With rain in the forecast and nice evenings, I spent lots of time outdoors the last two weekends, rebuilding the roof of the doghouse, cleaning out the pen where the chicken coop lives, moving bricks and boards, re-attaching loose siding, weed whacking, cutting down dead trees, limb lopping, and of course, mowing.
Abby and I switched up some of the living room yesterday at her request, and we actually had a lot of fun doing it.
I saw my doctor this morning for my six-months checkup. He had nurse Amber give me a big bolus of methylprednisolone for what he and I like to call “Photographer’s Syndrome,” or achy-break joints from standing around news and sports events with 15 pounds of gear on my shoulders.
The only surprise was that their lab tech quit, so they sent me down the street to give a blood sample, but it was so crowded that I vowed to come back first thing in the morning.
Those who read the teaching blog know that in my rare spare time at work, I am organizing bunches of old prints I dug out of the morgue. It’s been incredibly fun, since I am able to post photos of people I know from when they were 20 or 25 years younger.
Finally, I published a note on Facebook called I am an Atheist. I had a feeling when I did it that it would have an energizing and potentially divisive effect on my readership, but I was quite happy with how many comments of support I received, from theists and atheists alike. My regular readers know where I stand, but here is the message in its entirety…
I Am an Atheist...
I am an atheist. I do not believe in any god.
I was raised in the Episcopal Church, and was an active participant in their ceremony as an acolyte and lay reader. When I was very young, I believed that when our congregation prayed, a beam of spiritual energy shone through the roof of our little church for god to witness.
Though I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I discarded religion and its deities, it was apparent from my early teen years that I had reasoned away god. My journal from tenth grade indicates that I still participated in the Episcopal Church, but only at the behest of my parents. Journal entries, and conversations I clearly recall from high school and college, show that I was an atheist. As an adult, my journal and my blog are filled with unambiguous statements to that effect.
If I don’t believe in god, the real question is: what do I believe? I believe in evidence. I believe in reality. I believe in nature, and I believe that everything in nature is rational, discoverable, and real. I believe that science and genuinely open-minded exploration are the best and most elegant servants of the human condition. I believe that the science in which I have this trust is a learning, growing, changing entity that, through the scientific method, is constantly reevaluating even its most fundament principals, and is ultimately capable of discovering the core truths of the universe.
The recent political environment has caused me to think harder about human nature. Why is power so intoxicating? Why is cruelty appealing? Why do so many people hate so many other people? How could there be Treblinka, the Bataan Death March, the Murrah Bombing, 9/11?
Then four things happened that helped answer it for me.
Steve Jobs’ Cancer: I read on Wikipedia recently that Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs was diagnosed with operable pancreatic cancer and declined treatment for six months. One doctor called it “suicide” since he tried a bunch of new age bullspit instead of real medical care.
Harrison Ford’s flight incident: actor Harrison Ford overflew an American Airline 737 while accidentally landing on a taxiway instead of the runway he was cleared to use. I am a pilot with far fewer hours than Ford, and though saying this may catch up to me, I’ve never done anything even remotely as stupid as landing on a taxiway.
Oath: Verizon recently announced they were folding AOL and Yahoo! into a company called “Oath,” baffling the tech and business worlds. No one in the press has any idea how they came up with something so lame, but I know there are people in the halls of AOL and Yahoo! right now who can’t believe their idea was passed over for “Oath.”
Donald Trump’s Inevitable Plunge into Awfulness: pretty much every time he opens his mouth, the President embarrasses himself and us. I have noted that since his election, the Trumpeters on social media have shut up about him, seemingly realizing what a bad choice he is to lead our country.
How can human beings in charge of millions or billions of dollars, in positions of authority with power to change the lives of thousands or millions of people… Be. So. Stupid.?
I have a long-time friend, LeAnn Skeen, who found herself is a position of serious workplace bullying a couple of years ago. We all know how that feels because it takes an incredibly charmed life to avoid workplace bullies. Just 18 months ago, most of the news staff at my paper were verging on quitting and/or felt they were verging on getting fired because of a very serious problem with a workplace bully. And if you handed me a calendar, I could mark periods of time over the years we were stuck with one bully or another.
I add this because it, too, raises vexing questions about the nature of humanity. How can people in positions of power such as bosses and company owners.. Be. So. Stupid.?
