Glad I Was Carrying

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.

My routine carry weapon is the Ruger LCP. Chambered in .380 Auto, I keep it loaded with Hornady Critical Defense rounds, which I feel certain would be adequate in a self-defense situation.
My routine carry weapon is the Ruger LCP. Chambered in .380 Auto, I keep it loaded with Hornady Critical Defense rounds, which I feel certain would be adequate in a self-defense situation.

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.

Sometimes when I travel I carry the excellent Ruger SR22 loaded with CCI Stingers. Some will discourage you from carrying a .22lr, but no one ever volunteers to be shot with one to prove that point.
Sometimes when I travel I carry the excellent Ruger SR22 loaded with CCI Stingers. Some will discourage you from carrying a .22lr, but no one ever volunteers to be shot with one to prove that point.
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Dream Aggregator

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…

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.

Dream:  Abby Barron was killed by a porcupine. :>(

Sometimes a Classic
Sometimes a Classic

 

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Teaching a New Dog Old Tricks

Alternate title: Puppy Update or Uppy Pupdate.

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.

Hawked sleeps on a toy dog on the ride home from the puppy farm earlier this month.
Hawked sleeps on a toy dog on the ride home from the puppy farm earlier this month.
Hawken pants after playing in the house ten days ago.
Hawken pants after playing in the house ten days ago.

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.

Max and Sierra warily watch as Hawken derps across the living room. Max is now 13 years old, and Sierra is 12.
Max and Sierra warily watch as Hawken derps across the living room. Max is now 13 years old, and Sierra is 12.

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.

Hawken watches as I leave for work this morning. As you can see, he is already starting to grow into his nose.
Hawken watches as I leave for work this morning. As you can see, he is already starting to grow into his nose.
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Cold and Quiet Moments

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.

Henbit, one of the first weeds we see in spring, clings close to the ground with the sun setting in the background.
Henbit, one of the first weeds we see in spring, clings close to the ground with the sun setting in the background.
A sprig of something sticks out of the water at our pond.
A sprig of something sticks out of the water at our pond.
A peach blossom clings to one of my trees at dusk.
A peach blossom clings to one of my trees at dusk.
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Defeats, Victories, and Friendships

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…

Ada senior Maddie Jessepe hugs coach Christie Jennings in the waning seconds of Friday's semifinal game against rival Harrah.
Ada senior Maddie Jessepe hugs coach Christie Jennings in the waning seconds of Friday’s semifinal game against rival Harrah.
After defeating Ada, the Harrah girls went on to beat Fort Gibson to claim the Class 4A state championship trophy.
After defeating Ada, the Harrah girls went on to beat Fort Gibson to claim the Class 4A state championship trophy.

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…

Fellow photographer and good friend Jim Beckel bangs away with his Canon 135mm f/2. Jim and I took a hiking trip together in 2013, and he was great company. It was great to work with him again.
Fellow photographer and good friend Jim Beckel bangs away with his Canon 135mm f/2. Jim and I took a hiking trip together in 2013, and he was great company. It was great to work with him again.
Also photographing today's Latta Panther game was longtime friend Sonja Jeter Anderson. When I asked her to remind me when she played as a Lady Panther, she said it was 1997, 20 years ago. It seems like yesterday.
Also photographing today’s Latta Panther game was longtime friend Sonja Jeter Anderson. When I asked her to remind me when she played as a Lady Panther, she said it was 1997, 20 years ago. It seems like yesterday.

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.

The Latta Panthers receive their Class 2A championship trophy today in Oklahoma City.
The Latta Panthers receive their Class 2A championship trophy today in Oklahoma City.

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.

Debbie Waddell looks surprised as I photograph us in a mirror at the Waddell's wedding chapel, my last assignment for the day.
Debbie Waddell looks surprised as I photograph us in a mirror at the Waddell’s wedding chapel, my last assignment for the day.
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A Brand New Puppy!

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.)

Anyone who knows Abby knows how much she loves animals, and that her love has rubbed off on me, so I too, love them. Here Abby is shown just minutes after meeting her new Irish Wolfhound, Hawken.
Anyone who knows Abby knows how much she loves animals, and that her love has rubbed off on me, so I too, love them. Here Abby is shown just minutes after meeting her new Irish Wolfhound, Hawken.

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…

Hawken walks in the front yard with Abby this morning.
Hawken walks in the front yard with Abby this morning.
  • Ruger
  • Colt
  • Desperado
  • Sig Sauer
  • Beretta
  • Remington
  • Winchester
  • Spencer
  • Sundance
  • Scofield
  • Henry (with additional reference to Longmire character Henry Standing Bear)
  • Smith and Wesson (SW)
  • Hawken
  • Walther
  • Ranger
  • Derringer
  • Bullet
  • Pistol
  • Dennis the Anarcho-syndicalist (from Monty Python)
  • Wil Wheaton or his character Wesley Crusher because the dog’s coat is the wheaten.

Hawk had an unremarkable six-hour ride home, and seems to be settling into his new life in the clumsy, goofy, happy way that puppies do.

I will have more to say about the trip to Rolla later on my teaching blog.

