Wild and Wooly Photography

I hadn't played with the spinning/burning steel wool trick in a couple of years, so Robert and I made it happen.
I hadn’t played with the spinning/burning steel wool trick in a couple of years, so Robert and I made it happen.
Robert gets tangles in a web of leashes and camera straps as we walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound.
Robert gets tangles in a web of leashes and camera straps as we walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound.

Abby and I hadn’t seen Robert Stinson in a while, so we were glad to hear that while he was visiting his family in the Tulsa area, he was able to make time to come down to our little green patch, catch up, and, of course, do some photography.

We ran to town to get lunch for Abby, and stopped on the way to photograph a puddle, because that’s who we are when we hang out.

Robert photographs a puddle on Dog House Road.
Robert photographs a puddle on Dog House Road.

Robert hadn’t met either Summer the new Chihuahua or Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. I let Robert walk Hawken for some of our walking route, and Hawken seemed perfectly happy to be with us and mind Robert. Robert made some very nice photos of me with the Wolfhound.

At one point, Hawken decided to bowl me over and slobber all over me, which was hysterical fun. Robert captured this moment nicely.
At one point, Hawken decided to bowl me over and slobber all over me, which was hysterical fun. Robert captured this moment nicely.
Hawken and I pose for Robert's camera.
Hawken and I pose for Robert’s camera.
Hawken and I pose in a spot of late afternoon light above the pond. I have to say, he is a damn gorgeous animal, and a great pet and friend.
Hawken and I pose in a spot of late afternoon light above the pond. I have to say, he is a damn gorgeous animal, and a great pet and friend.
When photographers get together, there will always be cameras. This is Robert's Nikon D300.
When photographers get together, there will always be cameras. This is Robert’s Nikon D300.

By nightfall we decided to photograph either fireworks or burning steel wool, and ended up trying both, with more impressive results with the steel wool method. I described it on my teaching site two years ago (link), but the short version is to put fine-gauge steel wool in a whisk, set it on fire, and spin it so it throws off sparks. With the shutter open and with some finessing of settings, it’s possible to get some very fun images.

Just at dusk we saw Mars and the moon in conjunction, and I lent Robert my 200mm f/2.0 to photograph it.
Just at dusk we saw Mars and the moon in conjunction, and I lent Robert my 200mm f/2.0 to photograph it.
Fine-enough steel wool burns fiercely, especially when you fan it by spinning its container, in this case a kitchen whisk, at a high speed.
Fine-enough steel wool burns fiercely, especially when you fan it by spinning its container, in this case a kitchen whisk, at a high speed.
This is the second successful steel wool attempt. In addition to being beautiful and fun, it is an opportunity to get burning metal in your hair.
This is the second successful steel wool attempt. In addition to being beautiful and fun, it is an opportunity to get burning metal in your hair.

 

3+

A Bright Spot in a Dark Week

My marigolds glow in the setting sun earlier this week.
My marigolds glow in the setting sun earlier this week.

I was walking the Irish Wolfhound tonight with a thousand dark thoughts between my ears. In addition to my dire concerns about my newspaper and its uncertain future (link), I was thinking about a friend and community member who took his own life over the weekend. We weren’t buddies, but we always talked when we ran into each other, and I am friends with several of his family members. I don’t want to say who it is, but those in our town know.

He was my age, 55. He seemed like a regular guy. He seemed fine.

All this was buzzing around in my head as the Wolfhound dragged me around the patch, past each tree he wanted to mark, taking a break in the shade of the old walnut, around the pond, up toward the garden, when… something beautiful

My first cantaloupe of the season was delicious.
My first cantaloupe of the season was delicious.

My first ripe cantaloupe of the season fell from the vine; real garden cantaloupes pick themselves by falling off when they are ready. I felt so happy that all the nurture I put in my vines all spring and into summer were producing. Vine-ripened cantaloupes might be the most nutritious food I grow in the garden. In the past, the vines didn’t thrive well, and I only got a few fruit, but presently I have quite a few little ones on the vine. It was the last item to ripen in the garden.

It wasn’t a big fruit, so I ate the whole thing, and it was everything I wanted.

Grape tomatoes cling to their vines in my garden. They are easy to grow, and fun to eat while I pick them.
Grape tomatoes cling to their vines in my garden. They are easy to grow, and fun to eat while I pick them.
2+

Three Fires and a Cornhole Tournament

Friday was a comp day off from July 4, so I mostly slagged off. After my evening walk with Hawken, our Irish Wolfhound, however, I found the winds calm, so it presented an opportunity to burn my remaining brush piles.

On the left is the original, bigger brush pile I built over the past year. On the right is the smaller brush pile.
On the left is the original, bigger brush pile I built over the past year. On the right is the smaller brush pile.

The last time I burned, I only got a fraction done because the main pile I’d built last summer, fall, and winter was too large to set off safely… nobody wants to be that guy we hear in the scanner all the time in fire department dispatches who let his controlled burn get out of control.

I kept an eye on my fires until well after dark, when they were just smoldering. The next morning, there was still a trace of smoke coming out of the big one.
I kept an eye on my fires until well after dark, when they were just smoldering. The next morning, there was still a trace of smoke coming out of the big one.
Our cornhole tournament happened at the same time as the Stonewall Fourth of July parade and car show.
Our cornhole tournament happened at the same time as the Stonewall Fourth of July parade and car show.

So I lit up the smaller of the two and moved brush from the bigger pile onto it until the bigger pile was small enough, then set it ablaze. In the middle if this, the next door neighbors, either coincidentally or following my example, built and burned a big brush pile as well. So we we had three fairly impressive fires going at ones. It was fun.

Coworker Jeff Cali and I participated in a cornhole tournament Saturday. Despite the typical Oklahoma summer heat, we had an amazing amount of fun, and were able to finish sixth in the field of 24 teams.

Wes Edens posted this image of me playing in Saturday's cornhole tournament on social media.
Wes Edens posted this image of me playing in Saturday’s cornhole tournament on social media.
Coworker Jeff Cali, right, sports a "Cali" hat and "Cali" short as he and I compete in yesterday's cornhole tournament in Stonewall, Oklahoma. The double-elimination affair lasted more than four hours.
Coworker Jeff Cali, right, sports a “Cali” hat and “Cali” short as he and I compete in yesterday’s cornhole tournament in Stonewall, Oklahoma. The double-elimination affair lasted more than four hours.
1+

The Missing Piece of 9/11

Pittsburg County Health Department Registered Nurse Rosemary King instructs Nick Bailey on the use of medication to treat anthrax exposure during a multi-agency terrorism-related disaster preparedness exercise at the Pontotoc County Health Department Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006.
Pittsburg County Health Department Registered Nurse Rosemary King instructs Nick Bailey on the use of medication to treat anthrax exposure during a multi-agency terrorism-related disaster preparedness exercise at the Pontotoc County Health Department Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006.

YouTube has recently suggested a lot of 9/11 conspiracy videos to me. If I click on one of them and watch it, YouTube mines that and suggests more. As I watch them, one thing is pretty clear: few people buy all the way in to the “official” story of the day, which says that 19 Islamists simultaneously hijacked four airliners on the east coast, flew them for some distance without effective official countermeasure, then successfully flew three of them into symbolic structures. Two of those structures, very tall skyscrapers, then collapsed in an identical fashion, and later that day a similar nearby skyscraper also collapsed in a nearly identical fashion.

The problem with the conspiracy theories is this: as implausible as the events of 9/11 seem, no one seems to be able to suggest either a more passable scenario or explain why powers that be would create scenarios that seem so inconsistent.

So, let’s break it down 9/11’s most implausible items…

  • Steel skyscrapers collapse due to impact plus fires. I’ll grant you that this is a pretty hinky occurrence, and what the theorists say most often, that no modern high-rise has ever collapsed in its footprint after being damaged or destroyed by fire, is true.
  • Airliner wings and engines “melt” into the side of a steel structure like the WTC towers or the side of the Pentagon. I suspect this one is related to speed; bullets go into stuff all the time and seem to melt, despite being much softer than the materials they strike.
  • Airliners flying near the ground at very high airspeeds. A lot of conspiracy videos assert, and even cartoonishly illustrate, that wings of airliners would be torn off at 500 knots at sea level. As a pilot, I know a few things about speeds, and they are talking about Vne, or Velocity Never Exceed, the bug on the airspeed dial the represents sound advice from the engineers who designed and built the aircraft: if you go faster than this, we can’t guarantee the airplane will fly a like it should or even hold together. While it’s true that on the flight decks of the jets that struck the WTC, there were probably audible and visual warnings going off, and that flying a jet at these speeds would mean taking it out of service for inspection, it is not a guarantee that the wings and empennage would fly off.
  • No black boxes found/black boxes found by the FBI and/or not released. This is probably a consequence of the FBI being in charge of the investigation. Only the NTSB knows how to collect and interpret such devices. A more marginal explanation might be the desire to “spare” the families the horror of reenactments.
  • The planes were actually missiles that were switched for the actual planes that ended up somewhere else. Even if this were the case and for some reason you needed to shoot the WTC with a missile, why not just put it onto a 767?
  • That airliners would be able to shut off transponders at a certain time of day. Actually, Occam’s Razor favors this one, as a bunch of teenage boys with walkie-talkies could have done it.

