Open Mic Nyte

These are some of the paintings shown by long time Ada artist Darice Strickland last night at Open Mic Nyte.
These are some of the paintings shown by long time Ada artist Darice Strickland last night at Open Mic Nyte.
A singer/guitarist performs for last night's Open Mic Nyte crowd.
A singer/guitarist performs for last night’s Open Mic Nyte crowd.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the café culture. Artists and Bohemians like Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac seemed to lead lives of dense creativity. For similar reasons, I’ve always been interested in getting together with fellow writers and poets, to share and compare and express. One result of these interests is the formation of various writing groups over the years: in 1980, in 1992, and in 2000.

Open Mic Nyte participants listen as a poet reads a manuscript from 1982.
Open Mic Nyte participants listen as a poet reads a manuscript from 1982.

So when I was recently invited to join a social media group called Open Mic Nyte, I didn’t hesitate, and last night I attended my first session.

Though many people recognized me as Richard the news photographer, I told them I was just Richard.

On Tap...

  • Three poets reading their poetry, two of which included singing
  • An essay loosely about the death of a popular police officer in our community
  • A “non-rant” about the origins of idioms (I gathered he ranted last time)
  • An a capella rendering of a Peter Paul and Mary song
  • A short short story read by a very nervous first-timer
  • A longer essay about the role of sexual abuse in the church
  • A woman singing accompanied by a YouTube video
  • A 15 minute break
  • Three singer/guitarists who seemed to verge on being professional performers
  • Another a cappella singer
  • A painter talking about her work

I roamed around taking pictures, seeing my role as an artist on this occasion as the photographer shooting at large apertures.

Guest share a laugh at last night's Open Mic Nyte.
Guest share a laugh at last night’s Open Mic Nyte.
Open Mic Nyte co-founder Sterling Jacobs recites one of his rhymes last night.
Open Mic Nyte co-founder Sterling Jacobs recites one of his rhymes last night.

The evening was very enjoyable, and definitely had the “café culture” feel to it that I knew I would enjoy. In addition to making some notes and pictures, I though about what I might like to say or do to participate the next time I am able to join them. I don’t sing or play music, but I do have a vast collection of written works, and it goes without saying that I could show my photography. Of course, I am no stranger to public speaking.

One thing Open Mic Nyte co-founder Sterling Jacobs emphasized is vulnerability and its value in situations like this; the willingness to be emotionally vulnerable is indispensable in expressing yourself.

This event is in it infancy. I hope it catches fire and keeps burning. I see it as an excellent way for our community to express its artistic gifts.

I make a picture in the Open Mic Nyte live stream with event co-founder Steve Brogdon.
I make a picture in the Open Mic Nyte live stream with event co-founder Steve Brogdon.
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A Deep Breakfast of Pure Sunlight

Abby has been in a cereal mood for the last few weekends, though yesterday I made scrambled eggs for her breakfast.
Abby has been in a cereal mood for the last few weekends, though yesterday I made scrambled eggs for her breakfast.

I am aware that my last few entries have been about our new puppy, Hawken, and that my readers might have heard enough for a while.

“Evelyn slapped Raymond on the back with a laugh. ‘You must be starved, old friend. Come into my apartments, and we’ll suffer through a deep breakfast of pure sunlight.’” ~Sri da Avabhas

I set up my tablet, or, in this case, my laptop, on the bar so Abby and I can talk while I edit photos or write while she reads.
I set up my tablet, or, in this case, my laptop, on the bar so Abby and I can talk while I edit photos or write while she reads.
While I covered Friday night's Cruisin' Main in Ada, I had a terrific time texting images like this one to Abby, who is very much a car person.
While I covered Friday night’s Cruisin’ Main in Ada, I had a terrific time texting images like this one to Abby, who is very much a car person.

With things slow at the office, I took a couple of three-day weekends. We sleep, we watch movies, I work outdoors in the early summer breeze. Days like these represent everything I wanted from marriage.

This week’s joke between us: “I wish this had subtitles. It’s all in Canadian!”