At 26 pounds, Hawken already weighs more than 1.3x the total weight of our Chihuahuas put together, Sierra and Max, shown here meeting the big puppy for the first time.
At 26 pounds, Hawken already weighs more than 1.3x the total weight of our Chihuahuas put together, Sierra and Max, shown here meeting the big puppy for the first time.
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Vilifying the Staff of Life

Two slices of Dark German bread sit on a plate in our kitchen.
Two slices of Dark German bread sit on a plate in our kitchen.

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.

Toasted and lightly spread with margarine, 100% Natural German Dark Wheat Bread is the best bread I've ever tried.
Toasted and lightly spread with margarine, 100% Natural German Dark Wheat Bread is the best bread I’ve ever tried.
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This Reclusive Silence

“Adversity
What have I done to you
to cause this reclusive silence
That has come between you and me…” ~Dead Can Dance

A light breeze carries away heat and flames from my brush pile fire tonight.
A light breeze carries away heat and flames from my brush pile fire tonight.

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.

Brush pile fires are just as mesmeric as camp fires. I particularly like it when they go to coals.
Brush pile fires are just as mesmeric as camp fires. I particularly like it when they go to coals.
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The Immaculate Perception

The Ada Lady Cougar senior basketball players pose for their "we're tough" picture at media day. The booster club ended up using this image for a banner they hung at the Cougar Activity Center. From left to right are Kaitlyn "Katy" Redman, Madalyn Jessepe, Aleli Thomsen, Bree Willis, McKenzie Dean, and Payton Taylor.
The Ada Lady Cougar senior basketball players pose for their “we’re tough” picture at media day. The booster club ended up using this image for a banner they hung at the Cougar Activity Center. From left to right are Kaitlyn “Katy” Redman, Madalyn Jessepe, Aleli Thomsen, Bree Willis, McKenzie Dean, and Payton Taylor.
Friend and fellow photographer Courtney Morehead
Friend and fellow photographer Courtney Morehead

As I have noted a time or two in the past, time flies. This is especially the case for me now that I am married and happy and having fun.

It seems like yesterday when we gathered at the Ada Cougar Activity Center on November 29 for this season’s Ada basketball media day.

Then yesterday, just like that, it’s senior night, the last home game of the regular season.

McKenzie Dean was one of the senior players honored last night. She is pictured with her parents, Angie and Steve Dean, and her sister Haley Dean. I have been photographing the Deans for most of my career.
McKenzie Dean was one of the senior players honored last night. She is pictured with her parents, Angie and Steve Dean, and her sister Haley Dean. I have been photographing the Deans for most of my career.
My friend and fellow professional photographer Courtney Morehead shot this image of me recently at the Cougar Activity Center. On either side of me are the pictures I made of the seniors at media day in November which the booster club printed large.
My friend and fellow professional photographer Courtney Morehead shot this image of me recently at the Cougar Activity Center. On either side of me are the pictures I made of the seniors at media day in November which the booster club printed large.

It was at media day that this story happened. My sports editor and I were gathering the usual stuff – team photos, head shots, senior poses – and having fun doing it.

Ada senior Bree Willis watches a recent game from the sideline. It was her shot at media day that amazed us all.
Ada senior Bree Willis watches a recent game from the sideline. It was her shot at media day that amazed us all.

I had assembled the Lady Cougars for their team shot near half court facing away from the nearest goal. Bree Willis, one of the seniors, happened to be holding a basketball.

“What do you want me to do with this?” she asked.

“If you can make it from there without standing up or turning around, I’ll give you a dollar.”

Without standing up or turning around, she threw the ball over her shoulder and over the heads of the girls in the back row. The ball went into the goal perfectly – “nothing but net.”

The next day Bree saw me at the school on an unrelated assignment and told me she taped that dollar inside her locker.

As the years go by, it seems like I have more fun and enjoy my job more than ever, and it shows in my work.
As the years go by, it seems like I have more fun and enjoy my job more than ever, and it shows in my work. Pictured are Kaitlyn “Katy” Redman, McKenzie Dean, Payton Taylor, Madalyn Jessepe, Aleli Thomsen, and Bree Willis.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, the Throw-Away Society!

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 had fun photographing our collection of derelict cell phones the other night.
I had fun photographing our collection of derelict cell phones the other night.
My sister Nicole talks on the one and only phone in our house in 1980. Located in the dining room, one had to walk the length of the house to talk on it. You couldn't sent text messages or videos, and you couldn't take 1500 pictures of yourself with it. It was just a telephone.
My sister Nicole talks on the one and only phone in our house in 1980. Located in the dining room, one had to walk the length of the house to talk on it. You couldn’t sent text messages or videos, and you couldn’t take 1500 pictures of yourself with it. It was just a telephone.

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.

The LG flip phone on the left was the smallest of all the phones we ever owned. The analog "car phone" from the 1980s in the middle of this image was the largest (it also had a large transceiver/controller mounted under the passenger seat. The phone on the right is Abby's current iPhone 6s.
The LG flip phone on the left was the smallest of all the phones we ever owned. The analog “car phone” from the 1980s in the middle of this image was the largest (it also had a large transceiver/controller mounted under the passenger seat. The phone on the right is Abby’s current iPhone 6s.
The Motorola Rokr was groundbreaking in 2005 as the first phone that was also an MP3 player. As a phone, though, it wasn't loud enough and never had a very good signal.
The Motorola Rokr was groundbreaking in 2005 as the first phone that was also an MP3 player. As a phone, though, it wasn’t loud enough and never had a very good signal.

