The First Day of Summer

Abby and I look at each other like we hung the moon as Robert photographs us Wednesday evening.
Abby and I look at each other like we hung the moon as Robert photographs us Wednesday evening.
Hawken, our Irish Wolfhound, and I pose for Robert near the pond last night.
Hawken, our Irish Wolfhound, and I pose for Robert near the pond last night.

Today is the first day of summer 2019. Spring brought tremendous rain, gorgeous pastures, peach and plum trees sagging from the weight of fruit, and early yesterday morning, widespread thunderstorm damage in our neck of the southeastern Oklahoma woods.

A fortunate collision of timing allowed our good friend Robert to join me in our coverage of the storm damage from a fast-moving line of severe thunderstorms that rolled through about 3 a.m. Damage was widespread and caused damage to numerous trees, and downed power lines across the region.

We were fortunate at our home in Byng that we only had a few branches blown down, and none of the garden or the peach trees were affected. Some areas had more dramatic damage, and power was out throughout the region for more than 15,000 customers at one point.
We were fortunate at our home in Byng that we only had a few branches blown down, and none of the garden or the peach trees were affected. Some areas had more dramatic damage, and power was out throughout the region for more than 15,000 customers at one point.
Our summer intern, Ashlynd, looks on as I edit storm damage photos Wednesday. It was a huge news day, and Ashlynd, Robert and I all had a blast covering it.
Our summer intern, Ashlynd, looks on as I edit storm damage photos Wednesday. It was a huge news day, and Ashlynd, Robert and I all had a blast covering it.

More than 15,000 residents were without power, including us in Byng. As luck would have it, we did have power at the office, so we got the paper out, but the Pauls Valley paper wasn’t as fortunate, and I don’t know how they eventually got their product together.

Hawken steals peaches from a low-hanging branch while Robert makes images.
Hawken steals peaches from a low-hanging branch while Robert makes images.
Your host holds our spritely indoor dog, Summer the Chihuahua.
Your host holds our spritely indoor dog, Summer the Chihuahua.

Robert lives in the D.C. area, but came to Tulsa to photography his niece Rowan’s wedding, and had some time to come down yesterday, just in time to round up some nice storm cleanup images, which are in today’s Ada News.

After a long day of that, and Abby texting us “Power!!! Power!!!” at 2:04 p.m. (for an outage time of about 12 hours), we went home to shift to phase two of our day of photography, photographing our pets, our patch, and each other.

Readers might recall that Robert photographed Abby and me in November, and those image ended up being some of my all-time favorites of the two of us, and I hoped to recreate the magic, and the session was everything I wanted it to be.

Robert moved us to an even sunnier spot as our portrait session progressed. I feel happy when I look at pictures of us together like this. This is now the lead image on our home page.
Robert moved us to an even sunnier spot as our portrait session progressed. I feel happy when I look at pictures of us together like this. This is now the lead image on our home page.

A Beautiful Little Life

I think this is one of the most beautiful images I've made this year: my wife Abby carrying her Chihuahua Summer as the neighbor dog Elly walks alongside as the sun goes down on our patch of green here in Oklahoma.
I think this is one of the most beautiful images I’ve made this year: my wife Abby carrying her Chihuahua Summer as the neighbor dog Elly walks alongside as the sun goes down on our patch of green here in Oklahoma.

In recent weeks my wife Abby and I have gotten in the habit of me picking up dinner from San Remos Pizzeria hera in Ada, a baked ziti for her and a big veggie pizza for me, and eating on those items for several days, since it’s a lot of food. I always feel happy when I can bring it home to her, and she feels happy when I do.

San Remos Pizzeria in Ada is currently one of our favorite places for take out. This is their veggie pizza.
San Remos Pizzeria in Ada is currently one of our favorite places for take out. This is their veggie pizza.
Abby and Hawken have a cordial chat on our front deck last week.
Abby and Hawken have a cordial chat on our front deck last week.

Abby’s been walking our Chihuahua, Summer, when I walk our Irish Wolfhound Hawken. It’s been unbelievably warm, green and beautiful out the last few weeks.

Keen shoes aren't for everybody, but they are among my favorites. They are waterproof, so they are great for everything from hiking with wet crossings to washing the cars and the Wolfhounds.
Keen shoes aren’t for everybody, but they are among my favorites. They are waterproof, so they are great for everything from hiking with wet crossings to washing the cars and the Wolfhounds.

It’s Father’s Day, and though I am not a father (except maybe to our dogs), I am a step father, and I also have a birthday coming up shortly, so I decided I wanted new shoes. On Amazon, I found a nice pair of casual black shoes to go with dressier clothes, and I got another pair of Keens.

I got my first pair of Keens from my sister as a Christmas gift, and I like them so much I tend to wear them so much I wear them out. I learned years ago that different styles of Keen shoes fit very differently, and if I find a style, I should stick with it. Mine is the H2 Newport. They are rugged, waterproof, and super cool-looking.

Our trees and the pasture and garden are all happy and healthy. “It’s sure pretty out,” Abby commented as I wrote this. Tonight I’ll be out there again, walking dogs and tending tomato plants on our little patch of green in the country.

Epic clouds roll across the eastern sky last weekend as I drove home from a meeting.
Epic clouds roll across the eastern sky last weekend as I drove home from a meeting.

Ruminations on The Convention

Your host listens to a guest speaker at the 2019 Oklahoma Press Association's annual convention in Shawnee.
Your host listens to a guest speaker at the 2019 Oklahoma Press Association’s annual convention in Shawnee.

I spent Friday and Saturday at the Oklahoma Press Association’s (OPA) annual convention at the Grand Casino and Resort in Shawnee, Oklahoma. I offered my services as photographer since they were so happy with the product I gave them in February at their Legislative Summit. I shot well, and had some breaks between sessions, so I was able to deliver images as I generated them. I feel like they will be happy with them.

OPA convention attendees listen to a breakout session speaker yesterday afternoon. The young blonde girl on the front row is Ashlynd Elizabeth Huffman, our summer intern.
OPA convention attendees listen to a breakout session speaker yesterday afternoon. The young blonde girl on the front row is Ashlynd Elizabeth Huffman, our summer intern.

Some ideas for the coming year regarding OPA….

  • Our Publisher, Mark Millsap, speaks to a session yesterday. In addition to The Ada News, Mark is Publisher at five other newspapers.
    Our Publisher, Mark Millsap, speaks to a session yesterday. In addition to The Ada News, Mark is Publisher at five other newspapers.

    I should make a hard push to enter my work, both in photography and in column writing. I didn’t really get around to it last January, nor did my staff, so we were unrepresented in the competition…

  • …as were many newspapers across the state, probably for the same reason. I feel like I should compete.
  • There is also a monthly photo contest I should enter. It’s easy as my career winds on for decades to regard contests as “been there, done that,” but I think it would be fun to rejoin the ranks of the competitions.
  • I like dressing up. I think I look good in a tie and a dress shirt. This might be because I am tall and thin.
  • They fed us constantly. I probably had more calories in the 24 hours of OPA than I did in the preceding week combined, much of it starchy and sugary. I kept asking myself how these people eat so much all the time without getting fat, but then took a closer look around me and realized that…
  • Journalists still fit the doughnut and Snicker’s bar paradigm. Very few of my friends and colleagues seem thin and healthy.
  • Everyone was glad to see me, and they all seemed to hold me and my work in high esteem.