One way to measure the logic of a scenario is to examine what it accomplishes.

Certainly if you wanted to commit 9/11 from the inside, the hijacking scheme is one way to do it, but why would you? If you wanted to burn records or destroy specific buildings, a far simpler way would be to stage a fire or explosion. Or a more straightforward terror attack, like a successful version of the failed 1993 WTC attack.

Or turn it around: what did 9/11 accomplish for the U.S. government? Specifically? That’s really the biggest hole in the 9/11 conspiracy scene: what did 9/11 accomplish for the insiders?

Somebody please talk some sense to me. I certainly can’t find it from the internet’s so-called Truthers.

This is the empty sky on the morning of September 12, 2001. Grounding all aircraft in the United States for days after 9/11 was a very immature response to what actually happened: strongarm attacks on a small number of commercial aircraft.
This is the empty sky on the morning of September 12, 2001. Grounding all aircraft in the United States for days after 9/11 was a very immature response to what actually happened: strongarm attacks on a small number of commercial aircraft.
1+

Oblique Strategies

The Oblique Strategies interface is as simple as possible.
The Oblique Strategies interface is as simple as possible.

In 1989, Richard Linklater made Slacker, an independent comedy/drama set and filmed in Austin, Texas for just $23,000. The film is fun, weird, funny, and extensively quotable…

  • Hitchhiker: Every single commodity you produce is a piece of your own death!
  • Hitchhiker: I may live badly, but at least I don’t have to “work” to do it.
  • Dostoyevsky Wannabe: Who’s ever written a great work about the immense effort required in order not to create?
  • Guy Who Tosses Typewriter: Because! The typewriter isn’t the point. The point is, it symbolizes the bitch that just fucked him over. It symbolizes the bitch that fucked me over six months ago. And it symbolizes the bitch that’s GONNA fuck you over!
  • Old Man: When young, we mourn for one woman… as we grow old, for women in general.
  • Video Backpacker: To me, my thing is, a video image is much more powerful and useful than an actual event. Like back when I used to go out, when I was last out, I was walking down the street and this guy, that came barreling out of a bar, fell right in front of me, and he had a knife right in his back, landed right on the ground and… Well, I have no reference to it now. I can’t put it on pause. I can’t put it on slow mo and see all the little details. And the blood, it was all wrong. It didn’t look like blood. The hue was off. I couldn’t adjust the hue. I was seeing it for real, but it just wasn’t right. And I didn’t even see the knife impact on the body. I missed that part.
  • Breakthrough Day: The underlying order is chaos.

I highly recommend it.

About two thirds of the way through the film, we come across a a woman building her menstrual cycle with large cups in a circle on the ground, and a woman who offers a man a card. On the cards, she explains, are Oblique Strategies, ideas created to help artists break through creative blocks.

“I told you I was having a breakthrough day. Shewy, howdy, shucks,” the card woman exclaims. To this day, I still use and love the expression, “breakthrough day.”

Here is that scene…

The Oblique Strategies concept was originally created by musician Brian Eno (who later went on to produce for musicians like U2 and David Bowie) as a means of breaking through writer’s block and seeing things in a different creative light or from a different angle.

I thought of this recently, and in the process, found an iPhone app (link) for 99¢ that functioned like the deck of cards. You can also shuffle and read the cards on an antiquated web page (link).

If you are finding yourself in a rut or blocked in your creative endeavors, Oblique Strategies might be for you.

0

Why Does This Guy Always Blog When He Builds a Fire?

The smaller of my two brush piles burns near the garden and the orchard last night. In November, I burned the one on the pond.
The smaller of my two brush piles burns near the garden and the orchard last night. In November, I burned the one on the pond.

There are few things that can summon our true nature better than fire, particularly fire that serves the human purpose, survival. Fire can keep us warm, cook our food, mark our territory, and help us defend our village.

Great news! I have a field of cantaloupes! In years past, I found these impossible to grow, but this year might be "that' year. In this image, I am holding a green cantaloupe about the size of a tennis ball.
Great news! I have a field of cantaloupes! In years past, I found these impossible to grow, but this year might be “that’ year. In this image, I am holding a green cantaloupe about the size of a tennis ball.
Fun fact about this image: I made it with the HP Photosmart M407, one of the 22 cameras I recently bought for $10 on Ebay. The image is surprisingly sharp for a 2004 vintage four megapixel camera.
Fun fact about this image: I made it with the HP Photosmart M407, one of the 22 cameras I recently bought for $10 on Ebay. The image is surprisingly sharp for a 2004 vintage four megapixel camera.

We live far enough into the country that I am expected to burn my brush pile. A lot of us do it. There is no brush service. I made the mistake of missing a few windows of opportunity to burn last winter, and my main brush pile behind the orchard is too big, in my opinion, to burn in a single sitting safely.

Thus, I piled the second brush pile next to the big one, and have burned it twice.

My next door neighbors make a small fire three or more times a week.

I watered the garden while I kept an eye on the fire, and spotted this solitary ripe tomato, the first full-size tomato I've picked this season. I ate it when I came inside.
I watered the garden while I kept an eye on the fire, and spotted this solitary ripe tomato, the first full-size tomato I’ve picked this season. I ate it when I came inside.

So, why do I blog every time I burn? I’ll ponder.

Fire dying to embers is very beautiful to me, especially when the coals take on a bluish tone.
Fire dying to embers is very beautiful to me, especially when the coals take on a bluish tone.
0

The Sentence Every Day Project

Straight out of the garden, this mix of bell peppers, cucumbers, and grape tomatoes is once of my favorite things about summer. That is a sentence.
Straight out of the garden, this mix of bell peppers, cucumbers, and grape tomatoes is once of my favorite things about summer. That is a sentence.

I am a writer of many things: this site, my teaching site, our travel site, and so on, and have been since I was about 15. As much as I like creating content for the my web site, I often prefer, and get more from, putting pen to paper.

With this in mind, I was thinking recently about a couple of friends of mine. One has talked for years about writing a book, but hasn’t, as of this day, started on it. The other writes all the time, and I read every word. These two people aren’t all that different intellectually or artistically, but one of them writes, and one of them doesn’t.

My idea for the one who doesn’t, or anyone who wants to build a cadre of written expression, is this: write a sentence every day.

Just one sentence, Richard? Yes. If non-writing guy had written a sentence every day since the day he expressed a desire to write this book (January 1985) he would have written roughly 12,000 sentences. As it happens, that is quite close to an estimate for a mid-length book I found, as I wrote this, on Quora.

It takes a huge amount of effort, time, and devotion to sit down for ten days and come up with your novel, but it only takes a minute to write a sentence. A minute every day. Write it.

Something for Everyone Every Day...
There are a lot of “every day” projects out there, some more valuable than others. I remember several years ago everyone was churning out a photo every day with far out-of-focus backgrounds, the so-called “Bokeh 365 Project.” It got old fast, and I don’t know anyone who bothered to get through an entire year. There was also my friend David’s brilliant Poem Every Day project, when he wrote 100 poems in 100 days, for which I generated 100 images. 

And face this fact: some day it will be 33 years from now. Will you have your novel?

My wife’s new couch arrived today.

There, see? Maybe tomorrow I will share a funny sentence about how Summer the Chihuahua loves the new couch.

It's true that Abby's new couch arrived today. It's bluer than she expected, but we both agree that it is magnificent.
It’s true that Abby’s new couch arrived today. It’s bluer than she expected, but we both agree that it is magnificent.
0

“Proof of God”… Really?

I absolutely LOVE that creationists and theists claim DNA came from god. I also love the glassy-eyed look they give when they call it "the mystery" of "the glory" of god's creation. They literally never mention the 20th-century research that found it, or the fact that the Bible never mentions anything even remotely related to it.
I absolutely LOVE that creationists and theists claim DNA came from god. I also love the glassy-eyed look they give when they call it “the mystery” of “the glory” of god’s creation. They literally never mention the 20th-century research that found it, or the fact that the Bible never mentions anything even remotely related to it.
The Christian narrative: a mysterious incarnation of god was tortured to death by an obscure tribe in a primitive area of earth less than 2100 years ago, remained that way for two days, and has resided in paradise to this day, and these circumstances form the central core of salvation. (No, I am not kidding and I am not mistaken.)
The Christian narrative: a mysterious incarnation of god was tortured to death by an obscure tribe in a primitive area of earth less than 2100 years ago, remained that way for two days, and has resided in paradise to this day, and these circumstances form the central core of salvation. (No, I am not kidding and I am not mistaken.)