Finally, in the last few months, much to my dismay and amazement, some of the very pillars of marriage in my life have divorced their long-time husbands or wives. You can hear the loud “boing!” sound and see the springs and stars popping out of my head as my eyes spin counterclockwise.
Yesterday morning, I took Max the Chihuahua to the vet to have his teeth cleaned. It’s an all-day procedure, so I left him and headed home.
In the afternoon on the way to pick him up, I tried to call up Siri on my iPhone 5 to ask Abby what she needed from the store. I found that the home button on the phone wasn’t working, and thought it might be a grain of grit in the case.
I picked up Max. They cleaned his healthy teeth, but removed four tiny incisors (front teeth), which is fairly common for older dogs. He was otherwise healthy for a grey-headed 13 year old Chihuahua.
When I got home I couldn’t get my phone to work at all, and once I pried off the case, I found the whole thing coming apart. I consulted our provider’s web site and found I was due for an upgrade, so today I went to the local store got the newest iPhone, the 7 Plus.
Here are the highs and lows of the situation:
I don’t love that phones are so big these days, but I understand that this feature increased their versatility.
Though my iPhone 5 was five years old, it wasn’t subject to abuse, and it should not, in my opinion, have disintegrated as it did.
I bought a phone with smaller storage. Many people stuff huge amounts of data on their phones, then end up losing it when the phone is crushed by an ostrich or drowned on a waterslide. They also don’t organize their data very well, and can never find it when they need it. I, on the other hand, download and archive everything, and keep only the bare necessities resident on the phone itself.
The vendor had all the colors available, and I chose silver, along with a transparent case, which I think matches my other Apple products well, and makes it easier to find in computer bags and travel bags.
I use the cloud effectively, and had no difficulty logging in, and didn’t lose any data, phone numbers, photos or apps.
The 7 Plus has a double-camera arrangement, which allows it to mimic the selective focus effect of large-aperture lenses, though only with a fair amount of software fussing and fumbling. It wasn’t why I got the phone, but I expect I’ll find an occasion or two when I will use it.
Abby has an iPhone 6S Plus, so we now both have fairly large phones that are fast, modern, and capable.
Raising the giant puppy is going predictably. Hawken, who I have taken to calling Hawk or Hawkendoodle, weighed 46 pounds Monday at the vet. He is sincere and loving. He plays too hard and injures us. The Chihuahuas fight with him constantly, and he thinks this is a game and that they are toys.
I repurposed a latticework wooden gate and attached it with hinges on the outside of the back door of the garage so I could have it open for light and ventilation and still keep Hawk secured in the back yard.
He’s going to be a good dog.
I also cooked out for the first time this season, and it was amazing.
I worked a couple of hours, one of the few Mondays of the year I work, since the Ada Cougars host their only golf tournament then.
On the way home, I called Abby and asked if she would eat breakfast from McDonald’s, which she said she would. Anyone who knew Dad knew that he loved buying the family breakfast from McDonald’s when we visited, and as we ate, it tasted and felt like those days.
As residents of “tornado alley,” we all hear the same truncated slang, “Are we getting any weather tonight?”
Obviously, there is weather everywhere on earth at all times, but this question is very Oklahomacentric. It asks if the forecast calls for severe weather – thunderstorms and possibly tornadoes.
Last night we had our first round of “weather,” and it was exciting without being tragic. We had tornado watches and severe thunderstorm warnings, and a tornado warning right here in our county.
Abby and I were surprised and annoyed that our cable television service was taken over by the Weather Service, interrupting the coverage of the weather to give us a text message of the warning. Our phones also sent us noisy messages. None of that mattered – we were already listening to all the right public safety frequencies and were hearing their reports in real time.
I didn’t see or photography any tornados, though a coworker did. My attempts to photograph lightning fell flat – it’s never easy, and last night the sky wasn’t cooperating.
I was walking to my car in a darkened area recently when I was approached by a largely-built white teenager in a hoody, carrying a skateboard.
“Hey, can you give me a ride to the Oxford Square Apartments?”
To anyone with any common sense, this seems like an overture to no good, and I was immediately suspicious. I told him I could not, but that I would call someone if that would help.