This time last year I talked about beauty and its significance, and it remains just as significant a year later. The outdoor world on which we live, seven green acres here in southern Oklahoma, changes, and with my tools and my hands and my back, I am part of those changed. The Rose-of-Sharon bushes, for example, are at the end of their lives. I allowed the elm trees, along the fence leading south from the house, to grow, and they are huge and green, and make nice shade.

I photographed this flower in the pasture near the pond recently. Its beauty never escapes me.
I photographed this flower in the pasture near the pond recently. Its beauty never escapes me.

When I mow, I have a lot of time and monotony in which to think. It’s not always pleasant – I often think about negative things and try to imagine successful solution scenarios, but it doesn’t always end well.

Another of Abby's peace roses is preparing to bloom in the front yard.
Another of Abby’s peace roses is preparing to bloom in the front yard.

For example, Abby’s SiriusXM satellite radio was streaming one of Abby’s favorite country music stations recently, and on the playlist was Lee Greenwood’s Proud to Be an American.

“And I’m proud to be an American/Where at least I know I’m free…”

The last Rose-of-Sharon in the back yard has blossoms on it. Our late goats ate three of the four plants along the back fence.
The last Rose-of-Sharon in the back yard has blossoms on it. Our late goats ate three of the four plants along the back fence.

I certainly have no problem with the premise of national pride, but this song is really about being proud to be a rich, white, straight, conservative American. I’ve been to events where they play this song, and the parking lot is full of $36,000 pickup trucks, and the white-to-other-race ratio is 1500 to 1. There are no gay pride flags flying.

“…God Bless the USA.” I don’t know how you can listen to these lines without thinking about the demise of the democracy/republic and the rise of our electoral oligarchy. I am dismayed that we are taking giant steps toward being a pure mercantilist society, all the while posting childish memes about the purpose of life not being about being rich and popular, but about being kind and humble. We are not a kind and humble nation.

It’s possible I wasting my mowing time thinking about too many negative things. I am grateful to be outside on these summer days, cutting the grass or photographing the dogs and flowers, or clearing the brush from overgrown fence corners. I am grateful to come inside, covered in sweat and dust, to see that Abby loves me more every day. I love her more every day.

The mimosa are in bloom right now. They are one of my favorite things to photograph in the summer.
The mimosa are in bloom right now. They are one of my favorite things to photograph in the summer.
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Our 95-Pound Weakling

Your humble host plays with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound in the back yard Sunday night.
Your humble host plays with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound in the back yard Sunday night.
When Hawken plays, he likes to get his mouth around you. As you can see, Abby's slender hand is almost entirely inside his mouth.
When Hawken plays, he likes to get his mouth around you. As you can see, Abby’s slender hand is almost entirely inside his mouth.

Abby and I took Hawken the Irish Wolfhound to the vet yesterday to have him weighed, a necessity for dosing of meds for heartworm and parasites (fleas and ticks.)

I though loading him into the truck would be more difficult than it was, but he is tall enough to get in and out by himself.

Abby tries to usher Hawken around the back deck as the sun goes down Sunday.
Abby tries to usher Hawken around the back deck as the sun goes down Sunday.
I let social media have some fun with this image, asking them to write a caption for it.
I let social media have some fun with this image, asking them to write a caption for it.

At the vet, Abby and I were both surprised, since he is just five months old, to find he weighed 95 pounds.

He is completely healthy.

At one point Abby was tugging at his leash to keep him in one spot and the leash broke, sending Abby back and to the floor, fortunately landing squarely on her butt, uninjured.

Abby hugs Hawken around the neck. He is her third Irish Wolfhound.
Abby hugs Hawken around the neck. He is her third Irish Wolfhound.

 

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Self-Esteem and the Real Value of Life

Abby and I planted this peace rose earlier this spring.
Abby and I planted this peace rose earlier this spring.
I have peaches on my trees this year, which aren't pretty (because I don't use pesticides), but which taste great and are beautiful to watch grow.
I have peaches on my trees this year, which aren’t pretty (because I don’t use pesticides), but which taste great and are beautiful to watch grow.