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.

My first cell phone was this analog Sony. It didn't have a camera and couldn't send text.
My first cell phone was this analog Sony. It didn’t have a camera and couldn’t send text.

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.

The best phone I ever owned before the smartphone era was the tough, good-looking, reliable Motorola Tundra.
The best phone I ever owned before the smartphone era was the tough, good-looking, reliable Motorola Tundra.
Abby had a blackberry for a while in the years leading up to her first iPhone, the 3. The Blackberry wasn't a good phone or a good smart phone.
Abby had a blackberry for a while in the years leading up to her first iPhone, the 3. The Blackberry wasn’t a good phone or a good smart phone.
The Motorola Rokr didn't have the display and the camera on the same side of the unit, so this tiny, round mirror was installed on the camera size for composing selfies.
The Motorola Rokr didn’t have the display and the camera on the same side of the unit, so this tiny, round mirror was installed on the camera size for composing selfies.

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.

Behold the power of illusion, the illusion that we needed each of these phones that we later threw in the trash. There are 21 phones in this image, though two Motorola Razrs and another an older Nokia ended up in other hands. Three of the phones in this picture belonged to my parents. Also missing is Abby's iPhone 3, which is now the MP3 player in my car. Most of these phones worked fine when they were retired.
Behold the power of illusion, the illusion that we needed each of these phones that we later threw in the trash. There are 21 phones in this image, though two Motorola Razrs and another an older Nokia ended up in other hands. Three of the phones in this picture belonged to my parents. Also missing is Abby’s iPhone 3, which is now the MP3 player in my car. Most of these phones worked fine when they were retired.
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HTX-202 Button Battery Replacement Time Again

This is my Radio Shack HTX-202 VHF handheld amateur radio.
This is my Radio Shack HTX-202 VHF handheld amateur radio.

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.

Removing 10 screws allows the radio to be opened into halves.
Removing 10 screws allows the radio to be opened into halves.
This is the dead CR-2032 button battery that I soldered in about three years ago.
This is the dead CR-2032 button battery that I soldered in about three years ago.
Scoring the surface of the new button cell will help the solder cling to it.
Scoring the surface of the new button cell will help the solder cling to it.
The first solder of the new battery is the underside. You can see I've put a small strip of painter's masking tape under it in case I dropped any hot solder.
The first solder of the new battery is the underside. You can see I’ve put a small strip of painter’s masking tape under it in case I dropped any hot solder.
Finally, the top side of the battery gets soldered to the red wire. I tried taping and clamping it to hold it against the battery, but in the end it was easier just to put the weigh of a needle-nosed pliers on it.
Finally, the top side of the battery gets soldered to the red wire. I tried taping and clamping it to hold it against the battery, but in the end it was easier just to put the weigh of a needle-nosed pliers on it.

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.

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The Travel Blog: Improved

One thing that happened as I was reviewing and revising my travel blog was a genuine nostalgia for this little camera, one of the first digital cameras I ever owned, the Minolta DiMage 7i. It has a great lens, is lightweight, and I loved the colors I got with it. Time has relegated this lovely camera to the junk drawer, but I made many great images with it.
One thing that happened as I was reviewing and revising my travel blog was a genuine nostalgia for this little camera, one of the first digital cameras I ever owned, the Minolta DiMage 7i. It has a great lens, is lightweight, and I loved the colors I got with it. Time has relegated this lovely camera to the junk drawer, but I made many great images with it.

As some of you might have noticed, I have made significant efforts in recent weeks to update and improve the narratives on our travel blog.

One reason for this is that many of my earlier narratives were written as bullet points and notes, with not enough storytelling.

Another  reason for this effort was that I reviewed many of my images from our trips and concluded that I had shortchanged myself by not including enough of our many great images.

So far I have updated, rewritten and added to A New York Minute, Into the FireVillanueva, The Shooting Spree,  Sand AnimalsCaprock Canyons, ChihuahuaThe High Road, and Desert Cold, and The Confluence, with plans to continue updating more reports as time permits.

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.

If you see me on the trail, this is what I will be doing, and having a great time doing it.
If you see me on the trail, this is what I will be doing, and having a great time doing it.
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The Ultimate Funnel Cake

Dreams…

•  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.

Dreams are always better when the dogs show up.
Dreams are always better when the dogs show up.

•  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.

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Full Stop

A friend of mine saw this picture of me recently and thought it was the best selfie of me he'd ever seen. Abby gave me these goggles, which have several interchangeable lenses, for Christmas.
A friend of mine saw this picture of me recently and thought it was the best selfie of me he’d ever seen. Abby gave me these goggles, which have several interchangeable lenses, for Christmas.

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.

Urgently UnChristmasing
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.