What this subject did not see is that I turned my left hip away from him and placed my left hand on my sidearm. I have no desire to shoot anyone, but I have even less desire to be robbed or murdered, which is why I carry in the first place.
Turning away from the subject serves several purposes: it adds to the concealment of the weapon, it helps in retaining the weapon, it adds distance between the weapon and the potential assailant, and it allows me the option to ward off a weapon were he to brandish one.
I made a quick phone call for him with my right hand, using Siri to voice dial, and my eyes never left him, watching for any sign of aggression. Had there been any sign, the first and best option, of course, would be de-escalation and deterrence. The next would be to attempt to get to cover, getting something like my car between him and me. Brandishing my weapon is, of course, a last resort, but I was ready to do it to save my own life.
I sent him on his way after leaving a quick message with his mother, and I was glad there was no incident. It’s entirely possible that my manner and my attitude discouraged him from seeing me as a potential mark.
I was glad I was carrying a weapon, and glad I felt ready to do what it took to defend myself.
A lot of webizens will tell you that you should carry a bigger gun with a more powerful caliber. They like to cite .40 or .45 as the self-defense round of choice. My feeling, though, is that if you can’t defend yourself with a 9mm or a .380 or a .32 or even .22lr, you have no business carrying a gun at all.
I recently started sharing dreams on social media, but as you know, sites like Facebook aren’t searchable and, except when you download and save your data, are a bad place to store your thoughts, so I decided to aggregate my dream notes here…
Dreams: my right arm got uncovered, so for a while I dreamed I was donating blood. After a while, I dreamed I was playing softball for Latta High School. Our pitcher can’t find her uniform, so she cites a rare regulation that allows her to play in a black bra. As I result, I get to wear her uniform. We take the field, but it is the Brooklyn Bridge, and we are golfing. I then realize she has a huge crush on me. I appreciate that because she has such beautiful hair, but when I turn to look at her again, it’s frizzy like a 1980s haircut. She hits a ball off the bridge. It lands in the water, but floats, and we realize that if it sinks, it’s a foul ball, but if we can get it back before it sinks, it will be a home run. We enter the subway, which is served by canals. We see the ball floating by and form a human chain to pull it out of the water. An angry New Yorker says he will no longer support Latta because of this turn of events.
Dream: we are playing Photon/laser tag in an indoor/outdoor arena. As we play and our weapons are upgraded, they change in our hands using transporter technology. I then realize we are shooting each other’s phones. At the end of the first round, I don’t have the highest score, but I did earn the “most hate generated” bonus.
Dream: Abby and I were fighting our way out of a huge, dark grey military complex at night under heavy fire. Shoot-and-scoot, cover-and-retreat, emptying mag after mag from our rifles and pistols. Just as we seem to be out of ammo and lost, Max and Sierra scurry off, then return after finding an escape route, leading us to safety.
Dream from May 2004, recorded in my journal: I am rowing down a muddy river beneath an Interstate highway. I find a box of lollypops who are being bullied by their classmates. I escort them to a dry spot, where I install an Oldsmobile 403 engine in a lawn mower.
Dream fragment from nap: “cemetery-grade popsicle.” I then fell asleep again and dreamed that Doug Hoke gave me a personal tour of his collection of toy airplanes and Steyr rifles.
Dream:LeAnn Skeen and I lower a huge semi into a lake at a grade school in Shawnee to separate the rabbit half from the non-rabbit half. Then Abby Barron and i accidentally crack a kitchen tile, opening an infinity. We collect the blue infinity goo in a bucket and keep it in a child’s bedroom upstairs, occasionally dropping things into it to watch them disappear into eternity.
Dream: Ashley Williams and I are recruiting for a minor league football team. We get Tom Cruise and Burt Reynolds to join. After a couple of games, we find ourselves being chased by boxes, which were throwing smaller boxes at us. Eventually we realize we are in a race in an obstacle course. Ashley is in the lead, and after crossing several difficult ladder obstacles, gets to the finish line and solves a complex puzzle to open the cabinet housing our first place award.
Dream: I was at an Allen football game when the quarterbacks tried to punch each other out. The teams were so ashamed they threw their pads on the field and went to the locker room, even though the game wasn’t over. The final score was settled by seven year olds playing tetherball.