I am  finished with my images, and uploaded them to the server for the OPA staff. It was a good time.

The OPA convention was hosted at the palatial Grand Casino and Resort in Shawnee.
The OPA convention was hosted at the palatial Grand Casino and Resort in Shawnee.

Unwitnessed Suffering

Unhappiness.

I am a big adherent of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s a very well-vetted theory, and has always made sense to me. For much of my life I was stuck in the center of the pyramid, lacking what I perceived as a necessity, romantic love. I had it off and on, but never with much promise or stability.

As I thought about this…

“My life is filled with undocumented suffering.” ~Journal, 1998

I listen to music as much as I am able. I am particularly attached to it when I am in my car, traveling around for work. My car has a USB port, and can control my iPod from the dashboard stereo and even from the steering wheel.

I almost always have it set to shuffle the songs.

What if you wanted every word you said unheard?
What if you wanted every word you said unheard?

Sometimes a song will shuffle through that will take me back, often way back. 1997. 1992. 1986. 1979.

As those songs shuffle past to memories, particularly memories of times after breakups, I think about what it was like then. Maybe I felt like a failure. Maybe I was angry. Maybe I was down. Maybe I was feeling sorry for myself.

Then, as I was walking our wolfhound recently, an epiphany: no one else witnessed that, and especially, the ex girlfriend the song was about didn’t witness it. It was just me, in that small downtown apartment or in my room in high school or on the road trying to do my job far from home, night after night, thinking about her. She never heard those songs or had any idea what was happening to me. She moved on.

So I assumed, anyway. Maybe she was all torn up inside and listening to a whole different cadre of music to wallow in it or get over it.

In any case, when Forever Autumn or Mercy Street or Impossible Things or Do What You Have to Do shuffles past again, it will mean something different to me. Melissa never heard those songs. They meant nothing to Michelle. Pam moved on. Kathy found someone else. And so on.

This is me in 1998 with my journal. It was a hard year, filled with unwitnessed suffering about yet another woman. Do I look pensive? Thoughtful? Self-indulgent?
This is me in 1998 with my journal. It was a hard year, filled with unwitnessed suffering about yet another woman. Do I look pensive? Thoughtful? Self-indulgent?

A ginormoose advantage to being married is that I don’t have to deal with courting. I somehow ended up going out with quite few women in my youth (a friend told me her 40-something husband was a virgin when they got married and had never been out with another woman more than once… eeep!), but I got smote on five times that many occasions trying to get women to go out with me, or, fate forbid, go out with me again. That was an even harder blow… “he seemed nice, but after lunch with him, ick.”

A long-ago girlfriend, who I had loved very deeply at the time, recently confessed to me that, “Now – I know with all my heart – you were who I should have been with.” I have to admit to being very flattered by such a pronouncement, but at the same time understanding that it was neither true nor had any relevance. Or maybe I should say that there was certainly no way to determine it was true, at least not without a time machine. Sure, I would have loved her like sunshine, but that doesn’t mean we could have married and stayed married. Marriage isn’t magic or in the stars, but the result of patience, planning, working, forgiving, building and rebuilding it every single day. I was 29 and she was 27 when we were together, and neither of us was ready to be married.

She was a writer, a good one. It’s one of the most interesting things about her. Now, decades later, despite my encouragements, she doesn’t write much. She puts pen to paper and nothing comes out, a result of her physical disabilities and the treatment for them. It breaks my heart, because she was brilliant, and I think she could still be brilliant if she could find a way.

There was a fair amount of unwitnessed  suffering about her and our breakup as well. Songs. Pictures. Smells. Memories. I had no choice but to let her go, with no real idea if any of her feelings for me were real or if she felt anything after I was gone.

Through it all I wrote and wrote. I don't know if it helped, but it does help me remember what it was like.
Through it all I wrote and wrote. I don’t know if it helped, but it does help me remember what it was like.

Why Rebranding?

I know I wrote it, but what if I unwrote it? Would you read it then?
I know I wrote it, but what if I unwrote it? Would you read it then?

I see this a lot: someone will start a blog or website, post content to it, be disappointed in the result, abandon the site, and start another site with another URL, and post the same content with a slightly different style or stated goal. This is tail chasing, and here’s why…

  • Changing your URL from iheartphotos.wordpress.com to ilovephotos.wordpress.com has no effect on who sees your site. This might have mattered in 2001, but today, very few web users care about URLs.
  • You can change your existing site to reflect your new ideas and presentation without abandoning it or moving to a different web address; just change the theme and move the old content to the drafts folder or delete it.
  • If you do abandon a site or blog, do us all a favor and delete it into the stone age. Nobody likes link rot, and it will divide and confuse your potential readers.
  • Abandoning a site alienates people who visited it, and they often just give up rather than adjust their bookmarks, because people don’t use bookmarks like they once did.
  • Nothing about changing where you blog will change how you blog. If you generated boring stuff for 123.com, your content will still be boring on 456.com.
  • Changing your site or your blog has little chance of changing your life. Really, that whole millennial “reinventing myself after long hours of soul-searching” is just bullshift.
  • “I plan to start a blog” means nothing. Start. Your. Blog.

I write this as yet another friend has reinvented herself for about the fifth time. Her work remains exactly the same, as does her notion that changing web addresses will change everything.

You know what wins awards? Content.
You know what wins awards? Content.

I’ve Never Had Peaches Like This

My picking basket sits on the ground full of cherries and peaches this week. I have probably picked a hundred, and if I can, I'll pick a hundred more.
My picking basket sits on the ground full of cherries and peaches this week. I have probably picked a hundred, and if I can, I’ll pick a hundred more.
The mimosa trees on our property seemed to blossom overnight, and I was very happy to see them.
The mimosa trees on our property seemed to blossom overnight, and I was very happy to see them.

I planted my small orchard in a semicircle around the garden in 2007. It has been an amazing adventure to watch them all grow and thrive, but for the most part, weather and circumstance have limited the amount of fruit I’ve gotten from them. In fact, previously my plum trees have only ever produced one plum. One.

A ripe peach hangs on my early Elberta peach tree two nights ago. Unlike years ago, it was among very many peaches on this tree this spring.
A ripe peach hangs on my early Elberta peach tree two nights ago. Unlike years ago, it was among very many peaches on this tree this spring.

This year, however, has been different. All my trees have numerous fruit on them. My early Elberta peach tree is delivering huge, juicy, flavorful peaches this week like I have never seen. My cherry trees are both loaded with fruit, though they are smaller and not as sweet as grocery store cherries, possibly because the trees are immature. I also have dozens of small, sweet plums that are hard to eat because they are so juicy.

I expect this bounty is a combination of abundant rain and “just right” temperatures.

I have a zillion cherries this year as well. They are sour, but fun to eat, and Hawken the Irish Wolfhound loves them.
I have a zillion cherries this year as well. They are sour, but fun to eat, and Hawken the Irish Wolfhound loves them.