Primer and top coat paint sticks to my hand last September when I painted the decks and porches. It felt incredibly productive and purposeful.
Primer and top coat paint sticks to my hand last September when I painted the decks and porches. It felt incredibly productive and purposeful.
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The Crud: Another Antibiotic Observation

This is the "Immune +" version of the supplement Emergen-C, a powdered vitamin I like to mix with hot water like tea. It tastes good and feels good on a sore throat, but I am not sure it makes all that much difference in preventing upper respiratory tract infections.
This is the “Immune +” version of the supplement Emergen-C, a powdered vitamin I like to mix with hot water like tea. It tastes good and feels good on a sore throat, but I am not sure it makes all that much difference in preventing upper respiratory tract infections.

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.

This is generic guaifenesin, the drug most commonly prescribed and sold over the counter for cough and congestion, under brand names like Mucinex and Robitussin. In my opinion, it is not very effective.
This is generic guaifenesin, the drug most commonly prescribed and sold over the counter for cough and congestion, under brand names like Mucinex and Robitussin. In my opinion, it is not very effective.

 

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2016: The Year in Review for the Giant Muh

I know we are all busy people, and seldom interested in the lives of others, so I will try to be brief.

Abby and I pose with our Chihuahuas, Sierra and Max in January 2016, during a portrait session by Robert Stinson.
Abby and I pose with our Chihuahuas, Sierra and Max in January 2016, during a portrait session by Robert Stinson.
  • January: We received visits from both Robert Stinson and Scott Andersen, friends and photographers I have known since college.
  • It is always a privilege to be honored for my work, like this AP/ONE sweepstakes trophy I received in June.
    It is always a privilege to be honored for my work, like this AP/ONE sweepstakes trophy I received in June.

    January: I used credit card rewards points to purchase a new AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G.

  • February: Our newspaper changed editors, resulting in an exponential improvement in our work environment.
  • May: I was awarded another Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives sweepstakes trophy for photography.
  • May: Abby and I used social media to return a lost dog to his owner.
  • May: I was able to remain on the scene well inside police lines during a standoff and shootout near our home.
  • June: Summer became the Summer of Antennas as I completely reorganized the garage and installed new scanner and amateur radio antennas there and inside our home office.
  • June: Abby and I took a New Mexico vacation, The Enchanted Circle.
Abby makes pictures at Amarillo's famous Cadillac Ranch on our June vacation.
Abby makes pictures at Amarillo’s famous Cadillac Ranch on our June vacation.
  • Abby and I pose for a rare "selfie" at Baltimore's famous Bel-Loc Diner in December.
    Abby and I pose for a rare “selfie” at Baltimore’s famous Bel-Loc Diner in December.

    July: Abby bought me a new power washer, which I use extensively to clean the house and wash the cars.

  • July: Abby’s sister Gail had shingles involving her eye, requiring emergency surgery.
  • August: We enjoyed another visit from photographer Robert Stinson.
  • September: Abby and I finally constructed (with a paid carpenter) and painted a new front porch and deck, then rebuilt and painted our back deck. Fall then became known as The Autumn of Construction.
  • October: Abby and I celebrated our 12th anniversary with a Utah adventure, The Endless Sky.
Your host poses at a trail junction deep inside Canyonlands National Park, Utah, in October.
Your host poses at a trail junction deep inside Canyonlands National Park, Utah, in October.
  • December: Abby and I traveled to Baltimore to spend Christmas with Abby’s daughter Chele, her husband Tom, and our grandson Paul. 
Our grandson, Paul, watches to see if his dinosaur eggs have hatched on Christmas Eve.
Our grandson, Paul, watches to see if his dinosaur eggs have hatched on Christmas Eve.
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Christmas in Dinertown

Abby's daughter Chele and husband Tom pose with our grandson Paul in their house. We made an image just like this in this exact spot in May 2011, when Paul was just five months old, and have been making a similar image ever since.
Abby’s daughter Chele and husband Tom pose with our grandson Paul in their house. We made an image just like this in this exact spot in May 2011, when Paul was just five months old, and have been making a similar image ever since.
Abby smiles as we prepare to leave on our Christmas trip to Baltimore.
Abby smiles as we prepare to leave on our Christmas trip to Baltimore.

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.

Medical Note
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.
Paul smiles on Christmas morning as he tries on his new NASA flight suit, a gift from Abby and me.
Paul smiles on Christmas morning as he tries on his new NASA flight suit, a gift from Abby and me.

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.

Tom is fond of "scrapple," a Baltimorean delicacy, shown here at the soon to be closed Bel-Loc Diner near where Tom and Chele live.
Tom is fond of “scrapple,” a Baltimorean delicacy, shown here at the soon to be closed Bel-Loc Diner near where Tom and Chele live.
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.
Abby bought us all Rogue One t-shirts to wear to the movie.
Abby bought us all Rogue One t-shirts to wear to the movie.

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.

Movie Note
>>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 Boeing 737-300 flight from Dallas Love Field, the second leg in my trip home, turns a long final to Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.
My Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 flight from Dallas Love Field, the second leg in my trip home, turns a long final to Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.

My Southwest Airlines flight home went without a hitch. Abby, who is now retired, won’t return for another few days.