I am often surprised and frustrated by willful ignorance, and the worst of all these offenses is the willingness to believe in god. These instances are the awfulest, silliest, most damaging beliefs because they distort reality, create an environment in which we are inclined to believe lies, and lead us to debate whether or not we should teach our children things we should know aren’t true.

The only people who tell me there is a god are people, never god.

A strident Christian angrily told me once, “I believe the Holy Spirit will found you somehow.” Despite this, most Muslims stay Muslim, Hindus stay Hindu, Jews stay Jewish.

Somebody commented on my social media note “I am an Atheist” that atheism is an “epistemological nightmare,” but did not explain why, and I’d like to hear why.

“Yeah! Atheism is bullspit! Whoo! USA!”

“You reject fact based evidence that proves what you believe is erroneous, you refuse to use an objective lens, and you choose to believe false data because it confirms your bias.” ~Social media friend who believes in god and miracles.

Some of this entry stems from another “proof of god” link floating around the webbernets, “Seven Things that Prove God is Real.” Here is the list…

  • Babies
  • Thunderstorms
  • Flowers
  • The Bible
  • The Global Spread of Christianity
  • Jesus
  • Personal Relationship with God

With claims like this, I know the faithful will be inspired by this image…

Crepuscular rays: it's easy for simple minds to think this is a sign of the glory of god. It is, in fact, the direct, concrete, measurable result of me mowing a gopher mound, then stopping to photograph it. Your "glory of god" nonsense makes you look childish.
Crepuscular rays: it’s easy for simple minds to think this is a sign of the glory of god. It is, in fact, the direct, concrete, measurable result of me mowing a gopher mound, then stopping to photograph it. Your “glory of god” nonsense makes you look childish.

It shows the beautiful light of god drawing a saved soul into heaven.

Or.

I made it by mowing a gopher mound. Oops.

It is both generous and blameful to call all this reasoning childish, but it is not false.

Okay, if you insist, point by point…

  • Babies. Sure, we all think babies are beautiful, particularly when they are our own. To me, that speaks very directly toward evolution, not god. We are wired by evolution to love, protect, and nurture babies because that’s how evolution works. Safe, loved, nurtured babies grow up to successfully reproduce, the goal of evolution.
  • Thunderstorms. Aside from their obvious meteorological causes, what about the ones that spawn tornadoes and kill people? (Note: if it was not you, kneel and thank god for his mercy.) Thunderstorms are well-understood, and arise from demonstrable forces, not magic.
  • Flowers. This is another splendid, and very well-studied and well-proven, example of evolution in action. You appreciation of their beauty is, by the way, also a direct result of evolution.
  • The Bible. This one is always thrown out there as evidence, but the Bible is best-dismissed due to its circular reasoning: the Bible is the word of god. How do we know?  Because the Bible says it is so. But why believe the Bible? Because it is infallible. But how do we know that? Because the Bible is the  word of god. Also, the Bible is intensely self-contradictory and historically inaccurate, so much so that it’s insulting to an educated person. Read an in-depth review of the Bible here (link), unless you are offended by truth.
  • The global spread of Christianity. This is a logical fallacy argumentum ad popular, or “appeal to popularity.” This is also, by the way, an argument in favor of Islam, which is also spreading globally.
  • Jesus. This argument is married to the Bible argument, because it is a self-affirming myth. “Love our messiah or go to hell” is one of the least compelling reasons to believe something.
  • Personal relationship with god. This one is the least “proof” argument of the bunch, because by definition it can’t be demonstrated or falsified.

Sometimes the argument comes down to “There is something we cannot prove, and we can prove it.” Faith itself is fundamentally flawed. This is embarrassing, people. You don’t even know what the word “proof” means. The only people who tell me there is a god are people.

I happen to think the “lean not upon your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5) isn’t just dismissible, it’s a brilliantly evil form of mind control. Don’t think. Don’t question. Just obey. You are a four year old. You are a puppy.

In the middle of all of this, I happened to watch a YouTube video by popular sceptic/devbunker Thunderf00t called, “Why do people laugh at Creationists (Part 44)“, calling out Ken Hamm’s $100M Ark Encounter not only as the fraud and tax cheat that it is, but for the ridiculous tale it espouses.

The basic Christian salvation narrative goes like this: Jesus was made man, died a brief, terrible death, was dead for about two days, then came back to life and has been in heaven from that day to this one, and will be forever. I talked about this before, but I am still waiting for anyone to explain to me how this is a sacrifice of any kind. Bottom line: god gave his only son so he could be in heaven forever.

Another dude seemed trivially concerned for me, saying, “So sorry Richard! Better hope your [sic] right! Jesus is the only way!”, which several readers dismissed as “arrogant and rude,” which it is. But to address his point, if Jesus is the “only way” (to be saved, I guess), does that mean that every American Jew who died storming the beaches of Normandy in 1944 is in hell now and forever? Every Jewish cop and firefighter who died trying to save lives on 9/11 is in hell now and forever?

I got this next pearl of wishful thinking from Beliefnet…

Truly Remarkable
Truly Remarkable

The web site claims, as it should, to have found “shocking proof of god’s existence.” Do I even need to debunk this for my adult readers? Children believe anything with shove down their tiny throats.

Sometimes I think sites like this must surely be false flag argument secretly designed to debunk the deity myth. I mean, they can’t be serious, right?

Yet another Christian troll tried to tell me that atheism is a religion, which I have heard my entire adult life. Though widely and thoroughly debunked, the willfully ignorant still hide behind it. Atheism is a religion the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby.

0

No-Screen Summer?

Of all the cool things you can do with smart device technology, maybe the coolest thing you can do with it is turn it off.
Of all the cool things you can do with smart device technology, maybe the coolest thing you can do with it is turn it off.

Last night in class, one of my students gave me a couple of pearls of wisdom that might have the potential to improve my web presence.

  1. Use Twitter only for very local stuff. I have to admit that I try Twitter intermittently, and find myself unengaged. I don’t care about politics or opinions on Twitter, or the short-message paradigm. The idea my student gave me was to only follow entities like the City of Ada, Byng Schools, Pontotoc County Emergency Management, and so on.
  2. Spend the summer with fewer screens, including deactivating your social media accounts like Facebook. This one isn’t an option for me since my work requires me to use Facebook, and since I have cultivated Facebook as my home for feeding my audience content from this web site, but it’s a compelling idea for a family. Imagine walking the dog instead of playing with a dog-walking app!

It may be a conceit, but I believe I am capable of nurturing my craft and my intellect using screens – computers, tablets, phones, even the television – and I arrogantly look down on those I feel let themselves be led by the nose ring of technology. Maybe I’m fooling myself, and am just another fidget spinner spinner.

I think it is inherently unfair to create something fun and engaging, only to have it be crassly commercialized the way the Pet Rock was.
I think it is inherently unfair to create something fun and engaging, only to have it be crassly commercialized the way the Pet Rock was.
2+

Losing a Space

This is Ethel's house as it appeared Tuesday. Abby and I spent many weekends visiting Ethel and the rest of Abby's family here.
This is Ethel’s house as it appeared Tuesday. Abby and I spent many weekends visiting Ethel and the rest of Abby’s family here.
Over the years we had a lot of good times with my wife's extended family in this living room, which I probably won't ever see again.
Over the years we had a lot of good times with my wife’s extended family in this living room, which I probably won’t ever see again.

Tuesday my wife Abby and I rented a U-Haul trailer and drove it to her home town, Ryan, Oklahoma. Abby’s dad’s widow, Ethel, has been in assisted living for about 18 months, and possession of her house under life estate is annulled if the place remains unoccupied for an amount of time defined by law or a judicial edict, and that happened, starting a 30-day clock ticking, a period of time for the family to come to the house and get items they believe belong to them.

Abby wanted a piece of this, despite having already skeletonized all of her father’s possessions years ago. Ethel wanted Abby to keep this and that, and there were a few things we had given to them over the years that would be more at home with us, like framed pictures of us and our kids and grandkids.

Anyone who owns unoccupied property knows how quickly nature tries to take it back, and Ethel’s place was no exception. We found mice, some of which were not particularly shy, black widow spiders, and snakes.

I found this snake skin, only part of which I could retrieve because it was brittle and tangled, under a handsome stand of Spanish gourd vine.
I found this snake skin, only part of which I could retrieve because it was brittle and tangled, under a handsome stand of Spanish gourd vine.
When the house was occupied, this plant, known in Ryan as Spanish gourd, but more commonly as Missouri gourd, was kept in check, but as you can see, it took over this patch.
When the house was occupied, this plant, known in Ryan as Spanish gourd, but more commonly as Missouri gourd, was kept in check, but as you can see, it took over this patch.
Ethel kept a white Christmas tree set up all year long, and it was still set up and plugged in Tuesday.
Ethel kept a white Christmas tree set up all year long, and it was still set up and plugged in Tuesday.