Readers will recall that my wife Abby and I got a new Irish Wolfhound puppy, Hawken Rifle Trail, March 7, two and a half weeks ago. I don’t have any surprising news to report about him: he’s puppying along just fine.
He steals Abby’s yarn and chews up newspapers. He thinks the Chihuahuas, Sierra and Max, should play with him, provoking them to growl and snap at him, which doesn’t discourage him.
Yesterday I mowed the front yard with him on the porch, and while he didn’t like it, he also didn’t freak out. I’ve been digging up dead Rose-of-Sharon along the driveway, and he watches with great interest.
I haven’t neglected or forgotten the Chihuahuas, and Max remains my all-time favorite dog.
So far, Hawken is a good dog. He knows his name, is starting to mind us, and loves us to pieces.
With the return of Daylight Saving Time, I have more chance in the evening to work outside. Yesterday, as my social media brethren might recall, was a day off to rest from weeks of working a very exciting basketball season.
Tonight I planted two Peace rose bushes for Abby, then made some effort to push/pull/chop some of the dead Rose-of-Sharon. It was quite cold, especially when the dry, north wind blew, but as sunset approached, I once again found myself wanting to make pictures. It was a beautiful, cold March evening.
The last three days have been something of an adventure. In addition to housebreaking our huge new puppy, I have been covering state tournament basketball games in Oklahoma City. Readers might recall my story about the Ada Lady Cougar seniors. They were one of the strongest teams we covered this year, but their championship hopes were dashed last night at the hands of rival Harrah in a battle of palindrome-named cities…
This morning we were down to just one team, the Latta Panthers. When I arrived at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds Arena, I found longtime friend, Daily Oklahoman photographer Jim Beckel, working the game as well…
The last time Latta claimed a championship in basketball was in 2014, when I shot beside friend and then Ada News Editor Dan Marsh.
The Panthers took home the gold trophy today.
I was back in Ada by around 2 p.m., when I went to Waddell Vineyard, where I was met by friends Bob and Debbie, who I have photographed many times. In conversation I learned that Debbie and Sonja Jeter Anderson have been friends for years. Some sort of weird circle of small town friendship had been drawn, and I was glad to be part of all of it.
My wife Abby and I just returned from an overnight trip to Rolla, Missouri, where we got our first new puppy since we got Sierra the Chihuahua in 2005 (Max the Chihuahua was a year and half old when we got him in 2006.)
Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Barron’s Hawken “Hawk” Rifle Trail. He is an eight week old registered Irish Wolfhound.
Abby had wolfhounds, Sugar and Lincoln, many years ago, and has wanted another since she retired two years ago. Those familiar with the breed know that it is the tallest, sometimes going to a 36-inch shoulder height and weighing up to 200 pounds.
Abby wanted to name him a “gun” name, preferably after a gun from the old West. Some of the names we considered were…
Henry (with additional reference to Longmire character Henry Standing Bear)
For much of human history, bread was regarded as, and called, “the staff of life.” This is because grains used to make bread – wheat, barley, rye, and many more – have been easy to grow, easy to store, and easy to use since mankind matured from hunter-gatherers to agrarians 12,000 years ago. For most of the period from then until now, grains remained relatively unaltered. They grew in their natural forms, and were then made into foods without changing their nature all that much.
Then came the industrial revolution, and the fossil-fueled machinery that was able to change nearly everything with its might, including the nature of food.
Most of the breads you and I see for sale now barely qualify as bread, since much of the grain has been removed or destroyed by processing, processing done to create an easier-to-eat, cheaper-to-make product that almost resembles, both nutritionally and culinarily, candy.
There’s the rub, really. When people say bread makes them fat, not only are they not really referring to bread, but they are also referring to eating far more of it than is nutritionally recommended or necessary. The reason, for example, that bread didn’t make people fat during, say, the Great Depression, is that it was made from very unprocessed whole grains, and it wasn’t as excessively plentiful and cheap as “bread” is today.
The love of white bread is a mystery to me. Even as a child, Wonder Bread tasted like grade school paste in my mouth. And to this day, a whole-grain pizza crust completely transforms pizza into… well, into real food.