My good friend and fellow photographer Courtney Morehead came out last night to pick a dozen or so peaches and sample a couple of plums and cherries, as well as meet Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. Courtney and I have been working on sidelines and courts for years now; me for newspaper and her as a senior/portrait photographer. It was great to share the fruition with her.

I grabbed my 50mm f/1.4 this week to shoot these wildflowers in the pasture. Forgive me if the selective focus is a little too millennial-y.
I grabbed my 50mm f/1.4 this week to shoot these wildflowers in the pasture. Forgive me if the selective focus is a little too millennial-y.
Wes Edens shows me his pollinator garden during a visit to his home this week. He gave me some flowers to take home and plant in my garden.
Wes Edens shows me his pollinator garden during a visit to his home this week. He gave me some flowers to take home and plant in my garden.

All the fruit on the early Elberta is ripening at once, so it will be gone soon, in me or on the ground. I have six more peach trees what should make fruit on July.

I am also cultivating an excellent selection in the garden that includes regular tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, Cherokee purple tomatoes, two kinds of bell peppers, cucumbers, squash, and cantaloupes. Between them are marigolds and some pollinator flowers my other photographer friend Wes Edens gave me Tuesday when I went out to his place to shoot some of his guns, which is always fun.

I feel happy when I think of being a part of nature.

Eating your home grown fruits and vegetables can be a goal for some, but to me, it's the icing on the cake of being a part of nurturing the land.
Eating your home grown fruits and vegetables can be a goal for some, but to me, it’s the icing on the cake of being a part of nurturing the land.

Sure. A Sneeze.

I will miss my snot pet. It was with me a long time.
I will miss my snot pet. It was with me a long time.

“Hay fever. Hay pneumonia. Hay coma. My last breath is a sneeze.” ~Green Bük, 1994

“…a falsely heightened sense that my own morality was superior…” ~Wil, 2019

One of these days I’m going to have the ultimate sneeze, one that gets out all that bad stuff: the anger, the stink of old age, the accumulated mistakes, the pollen.

The product will sit in the sink, stunned for a moment, then scurry off to infect someone else.

Some Seasons…

I started the morning by weighing myself, 145 pounds. My wife Abby and I are both thinner now than the day we met, maybe even a couple of pounds too thin.

After I picked some peaches, cherries, and plums, I dumped the basket out in a clover patch to make this image. Even if I were to never eat a single bite of this fruit, growing it is worth it because it is so beautiful.
After I picked some peaches, cherries, and plums, I dumped the basket out in a clover patch to make this image. Even if I were to never eat a single bite of this fruit, growing it is worth it because it is so beautiful.

Yesterday I covered the Artesian Arts Festival, a growing, super-popular Native American street festival in Sulphur, Oklahoma. I usually go early so I can beat the heat, and even though I was there right at the start time, it was packed.

I saw my friend Margaret, who was showing her art in one of the booths.

I got these four giveaway garden plants in the ground last night, two bell pepper plants and two Cherokee purple tomatoes.
I got these four giveaway garden plants in the ground last night, two bell pepper plants and two Cherokee purple tomatoes.

I shot well, and as I was leaving, I got two green bell pepper plants and two Cherokee purple tomato plants from a giveaway program. I got them planted in the garden last night.

On the way home, I brought lunch for us from San Remos, a bake ziti for Abby, and a veggie pizza for me, then ate as I worked my images from the festival and delivered them to my editor.

Later in the evening, I decided to pick some of my huge crop of early Elberta peaches, from the tree I felt certain had doomed itself by blooming too early, just before a hard freeze.

I am also astonished by how well all my other trees are doing. I have plums for the first time ever, and a huge number of cherries. Some seasons I am just happy to see my trees be trees, and some seasons shower me with produce. It’s almost impossible to guess how it will go, since there are so many variables, but in many ways, that’s one of the fun things about it.

Hawken, our 160-pound Irish Wolfhound, slobbers over a peach I gave him a few nights ago. The next time I looked up, he had eaten it.
Hawken, our 160-pound Irish Wolfhound, slobbers over a peach I gave him a few nights ago. The next time I looked up, he had eaten it.

FInally, I had the urge to shoot a few mags of 9mm through my Ruger P95, the same one I dreamed about recently.

In the dream...
I catch some thugs trashing the house, but am too late to confront them. I am able to shoot one round from my 9mm into the back of their car from more than a mile away. Abby and I are then in the first class section of a 747 headed for Houston. For some reason I still have my 9mm. I wear it in an open holster or put it on the table in front of me. No one seems to notice or care, which I find very odd, and am unable to find anywhere to put it out of sight. People complain that my laptop is too loud, but say nothing about the fact that I am armed.

I hadn’t put any combat calibers downrange since January, and felt rusty. It was good to get back in the swing, and I shot competently.

There has been a lot of Oklahoma weather news this month, including tornadoes and flooding, but our little patch of green in the country is doing just fine.

My Ruger P95 leans against my tan range bag on the gun bench down by the pond last night. I put 70 rounds through it, with satisfying results.
My Ruger P95 leans against my tan range bag on the gun bench down by the pond last night. I put 70 rounds through it, with satisfying results.

 

Boeing’s Mistake

Aviators and aviation fans who follow the news know that recent months have not gone at all well for American passenger aircraft manufacturer Boeing. Two Boeing 737 passenger jets crashed in recent months, both brand new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, killing a total of 338 people.

The entire 737 MAX fleet has been grounded since the second crash. Subsequent investigations have pointed to the jet’s new MCAS system, a computer-controlled device intended to tame the aerodynamic difficulties that came about from the necessity of adding bigger, more powerful engines that didn’t quite fit under the low ride of the original 737, engines that had to be reshaped and moved forward and upward on their mounts.

The whole idea of putting big engines on this jet has its limits, and, as we are now seeing, has a huge consequence.

Where am I going with this? In the 1980s and 1990s, Boeing built an excellent, powerful, reliable, narrow-bodied jet that, had it been nurtured and developed within its role among airliners, would have been perfect in the role the 737 MAX is trying to occupy: the Boeing 757.

Boeing built the 757 from the start to serve to 200 to 295 passenger market. It featured a large, ahead-of-its-time wing, and huge, fuel-efficient engines. It was a beautiful aircraft, and remains a workhorse jet for airlines like Delta, American, Fed Ex, and UPS,  who are looking without success for a replacement for the 757.

The problem arises from Boeing’s short-term thinking. When 757 sales slumped, Boeing abandoned it, and tried to work stretched 737’s to take its place. The real answer would have been to make the 757 a priority, in engineering, performance, efficiency, and reputation. Let the 737 be the perfect plane for Denver to Sioux City, then position the 757 for Houston to Seattle.

The same thing happened to precipitate the 737 MAX debacle: when airlines told Boeing they needed a “new” jet right now, Boeing decided to abandon any new designs and “MAX” the 737, a jet that fundamentally dates back to 1963.

I know: who am I to talk but a business dilettante? But I’ve been right a few times about this and that: MySpace, Radio Shack, JC Penney, Sears, Wards, Hipstamatic. And it’s absolutely valid for me to make observations about the business world in which huge, thriving corporations are driven into dust by MBAs who should know better than I.

A Boeing 737 Classic makes a touch-and-go-landing at Ada Regional Airport recently.
A Boeing 737 Classic makes a touch-and-go-landing at Ada Regional Airport recently.