Tom's mother and aunts gave us these beautiful commemorative ornaments, which I hung on the tree when I got home.
Tom’s mother and aunts gave us these beautiful commemorative ornaments, which I hung on the tree when I got home.
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Hard Work and Energy

Monday's first order of business was to drill holes in the stumps left when I thinned the walnut grove, and fill them with stump-decomposer.
Monday’s first order of business was to drill holes in the stumps left when I thinned the walnut grove, and fill them with stump-decomposer.

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.

I organized these cinder blocks, paving stones and bricks so I can get to any of them without having to move the others.
I organized these cinder blocks, paving stones and bricks so I can get to any of them without having to move the others.

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.

My lumber leftovers sit stacked neatly and, more importantly, so I can see all of it when trying to find something I need.
My lumber leftovers sit stacked neatly and, more importantly, so I can see all of it when trying to find something I need.

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.

Another item I addressed before the cold weather moved in was painting these planters, which are now in the front flower bed, ready for winter.
Another item I addressed before the cold weather moved in was painting these planters, which are now in the front flower bed, ready for winter.
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The Letter S

Ice
Ice

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.”

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The Present, The Past, and Missing Our Octobers

Abby smiles at me as we prepare to visit Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado in October 2005. Everything about this image is beautiful to me.
Abby smiles at me as we prepare to visit Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado in October 2005. Everything about this image is beautiful to me.

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…

Good Advice...
I’m a little late on this year’s birthday resolutions. Since this year’s word is accountability, I’m posting my list here:

1. Ask better questions. Read. Write. Create. Think. Seek out differing opinions.

2. Stronger. Leaner. Faster. Focus on healthy.

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.

Abby and I find our way down a four-wheel-drive road in southern Utah two months ago. I can't wait to find our way again.
Abby and I find our way down a four-wheel-drive road in southern Utah two months ago. I can’t wait to find our way again.
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Another Fun Fact

Did You Know?
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.”
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richardbarron.net v 3.14159265359…

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.

On the home pages of each of my sites is a large image area at the top, which changes each time you load the page. When viewing individual posts, it stays out of the way.
On the home pages of each of my sites is a large image area at the top, which changes each time you load the page. When viewing individual posts, it stays out of the way.
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Super Saw, Boxmageddon, and a Bootie Crisis

One of my chores last night was testing all of our Christmas lights.
One of my chores last night was testing all of our Christmas lights.

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.

This is the Milwaukee® Sawzall that did such a good job cutting through a steel bolt.
This is the Milwaukee® Sawzall that did such a good job cutting through a steel bolt.

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.

Not only did the Sawzall cut the bolt of the ball hitch, it did a very clean, fast job of it.
Not only did the Sawzall cut the bolt of the ball hitch, it did a very clean, fast job of it.
Abby carves her chicken on Thanksgiving Day.
Abby carves her chicken on Thanksgiving Day.

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 bins full of Christmas decorations sit on the floor in the garage last night. Cleaning the garage in the past weeks made this chore much easier. Would you call this a boxmageddon or a boxpocalypse?
The bins full of Christmas decorations sit on the floor in the garage last night. Cleaning the garage in the past weeks made this chore much easier. Would you call this a boxmageddon or a boxpocalypse?

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.

Sierra seems utterly baffled by booties on her paws, though they did keep the carpet clean.
Sierra seems utterly baffled by booties on her paws, though they did keep the carpet clean.
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It Wasn’t My Fault

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.

This was my view when I arrived at my office in my dream. Imagine flames in the ceiling.
This was my view when I arrived at my office in my dream. Imagine flames in the ceiling.

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.

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Tofurkey Nation

It’s Thanksgiving, and for me, that means Tofurkey®! When prepared properly, I think this product is better than most Thanksgiving turkeys and chickens, mostly because it’s never dry.

The directions on the box are pretty clear, but have a flaw common to recipes that want to sound gourmetish: a fancy ingredient. I see this all the time, especially among vegan and vegetarian fare. The glaze for basting will include soy sauce, salt, pepper, sage, and “Blackman’s Owl Switch,” an herb that grows only at the tree line in the Swiss Alps, and is only sold in the five most expensive hippie whole foods store in the nation.

To get around this annoying trap, I used Kraft Italian salad dressing. Bam!

My Tofurkey sits in its cooking dish surrounded by carrots, red potatoes, and broccoli, basted with Italian dressing. This is going to be good.
My Tofurkey sits in its cooking dish surrounded by carrots, red potatoes, and broccoli, basted with Italian dressing. This is going to be good.
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Plums Crazy; Can You Blame Them?

It's late November and two of my plum trees think it's March. I wonder if they know something we don't.
It’s late November and two of my plum trees think it’s March. I wonder if they know something we don’t.

Until a couple of days ago, it’s been unseasonably warm here in our corner of Oklahoma. It’s been so warm, in fact, that two of my plum trees have lost their minds and blossomed, presumably “thinking” it’s springtime.

That’s not all that’s delusional. Many of my friends and I are still in dismay over politics, so much so that something as simple as scrolling down a Facebook feed becomes an ordeal. I hate to bury my head in the sand, but social media has become too combative, stressful and deceptive. When I get stressed about things like these, I like to take pictures (which I do for living), and work hard outside.