With that and my lifelong vegetarian diet in mind, I was delighted to see that our local Wal Mart has begin stocking, at least for now, Pepperidge Farms 100% Natural German Dark Wheat Bread. To some people, particularly millennials who might not have ever tasted a natural food, this product might seem like a flavorless chewfest, but to me, it tastes like nutrition should taste: rich, dark, complex, subtle. I knew I would like it when I bought it, but getting it home and eating it revealed this even more so. This is the best bread I have ever eaten.
“Adversity What have I done to you to cause this reclusive silence That has come between you and me…” ~Dead Can Dance
Regular readers will recall that approximately once a year I burn my brush pile. It is one of the real pleasures of living in the counrty.
This year’s stack included the usually branches and limbs, and at least 300 pounds from old, torn-down (and replaced) front porch, as well as maybe 150 pounds of other miscellaneous furniture that was fallen-apart enough to be burned.
It was my biggest brush pile yet, and required generous use of the garden hose to keep it in balance. I know lots of you who live in the country just light your pile and go have a beer, since I hear plenty of scanner calls about a “controlled burn that got out of control.”
My burn remained under control.
As always, I brought my iPod, and listened to all my favorite songs shuffle past, taking me places and showing me faces that spanned my entire life. I thought of you, yes you, every one of you. I missed you and thought about the things I loved the most about you.
During a break in the music, I heard the yipping and howling of coyotes.
I left the fire to burn itself out when it had burned to coals, watching it through a window. My night was complete.
I was rumbling through some junk in the garage the other day when I came across something I set aside several times previously, a plastic storage box with all of our used mobile phones in it.
I got them all out and started to cogitate. What did I want to say about this? That it was funny? Wasteful? Opulent? Unnatural? Selfish? Inevitable?
When I was young, our house had just one phone. When I was a baby, our house shared one phone with the neighbor, a party line.
My wife Abby got her first cell phones because she and her late first husband needed them as franchise owners of Sonic restaurants in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They were what we remembered as a “car phone,” a unit mounted under the seat, and a full-size handset on the dash or console.
My first cell phone was a handsome Sony I got in 1997. My first plan included 25 anytime minutes and 300 night and weekend minutes.
As the years went by and technology marched along, Abby and I each upgraded and replaced our handsets. When we got married, so did our mobile phone service plans, and in 2005, we got matching Motorola Rokr phones, which was the phone to have back then. We also recently had matching iPhone 5s.
My parents didn’t understand cell phone technology very well. One time I got a call from them on their cell phone and heard nothing but confused mumbling. When I called them back, they told me they, “couldn’t get a dial tone.”
Near the end of her life, my mother wanted a phone that “was just a phone,” and bought a Samsung Jitterbug, which worked fine for her.
I often wonder about how much it cost in real terms – environmental, economic, social, emotional – every time we renewed a contract and got a free new Nokia or Kyocera.
I have also been amused and annoyed to watch phones get smaller and smaller, then when smart phones arrived, get bigger and bigger.
Today we each have one of the latest iPhones from Apple. But it certainly was an exercise in disposability to get from our bulky, analog mobile phone beginnings to where we are today.
Owners of the venerable Radio Shack HTX-202 VHF handheld amateur radio know, if they have owned the radio long enough, that it will eventually give them the dreaded Er-1 error when they turn it on. This means that it is time again to replace the memory retention battery inside the radio.
As aggravating as it is to have to replace a part that shouldn’t have been installed so inconveniently in the first place, it’s worth doing.
I won’t go into exact details about how to do it, since there are plenty of step-by-step tutorials on the web, but I will say that I’ve done it enough in the 21 years I have owned this excellent radio that it is easy and takes about 10 minutes.
After the new battery was soldered in, I reassembled the radio, tested it, and re-programmed the frequencies, since resetting the Er-1 error means erasing everything.
My goal for our travel blog is the same as my goals in my photojournalism: to tell a story. I hope my images convey a sense of what it was like to be there – hot, cold, bright, dark, grey or colorful, and always fun.
• I found a secret half of our house, where I was hiding all the large-aperture, manual-focus Nikon lenses I’d been getting at garage sales for a dollar each.
• In the middle of a dramatic high seas rescue, I ran into Hillary Clinton. I hugged her and told I was sorry things didn’t work out, like we were old friends. Then a bunch of us helped her fold and pack some sweaters.
• Steve Gooch, Jim Beckel and I were at a carnival searching for the ultimate funnel cake. The dogs were with us.