I had an epiphany recently when my wife Abby and I were watching some politically-charged testimony regarding Donald Trump. Frustrated and angry, Abby said, “Trump doesn’t care about anyone but himself!”

Then it hit me. No he doesn’t. People who really care about themselves are emotionally whole enough to care about humanity. People who care about themselves understand that we are all part of the same world, that we all depend on each other, that without each other and our fragile planet we are nothing, and that we are all mortal.

Donald Trump is a sociopath. He feels neither empathy nor sympathy. He doesn’t understand love or meaning. His life is empty.

Rain clings to clover in the front yard. We have enjoyed ample rain this spring.
Rain clings to clover in the front yard. We have enjoyed ample rain this spring.

Two song lyrics are stuck in my head this week, both brought to me by internet radio ambient/chillout channels, both by Sia, about whom I know little except I like her etherial voice…

“Living in your head
Without anything to numb you
Living on the edge
Without anything to numb you…” ~Numb

and

“Be my friend, hold me
Wrap me up, unfold me
I am small, I’m needy
Warm me up and breathe me…” ~Breathe Me

A mimosa blossom, a welcome harbinger of summer, shines in late afternoon light in my orchard.
A mimosa blossom, a welcome harbinger of summer, shines in late afternoon light in my orchard.
Abby's iPhone plays SiriusXM Radio through her stereo in the living room.
Abby’s iPhone plays SiriusXM Radio through her stereo in the living room.

I got Abby hooked up to listen to SiriusXM streaming at home, so there is country music in the house frequently now. Though I am not a country music fan, its sound is 1500% better than the prattle of television.

Ploughing through my journal from 1993 looking for mention of something I was trying to recall, I came across several interesting items.

“I’m going to start listening to my thoughts. Lately I’ve been finding them to be much too violent and petty. I’m looking for the silence, the nothingness, the emptiness that can set me free. Eventually it all comes down to this reality now. Too often I’m lost in fantasy and conjecture, the past and the future. I’m looking for NOW. I think I’ll become a nowist.” ~Journal, November 1993

I colored my beard last night, and got it about right. I'm getting pretty good at it.
I colored my beard last night, and got it about right. I’m getting pretty good at it.

“Kathy was very hard to get along with this weekend. She reminds me of my hurtingmost times in 1988-89. I hungered to be with people, to be soothed by their company. But at the same time, that hunger drove them away.” ~Journal, November 1993

I was flying all the time in those days, and we weren’t always mad at the President.

A friend of mine died this week from injuries she sustained when she was kidnapped and assaulted in January, meaning she was murdered. I am horrified and baffled, but I feel that somehow these feelings are naive. In any case, she is in my thoughts.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is tall enough at the shoulder to eat with his dish in the seat of a chair. He is strong, majestic, beautiful.

Hawken takes his supper on a chair now that he is tall enough at the shoulder to reach it.
Hawken takes his supper on a chair now that he is tall enough at the shoulder to reach it.
On the grill last night was hamburgers for Abby, veggie dogs for me, and roasted vegetables for both of us.
On the grill last night was hamburgers for Abby, veggie dogs for me, and roasted vegetables for both of us.

It is warm but not hot on the patch these days, and we have gotten healthy rain.

I cooked out last night.

It is also the season for fruit, which I feel is far more nutritious than, well, almost anything.

It is with all these things in mind that I am grateful for my life.

I know I post a lot of images like this one, but they never cease to be beautiful to me.
I know I post a lot of images like this one, but they never cease to be beautiful to me.
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Paws Pause, or Faux Paw

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound plays with a stuffed dog on the back deck earlier this week. He is as good-natured as any animal I've ever known, but doesn't know his size or strength yet, and can be a handful.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound plays with a stuffed dog on the back deck earlier this week. He is as good-natured as any animal I’ve ever known, but doesn’t know his size or strength yet, and can be a handful.
For a while it seemed like we were feeding Hawken his weight in dog food, but this growth spurt has tapered off.
For a while it seemed like we were feeding Hawken his weight in dog food, but this growth spurt has tapered off.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound’s astonishing growth spurt has plateaued. He is still very much a puppy, but he is learning to mind a little at a time. I walk him on a circular route from the house to the front of the patch to the pond and back once or twice a day. It might be a half a mile. It tires him out, and he sometimes wants to stop and rest.