Insane Weather That Wasn’t, Dressing Up, Nerdman’s Pride and More!

A crew uses a giant tube crane to deliver concrete to the piers on which our new cell tower, Nerdman's Pride, will roost.
A crew uses a giant tube crane to deliver concrete to the piers on which our new cell tower, Nerdman’s Pride, will roost.

This week has been loaded like a fast food baked potato…

  • The Weather: This week the National Weather Service issued their highest level of severe thunderstorm caution. We all expected to be under the rage of tornadoes all day, but it didn’t rain at all until the next morning, and none of that was severe. I know they have to follow the data, but it seems like a wolf cry.
We were not just in the hot zone, we were in the pink zone!
We were not just in the hot zone, we were in the pink zone!
  • I dressed up four times this month. It was fun, and I felt like I looked good.
    I dressed up four times this month. It was fun, and I felt like I looked good.

    The Cell Tower: after I posted a survey for a while at the top of this blog (which is now gone), the official nickname of the cell tower being built next door will be Nerdman’s Pride. The first crew from R&S Tower finished their work, installing the road, the gas and electricity, the foundation, and the pillars. They left yesterday, saying the next crew would “stack,” or build the actual tower part of the tower.

  • Dressing Up: I’ve very much enjoyed dressing up for covering area graduations the past couple of weeks. I am really thin now, and feel like I look really good in a dress shirt and tie. Most of the attendees are dressed very casually, but it still feels good to clean up.
  • Coming Out the Closet: The big clean-out continues for both my wife and me, as we are both a great weight now, and we have lot of clothing that no longer fits.
Who needs pants?!?
Who needs pants?!?
  • New Rides: I got new tires for my Nissan Juke. I always feel like my car is two inches taller when I drive on new tires.
Not only are these new tires super grippy, they shed water like Fonzie's hair.
Not only are these new tires super grippy, they shed water like Fonzie’s hair.
  • The Carol Burnett Show: With the recent death of Tim Conway, YouTube has been suggesting more videos of him, particularly his appearances on The Carol Burnett Show. In addition to being surprisingly low-budget in appearance (the staging looks like it could have been done at a high school), it amazes and annoys me that we were so tolerant of truly offensive humor, skits and bits no one could do today because they are so politically incorrect. Some of them are also not funny on their faces; the joke is over in about 45 seconds, but the skit lasts 13 minutes. Watch this hilarity about Nazis torturing a prisoner of war…

Goodbye Max

Sierra, left, greets Max on the day we brought him home from the animal shelter in January 2006.
Sierra, left, greets Max on the day we brought him home from the animal shelter in January 2006.
Max and I hike near Utah’s Butler Wash in October 2006.

Maximum Speed Boulevard, our male Chihuahua since January 2006, has died. He was about 15 years old.

We originally adopted Max from the Pontotoc Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) on January 7, 2006, one day before he was slated to be euthanized (which PAWS no longer does). One of Abby’s coworkers told us about him, and Abby took her nephew to the shelter and got Max.

Max was a great pet. He was a trash dog and a burglar alarm, and when he was younger, dug out of the front yard several times every spring.

Max travelled with us to numerous locations from the glittering Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, the deserts of the Four Corners region, Christmas in New Orleans, the Great American Eclipse in Park Hills, Missouri, and even to the east coast of Florida.

At one point on one of the Florida trips, we thought we’d lost him, but someone opened the pantry door, and there he stood.

Max’s long-time sister Sierra died fourteen months ago.

As you can see in this recent image, Max is tired, old, and blind.
As you can see in this recent image, Max is tired, old, and blind.

His health was failing in the last couple of years. He couldn’t hear or see, was reliant on two drugs for his heart and his joints, and was no longer able to leap onto couches or laps, which he did like a spider when he was young. His teeth were mostly going or gone. He was prone to yelping at the door when I was outside mowing, and in recent weeks got lost trying to find his food bowl.

After putting it off repeatedly, we decided to put him down. He was a great dog.

Max and Sierra sit on one of our couches last year. Both these great dogs have passed away.
Max and Sierra sit on one of our couches last year. Both these great dogs have passed away.

The Intimacy of Pillow Talk

Abby and I discovered each other to be awake at 4:30 this morning. We talked for a while in the dark, petting the dogs, holding each other’s hands, laughing quietly, reaffirming our love, our marriage, our lives. We were like newlyweds, teenagers. It was intimacy at its very best, and it comes from the core of our marriage.

I don't know if you have ever experienced this, but if you haven't, find it. It is the best.
I don’t know if you have ever experienced this, but if you haven’t, find it. It is the best.

A Sick Day, and the Long-Awaited Eyesore

In this entry…

  • I am home sick, which is very rare.
  • Workers are installing a long-awaited cell tower next door.
  • Why and when I prefer tablets over phones.
This is the view looking southwest toward our house from the site of a new cell tower in our next door neighbor's pasture,
This is the view looking southwest toward our house from the site of a new cell tower in our next door neighbor’s pasture,

Everyone who knows me is aware that I seldom get sick, and even seldomer stay home from work sick, but the past two days have taken me down, with dizziness, vertigo, and malaise. I thought it might be a bad reaction to a medication, but Abby seems to be having it too, so now we think it might be a virus of some type.

Being down for even a day or two is very frustrating for me, as I am very healthy, very active, stay as busy as a bee, and remain super motivated to get things done. I’m feeling better enough today to be up and about, and will probably return to work tomorrow. If nothing else, being sick helps to remind me that many people deal with chronic debilitating illness, and I should always remain grateful for my health.

Although I mostly laid in bed yesterday, I did get up-ish for a while in the evening. Abby and I watched some game show bloopers on YouTube, then went back to bed, but not before I stepped out to photograph a major change to our patch of green: a cell tower is being installed next door.

Workers set blocks in the foundation of a cell tower they are installing in the pasture to our north.
Workers set blocks in the foundation of a cell tower they are installing in the pasture to our north.

My feelings about this event are mixed and complex…

  • It will be an eyesore. I have never liked the look of cell towers.
  • It is damaging to the land, as the crew dug a fairly deep hole for the foundation, and built a short gravel road to it.
  • It isn’t as damaging to the land as it potentially could have been. For example, they only tore down a couple of walnut saplings and a couple of elm saplings, which I had just kind of let grow.
  • All the work is on the other side of the property line, on the land that once belonged to the Milligans (Abby’s first in-laws), but which now belongs to the Nipps, our favorite neighbors.
  • The builders told me the first client will be ATT. We rely on cellular phone and data service, and Byng was a notorious ATT dark zone. We are glad the service will be better, although in the house now we use VoIP, not tower service.
  • The builders, who said they were from Saint Louis, also told me it will be a free-standing 300-foot tower. They said, “it’s not going anywhere. Cell towers like this in the Joplin tornado stayed up.”
  • I’m kind of an antenna guy, so it would hippocritcal for me to come down on antennas just because they are in my back yard.

The equipment has been roaring away for two days now, digging and moving earth. I expect it will be another week before the tower is up, and maybe months before ATT gets the service equipment in place, but it will be nice to have a cell signal on our phones for a change.