I admit to a fair amount of nostalgia about this probably being the last time we would be at this place. Abby’s dad lived there since he remarried in the late 1980s, and Abby and I have been going there and being with family since before she and I got married in 2004. After Abby’s dad died, we often brought Chinese food or KFC for lunch, and we usually brought our dogs, who played with Ethel’s dog Winnie.

I felt I lost something and gained something.

Abby and I rented a 5x8-foot U-haul trailer to transport furnishings back to our home. Between the empty drive to and the full drive back, about 240 miles, we averaged 15.8 miles per gallon according to Abby's Nissan Frontier's calculator.
Abby and I rented a 5×8-foot U-haul trailer to transport furnishings back to our home. Between the empty drive to and the full drive back, about 240 miles, we averaged 15.8 miles per gallon according to Abby’s Nissan Frontier’s calculator.
2+

It’s a Jungle Out There

As my camera is my witness, it is as beautiful on our little patch of green as anywhere in the world.
As my camera is my witness, it is as beautiful on our little patch of green as anywhere in the world.
Virginia Creeper dangles from a branch of our walnut tree.
Virginia Creeper dangles from a branch of our walnut tree.

Readers of my newspaper might have noticed some significant changes, and while I was feeling somewhat negative about them over the last couple of weeks, I’ve decided that most of that came from a few individuals who weren’t comfortable with change, and particularly after a cordial lunch with our publisher, I’m feeling better about our situation.

I’ve been adding more and more global photojournalists to my social media friends list, and it’s nice to see them and their work on the web.

The moon was full on May 29, so I got out my experimental/throw away 500mm mirror lens and made this image of it.
The moon was full on May 29, so I got out my experimental/throw away 500mm mirror lens and made this image of it.

And of course, it’s June. To say that my garden grows well is an understatement, and no matter how fragile or stressful my work life can get, it offers a meaningful retreat.

Neither my neighbors the Nipps nor I have any peaches this year, thanks to a mid-April freeze. The cherries appear fine, however, and my efforts to cover the garden plants appear to have been completely successful.

I have two small cherry trees. Since they bloom later than the peaches, sometimes by as much as two months, they survive spring freezes better and bear fruit more often. They are small and insanely sour, but somehow irresistible anyway.
I have two small cherry trees. Since they bloom later than the peaches, sometimes by as much as two months, they survive spring freezes better and bear fruit more often. They are small and insanely sour, but somehow irresistible anyway.

Yesterday I found my first cucumber of the season, and brought it to my wife Abby. I broke it open for her and we both smelled it. “There’s nothing like that fresh smell,” she said with an unquenchable smile on her face.

Here's a nice low-angle frame showing bell peppers on their plants. Encroaching from the right are cantaloup vines. I don't usually think of my garden as a jungle, but from ground-level, it very much seems that way.
Here’s a nice low-angle frame showing bell peppers on their plants. Encroaching from the right are cantaloup vines. I don’t usually think of my garden as a jungle, but from ground-level, it very much seems that way.
After our walk, Hawken likes to sit by the fence in the back yard and watch me work in the garden.
After our walk, Hawken likes to sit by the fence in the back yard and watch me work in the garden.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is still at home on the long, slack leash. I only retract it to keep him out of the neighbor’s poison ivy. After we walk, he sits by the garden and watches me work.

I pulled up the last of the radishes, which yielded about 200. The lettuce is still plentiful. Abby’s summer squash will probably be the next garden item to pick in any numbers. My tomatoes and peppers are huge, but not ripe. And while I haven’t seen any fruit on them, the cantaloup vines seem healthy and have lots of blossoms.

My cantaloup field is lush and verdant. I hope the big leaves and runners mean big fruit in the near future.
My cantaloup field is lush and verdant. I hope the big leaves and runners mean big fruit in the near future.
1+

What Smells Good to You?

Firstly, here’s a piece of good news about Hawken the Irish Wolfhound: I have been training him with a very long retractable leash, and he almost never strays from heel. If he does, I call him and he comes right over to me.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound gives me a knowing glance through the back yard fence recently. He's one of the smartest, gentlest dogs I have ever known.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound gives me a knowing glance through the back yard fence recently. He’s one of the smartest, gentlest dogs I have ever known.

On the other hand, recently when I was about to walk him, he spotted a rabbit in the back yard, and I have never seen him move so fast. The rabbit got away through a hole in the fence, but the pursuit was amazing.

I grow marigolds in my vegetable garden. People will tell you they attract beneficial insects, but I think they are just fun to grow, and smell like paradise. I often pick some and bring them to Abby.
I grow marigolds in my vegetable garden. People will tell you they attract beneficial insects, but I think they are just fun to grow, and smell like paradise. I often pick some and bring them to Abby.

Anyway.

At first I thought about making this a “top five favorite smells,” clickbait, but as I gave it more thought, I pondered the notion that odor and pleasure come together in different ways for different people. I knew some one once who always introduced sharp flavors, like chocolate or mustard, into sex. I found that I don’t like non-human smells in the middle of sex.

Handling tomato vines deposits a potent, wonderful smell on my fingers. It's one reason I really love growing them.
Handling tomato vines deposits a potent, wonderful smell on my fingers. It’s one reason I really love growing them.

I thought of all this as I was working outside the last few days, where some of the smells were overpowering my pleasure center…

  • The grass I just mowed, the marigolds I moved slightly aside to pull up grass, the green from my tomato vines on my finger tips.
  • The air at first light in the mountains in the winter with snow on the ground, like getting up early on a ski trip.
  • Aviation gasoline; the decades of spilling small amounts make the cockpits of small planes smell the same, and that smell instantly brings me back to my days in the sky.
  • The faint, subtle smell of fireplace smoke from the days around the first freeze.
  • New cameras – the plastic and Styrofoam and brass and glass. It’s not that the smell itself brings please, so much as it smells like potential.
  • Iris, honeysuckle, roses, wildflowers
  • In a coffee house last week, they were grinding some blends, and those bold, fresh ground or fresh brewed flavors of coffee set off some very powerful endorphins in my brain.
  • My wife Abby’s hair, and her smell in general; since our first days together in 2003 to this very day, she smells like home. I asked her to list some of her favorite smells, and she said, “My husband, my dogs, vanilla, cherry pie.”
I think it's a little unfair that the woman I love smells so good. Because of it, I will do anything she wants. What she wants most is my love.
I think it’s a little unfair that the woman I love smells so good. Because of it, I will do anything she wants. What she wants most is my love.
2+

Growing My Hair, Shrinking My Workspace

I wanted Abby to photograph me with my hair longer, but it turned into a giant, fun photo session with both of us and all three dogs.
I wanted Abby to photograph me with my hair longer, but it turned into a giant, fun photo session with both of us and all three dogs.
Abby poses with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound last night. As you can see, he is a very large dog.
Abby poses with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound last night. As you can see, he is a very large dog.

It has been a strange Spring of Change at my office. I like to compare newspapers to an emaciated cow, being milked by an ever-thirstier corporate farmer, and when that cow falls over dead, the farmer will walk away with a big belly and buckets of milk.

We are the cow. I know that’s hard to accept, being a journalist my whole life, but that’s the mood at my newspaper as we make some drastic changes: shrinking staff, lack of budget, sections of our building abandoned. I want to hope that we can weather this storm because real journalism is more important than ever, but I remain, as do many of my coworkers, pessimistic.

One way I am reacting to this sea of change is that I have decided to let my hair grow. What? How is that going to solve anything? Well, nothing, but… 1. Abby has told me repeatedly how much she likes my hair longer… 2. I might not ever get a chance to do this again, as I am 55… 3. I have really nice hair.

My hair is presently entering the bad stage: not long enough to be long, but long enough to be droopy and lifeless. I will power through this stage and emerge as a hair-owner to remember. And yes, I am aware of the down sides to growing my hair: looking like a a doofus who is insecure about middle-age, looking like a pretentious hipster, looking like an undergroomed burnout, et cetera.