Yesterday was one such day working outdoors, and included photographing and measuring the roof of the decaying dog house, then tearing it apart and hauling it to the burn pile. That’s when I saw the plum blossoms. I also decided to tidy up the range, including building a stand for a shipping pallet to be used as a paper target holder, since I recently repainted Abby’s father’s gun bench to use for more precision shooting.

This is the handle I fashioned for the wheeled poly-cart, in the process of being painted yesterday.
This is the handle I fashioned for the wheeled poly-cart, in the process of being painted yesterday.

I also reorganized a bunch of tools, which included adding a number of surplus cup hooks for hanging things like box wrenches.

Finally, as I returned from taking the trash to the curb, which my readers know is 100 yards from the house, I decided to finally act on a notion I had earlier this year. The trash can I currently use is a wheeled poly-cart, but the handle is too short for someone my height, so to roll it to the curb, I have to stoop a bit, and it tries to cronk my heels as I go. The solution was a piece of wood with a notch in it to extend the length of the handle.

Finally, back to social media: I don’t know where all this national stress is leading, but I can feel it everywhere. The parade of unfollowing and unfriending genuinely, willfully ignorant people continues. I find myself closing browser windows with Facebook or Twitter, and opening ones with Photo.net and the photography blogs and sites of my friends. I want to think about what I can do, not what I can’t.

Admittedly, in all the turmoil I am definitely looking forward to Thanksgiving with my wife.
Admittedly, in all the turmoil I am definitely looking forward to Thanksgiving with my wife.
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Coffee on the Porch

The rising sun shines through Abby's cat stained glass this morning.
The rising sun shines through Abby’s cat stained glass this morning.
This was our view of the porch and front yard this morning.
This was our view of the porch and front yard this morning.

Abby and I have wanted to have coffee at sunrise on our new front porch/deck, and today we made time to do it. It was an amazing morning, cold and soft. The coffee was just right. The dogs were chilly and wanted to be inside our clothing. We heard birds and the breeze in the wind chimes. The sun came up through the trees.

It was a penultimately romantic moment.

Abby hides in her hood as she holds Max on the porch this morning.
Abby hides in her hood as she holds Max on the porch this morning.
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EnDui Special Circumstance

Sometimes I carry my Ruger SR22 loaded with CCI Stingers. Big-caliber guys might not agree, but I feel that I can defend myself with this combination.
Sometimes I carry my Ruger SR22 loaded with CCI Stingers. Big-caliber guys might not agree, but I feel that I can defend myself with this combination.

After work last night I encountered an EnDui checkpoint. It is a program I support, and the experience was positive for me, with a twist.

Since Abby and I now both have an Oklahoma Handgun License, we are statutorily required to present that license along with our driver license if we are armed, which I was. Some YouTubers with concealed carry licenses have posted videos talking about difficulties they have encountered in this situation, but that was not the case for me last night, my first such occasion.

I greeted the trooper, who I did not recognize (meaning he was not assigned to our county; probably part of a DUI task force), who asked me, “May I see your license and proof of insurance?”

“Before I do, I need to tell you I have a handgun license, which I am going to show you. My weapon is in the center console, but I’m just going to leave it there.”

I said it with some authority, making eye contact and moving calmly and non-threateningly. He looked at my handgun license, then watched as I opened the center console and, without touching my weapon, getting my insurance certificate, which he checked. He then verified my tag, and politely thanked me.

I felt this experience went exactly as it should have: I am a responsible citizen exercising my right to travel, meeting the requirements for that, and exercising my right to lawfully carry a firearm. I treated the police with respect, which they returned.

But, what if everything was the same except my skin color? What if, instead of a casually but well-dressed white man in his mid 50s I had been a teenaged black man wearing a hoodie? It’s temping to imagine police would have treated me differently, but here is the real truth: I was prepared to comply with any lawful request made of me: put my hands on the steering wheel, step out of the vehicle, let the officer secure my weapon, all of which are consistent with the law.

Our Rights as Citizens

With that said, I will never consent to allow police to search my vehicle without a warrant, and you shouldn’t either. Not only is it your right not to allow a search, giving consent is allowing police to circumvent good, lawful police procedure.

Some police in some jurisdictions (though not in my area, where the police are civil) might try to bully you into it with phrases like, “you need to let us look in your car before we can let you go,” or “If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to lose.” But know your rights. Say no. Tell them to get a warrant. If they threaten to detain you, ask them if you are under arrest. If they say no but still prevent you from leaving, respectfully tell them you believe you are being illegally detained, which you are.

As I left the checkpoint, I thanked the officer for what he was doing. According to the web site, last night that checkpoint made six DUI arrests, three other alcohol arrests, four felony arrests, and wrote 146 citations or warnings. They are keeping drunk drivers off the roads, drivers who could have killed you or me.

By the way, if you have ever driven drunk, even once, you are probably an alcoholic.

My number one carry weapon is the compact, capable Ruger LCP.
My number one carry weapon is the compact, capable Ruger LCP.
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Insert Better Title Here for Observational Douchery

Sorry, bro. Your honking campaign didn't change the world. A for effort, though.
Sorry, bro. Your honking campaign didn’t change the world. A for effort, though.