The tower installation crew built this short gravel road from the Nipps' driveway to the site.
The tower installation crew built this short gravel road from the Nipps’ driveway to the site.

Finally, a friend of mine recently bought an iPad, nearly identical to the ones Abby and I have, and after using it for a day or two decided it wasn’t the game-changer he thought it would be. I guess he was looking for it to revolutionize his photography in some way, possibly making it easier to shoot and edit with the bigger-screened tablet.

One of the myths of tablets is that they are better than phones, but the truth is they are almost the same as phones, with the only real difference being the size of the screen. To me as a professional photographer, I would almost always carry and use the phone because of its compact size. The times I love a tablet is personal time, when I want to stream a movie or watch YouTube from the couch or the bed.

My iPhone rests on the screen of my iPad, which sits cradled in its Zagg case and keyboard.
My iPhone rests on the screen of my iPad, which sits cradled in its Zagg case and keyboard.

Who Line Is It Anyway?

When Abby and I were first dating in 2003, Friday nights were often occupied watching a show that aired on ABC and ABC Family at the time, Whose Line Is It Anyway? We balled up together on the couch and laughed out loud all night.

In the Netflix era, we watch almost no “aired” television any more, but we own a couple of seasons of Whose Line on DVD, and last night Abby suggested we ball up on the big blue couch and watch. We laughed like hyenas.

It might be fun to pick out a couple of Whose Line games, like “90-second alphabet,” and do them at Open Mic Nyte.

If we look a little crazy here, it's because we are laughing so hard at the amazing Whose Line Is It Anyway?
If we look a little crazy here, it’s because we are laughing so hard at the amazing Whose Line Is It Anyway?

A Religious Paradox

I rode around on my mower for an hour tonight with a question in my head, one I’ve been pndering for years now. I am not attempting to bait and switch. I want an honest answer. I am leaning toward Wil C. Fry, who was well-educated as a Christian, to give me a clear-headed answer on this…

A Christian premise seems to be that the only correct path to eternal life is through Jesus.

John 14:6 seems unambiguous: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”

So my question is: is every Jew who died storming the beaches for the allies on D-Day in hell now?

What to Do, What to Do…

In the middle of Lethal Weapon, which my wife never turns down when I offer to watch it, I photographed this amazing sky from the back deck.
In the middle of Lethal Weapon, which my wife never turns down when I offer to watch it, I photographed this amazing sky from the back deck.

Sometimes it feels like I want to do too many things. I want to write, I want to load the dishwasher, I want to mow, I want to play with lights in my studio, I want to take an extra walk with Hawken, I want to clean in the garage, I want to experiment with lenses, I want to shoot my guns, I want to tend my garden, I want, I want, I want…

Summer the Chihuahua lays on Abby's lap this morning. We adopted her last year, and she has become a great member of our family.
Summer the Chihuahua lays on Abby’s lap this morning. We adopted her last year, and she has become a great member of our family.

We all get like this, and sometimes the tendency is to not do anything at all.

I, on the other hand, make myself stop for a second, and remember than I can’t do all these things at once, and I should do just one thing. That’s me today, and my first activity is writing what you are reading.

On another front, two good friends who are my age are having health problems. One of them might be having a heart attack (or may have had one), and is being stubborn about seeking medical care, and the other has a nerve issue combined with hypertension, which you can read about in his blog here (link.)

Yes, it’s disconcerting when my young friends are now old friends with old people problems, but the up side is that Abby and I are both fine at the moment, as are Summer the Chihuahua and Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. To complicate the roller coaster ride is the fact that Max the Chihuahua, who is 15, is still sliding toward the inevitable: he can’t see or hear, and he is unable to move like he once could. He remains a loyal and wonderful dog, even though these are probably his last days or weeks.

Max the Chihuahua is about 15 years old. We adopted him in January 2006 one day before he was slated to be euthanized. He is a terrific dog.
Max the Chihuahua is about 15 years old. We adopted him in January 2006 one day before he was slated to be euthanized. He is a terrific dog.

Manifest of Mary’s 24th Century Weaponry

This is from the Bl@k Bük.  It was written by a long-time friend of mine.

Manifest of Mary’s 24th Century Weaponry

by M7/Rectal Infectant

Personal defense…

  • Mood wand
  • Spider gun
  • The constipater
  • Nut hook
  • Sonic buttplug
  • Dung sabre
  • Point ‘n vomit
  • Vomit box
  • Beavisator
  • Halitosis projector
  • Dangerously infected semen
  • Wash plug in ureter
  • Julio Iglesiator
  • Crystalline toilet paper

Small Meleé…

  • Es carne el diablo
  • Tri-directional fuckstream
  • Ass packet
  • Big rock materializer
  • Neck-mounted howitzer
  • Massive chigger attack vector
  • Rectum? Damn near kill’d em!
  • Anti-nucleic jizz rag device
  • Inner fetus
  • Dohicky dick hickey
  • Insertable calculator
  • Bucket full of assholes
  • Pap smear slip-up

Mass destruction…

  • Magna ream
  • Ad agency
  • Cylinder of death
  • Nerdlinger
  • Television
  • Tater smack
  • Fat blocker
  • Blat focker
  • Quantum hurl trough
  • Democratic National Convention
  • Major League Baseball

Shopping List for American Jee-Hodd

Editor’s note: I read this at Open Mic Nyte recently, and I felt is deserved a wider audience. It was written by a long-time friend of mine in one of the notebooks we share.

Shopping List for My American Jee-Hodd

(In American, it’s pronounced “She Hot!”)

by M7/Virgil Woodpuff

  • Wood putty
  • Barbed wire
  • 1984
  • Blonde-haired American hookers
  • TRS-80
  • Five miles of coaxial cable
  • Velvet pinwheel
  • 1968 Chevy Camaro – CHERRY FUCKIN’ RED
  • Two dozen goat-skin condoms
  • Passed-over cheap Israeli combat boots
  • Inflatable McDonald’s (makes its own sauce)
  • Particle accelerator
  • Song #2
  • Arc of the Convenience Store
  • Post-modern expletives
  • Jesus fish bumper stickers
  • Undefined threats
  • Idol of the Meat God
  • Blankets infected with lust for material posessions
  • ULTIMATE WEAPON = AMERICAN TELEVISION

 

At Right Angles

Editor’s note: I read this at Open Mic Nyte recently, and I felt is deserved a wider audience. It was written by a long-time friend of mine in one of the notebooks we share.

At Right Angles 

by M7/Rectal Infectant

My pet kangaroo gently bounces in front of me – ears atwitch. I lustily attack her brownie and she farts off into the azure distance somewhere. I mount her ghostly afterimage and slobber all over the back of her neck. Her poltergeistly marsupial climax timpanied at the end with a massive kick of her rabbit/clown feet. I double over in grief, semen dripping from my defeated unit like absinth dripping from Lord Byron’s lips (or like the condensation from a rickety mid-August Oklahoma window mounted air conditioner.)

“Fuck you, Kangaroo!” I groan as I fumble through her ghost pouch for the “off” switch. After seeing my hand pass through the insubstantial pet, I settle for the 24th century super- Quaalude I fish out of my vest pocket.