Abby also pointed out a paucity of photos of me with Summer Time Lane, the Chihuahua we adopted in April. As you can see, she is quite tiny, and we couldn't love her more.
Abby also pointed out a paucity of photos of me with Summer Time Lane, the Chihuahua we adopted in April. As you can see, she is quite tiny, and we couldn’t love her more.
Also, last night I had the following dream...
Ultra-complicated, ultra-vivid dream: I am a 14 year old black kid who has snuck onto a US Air Force base to use their F-16 flight simulator. It flies well and I demonstrate some sophisticated flight maneuvers. I meet the base commander, who is wearing a new rank between captain and major, which looks like captains bars with a bar diagonal across it. He tells me it is complicated new rank called “Prinz Eugen.” The simulator becomes a real F-16, and I fly it beyond it’s capabilities because of my extensive video game experience. I then take Abby to the hospital, where we see a woman in a cocoon who has just flown from New York and has no memory of the trip. Doctors tell Abby she either has a spider bite or has been in a knife fight, based on a macro photo they took of her neck. The clerk keeps asking, “What’s Spanish for ‘Joseph’?” We walk from the ER to the Amityville Horror house, which is huge and covers many acres. One of the children has gone insane. We try to take her back to the house, but she drops her turtle and tells it to “stay.” She enters the house, where there are thousands of insane children. We realize we will have to kill them all in a gun battle. Abby and I crouch into a vent shaft, and I tell her to go left, and I’ll go right. I kick open the door and insane children pour out into the shaft. I realize the magazine in my Ruger LCP only has six rounds in it, so I tell Abby, “Fall back!” As we are doing so, we arrive at a checkpoint meant to keep us from stealing Air Force weapons, but they let me keep my Ruger when I tell them it’s mine. The commanding officer says we’ll have to continue our battle inside a video game, which we enter. We install thousands of Nikon cameras to photograph the battle. It turns out the children have the power to literally suck us back into the real world. We have to burn the house down. The end shot is of us driving away with a huge column of smoke in the distance behind us.
Despite each having their own bed, our Chihuahuas Max and Summer often crowd together in one bed. We think Summer is about 18 months old, and Max is about 12 years old.
Despite each having their own bed, our Chihuahuas Max and Summer often crowd together in one bed. We think Summer is about 18 months old, and Max is about 12 years old.

I know that if and/or when journalism collapses, I will find a way to make a living, but I believe we would all be diminished by such an occurrence. I have made photos of the kids in this town, of their kids, of the old folks who aren’t around any more, of the main events and minor happenings… my photojournalism has been a part of my community and my community has become part of me through it.

I don't know of a gentler, more affectionate dog on the planet than Hawken the Irish Wolfhound.
I don’t know of a gentler, more affectionate dog on the planet than Hawken the Irish Wolfhound.
5+

Taking a Big Bite of Green

When you grow things, every step is an achievement, like seeing the first little green tomatoes on the vine this week. The lowest ones will probably be eaten by rabbits, but they are good to see anyway.
When you grow things, every step is an achievement, like seeing the first little green tomatoes on the vine this week. The lowest ones will probably be eaten by rabbits, but they are good to see anyway.
Abby and I planted radishes not because we eat them, but because they are fun to grow. These long, tube-shaped variety is called "French breakfast."
Abby and I planted radishes not because we eat them, but because they are fun to grow. These long, tube-shaped variety is called “French breakfast.”

My garden grows well this season. I talked years ago about how good it is for me. I haven’t had a garden since 2015, due to one circumstance after another, but having one gives me a place to be alone and listen to music, time with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound (just on the other side of the fence), and an activity that is outdoors, healthy, and productive.

Summer Time Lane, the Chihuahua we adopted in April, prowls the front yard.
Summer Time Lane, the Chihuahua we adopted in April, prowls the front yard.
Bell peppers the size of raisins might not sound like an achievement in your book, but in mine, it means big, delicious peppers in July.
Bell peppers the size of raisins might not sound like an achievement in your book, but in mine, it means big, delicious peppers in July.
I don't know the name of this weed, but I've pulled up about a drillion of them from the garden. If I let them grow, they'll be as tall as I am by fall.
I don’t know the name of this weed, but I’ve pulled up about a drillion of them from the garden. If I let them grow, they’ll be as tall as I am by fall.

I can’t say enough good things about working outside, even if it’s just for a few minutes. I have a little slogan in my head: something every day. So if I don’t really have time to pull of all the weeds, I’ll at least pull up one weed.

I also continue to walk the Wolfhound every day, which has been good for both of us, and for my health and the health of my lower back.

Despite having a jaw big and strong enough to crush a Buick, Hawken is one of the gentlest dogs I've ever known. Sunday night he visited the neighbor's kids and grandkids, including a two-year-old, and had a great time being the center of their attention.
Despite having a jaw big and strong enough to crush a Buick, Hawken is one of the gentlest dogs I’ve ever known. Sunday night he visited the neighbor’s kids and grandkids, including a two-year-old, and had a great time being the center of their attention.
1+

Other People’s Kids

The Ryan, Oklahoma High School class of 2018 throws their mortarboards in the air after graduating Saturday night.
The Ryan, Oklahoma High School class of 2018 throws their mortarboards in the air after graduating Saturday night.
I've known Teddy since she was a little girl, pictured here with Abby in December 2004.
I’ve known Teddy since she was a little girl, pictured here with Abby in December 2004.

Every year, I work between 10 and 20 graduations, either from high school, the tech center (where I teach), the college, and the occasional ceremony to which I am personally connected, like last night’s commencement at Ryan High School, where my wife Abby’s grand niece Teddy Lauren Brown graduated. I’ve known Teddy for most of her life, and watched her grow up to be, among other things, very much a natural in front of the camera. Readers might remember from my teaching site that I shot her senior pictures in October (link).

Our day started with Teddy’s mom, Abby’s niece Amber, buying us lunch at a new restaurant in Waurika, Oklahoma called Doc’s Place. Amber was excited that they offered a vegan option, practically unheard of in a town so small. They made me a black bean burger, which had a good flavor, but which was more like soup on a bun than a burger. I laud them for their efforts to offer healthier choices, and encourage them to perfect the recipe.

After I shot this, Teddy walked by, touched me on the shoulder, and whispered, "Thank you." What a great kid,
After I shot this, Teddy walked by, touched me on the shoulder, and whispered, “Thank you.” What a great kid,
Abby and I pose with the bear at Doc's. The restaurant is so named because it was once Dr. Stout's office when Abby was growing up. The fur was very much like the fur of our Wolfhound Hawken.
Abby and I pose with the bear at Doc’s. The restaurant is so named because it was once Dr. Stout’s office when Abby was growing up. The fur was very much like the fur of our Wolfhound Hawken.

We drove on to Ryan, Abby’s home town, where we helped Abby’s sister make finger food for Teddy’s reception, then changed clothes for the ceremony.

So. Graduations. As I said, I see a lot of them, and they have a sameness to them that gets old quick. As with most events involving people’s children, everyone there is only there to see, and to some degree show off, their own kin kids.

20 years ago, the trend in graduations was grunge: kids tried to dress as far down as they could under the cap and gown… flip-flops, hole-filled jeans, vulgar t-shirts… but recently the trend is to try to out-dress-up all the other kids, a trend that does side-by-side with the other expensive school trends, like paying a fortune for senior pictures, seniors teas, senior proms. Holy crap senior proms have gotten expensive, and we all know these are pearls cast before swine. No kid needs an $1800 prom dress.

It was a nice time, and everyone seemed happy, but I could do without the pomp and circumstance.

Teddy poses with her brothers Gage and Sam, my wife Abby at the reception Saturday night.
Teddy poses with her brothers Gage and Sam, my wife Abby at the reception Saturday night.
2+

Death Nozzle

This is the little bastard that got me started last night. In my eyes, all poison ivy should be terminated with extreme prejudice.
This is the little bastard that got me started last night. In my eyes, all poison ivy should be terminated with extreme prejudice.

I happen to think “nozzle” is an inherently funny word. I also considered “Nozzle of Death” as the title of this episode.

“I am become death, the destroyer of weeds.” ~Richard, misquoting Robert Oppenheimer, who was misquoting the Bhagavad-Gita, which itself was quoting the banned version of The Apocrypha, which itself was written by me using a time machine.

Anyway.

This is part of the enormous stand of poison ivy on the west end of the patch, which I photographed right after spraying it with a powerful, and possibly illegal, herbicide.
This is part of the enormous stand of poison ivy on the west end of the patch, which I photographed right after spraying it with a powerful, and possibly illegal, herbicide.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound and I have taken our last woods walk of the season. Earlier this week, we spotted pubescent poison ivy on the trail… a lot of it. There’s always been a fair amount in our woods, but the patch near one of the cedars has experienced explosive growth this spring.

Last night’s misadventure started when I was weeding the garden and saw, much to my dismay, a poison ivy plant.

There was good news from the patch last night: blossoms on some of my tomato plants.
There was good news from the patch last night: blossoms on some of my tomato plants.

I grabbed the sprayer (initially typed “spayer,” which works too), which is loaded with an herbicide of unknown origin, but which was described by an unnamed family member as maybe “requiring a license to handle.” In addition to the one in the garden, I decided to take a stand against the stand of poison ivy at the back of the pasture. This isn’t as straightforward as one might imagine, since there’s always a risk of getting into it while trying to spray it.

