probably were a little freaked anyway. Those western-states media outlets certainly seemed to be.

Anything to draw our attention away from the Thomas fire, which last week turned into the biggest as far as acreage, in California’s recorded history.


Speaking of wildfires, while the rocket soared into space, officials of the Circle V Ranch Camp & Retreat were celebrating a pleasant holiday surprise from the Santa Ynez Valley Foundation.

The gift came in the form of a $7,000 donation to the camp to help rebuild the structures and facilities destroyed in the Whittier fire last July.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul runs the camp, which has been in continuous operation in one place or another since the end of World War II. Circle V Camp is all about helping kids, so we can’t imagine a better use of a donation.

And bravo to the Santa Ynez Valley Foundation for stepping up — again.


Speaking of helping, it’s not too late to offer a helping hand to victims of the Thomas fire, and there are lots of them left in the wake of the state’s biggest-ever wildfire.

The Santa Barbara County and Ventura County United Ways are collaborating to help individuals and families affected by the blaze.

The United Way of Santa Barbara County is accepting monetary donations at, and guarantees that 100 percent of proceeds will go directly to residents of homes destroyed and evacuees housed at local shelters.

Monetary donations also can be made to the American Red Cross by visiting Nonperishable food, new clothing, toiletries and monetary donations also are being accepted at the Red Cross, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, Salvation Army and Unity Shoppe.

The Unity Shoppe is accepting new clothing, shoes, blankets, toiletries and monetary donations at 1219 State St. in Santa Barbara.

Give if you can, because these folks are our neighbors.


If you do plan to donate money, however, officials warn that this is the time of year when certain individuals can and do take advantage of the situation by setting up fake GoFundMe fundraising sites.

Here’s our advice: If you intend to give money — and before you do it — pick up the phone and call the receiving agency to make sure the beneficiary is authentic.

In fact, that’s pretty solid advice any time of the year. The internet has facilitated a new level of crime, and there are a lot of tech-savvy grifters out there in the cyber world, just itching to get their avaricious paws on your hard-earned cash.

Be careful out there.


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