After a bit, I am calmed and there are no kangaroos about – ghostly or otherwise. Yet I still feel the clammy clutch of her chocolate roo vagina. 45º crooked perspective… loamy earth surrounds… tumbling grains of sand.sugar.salt…

Matching her bounce this time, I hold tight to her ridiculous ears as she farts off into the azure else. The supersonic breeze buffets my erection, but I had taken special adhesive precautions the night before.

The ghostly image was left alone in my room to gleelessly masturbate to the Hoover.

A Strange Labor of Love

The refrigerator guy is coming Tuesday to repair our 2009 model Whirlpool Gold series fridge. It is a beautiful, spacious machine with great features, and I was sad to find it was making less and less cold as the last couple of weeks progressed, so I expect it needs refrigerant or a part, but it’s such a great machine, it is worth fixing.

Our broken-ish Whirlpool Gold Series fridge sparkles after I cleaned it tonight.
Our broken-ish Whirlpool Gold Series fridge sparkles after I cleaned it tonight.
Our perishables have been exiled to the fridge in the garage.
Our perishables have been exiled to the fridge in the garage.

I moved all the perishables into the much older garage fridge, which we had repaired when we got the new one, for occasions like Thanksgiving, or when I need a cold water while mowing, or like this one now.

In advance of the repair, I decided to unplug it, remove all the removables, and clean it. The design is remarkably friendly to this task, and before I knew it, I had all the shelves and compartments in my bathtub for a hot soap shower, and the inside of the “icebox” (as Abby calls it) and freezer sparkling like the day we bought it. It was a surprisingly fun activity. My sister will tell you that cleaning, when it goes well, is ingrained in us by our mother Sarah Jo.

I will take a moment to carefully editorialize about the state of sales and service in our world (careful since my own profession relies on direct sales): as I was attempting to set up Tuesday’s repair, the specialist on the other end of the phone aggressively, almost insistently, tried to sell me a blanket warranty for all the other appliances in our house. I let her talk, but I didn’t buy anything else but the one repair, and here’s why: if someone is selling you something this aggressively, they are making a fortune off of you, and not doing you any favors. Extended warranties are another example. Stay away.

I bought six button batteries, probably weighing less than an unladen European swallow, and Amazon Prime sent them in a box big enough for a pair of hiking boots. Is this in any way good for the environment? Couldn't they have just as easily put them in an envelope?
I bought six button batteries, probably weighing less than an unladen European swallow, and Amazon Prime sent them in a box big enough for a pair of hiking boots. Is this in any way good for the environment? Couldn’t they have just as easily put them in an envelope?

Pounds, Inches and Sizes

Vegetables: they're what's for dinner.
Vegetables: they’re what’s for dinner.

My wife Abby has been able to lose some weight since about August 2017. If you want to know how much and how she did it, ask her.

Abby smiles for my camera Monday, April 16, 2019.
Abby smiles for my camera Monday, April 16, 2019.

She looks thin to me. I temper this inclination to see her as too thin with the very real notion that almost all human bodies we see today are too fat.

I weigh about the same as I did on the day we got married, 150 pounds. I was never overweight, but in the last five years I’ve been more aware of the value of acting and looking younger as I get older. Some of it is vanity. Some of it is my perceived duty to society: I feel that we own it to those around us to be the best people we can be, and to lead through example. And part of it is health. At my peak, I weighed about 180 pounds, which I carried well as I aged into my 50s, but which older men tend to carry poorly. It makes them look old and lazy, which they are. This is also why I color my beard and (eep) a small portion of my hairline on the sides.

Losing weight has a couple of amusing consequences. Both Abby and I now have tons of clothes that no longer fit. We talk about getting rid of them, but (and I know this doesn’t sound like me), I don’t want to jinx our success. Some pairs of cargo pants that were my standard daily work wear are now so too big for me that without a belt, they literally fall to the floor around my ankles.

It only took a couple of changes in my lifestyle to lose my weight: 1. I stop eating when I’m full, and 2. I redoubled my dedication to eating a plant-based diet. It also doesn’t hurt that I walk our Wolfhound every day without fail.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound always loves to walk, but also sometimes likes to run.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound always loves to walk, but also sometimes likes to run.

Finally, losing weight and keeping it off hasn’t been difficult or a sacrifice, but a pleasure. I feel great.

I made this mirror selfie at the state capital last month. As you can see, clothes that once fit are looking a bit baggy on me.
I made this mirror selfie at the state capital last month. As you can see, clothes that once fit are looking a bit baggy on me.

The Formula for Sanitation of Suburban Emotionalists

A Collecticon of Rants and Thoughts that You Didn’t Have

  • Suburban culture. I know it’s dreadful, but never moreso than on reality television. By all means, cheap tv producers, tell us consumers what we should want. Define us!
  • If a photographer climbs a tree in the wilderness, does anyone care?
    If a photographer climbs a tree in the wilderness, does anyone care?

    Sanitary socks. I came across this headline in one of my high school yearbooks. Despite my efforts, I can’t seem to find any other reference to it. I don’t even really know what a sanitary sock is. This speaks to the idea that high school kids, in this case, the yearbook staff, really are still kids, and don’t really know what the world is like.

  • Emotionalism, emotionalists: My friends and I in college went through a high and mighty period during which we thought the stupidest thing in the world we to let emotions guide our lives. In our defense, we were on to something; I see people ride emotional roller coasters to their destructions, all because they couldn’t find the truth rationally.
  • Over the years: One thing has become increasingly clear over the years: I can count on fewer and fewer friends. There have been people who I regarded as “kindred spirits,” who have disappeared from my life without explanation. It leads me to believe that they were not really friends, but simply wanted something from me.
  • The formula seems to be: Ignore “nice” guys; hook up with douchebag guys; pretend to be surprised when they ignore you, cheat on you or hit you; break up or divorce; say, “All men are pigs.” Repeat.
  • The political power grab: The narrative seems to be, “We will consolidate our power so we can make the world the way we want it to be.” But has this ever worked out? Which super-powerful tyrants ever constructed the utopia they claimed to imagine? Stalin? Pol Pot? Are the people of North Korea happy? Have they ever constructed a masterpiece society? Is that even possible? Or do we have to accept that human life is a filthy stew of dissent and dissatisfaction? In the end, it’s important to realize that Hitler didn’t want a happy, productive society. He wanted to destroy the Jews and dominate the world. Beyond that, he didn’t really have a vision. In some ways, Adolf Hitler was mostly successful in achieving his goals. Seeing so many dictators want to the same things, power and control over people through violence and death, really speaks to the fragility of the human psyche. So sure, maybe Donald Trump or Mike Pence or Vladimir Putin could crush all the homosexuals and liberals and atheists and intellectuals, but why would they want to? When has that ever worked? And if it did work, what would be left? Robotic, monosyllabic cretins who have nothing to contribute but 40 hours a week and a house in the suburbs?
  • The sexual spectrum: Stop telling me that you don’t mind people “being gay, as long as they don’t force it on me.” No gays are forcing anything on you, and they never have. This is just another way of saying you hate gays. Also, stop saying, “hate the sin, love the sinner,” because sexuality is both an identity and an activity, so if you hate homosexuality, you hate homosexuals. Finally, stop saying that “all gays are born gay.” Until you have met every gay person, you don’t know this. It is very likely that everyone is born in a unique place on the sexual spectrum, and that every person makes choices based on that.
  • Peaked too soon: how many people do I know who peaked when they were 18 or 20, then let life blow-dry them with mediocrity? How many true geniuses did I hold in my arms, only to run into them later and hear about their boring jobs and boring kids and boring weight gain? The worst are the “writers.” Saying you’re a writer doesn’t make you one, and a handful of poems in a high school lit class isn’t going to cut it. I’ll never forgive them for not living up to my expectations.
  • The hero: I came into the living room to find my wife not in her recliner, but on the big blue couch. She told me she’d been run off by a jumping spider. I found it on the back of her recliner and killed it, but it did give me the willies. Question: why do I welcome these harmless, beneficial creatures in my garden, but am completely revulsed by them in the house?