But I felt this was a critical move. I can picture myself out there, like an idiot, trying to tiptoe around some poison ivy plants, then falling into the whole giant patch of it. Like an idiot. I’m very allergic to the oil, urushiol, in poison ivy, and have made a point over the years to learn to spot it, and the harmless plants that cohabitate with it: box elder, bois d’arc, Virginia creeper, and blackberry.

To the untrained and uninitiated, Virginia creeper can look a lot like poison ivy, and if you see one, you can expect the other.
To the untrained and uninitiated, Virginia creeper can look a lot like poison ivy, and if you see one, you can expect the other.

“A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent.” ~Oppenheimer

Despite the hazards like ticks, biting insects, poison ivy, and the occasional tornado, we live in a beautiful place.
Despite the hazards like ticks, biting insects, poison ivy, and the occasional tornado, we live in a beautiful place.
1+

What a Weird Winter Will Wield

Though two freezes have managed to pretty much kill my peach blossoms, there is a chance we could get cherries.
Though two freezes have managed to pretty much kill my peach blossoms, there is a chance we could get cherries.

This afternoon, our friend LeAnn Skeen let us know that public school students in Lawton, Oklahoma, “were let out school early because of the tornado  watch.”

It was right around this time that I heard a message at the Softball Hall of Fame, where I was covering the state tournament: after the 2:30 games finish, go home, and we’ll all trek up here Friday and finish.

I am amazed at this. Not at the idea of caution, even the abundance of it. Sure, you should take cover should the rare tornado warning be issued. But not half a day in advance. That’s more like an abundance of panic.

What can we assumed when we see two feathers from two different birds tangled up like this?
What can we assumed when we see two feathers from two different birds tangled up like this?

That’s just the prattle for today.

My main vector or vexation is being “eaten alive” as Abby put it, by tiny animals intent on defending their inch of dirt after spending all of a bitter-dry-wet-hot-colder-still winter trying to hide and live. The organisms responsible are at the very least the dreaded no-see-ums (which I haven’t seen), biting flies, and other non-zoonotic biters and stingers, but also, at least in my own case, one nymphal Lone Star tick. The weird winter, with its plunges into single digits, followed by a tease of a warm period, then another plunge into realms that require the purchase of fuel to keep our dog from freezing in his dog palace, may be the cause of the insects and arachnids being hungrier and more virile than ever before.

So my milieu consists mostly of scratching some party of me, sometimes until it bleeds, with a grimace on my face matched only by the absurdity of my orgasm face, followed by an alternating therapy of steroid cream and antihistamine cream.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound and I have taken our last deep woods walk for the season. In six months or so, when the ticks and poison ivy are down, we will start that again. Yesterday we came across several stands of poison ivy on the trail.

Then, just when you though it couldn’t get worse, it got worse, I kneeled down in the garden to vanquish a stubborn stand of Bermuda, something hungry got me seven times on just the knee. It didn’t seem to pause for even a moment that my knee was soaked in 40% DEET (Deep Woods Repel©). I’d post a picture, but this qualifies as PTGDNP (Photo Too Gross Do Not Post).

Today I spent in Oklahoma City shooting golf and softball. I sunscreened, so at least I won’t put sunburn on top of itch burn.

The time has come to start thinning Abby's turnips, radishes, and lettuces. I pulled this one up tonight. It's a variety called French Breakfast, which make me wonder if that name has merit, and these long, thin radishes are part of a French breakfast.The time has come to start thinning Abby's turnips, radishes, and lettuces. I pulled this one up tonight. It's a variety called French Breakfast, which make me wonder if that name has merit, and these long, thin radishes are part of a French breakfast.
The time has come to start thinning Abby’s turnips, radishes, and lettuces. I pulled this one up tonight. It’s a variety called French Breakfast, which make me wonder if that name has merit, and these long, thin radishes are part of a French breakfast.

 

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2+

The Human Condition and Creativity

“Honey, can I put cheese on Max the Chihuahua?” I asked.

“You never let me put cheese on Summer the Chihuahua.”

“Yeah, well, right place, right time.”

I came across this image while cleaning up a backup hard drive. You can see me at the front of the room, teaching, meaning I'd handed my camera to someone else. Fun facts: the woman on the far right is Jill, whose mom babysat my stepdaughter decades ago; the woman next to her is Jennifer, who was pregnant at the time, and who I saw not long ago with one-year-old Jack.
I came across this image while cleaning up a backup hard drive. You can see me at the front of the room, teaching, meaning I’d handed my camera to someone else. Fun facts: the woman on the far right is Jill, whose mom babysat my stepdaughter decades ago; the woman next to her is Jennifer, who was pregnant at the time, and who I saw not long ago with one-year-old Jack.
Is this creative, or derivative? Can it be both at the same time?
Is this creative, or derivative? Can it be both at the same time?

I have rejoined the Tumblrstream and the Twitterstream, where it is always raining lawnmowers and assholes. While I scour the web for interesting content, I always try to generate my own.

We’ve all been there: a dull ache, a misplaced purpose, unending repetition at work or at home or both. Sometimes it’s worse: anger, dissatisfaction, depression. It’s a real thing, and it can poison our whole lives. When we fall into this pit, the poison ruins things that would otherwise be good in our lives: spouses, children and grandchildren, pets, hobbies, sleep, appetite, nature.

I’m not there now, so no inquiry is merited, but I do know a few people who are in the rough. I wish I had some good advice for them, but we all know that the way out is through, and I can’t go through for them. Be of good cheer? Fake it ’til you make it? Councilor? Therapist? Walk the dog? Write? Blog? Cry?

Chess and music are two activities I consider very creative.
Chess and music are two activities I consider very creative.

My friend and next door neighbor Jenn Nipps talks about creativity all the time, and how well it serves her, though seldom in equal portions.

It’s a delicate balance: talking about creativity instead of creating something is a lot like talking about cameras instead of taking pictures.

As I wrote this I ran across a couple of Open Mic Nyte buddies who are opening a new live music venue, Sessions Live Music and Alehouse, which is great: it is my view that more creativity begets more creativity.

Your humbler, mumbler host takes a moment to pose and keep an eye on things at Sessions Live Music and Alehouse.
Your humbler, mumbler host takes a moment to pose and keep an eye on things at Sessions Live Music and Alehouse.
3+

Summer Sweaters and Spring Frosts

Is this my garden, or a Tupperware farm?
Is this my garden, or a Tupperware farm?
A bell pepper plant takes shelter under a plastic container in my garden today.
A bell pepper plant takes shelter under a plastic container in my garden today.

Readers remember that I got my garden in the ground last weekend after what we hoped would be the last freeze of the season. But Oklahoma weather is a fickle mistress, and the next two nights are forecast to include a freeze. As I result, I gathered all the containers I was able to muster to cover the plants in the garden. That should protect them, though it was a pain to get it all together.

Also in response to the cold, Abby is crocheting a sweater for Summer, our tiny newly-adopted Chihuahua. While Abby is doing this, Summer is wearing Sierra‘s sweaters, which are about 30% too large for her, and which keep coming off.

Abby measures Summer for a new sweater. We are both amazed at how well this abandoned little dog has fit into our lives.
Abby measures Summer for a new sweater. We are both amazed at how well this abandoned little dog has fit into our lives.
1+

Fires, Freezes, Big Dogs and Tiny Dogs

The barbed wire that has been tangled atop a fence post at the gate to the south pasture since I have been living here gives form to last night's vanishing light.
The barbed wire that has been tangled atop a fence post at the gate to the south pasture since I have been living here gives form to last night’s vanishing light.
Summer Time Lane sits in Abby's lap last night. At the vet, she officially weighed 6 pounds 14 ounces.
Summer Time Lane sits in Abby’s lap last night. At the vet, she officially weighed 6 pounds 14 ounces.

Yesterday I took Summer the Chihuahua to have her microchip installed, then to my office so my coworkers could fall in love with her, which they did.

Last night was one of the most beautiful spring nights I can remember. It was cool and breezy, and the sky had an immense clarity to it.

I worked outside, first with my electric chain saw, then with the weed whacker, then with a shovel as I attempted to dig out the last roots of the dead Rose-of-Sharon bushes. Elm saplings have already colonized those spots, so I think I will let them grow.

Tiny leaves sprout from our Shumard oak tree last night. The light was magnificent, so I called upon my 35mm f/1.8 to make this image.
Tiny leaves sprout from our Shumard oak tree last night. The light was magnificent, so I called upon my 35mm f/1.8 to make this image.
Max gawks at me from the living room floor. He seems perfectly happy to have a new Chihuahua in the house.
Max gawks at me from the living room floor. He seems perfectly happy to have a new Chihuahua in the house.

Finally in for the night, I got a glass of wine and sat on the porch while Summer continued to get comfortable. Some dogs take a little while to settle in, but Summer seems to have found herself a new home like she was born to be with us.