Abby works with Hawken on his leash last week.
Abby works with Hawken on his leash last week.
My Nissan Juke sits in the grass near the redbud tree recently. I've had it almost four years now, and it remains my all-time favorite car.
My Nissan Juke sits in the grass near the redbud tree recently. I’ve had it almost four years now, and it remains my all-time favorite car.

We had a huge rain last week, so I wanted to mow to keep up. The last thing I need is a forest to cut. Two nights ago I got started, but the John Deere riding mower’s battery suddenly died by the back gate. I drove down to it in my Nissan Juke and jump started it so I could put it away for the night in the garage, where I removed and tested the battery. Much to my annoyance, not only was it stone cold dead (putting out less than 9 volts), upon examination, it was a full-sized automotive battery. $100 battery in a lawn mower, John Deere? Really?

Yesterday I took the battery to town and decided I was going to make a $25 mower battery work, which only required attaching the cables in a slightly creative way. It worked fine.

Anyone who knows batteries knows that 12 volt batteries need solid contact to move the amps needed to crank an engine, and this arrangement did exactly that, without me having to buy a car battery.
Anyone who knows batteries knows that 12 volt batteries need solid contact to move the amps needed to crank an engine, and this arrangement did exactly that, without me having to buy a car battery.
Abby's dad's CB radio lives in our garage. When I asked some social media groups for advice about it, they were no help at all.
Abby’s dad’s CB radio lives in our garage. When I asked some social media groups for advice about it, they were no help at all.

I also recently got into the rafters in the garage and pulled down Abby’s father’s Johnson Messenger citizen’s band radio from the 1960s, hoping to power it up and see if it still works. I was unfamiliar with the connector, so I blithely asked several amateur radio groups of social media how to do it. After a litany of useless, patronizing comments, I decided that amateur radio operators on the internet are just as douchey as they are on the radio, and deleted all my memberships to all those groups. I don’t know why I thought otherwise, but all anyone wanted to do was look smart and try to make me look dumb. Goodbye.

Abby's new recliner resembles a captains chair from Star Trek.
Abby’s new recliner resembles a captains chair from Star Trek.

Abby bought a new recliner this week. She loved her old one, but seldom sits anywhere else, and just wore it out. The replacement is a home theater chair, with electric reclination, lighted cup holders and footrest, and armrest bins big enough for a laptop computer.

It’s almost summer, so it’s melon season, and the grocery has my current favorite melon, the golden honeydew. If you get a chance, try one. They are sweeter and more complex than regular honeydew, and are softer and slightly less edgy than cantaloup.

If you are a melon fan, try the golden honeydew.
If you are a melon fan, try the golden honeydew.
Despite being a very old dog, Max the Chihuahua still has the fight of a pit bull in him, particularly when confronted by the giant, derpy puppy Hawken.
Despite being a very old dog, Max the Chihuahua still has the fight of a pit bull in him, particularly when confronted by the giant, derpy puppy Hawken.

With a puppy on the patch, it’s more evident than ever that our Chihuahuas are getting old. Max, who is 13, is getting kinda deaf, and Sierra, who is 12, has been blarfing on the carpet more lately.

They both certainly have a lot of life in them, but they definitely aren’t puppies any more, though Max plays and fights like a puppy, and Sierra spins excitedly, always counterclockwise, at dinnertime.

Irish Wolfhound owners know that they don't grow into their paws like other dogs, but grow into their noses. Hawken is a beautiful puppy and is going to be a magnificent dog.
Irish Wolfhound owners know that they don’t grow into their paws like other dogs, but grow into their noses. Hawken is a beautiful puppy and is going to be a magnificent dog.
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The Next Big Thing

Your humble host poses with Hawken, the derpy, goofy Irish Wolfhound puppy just four months old.
Your humble host poses with Hawken, the derpy, goofy Irish Wolfhound puppy just four months old.