• Abby and I were back in 1969, watching the return of Apollo 12a, the 2-man mission designed to test the seats of the command module for an ultra-high-G reentry. The spacecraft looked like a super-slick space shuttle orbiter, but painted blue and sporting newly-developed laser engines. NASA parked it in my garage. In the dream I was also aboard the mission, which required the other astronaut, who I did not know or like, and me to wrap our torsos around a bar, like at a carnival ride. The space food was, as expected, funnel cake.
Readers will recall that for much of 2016, I had a physical epiphany of sorts: working hard outside became one of the most productive activities in my life. I chopped, cut, shoveled, hammered, sawed, dug, moved, built, painted, sanded, carried, and assembled something every day I could. It was good. I got a lot done. I felt stronger. It was satisfying.
Then, Christmas came, and with it a head cold. The weather turned sharply colder. Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I got the house in shape and took down all the Christmas stuff, which is certainly work, but as January arrived we were hit by a couple more cold patches, and I developed a somewhat serious upper respiratory infection.
I was amazed and a little unsettled by how quickly and grimly all the Christmas lights and trees disappeared after this year’s holiday. I hate to say it is a symptom of the unease about our nation’s political situation, but I can find little else to explain it.
So it seems from my chair that my life has come to something of a stop. I know it will start again, and I already have ambitions on the horizon (like getting the garden planted in March), but another round of weather just rolled in, cold and wet. Abby had a nasty fall Thursday (ask her about it directly if you want to know more). I’m feeling down about it all.
On the other hand. I am feeling better, as is Abby. The sun will come out one of these days. Politics are never permanent. These hands will paint the porch and repair the siding and tend the garden. I am young and strong. Now may be the full stop, but it will move again.
I know, I know. Everyone complains on social media when they get sick. Boring. And I am sick, so why am I boring you with it?
I had a head cold, a classic rhinovirus, before Christmas. I knew exactly what it was at the time. There were a couple of unpleasant days, but with rest and nutrition, I felt better, and was entirely well for the week between Christmas and News Year’s Day
By the end of last week, I was pretty sick. The constellation of symptoms included runny nose, an unproductive cough that hurt my upper chest, malaise and unsteadiness, and feeling either too hot or too cold. When I was in the waiting room to see my Physician’s Assistant (our doctor was booked, but I like his PA), a woman in the waiting room described having the same exact symptom set. When my PA examined me, she told me everyone is describing the same symptoms. Then back at the office, a co-worker describe the same set yet again.
Clearly we all have the same illness, probably caused by the same pathogen. My PA gave me two cough medicine prescriptions, one with codeine and one without, a big bolus of IM dexamethasone, and, most significantly, the antibiotic azithromycin.
I know this doesn’t sound like any kind of an objective or scientific observation, but I do try to be observant of my body and how it acts and reacts to everything – food, water, heat, cold, smoke, pollen, stress, illness, etc. – but this just didn’t feel like a virus. What do I mean by that? I’ve had my share of upper respiratory infections in my life. We all have. And in the past, when I have a typical viral infection, it feels a certain way, and this time it didn’t feel like a virus.
What's What with The Crud?
The upper respiratory tract includes the nasal passages, the sinuses, the trachea, and the upper tracheal branches. There’s no difference between a “sinus infection” and an upper respiratory tract infection.
Many people say, “I don’t know if this is just a cold or an infection.” Head colds are infections. Both viruses and bacteria cause infections.
Many people associate the word “flu” with gastro-intestinal symptoms and/or head cold symptoms, but influenza, for which “flu” is a nickname, is a very specific and dangerous upper respiratory tract infection.
The “flu shot,” or influenza vaccination, only protects you from the strains contained in the vaccine, and cannot give you the flu.
Then yesterday, my coworker with the same symptomatology told me she tested positive for strep, a bacterial infection. My PA’s guess, and mine, was right.
The point of this entry is that despite the medical community’s missteps and inappropriate is of antibiotics, there is still an important place for them in medicine. I felt (and looked, according to another coworker) much better in just 24 hours. Listen to your body and try to learn the difference between a simple head cold and something more serious and dangerous. And be an advocate for your own health.
I have returned from a Christmas trip to Baltimore. Abby and I flew there to see her daughter Chele, husband Tom, and our grandson Paul, who is about to turn six.