She played in the yard as I watched. Max joined us a time or two. After I was in for a bit, I saw Summer in Abby’s lap, but neither of us let her in, meaning she figured out how to use the dog door.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound and I still walk at least a mile a day. Last night I introduced him to Summer, and both animals were agreeable. By my calculations, Hawken weighs almost exactly 25 times what Summer weighs.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound and I still walk at least a mile a day. Last night I introduced him to Summer, and both animals were agreeable. By my calculations, Hawken weighs almost exactly 25 times what Summer weighs.
One of my more strenuous projects last night was digging up the remaining roots of the last of the Rose-of-Sharon bushes that once lined our driveway. The roots go deep and are very tangled, so there is a lot of digging and prying.
One of my more strenuous projects last night was digging up the remaining roots of the last of the Rose-of-Sharon bushes that once lined our driveway. The roots go deep and are very tangled, so there is a lot of digging and prying.
When they needed a new level of danger, they added "historic" to their lexicon. I wonder what would be above that?
When they needed a new level of danger, they added “historic” to their lexicon. I wonder what would be above that?

The forecast for Oklahoma is dire. I thought the weather service’s highest level of fire danger was “Extreme,” but it looks like they are taking it to the next level for tomorrow, “Historic.”

I also see we are expecting a light freeze Saturday night, so I need to take steps to protect the garden. Usually a heavy watering does the trick, but I as we get closer to the day and the forecast includes a freeze warning, I’ll probably cover them with something.

Few of my outdoor evenings are complete without photographing something, so I grabbed my Nikon D7100 and the amazing 35mm f/1.8, and walked around at last light, making pictures.

One of my tomato plants shines at last light.
One of my tomato plants shines at last light.
2+

Muhtato, Muhtahto

Sentence: “Mutatatos don’t have enough muhtassium, so my wife needs more muhnanuhs.”

“You must like your wife. You talk about her a lot.” You don’t like your spouse?

This is my favorite place in the world: breakfast with my wife.
This is my favorite place in the world: breakfast with my wife.

Once when I had my teeth cleaned, and the hygienist (first type through autocorrected to “eugenist”) nagged me for drinking too much coffee.

“Hot” isn’t a flavor.

I have friends who vanish from social media for weeks or months at a time, and I miss them when they do.

A wise man speaks because he has something to say. A fool speaks because he has to say something.

I was thinking about beets, and why they are called “sugar beets.” Are there salt beets? When I was a kid, I thought because there was a “sugar diabeetus,” there must also have been a “salt diabeetus.”

Valentimes Day. Chicken pops. Angels and dark angels. The Long Ranger. Stripped throat.

Are the razor-sharp Oklahoma grass burrs the work of dark forces? Answer: yes.

Happy People Pass My Way, the first song by Mandy, a Barry Manilow tribute/cover band.

Christians wil forgive you for anything but not being a Christian.

Anyone who asks “Am I too needy?” is too needy.

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Introducing: Summer Time Lane

Summer Time Lane, our new adopted 18-month-old Chihuahua, immediately took to Abby's lap, where she sleeps as I write this.
Summer Time Lane, our new adopted 18-month-old Chihuahua, immediately took to Abby’s lap, where she sleeps as I write this.
Abby holds Summer during the adoption process. Summer has a curious underbite, but otherwise seems to be a perfectly healthy little dog. She weighs about six pounds.
Abby holds Summer during the adoption process. Summer has a curious underbite, but otherwise seems to be a perfectly healthy little dog. She weighs about six pounds.

After a routine doctor visit and breakfast, Abby suggested we go by the Pontotoc Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) to see if they had any female Chihuahuas to adopt. I liked the idea: Abby and I both felt a little empty nest syndrome after Sierra died in March.

We found one, a beautiful, tiny 18-month-old who had been “brought back” after she supposedly bit a grandchild. We played with her for a few minutes and decided we belonged together. We also decided not to use the name she was given, and pondered for a short time before deciding to call her Summer Time Lane, in keeping with our dog naming scheme: Sierra Kayenta Avenue, Maximum Speed Boulevard, and Hawken Rifle Trail.

In the short time she’s been in the house, she seems to be taking to us, and us to her, just fine.

Nose to nose: Max, our 14-year-old Chihuahua, and Summer, the new 18-month old, get acquainted. We adopted Max from the same shelter in 2006 when he was about Summer's age.
Nose to nose: Max, our 14-year-old Chihuahua, and Summer, the new 18-month old, get acquainted. We adopted Max from the same shelter in 2006 when he was about Summer’s age.
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The Cold, Cold Ground

This is one of the 32 tomato plants I got in the ground today. They're so cute at this age, but some day he will be a mighty oak.
This is one of the 32 tomato plants I got in the ground today. They’re so cute at this age, but some day he will be a mighty oak.

I shifted into high gear today, starting with making Abby a breakfast of grits and eggs, feeding myself, coloring my beard, posting about Fuji discontinuing black-and-white film, walking Hawken more than a mile, all before noon, then…

I got the garden planted. It includes…

  • 32 tomato plants
  • 35 bell pepper plants
  • A raised bed of summer squash
  • Three rows of cucumber
  • Three rows of cantaloupe
  • A leafy greens patch for Abby
  • A turnip patch for Abby
  • A radish patch for Abby
  • Marigolds around the entire perimeter of the garden
I had to replace the gasket in my watering wand, but once that was done, I got everything watered-in nicely.
I had to replace the gasket in my watering wand, but once that was done, I got everything watered-in nicely.

It was the coldest planting I’ve ever done; it froze last night, probably the last freeze of the year, so it worked out just right.

I got the tomato and pepper plants from Byng High School’s horticulture sale, which is both a bargain and a chance to support the school where we live.

I’m pretty handy at growing tomatoes and peppers, and cucumbers practically grow themselves, but the wild card will be the cantaloupe. In the past, many of my vines have died, and the remaining vines produced delicious but very small fruit. I have scoured the web for advice, but gardening sites tend to be very generic about loose soil and abundant sun and the right amount of watering, but if you are in Oklahoma like I am and have these same issues with cantaloupe, please comment with something specific if you are able … “add walnut pulp,” or “pinch off the first leaves,” or “give up.”

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound looked on with some degree of impatience, sometimes barking at me with his “I want to play” bark.

Putting the garden in the ground isn’t my favorite thing to do because it hurts my lower back, but tending the garden is among my all-time favorite things and I haven’t had a garden in three years, so I am happy to get dirty today.

Hawken's gardening advice was mostly, "I want to play."
Hawken’s gardening advice was mostly, “I want to play.”
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Leaving Las Facebook

Wil C. Fry (not necessarily his real name or face) and our late goats (not necessarily their real type of animal) are pictured together at an undisclosed location at a time in the past.
Wil C. Fry (not necessarily his real name or face) and our late goats (not necessarily their real type of animal) are pictured together at an undisclosed location at a time in the past.

Notable webizen Wil C. Fry recently posted that he is severely curtailing his Facebook use. I laud the idea of leaving something that doesn’t work, like the job with the abusive boss or the boyfriend with the cocaine addiction. But Facebook, well…

I have decided over recent months that Facebook works fine for me, and the reason is that I make Facebook my b!tch. I don’t patrol Facebook for gratification, and I don’t pick it up when I’m bored. I renew daily my commitment to read good writing, write in various platforms (this site, my teaching site, and on paper), and converse with the people around me.

Throwback to 1995...
My Open Mic Nyte friend Timothy asserts that the next generation will have little interest in apps or the web, and will want to do everything on paper.

Facebook serves me. It bends over or kneels down at my beck and call. It exists for me.

A couple of touchstones for leaving the “blue god” are a recent data sharing scandal, and the recent revelation that you can view some very deeply-buried Facebook data about your preferences that is mined for delivering advertising to you. I went in to that field and turned off everything I could.

Here are some “best practices” tips for using Facebook, most of which the blue addict won’t be able to do…

  • Don’t click on clickbate, no matter how interesting the “headline.” Number three will instantly transport you to Michelle Rodriguez’ wet, quivering nipple! Always a lie, people.
  • “Hide Ad” is your best friend.
  • “Hide Post” is your best friend.
  • Go to Settings > Ads and turn off everything that you don’t want Facebook to see, have or use.
  • If someone posts a meme, or even an opinion, that you find offensive or reprehensively ignorant, it won’t help to argue with them. If you really don’t want to see their stuff any more, just “unfollow” them, and they will leave your feed, but they can still see your stuff, at least until they unfollow you for the same reason.
  • Stop using Facebook as a platform for social change. It’s the wrong place for that. You won’t change the Jesus memers there, so just let them do their thing, and let Facebook show them your thing.
  • If you clicked on an article called, “Thinking of starting a blog in 2018? Don’t,” don’t believe it for a second. That article is about marketing, not personal expression. If you want to curate an online journal, photoblog, thought experiment or coffee fan site, go for it.