As I told a fellow news photographer recently, “It will be a flurry of graduations to cover, then *crickets chirping.*” Still, it’s a fun time to do what I do.

Meanwhile, our puppy, Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, is growing in fits and starts, and still hasn’t found his paws or his nose. He could end up rivaling me in weight. He’s the next big thing.

  • Hawked apparently scared up a skunk two nights ago. We heard his deep, derpy, “Rooof, rooof,” followed a few seconds later by the distinct (stinked) skunk smell. I grabbed a rifle and hunted around, but couldn’t find the skunk. I smelled Hawken’s fur to find he had not been sprayed directly. Later in daylight we discovered a large swath of skunk spray on the siding next to the faucet, in the back yard, indicating that Hawken had tangled with a skunk, but the foe had missed when he sprayed.
This is skunk juice, sprayed Thursday night at Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. Fortunately it missed the target, Hawken, and hit this portion of siding.
This is skunk juice, sprayed Thursday night at Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. Fortunately it missed the target, Hawken, and hit this portion of siding.
This was the scene a few days ago when I powerwashed the north side of the garage.
This was the scene a few days ago when I powerwashed the north side of the garage.
  • Since we sold our RV, the wall next to its parking spot is open to view, revealing that the siding was covered with mildew. This wall is the worst, since it faces north and is protected by our large black walnut tree. I cranked up the power washer  and dispatched the slime without undue difficulty.
As you can see, the dark green mildew on the siding is quite dark when compared to a portion I have cleaned with our power washer.
As you can see, the dark green mildew on the siding is quite dark when compared to a portion I have cleaned with our power washer.
  • These peaches are ugly, but when I cut off the ugly, they tasted pretty good.
    These peaches are ugly, but when I cut off the ugly, they tasted pretty good.

    My peach trees have peaches this year, but since I don’t spray them, they are ugly. Still, if you cut the bad parts off, they are still richer and sweeter than grocery store peaches.

  • As playoff season winds down, as of this writing we have just one team, the Byng Pirates baseball team, in the fight. As usual, it’s been a great time covering our teams and their parents who I covered years ago. I feel very welcome and very much a part of their community.
    Your humble host poses with some friends at the first round of Class 4A state baseball playoffs in Edmond Thursday evening. I have known Tracey, seated in the center, since she played basketball at Roff in 1990.
    Your humble host poses with some friends at the first round of Class 4A state baseball playoffs in Edmond Thursday evening. I have known Tracey, seated in the center, since she played basketball at Roff in 1990.

    Your host takes on the enviable task of photographing last week's regional playoff games in Byng, as photographed by Tracey Beech Stephens.
    Your host takes on the enviable task of photographing last week’s regional playoff games in Byng, as photographed by Tracey Beech Stephens.
Abby plays with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound puppy.
Abby plays with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound puppy.
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Oklahoma

Just at sunset, I captured this image of an evolving thunderstorm.
Just at sunset, I captured this image of an evolving thunderstorm.
The sky is often beautiful in southern Oklahoma, but last night it was really showing off.
The sky is often beautiful in southern Oklahoma, but last night it was really showing off.

There are many times when I feel grateful I live in the country. Last night, as I drove from the Oklahoma City area home to the Ada area, was one of those times.

Everything was green, and the sky was wild with springtime. I stopped a couple of times to photograph it, and when I did, the air smelled like honeysuckle and roses.

Windy and turning colder, the sky catches the last rays of the sun in this view looking southeast from the community of Oil Center, Oklahoma.
Windy and turning colder, the sky catches the last rays of the sun in this view looking southeast from the community of Oil Center, Oklahoma.
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“You Don’t Ever Change”

or “You Still Look the Same”

Your humble host photographs himself in a mirror in January 2000.
Your humble host photographs himself in a mirror in January 2000.