Other Title: Toxic, Do Not Read

Alternate title: Dozens of Rants Rolled Into One

Alternate alternate title: Seven and a Half Billion People, Almost None of Whom Matter

Alternate Other Title: Cleaning Out My Drafts Folder

Other other alternate title: Bursting Your Stupid Little Bubble

Other other alternate alternate title: Post-Election Brain Dump

The one thing you have in common with the rest of humanity is that you can screw, so don’t try to convince me it’s something special.

Think I'm wrong? Without looking it up, take this quiz...

  • Name an accomplishment of Albert Einstein’s.
  • Name an accomplishment of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s.
  • Now name any of their children.

Every asshole you ever met was once an innocent child, so chances are that some of the innocent children you know are eventually going to be assholes. In fact, lots of them are assholes right now.

Here’s a dirty little secret: people with children don’t care about your children. They’re really just interested in telling you how much better their children are than yours are.

If you are part of the anti-vax (anti-vaccination) crowd because you think vaccinations gave your child an autistic spectrum disorder, I have news for you: your kid is an asshole because you are a lazy parent.

No one wants to see video of your children crying, making faces at the camera, farting, or performing in any kind of school-sponsored play or music event. Proof of this is that all video recordings of such things is of the children of the parents doing the filming and no one else.

That's right, t-shirt guy. You and your wardrobe get to decide who matters.
That’s right, t-shirt guy. You and your wardrobe get to decide who matters.
Tiers of Residency in the New Order

When I am leader (not a very dramatic word – maybe there’s a better one in another language), I intend to create various tiers of residency, with the most common being civilian. Here is a first draft of who will be who…

  • The Honored Dead.
  • Citizen. This rank entitles the holder to all the important privileges of society, from air travel to access to the internet. Honorable military, social and educational service automatically qualifies the person. They get the healthiest foods and the best medical care, all for free. This is the only class whose choices will be actually considered when deciding social issues.
  • Civilian. Most people fall into this category. Illiterate, shallow, factually incorrect or offensive behavior keeps one from advancing above this station. Free access to staple foods and low-tech transportation only. No internet, no television.
  • Prole. Hillbillies, petty criminals, idiots, the monstrously obese, creationists, conspiracy theorists, Trump supporters, astrology fans. Vocal devotion to silly religions lands you here. Beans and rice. Access to sidewalks. Natural disease processes will cull this herd.
  • Felon. Though not defined specifically by today’s criminal standards, a felony will get you into this slot, as will various vaguely-defined treasons that change from day to day as my moods change. Parents of minor children who commit adultery automatically become felons. It won’t take long for this category to disappear, as felons will not be permitted to appear in public, and are not allowed any rations or shelter. Drunk drivers, child molesters, wife beaters, rapists, hardcore bullies, mass murderers, and other truly reprehensible people will not be classified as felons, since they will be destroyed at first opportunity.

No one, on the other hand, will be permitted to live in luxury, since luxury is for the lazy, the decadent, the weak. Truly evolved beings don’t desire it anyway.

My Richardtopia: love it or die.

Google, how come you know so much about the nature of humanity?
Google, how come you know so much about the nature of humanity?

You were raised in that religion, so don’t pretend it’s some kind of achievement to practice it.

You lived in that school district, so don’t fudge your Huggies because you were a Hokie or a Gamecock or a Trojan or a Tarheel or a Pug. It just happened to you.

Your wedding dress looked stupid and unattractive and made you look fat. I say this not because I saw yours, but because almost all wedding dresses are stupid and unattractive.

This is Fun...

For the second time in my lifetime, we just selected a president without electing him…

Hillary Clinton: 60,839,922
Donald Trump: 60,265,858 (“winner”)

How would you do this? Sue the media? No one's ever thought of that.
How would you do this? Sue the media? No one’s ever thought of that.

The music you like is consistently the shittiest. Why? Because mainstream popular music is consistently terrible, and it’s popularity means that most people like it.

“We’ll crucify the insincere tonight.” ~Smashing Pumpkins

Most manicures and pedicures make your hands and feet look like jagged, razor-sharp rat claws.

Own your feelings: you don’t hate homosexuality. You hate fags. Just admit it. I have more respect for an honest bigot than for a pretentious one. The same applies if you hate blacks, Mexicans, women, Jews, atheists, Muslims, etc. You are already marginalized by your ignorance and fear, so why not at least come clean about who you are?

I also hate you if you are outraged by expressions of hate or bigotry or hostility: at least, finally, someone was honest about feelings we all have. We all have. Don’t tell me you are all sunshine and love of all mankind, because that’s the biggest lie ever.

Hating bigots makes you a bigot.

Thank you, self-righteous dickheads on Facebook, for telling us how to run a newspaper. I’m sure you are less than a month from opening your own much better newspaper.

Your photography is terrible. I don’t say this because I’ve seen it. I say it because almost all photography is terrible. Even some professional photography is terrible. Your videography is even worse.

Your phone owns you, not the other way around.