One serious mistake many – even most – social medianites do is the same thing they did 25 years ago with AOL: forget about the internet. To them, Facebook is their only connection to the web. Example: “Hey, everybody. Who shoots weddings in the Memphis area?” If you do this, here’s a magic trick: type that sentence into a search engine.

Also, fearfuls, when I give you a URL, which looks like http://www.youareanidiot.org/ , please, please don’t type or copy that into a search engine. It makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

This is the best news I've had for a while (not that I don't have good news all the time): Byng High School horticulture had their big sale this weekend, and I got these grillion tomato and bell pepper plants. I hope to get them into the ground tomorrow.
This is the best news I’ve had for a while (not that I don’t have good news all the time): Byng High School horticulture had their big sale this weekend, and I got these grillion tomato and bell pepper plants. I hope to get them into the ground tomorrow.

I had someone on the phone once and we were trying to figure out a web problem when I asked him to take a screen shot. I heard fumbling and clunking, then the sound of a camera  shutter, then the clatter of finding a card reader, then… yes, he was taking a picture of his screen with a camera. Dude, Alt + PrtScn. I learned the Mac OS shortcut, Shift-Command (⌘)-3, to take a screen shot, while I was taking my first one out of its box.

This whole mess of skillessness is exemplified and amplified by the “Age of Apps,” in which our devices will allow us to use the internet with virtually zero effort with a few taps or strokes in the built-in web browsers or every phone, tablet, desktop or laptop on the planet, but instead we access that very same information by downloading, installing, and sometimes even buying, an “app,” which an ever-thinning slice of the public knowledge pie even seems to remember is short for “application,” which itself is computerspeak for a computer program.

The most troubling aspect of all about this kind of willful ignorance is that people who are happy to be phone-gawking gastropods are also likely to be led by the nose into social and political slavery.

It would surprise me if 10% of the people who see this link on social media click it, and 10% of those who who clicked read this far into it. (If you did {Wil C. Fry for one} read this deep, include “I am 10% of 10%” with your comment to prove it.

So, back to Facebook. Don’t get hung up on Facebook having or selling your “personal” information unless it’s really personal. Facebook is very welcome to know that I like coffee. They are very NOT welcome to know what we do in the bedroom, or what prescription medications I take. And they don’t, because I don’t tell them, mostly by not surfing or searching Facebook for things like that.

Okay, maybe you have tape on your webcam. In that case, the internet might not be the place for you.

Finally, I am experiencing a personal renaissance in writing my thoughts and ideas by hand on paper, and that never gets old. I highly recommend it.

I shot this as I left the house this morning. Yes, that's sleet.
I shot this as I left the house this morning. Yes, that’s sleet.
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I’ve Been Cavitroned!

Max the Chihuahua and I smile for a photo requested by Abby yesterday. Today I am five pounds lighter, thanks to the Cavitron removing a spitload of stains from my teeth.
Max the Chihuahua and I smile for a photo requested by Abby yesterday. Today I am five pounds lighter, thanks to the Cavitron removing a spitload of stains from my teeth.

Never one to take my dental health lightly, I had my semi-annual prophylaxis this morning. At the helm today was Lindsey Edwards, wife of Dr. Tre Edwards, the son and partner of our long-time dentist Dr. Bennie Edwards. I like Linsday, despite the fact that she and her hygienist ilk use a machine called a Cavitron, an ultrasonic scaling device that literally blasts the stains off your teeth. It’s kinda painful, and my mouth fills with spit grit, and my face, shirt and safety glasses – yes, safety glasses – get covered in a fine grit of blasting material and, I assume, tooth scale.

Despite the discomfort, the Cavitron seems to get my teeth very clean, and there is little she has to with the steel tools like in the old days.

Also, “Cavitron” seems very nuclear and futuristic, so I approve.

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Yes, but Why “People”?

I am pondering over coffee this morning.
I am pondering over coffee this morning.

For some time this month I have been coming back to a vexing question: why “people”? Why do we spend so much time and energy being angry, being disappointed, criticizing, vilifying, and trying with all our might to change and control people? Is it that we are programmed as a hive, and feel we must make the hive into our perfect image of how it should be? Is it that we really do need each other? Or is it something less elegant, that people are all around us, and cruelty to them is easy and convenient, like the ants under a child’s magnifying glass?

“More animals were harmed by the stocking of the snack bar than in the making of this movie.” ~Reality

Years ago, a love interest, who was demonstrably in the top 99 percentile of attractiveness, told me she was depressed, and added, “That word doesn’t begin to describe what’s going on inside me.” The fact that I thought it was ridiculous for someone so beautiful to be depressed illustrates that in some ways, I don’t know how human behavior works.

Even Jeremiah Johnson ostensibly wanted to get away from all people, yet, despite his paucity and isolation, is unable to avoid conflict with them or attachment to them.

Then there’s war. Many wars start with claims about needing resources like land or minerals, but are really almost always about hating other peoples, be they of a different faith or a different face. We didn’t spent ten trillion and change to defend ourselves from the Russian winter; we did it to defend ourselves from Russians. And it’s too easy to chime in with, “there’s evil in the world,” because that itself is an admission that we have no idea what to do about evil except destroy it. That hasn’t worked so far; there is just as much evil in the world now than ever.

Fast forward to the present: so many of us want to destroy those who seem to oppose us. What would it be like if we tried to understand and educate them? I know, I know. What the world needs now is love sweet love, blah blah. Also this: does hating some group or faith or behavior ever change it? Does hating cancer cure it? Does hating an ex wife fill her with regret?

Okay, since we’re confessing things, hear this: My wife and I loved the action thriller Olympus Has Fallen. But when DT moved into the White House, we won’t even watch it any more because its whole meaning has been flipped. I never thought I would root for terrorists.

I’d like to take the lead by not gossiping, not complaining, not being a cog in the people-hating machine (which I originally typed as Pretty Hate Machine, NIN fans). My favorite quote about this comes from Eleanor Roosevelt…

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

I know this rant is all over the place. I want to be a great mind. Show me how.

I honestly don't care about your morals. They are too subjective. I intend to create my own morals on my own high ground.
I honestly don’t care about your morals. They are too subjective. I intend to create my own morals on my own high ground.
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What Would a Celebrity Do?

This sea of redbud blossoms is about to ebb into green leaves.
This sea of redbud blossoms is about to ebb into green leaves.
Dandelions begin to populate our pasture.
Dandelions begin to populate our pasture.

Abby and I spotted a pair of roadrunners in the pasture the other day. That’s pretty cool. We didn’t get a change to photograph them. They were not being chased by a coyote, and it should be noted that since we got Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, we haven’t seen or heard even one coyote. We used to see, and especially hear, coyotes all the time.

I have make excellent strides in the garden, but my plans are so ambitious that it may be another week before I get seeds in the ground.

This is a wild plum tree, visible on the trail in the woods to the north, where I walk Hawken.
This is a wild plum tree, visible on the trail in the woods to the north, where I walk Hawken.

The redbud, our excellent flowering tree in the front yard, which we got from the City of Ada for free after they had a giveaway following an ice storm (even though we don’t live in Ada), has made the very first green leaves from it’s excellent pink/fuschia buds, meaning that soon it will be just a tree, albeit a nice one. It is the State Tree of Oklahoma.

The peach blossoms are the same way – almost leafing out. Soon, hopefully, we will see tiny peaches.

I have a couple of varieties of peach trees, with different blossoms and different blooming times. These are among the last blossoms of the spring. Hopefully, peaches are on the way.
I have a couple of varieties of peach trees, with different blossoms and different blooming times. These are among the last blossoms of the spring. Hopefully, peaches are on the way.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound keeps watch on me today while wearing his paisley bandana.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound keeps watch on me today while wearing his paisley bandana.

Abby and I watched two Jennifer Aniston movies recently: Cake, her most serious, and Office Christmas Party, her least serious. It got me wondering about celebrity, and if celebrities are, or even can be, happy people. I’m pretty certain I’ve never seen a celebrity on the trail at Canyonlands or at a shop in Santa Fe, and it’s hard to imagine someone like Aniston or Michael Jackson or George Lucas or the Coen brothers out in the garden like I was today, clumsily pounding fenceposts into the corners of the patch and tilling an additional spot for Abby’s squash plants. I wonder of they all have Mexican gardeners and private reservations at Aspen, and I wonder what that must be like. What’s it like to be a barely-relatable public icon, gushed and fawned over but an unwashed, worshipful fan base?

Abby and I bought this in Santa Fe a couple of years ago and I just got around to hanging it last week.
Abby and I bought this in Santa Fe a couple of years ago and I just got around to hanging it last week.
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