The first couple of days were a little rough, as both Chele and I were nursing head colds, and Paul brought home a stomach bug that both Tom and Chele caught, but by Christmas Eve we were all feeling much better and had a great time.
The delay forced Tom and me to shop on Christmas Eve, which I hadn’t done in years, and it was as crowded and chaotic as you can imagine.
My cold didn’t seem to hang on as long as some have in the past, and I think part of that might be that I used a cough medicine called benzonatate (brand name Tessalon) that was very effective and allowed me to sleep through the nights.
The day after Christmas we all went for breakfast at the Bel-Loc Diner, a lovely Baltimore fixture which we have enjoyed since Chele and Tom’s wedding in March 2009. Abby and I were sad to learn that the Bel-Loc is slated to be replaced by a Starbucks. We enjoyed and relished our last breakfast there.
Trouble in Twos
Tow weeks ago, the windshield on Tom’s Subaru Forester was broken by a flying rock. Since the crack spread, he had to replace the windshield. On Christmas Day, on the same highway, another flying rock broke the new windshield in the same spot. Fortunately, this time the crack didn’t spread, and he was able to get it repaired.
Later in the day we saw Rogue One: a Star Wars Story. Last year we saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens in a nearly-empty matinee, but because Chele had to work this year, we saw Rogue One in a packed theater. Despite the long lines, we all had a great time at the movie, which Tom, who is a lifelong Star Wars fan, and I discussed at length.
>>Spoiler alert.<< Less than 24 hours after seeing Rogue One, in which we see a digitally-young Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa, we received word that Carrie Fisher died.
My Southwest Airlines flight home went without a hitch. Abby, who is now retired, won’t return for another few days.
As my readers know, I believe that hard work is a path to health and energy. I wrote about this once before, but I was thinking about is recently as I accomplished some important objectives last week in anticipation of the arrival of cold weather.
Weeks ago a friend of Abby’s moved to a new location, one where she didn’t need much of her yard stuff, and gave a lot of it to us. It included a number of cinder blocks and paving stones, as well as some lumber, patio furniture and accessories, and fencing. The move happened sooner that we expected, so in only a day we brought all these materials home in the bed Abby’s pickup and unloaded in a haphazard manner in the carport of the shed.
In addition to that, the leftover lumber and materials from construction of our front and back decks had been piled there as well. A mess had taken shape.
I spent all of Monday last week moving, painting, pulling nails, organizing, and taking one wheelbarrow load after another of items to the burn pile to be burned. By the end of the day, my energy level was through the roof, and wanted to do more, but it got dark.
Dream: I am in the advertising department at my office, but I am in bed. All the desks have a bed attached, which I think is a sketchy idea at best, since the boss, Amy, will know if we are napping instead of working.
Amy, LeaAnn and Maurisa all have their first initial in a very large block of amber-colored ice, made from their tears, on their desks. Despite being their initials, they are all the letter S. The ice slowly melts and runs down the block, but the block doesn’t shrink, and water doesn’t accumulate below.
I decide to go to the next room, so I collect my Walkman cassette player and my iPad. As I stand up, I say, “I know why these things are crying. It’s because so many people out there are hillbillies.”
Lately I’ve been feeling a powerful nostalgia for October. In addition to October being a lovely month, typically Abby and I take our anniversary trip in October. And while we love being married to each other all the time, those trips are the very most fun times of our lives.
Last September Abby asked, “Are we going to Moab like we do every year?” I hadn’t given it any thought, but immediately agreed and started planning.
The first very cold weather of this fall is about to descent upon us, and I find myself remembering not only last October, but when the song Life in Mono by Mono (which I used for the video of our 2005 trip) shuffled past on my iTunes, of those many amazing trips out west.
I am not, however, a live-in-the-past guy, and always when I remember the great times, I am hoping and planning for more. My whole life energy is active, curious, and hopefully brave.