You don’t put toast in a toaster. You don’t heat hot water. Cows don’t drink milk.

Birds make as much a living on death as any other creature, yet we don't despise them for it.
Birds make as much a living on death as any other creature, yet we don’t despise them for it.

Digging in the Dirt

This is where it starts. It ends with the first frost of November. My live plants this year included bell peppers, tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes.
This is where it starts. It ends with the first frost of November. My live plants this year included bell peppers, tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes.

Readers might recall that last year I got my garden in the ground a little early, on April 8, and that decision was not without consequence, as just a week later I had to cover all my plants to protect them from freezing.

A wet year has yielded a full pond. I hope it stays full, but it is shallow, so any hot or dry period will reduce it significantly.
A wet year has yielded a full pond. I hope it stays full, but it is shallow, so any hot or dry period will reduce it significantly.
I've had this small tiller for a few years, and it's never been a great machine. A neighbor and I tried all our tricks to fix it, but it either wouldn't start or wouldn't throttle up to till. I might sell it, or I might have a mechanic look at it.
I’ve had this small tiller for a few years, and it’s never been a great machine. A neighbor and I tried all our tricks to fix it, but it either wouldn’t start or wouldn’t throttle up to till. I might sell it, or I might have a mechanic look at it.

Tilly the Tiller won’t run, at least not usefully, so all my planting this year is at the end of my shovel. Yesterday I got all my tomato, cherry tomato, and bell peppers in the ground, and today I hope to get seeds in the ground; squash, cantelope, cucumber, and marigolds.

Last year I also put in radishes, turnips, and lettuce, but we didn’t eat any of them.

The garden overall will be smaller than last year. In 2018, I bought a huge number, 24 as I recall, of tomato and bell pepper plants, from a local high school horticulture program. That number determined the size of my garden in concert with the smooth operation of Tilly the Tiller. This year, I decided that so many plants demanded a lot of time and attention, so I got eight tomato plants (2 cherry), and eight peppers. I am also certain based on last year’s excessive (but fun) yield that this number of plants will provide all the produce I can pick.

Hot is the new Sweet?
When shopping for plants yesterday, I only found a few bell pepper plants, but hundreds of hot pepper plants. It’s possible that most people have gotten their regular peppers in the ground already and the only peppers left are hot, but based on the layout of the garden center, I think it more likely that more people are buying and growing hot pepper plants. Neither Abby nore I care for hot peppers, but I know a lot of people who do.
It looks like I may get peaches and cherries this year. These are cherry blossoms last week. There are no freezing temperatures in the forecast.
It looks like I may get peaches and cherries this year. These are cherry blossoms last week. There are no freezing temperatures in the forecast.

Also I took our toddler bed to Abby’s hair stylist for her child, then went to Walmart for supplies. On the way home I bought lunch, mixed vegetables for both of us from Famous Wok, and felt like a real husband bringing it home to her, and a real husband sharing it with her.

My tomato and bell pepper plants are in the ground.
My tomato and bell pepper plants are in the ground.

“You Got a Haircut!”

The sky decided to put on a show tonight as I was washing our Nissan Frontier.
The sky decided to put on a show tonight as I was washing our Nissan Frontier.
I feel much more like myself now that my hair no longer has its own zip code.
I feel much more like myself now that my hair no longer has its own zip code.

I’d been letting my hair grow since last summer at the behest of my lovely wife, who says she loves my hair, and if there is more hair, there is more hair to love. I liked that idea and and attempted to let my hair grow through the various stages: shaggy, pre-mullet, mullet, pre-pony tail, pony tail…

By the time I was just about to be pony tail guy, spring arrived, meaning I would be working outdoors in warm climates, and at a baseball game last week I was constantly fighting hair blowing into my face.

Anyway, it is springtime on the patch, and that means firing up our many internal combustion engines as we prepare to use them to manage our patch of green.

  • The riding mower, “Wildfire,” gave only a slight argument when the nozzle on my air compressor was the wrong type, letting me only air up the right front tire slightly. The mower started and mowed as requested, but the tire was too low, so I parked it to wait for the right nozzle to air up that tire.
  • The push mower started on one pull Wednesday, but wouldn’t start at all tonight until I gave it a shot of starter fluid.
  • Tilly the tiller tilled a very tiny patch in the garden before cronking out. My neighbor Stevie and I both had a crack at it, to no avail. Small engine repair?
  • Abby and I went to renew her driver license today to find that it’s free for a senior citizen. Huh. Afterwards, we shared a nice breakfast. It was nice to be out with her.

Finally, not feeling worked enough, I decided to wash the truck, which hasn’t been clean since before the first of the year. I lovingly hand washed it with a brush on a stick, plus a wash cloth soaked in soap for the bugs stuck on the chrome. Bling!

Abby's Nissan Frontier: just washed by Richard, or prepped to be in a car commercial?
Abby’s Nissan Frontier: just washed by Richard, or prepped to be in a car commercial?

The Plant-Based Diet Continues to Succeed

This is also my column for Saturday, April 6

Red cabbage and broccoli are two of the most nutritious substances you can consume, and delicious if you know how to cook them. The salt and pepper shakers in this image are from Mom and Dad, who got them in the 1970s.
Red cabbage and broccoli are two of the most nutritious substances you can consume, and delicious if you know how to cook them. The salt and pepper shakers in this image are from Mom and Dad, who got them in the 1970s.
Walking my mighty Wolfhound Hawken has been good for both of us in all respects.
Walking my mighty Wolfhound Hawken has been good for both of us in all respects.

Earlier this week I weighed 151 pounds. I stand 6′ 1″  tall, which means that I am thin. I happen to think this is a really good weight for me. Part of my success at being a good weight is that I am active; in addition to my work as a photographer and the necessities of taking care of a five acre patch of land, my adventures in walking our Irish Wolfhound are a real plus… winter or summer, come rain or come shine, the 160-pound Hawken needs to be walked, and we try to walk a mile every day.

Another real plus for my health has, for a long time, been my devotion to eating a plant-based diet. For 10 years before I was married, I was a practicing dietary vegan (I didn’t eat any animal products at all), but after I got married, I found I could fold dairy and eggs back into my diet in moderation so Abby and I could share more meals.