Word Virus

In the 1980s, I had a girlfriend who hated the words jubilee and succulent. Here are some words I hate, or think are used annoyingly and make you sound stupid and shallow…

  • Gitfiddle
  • Tootsies
  • Clodhoppers
  • Kiddos
  • Hubby
  • Yummy

I hate it when people think they know about disease. Often you hear them say, “It’s just a virus,” not realizing, I guess, that polio, smallpox, ebola, and the influenza that killed 50 million people in 1918 are viruses.

There are actually people in the world like this. They are nearly in my back yard, literally.
There are actually people in the world like this. They are nearly in my back yard, literally.

Your fashion sense is shallow and childish. I don’t say this because I see how you dress. I say this because of Uggs and Crocs and nose rings and popped collars and spray-on tans.

You’re not a Hobbit, you’re not a Sith Lord, you’re not a starship commander, you’re not a superhero. You never will be.

Things to Stop Saying

“I’m allergic to gluten.” No, you’re not. You are a trend-follower. And you aren’t fat because of gluten.

I'll take my chances.
I’ll take my chances.

“I’m agnostic.” This word literally means “no knowledge,” so you are saying you don’t know. That’s not a belief.

“_____ people are/think______.” No matter how socially conscious you are, there is never a circumstance when you are able to know what any group of people all think.

“I was born in the wrong era.” Unless you have lived through smallpox and slavery, you were born at a good time.

“Lean not on your own understanding” or “God’s plan is too great for us to comprehend.” You would have been a good Nazi.

“I support {candidate} because he/she thinks **one issue**.” It’s the 21st century, and you still pick an entire political philosophy because you want to be able to buy silencers at gun shows.

“You’re a racist.” The truth is that racism isn’t a thought or a belief, but an action, and even then, behaving morally in every way yet being the wrong color never means you are a racist. And consider this: no one is black or white or yellow or red. We are all different shades of melanin.

This one is just a little too "on the money."
This one is just a little too “on the money.”
If you don't believe it, test it out yourself.
If you don’t believe it, test it out yourself.

If you’re really, really good at video games, you’re not good at or for much else.

I’m not saying I’m better than you. I don’t really need to. While I’m outside pruning peach trees, you’re inside LOLing at cat videos. That’s all there is to it.

I am definitely not using the word “fudgepacker” enough.

When I die, please don’t trot out a list of things I love, because you will get it wrong. I don’t love walks on the beach, I don’t love shopping. I don’t love my fellow man.

I love my wife, our families, and our dogs. I love cutting the grass. I love hiking and exploring. I love flying. I love taking pictures and do that for a living.

I Honestly Don't Care

  • I don’t care if football players are gay
  • I don’t care if figure skaters pout
  • I don’t care which celebrities marry each other
  • I don’t care about Starbuck’s coffee
  • I don’t care about which politicians slept with whoever
  • I don’t care who loses the most weight
  • I don’t care who objects to what idiots say
  • I don’t care what color or gender the President is
  • I don’t care what the Pope says
  • I don’t care about special effects
  • I don’t care which Arabs kill which Jews, or which Jews kill which Arabs
  • I don’t care

Please stop telling that joke, the one that never ever gets a laugh. You’ve been telling it for 40 years, and it’s never been funny. It marks you as a bad listener. Example, “I resemble that remark.”

When Does It Change?

When does a human soul become evil?

We don’t hold children responsible for their actions no matter how terrible because we believe they don’t understand the consequences of those actions. “He’s only three; he didn’t mean to run over his sister with that shopping cart.”

Are fetuses ever evil? The religious might say that we become evil when we break from god. When are we eligible to do that? 10? 13? When we get our first hard-on?

In conclusion: lick me.

In conclusion: shit.

In conclusion: I give up.

In conclusion: we are all f*cked.

Do any of us really have a choice?
Do any of us really have a choice?
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Red State Remorse

“Richard, what’s going too happen to us?” ~Abby this morning after hearing that Donald Trump will be our next president.

I voted Saturday, knowing full well that my vote for president would disappear in our red state's electorate.
I voted Saturday, knowing full well that my vote for president would disappear in our red state’s electorate.

Abby and I live a quiet, rural American life. Major changes in presidential politics don’t effect us all that much. My great concern however, is that we as a nation might be about to undo some very significant progress, such as the Iran nuclear deal, marriage equality, and abortion rights.

Are we about to enter a period of shallow flag-waving and unpopular war such as the Bush era, or are we headed down a far darker path?

I remember in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected, the right turned into a bunch of babies. I remember one in particular, “Carissa,” who was so butt-hurt that she actually blogged, “You are not my president.” I resolved at that time to not be like Carissa, that no matter who we elect, we elected them. Sometimes you get your candidate, and sometimes you don’t.

Yesterday I predicted Clinton would win, and I was wrong. It is now time to accept that Donald Trump will be our next president and try to work together to keep America great. I wonder, though, how many people will end up regretting this decision.

Last night our sports editor asked our staff to predict the election results. As you can see, we all picked Clinton, with my prediction being the narrowest margin.
Last night our sports editor asked our staff to predict the election results. As you can see, we all picked Clinton, with my prediction being the narrowest margin.
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