My friend Amy Childers Elliott recently posted on social media a list of “birthday resolutions,” a litany of ideas she thought would improve her life. Here is that post…
I’m a little late on this year’s birthday resolutions. Since this year’s word is accountability, I’m posting my list here:
3. Laugh more. Judge less. Be a better friend. Celebrate. Be kinder to the people I love
4. Eliminate procrastination, fear, and chaos. Be proactive. No whining. Work to collaborate and improve.
5. Explore the world. Get out of my comfort zone. Be brave.
I am not a birthday resolution or New Year’s resolution kind of person. I strongly believe that if something needs to change, I will change it. July 1 or January 1 are just names and numbers. My life starts today.
Few viewers of the insanely popular NBC sitcom F•R•I•E•N•D•S realize that the show was based on the combined philosophies of Emmanuel Kant, René Descarte, and Edmund Husserl, reflected primarily in the lyrics to the intro song, which states, “I’ll be, therefore you.”
I have changed themes. This theme is called First, and it comes from Themehaus. I think this new theme meets my needs by being readable and straightforward.
Themes are at the core of web sites like this, which are created using WordPress, which I have used to create this site since 2007. In all that time, I have always used a theme called Panorama. As much as I liked it, computer power grew as did my content, and I felt I had outgrown it. As I searched new themes and tried them out on my test blog, I found that they either didn’t work well with my content, didn’t mesh well with my ideas about how the internet should work, or didn’t give me enough options to make my site unique.
Finally, though, along came First.
I should say that I don’t like web sites that ask me to guess how to navigate them. I don’t like web sites that patronize me or assume I am an idiot. I don’t like web sites that are all presentation and no content. I don’t like web sites that play hide and seek in an effort to seem artistic or mysterious. I don’t like web sites whose design is an insult to my ears or eyes. I don’t like the way social media sites aren’t searchable, thus not allowing them to serve as a journal. I don’t like the way my content drowns in the stream of social media chatter.
Hopefully this new theme will allow me to express myself clearly and creatively. I would love to hear what you think about it.
For more than a month, I have been duking it out with a ball hitch on the back of our lawn mower. The trailer/cart we have, which Abby’s father made for her, has a pin instead of a hitch, so I wanted to remove the ball from the mower. The nut holding it on unscrewed some of the way, then seized up, I guess from rust in the threads of the bolt. I tried spraying it with Rust-olium and WD-40, and when that had no effect, I immersed the whole thing in motor oil for a week, to no effect.
I started thinking about how I might cut it off. A handheld hacksaw would take forever, and I wasn’t sure it was even possible, since bolt hitches are probably made of case-hardened steel. Then in the midst of another project, I came across Abby’s father’s Milwaukee® Sawzall (75th anniversary edition), the kind of saw you typically use to cut into flooring. There were a number of blades with it, including a number of metal-cutting blades.
It turned out that this super saw cut through the bolt in about 45 seconds. I considered it a personal victory.
The rest of the Thanksgiving weekend was nice. In addition to my Tofurky®, Abby made a chicken for herself, and we shared some of the classics: stuffing, corn, broccoli casserole, and five thing cherry stuff, plus pumpkin and pecan pies.
Yesterday I got the Christmas tree hauled into the house, then brought the bins of decorations down from the rafters in the car hole (garage); last year I bought a bunch of plastic bins in the holiday section at Wal Mart, so I was able to be better organized when I put everything away. I found all the lights and tested them.
The final significant drama in our home this weekend was a disastrous effort on my part to trim Sierra the Chihuahua’s nails. I’m usually pretty good at it, but for no apparent reason, I nicked the quick on a nail on every paw. I would hate to have CSI examine our house, because there is blood everywhere. To keep the carpet from getting messed up, Abby put booties on her, which worked, but sort of freaked Sierra out.
Dream: responding to a report of a downtown Ada fire, I discover it is at my own office. I try to enter to see if I can help, only to be stopped by TSA agents and Washington Post journalists. I see flames licking from the top of the stairs where my office is located, but then remember that I moved to the middle of the building two years ago, and was then suddenly relieved that the fire wasn’t my fault.
I see Dan Marsh, who challenges me to a race to his downtown loft apartment. He is much faster than I am, and is wearing an orange jumpsuit, so I am unable to keep up.
When I finally arrive, he is nowhere to be found, but my sister is at his apartment, hiding her boyfriend, “Wear,” under the covers. “That’ll show Mom and Dad,” she explains.
I return to my office, where I discover a maze of old darkrooms and equipment (about which I dreamed before), and find an oven that was left on for 40 years, which caused the fire.