A diet like this might seem alien to a lot of my readers, but when I look around, I see a lot of unhealthy people, who are often unhealthy because of the foods they eat. I’m not a doctor, but I like to think of myself as well-read, and as a success. Here are my thoughts about diet in 2019…

  • Carbohydrates are not the enemy. Carbs get a bad reputation because people diagnosed with type II diabetes are told not to consume very many, but this is a result, not a plan. Carbohydrates are essential nutrient, and your body needs them. Their bad reputation comes from white bread and powdered sugar doughnuts. Think real whole grains; problem solved.
  • It’s not gluten. In recent years, gluten, the protein in wheat, has been vilified. I think this perception persists because people associate gluten with white bread, which isn’t a good dietary choice, and when they give up white bread, they think it was the gluten that was the source of the problem. Unless a doctor tells you you have celiac disease, gluten probably isn’t an issue. I also recently watched a man-on-the-street video on the web in which almost no one interviewed who said they were on a gluten-free diet could actually identify what gluten is.
  • You get enough protein. It’s almost too easy to dispel the myths surrounding protein: look around. Do you see anyone who is protein deficient? If you are getting enough calories to maintain your weight, you’re getting enough protein.
  • The trouble with cheese. If you enjoy cheese, keep in mind that it is one of the most calorie-dense foods in the human diet. A little cheese goes a long way.
  • Drinking is eating. The most important nutrient in the human diet is water, and the fastest way to ruin water is to add a huge sugar load to it. Soft drinks are, in my opinion, one of the least healthy substances we can consume, and I don’t. I haven’t had a soda in years.
  • The garden. Not only does a vegetable garden provide an excellent source of fruits and vegetables, tending it is a productive outdoor activity.
  • Healthy snacks in the house. This is the real trick: if you don’t want to consume unhealthy foods, especially sugary snacks, don’t buy them and bring them into your home. If your pantry is full of Snickers bars and Frosted Flakes, you’ll snack on Snickers bars and Frosted Flakes. If your pantry is full of apples and hummus, you’ll snack on apples and hummus.
  • But I need meat. Before you tell me you need meat to be big and strong, answer this: what do horses and cows eat?
  • Good for the environment. It’s worth noting that production of meat, dairy and eggs is one of the most resource-intensive operations in America. Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States is fed to livestock.
  • Coming up with a plan. Plans like “keto” and “paleo” won’t work in the long run because they are unsustainable, and don’t represent the kind of balance your body needs for the rest of your life. These diets might create weight loss in the short term, but…
  • The only diet. The only dietary choice that will work in the long run is one you can adopt for the rest of your life.

One thing that frustrates me is that the Ada area seems to get new restaurants featuring old foods, like fried chicken or Tex-Mex. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get a Thai or Indian place?

An enduring myth about vegetarians is that they don’t enjoy delicious foods, either because they can’t or they don’t want to. But in all honesty, I think I get more enjoyment out of foods because they are naturally complex and fulfilling. How much more appealing is a Stratford Peach, for example, than a doughnut?

I know this is a lot to take in for our community, who were mostly raised on white bread, ribs, and fried foods. But take it from me, if you so desire, the best foods for you are plant-based foods: beautiful fruits, nuts, grains and vegetables. I’m 55 and an active, long-time vegetarian, and I feel great.

Summer is coming, and with it, many healthy foods from the garden, like this tomato, cucumber and bell pepper salad from last July.
Summer is coming, and with it, many healthy foods from the garden, like this tomato, cucumber and bell pepper salad from last July.

All at Once, I’m Outside

Something about the circles of confusion created by my old 50mm f/1.8 give me a certain look I like. I shot these peach blossoms in my orchard at /2.0.
Something about the circles of confusion created by my old 50mm f/1.8 give me a certain look I like. I shot these peach blossoms in my orchard at /2.0.
You haven't witnessed kindness until you watch my wife Abby gently shoo away a ladybug.
You haven’t witnessed kindness until you watch my wife Abby gently shoo away a ladybug.

Seasons don’t normally come as a surprise to me, but just in the last couple of days we’ve transitioned from gloomy to gorgeous weather, and despite working, both commercially and for my newspaper, on both my days off, I made time to be outside for long periods the last couple of evenings.

The house and the back yard take on color at last light a couple of nights ago.
The house and the back yard take on color at last light a couple of nights ago.
This Meade EXT-70 was one of two telescopes given to me in recent months. I got it working, and hope to have some fun with it soon.
This Meade EXT-70 was one of two telescopes given to me in recent months. I got it working, and hope to have some fun with it soon.

Here is an odd one: in both January and February, two different people gave me two different astronomical telescopes. It’s practically raining telescopes. They both work, and with this week being spring break and not as likely to be overly busy at my office, I might get the chance to play with them more.

My Early Elberta peach tree bloomed and froze last month, but the rest of my trees, peach, plum and cherry, waited until now. After walking Hawken and organizing in the garage a bit, I made time to photograph them with my aging 50mm f/1.8. I have a 50mm f/1.4 as well, but the f/1.8 has its own look, and I liked what I got.

From a distance, my plum tree looks like a popcorn tree.
From a distance, my plum tree looks like a popcorn tree.

I also managed to till some of the garden yesterday, despite my tiller not running well. I cleaned its carb, filters, and spark plug, and hopefully can till ’til I’m done.

Wheat grass blows in the evening breeze as I walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound on Saint Patrick's Day.
Wheat grass blows in the evening breeze as I walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound on Saint Patrick’s Day.

The Weeks We Remember

I don't cover a lot of funerals, but when called upon to do so, I rise to it.
I don’t cover a lot of funerals, but when called upon to do so, I rise to it.
My media friends and I were cordoned off in two small media areas as we covered a funeral this week. We all appreciated why, and we all did a pretty good job.
My media friends and I were cordoned off in two small media areas as we covered a funeral this week. We all appreciated why, and we all did a pretty good job.

It’s been one of those weeks as a news photographer; one of those weeks we will all remember years from now. It started eight days ago with a brutal fatality crash south of Ada involving a sand truck, which I covered. Later that night in Seminole County, an SUV and a Konawa activities bus collided, killing three people, the two in the SUV, and a 12 year old girl from Konawa School.

As the week went by, my newspaper and I got incredibly busy with not only of our usual sports and news, but also the coverage of the vigil, funeral, and fundraiser for the girl. And though the Oklahoma City television stations and I (there was no other print media present) were restricted to designated media areas (understandably), we were able to do a solid job covering these difficult events.

Then yesterday I covered yet another crash, involving a pickup rolling over, seriously injuring four people, three of whom were taken by air ambulance to Oklahoma City hospitals.

An air ambulance prepares to lift off with one of three patients injured in a rollover accident northwest of Ada yesterday. My car is visible parked in a driveway at the left edge of the frame.
An air ambulance prepares to lift off with one of three patients injured in a rollover accident northwest of Ada yesterday. My car is visible parked in a driveway at the left edge of the frame.

One result of this hectic schedule was that my wife Abby and I didn’t get to see each other as much as we usually do, and we really felt it. When I got home last night from an 11-hour day, she and I couldn’t hold each other close enough or long enough.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound laps up pond water on our walk Thursday. It's always good to come home to my wife and our pets who are always happy to see me.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound laps up pond water on our walk Thursday. It’s always good to come home to my wife and our pets who are always happy to see me.