As a result of my giant office cleanout project, I have posted on social media a number of photos of Adans (people from Ada, Oklahoma, for you out-of-towners) and their neighbors who I photographed in the 1990s and know in the twentyteens. Some of them look very familiar, but some of them are almost unrecognizable. Why is this?

One thing I feel certain helps me feel and look young is my diet, which I have tried to keep healthy with, among other things, being a vegetarian since 1989.
One thing I feel certain helps me feel and look young is my diet, which I have tried to keep healthy with, among other things, being a vegetarian since 1989.

At the same time, I felt obligated to post a few images of myself from that same era. Almost to a man, people tell me, “You don’t ever change,” “You look the same now as you did then,” or “You never age.”

This is the greyest I ever let my beard get. As you can see, it ages me unkindly.
This is the greyest I ever let my beard get. As you can see, it ages me unkindly.

The truth, of course, is that I have aged, but not as dramatically as some of my friends and neighbors. How much of this is luck, and for how much can I take credit?

  • I didn’t get fat. You might be amazed how much different people can look who double their weight. Often they can be almost unrecognizable. I can take most of the credit for not getting fat. I have been a vegetarian since 1989, and I have always been physically active.
  • I didn’t lose my hair or its color. This is plainly luck. I have great hair. It hasn’t greyed or thinned. My beard, on the other hand, is grey through and through, so I color it, and this makes a significant difference in my apparent age. I see a lot of guys get to a breaking point in their hair lives, when they shave their heads and grow long goatees, or worse. This makes them look old, and kinda creepy.
  • I never smoked or got high. A couple of lifelong smokers from my high school with whom I recently connected on Facebook already look like their grandparents.
  • I dress appropriately for my age and personality. I feel depressed when I see someone my age wear their clothes and hair like they did “back in the day,” only on a body remains very much in this day. I also eschew the “shorts and black socks with sandals” scene that the elderly sometimes inexplicably adopt.
  • I talk to people as though they have value. Young people and old people seem to forget this is important, for different reasons, but the truth is that we are catching more flies with this honey than with their vinegar. One effect of this is…
  • I smile more. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I was unhappy much of the time, and didn’t smile enough. There are few things as effective at disarming and charming people than a decent, genuine smile. I give it as a gift.
  • I try not to complain. No one wants to hear how much my lateral epicondyle tendon hurts, particularly young people who have no idea why old bodies hurt. It just comes across as meanness.

In conclusion, I am 53 as I write this, and have no intention of “acting my age” with the “ask me about my granddog” set.

Abby and I pose for a photo last year. You can see the age in my eyes more than anywhere else, but coloring the beard, as you can see, is a game-changer. Compare this image to the first one in this entry to see how I have aged since my 30s.
Abby and I pose for a photo last year. You can see the age in my eyes more than anywhere else, but coloring the beard, as you can see, is a game-changer. Compare this image to the first one in this entry to see how I have aged since my 30s.
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Goodbye Kokopelli, Sort Of

Our RV, The Kokopelli, sits by the side of the house this morning prior to our selling it to Abby's cousin, Donald Ashford.
Our RV, The Kokopelli, sits by the side of the house this morning prior to our selling it to Abby’s cousin, Donald Ashford.

After seven years of recreational vehicle (RV) ownership, Abby and I have sold our RV, The Kokopelli, for an undisclosed but very reasonable price to Abby’s cousin, Donald Ashford.

When we took the RV places, Max the Chihuahua preferred to ride in the sun on the dashboard.
When we took the RV places, Max the Chihuahua preferred to ride in the sun on the dashboard.

When Abby and I bought this RV from some neighbors down the road, gasoline was cheaper than it is now, and most everything on the machine worked. We primarily used it as our base camp when we visited Abby’s family reunion in Duncan, Oklahoma, and her hometown, Ryan, Oklahoma.

One of our favorite uses for the RV was as a guest house, so if you were a guest in our RV, let me say thanks!

Robert was a frequent guest in our RV, as shown here organizing some of his things in it.
Robert was a frequent guest in our RV, as shown here organizing some of his things in it.

Our experience was mostly positive, but we did find it stressful to drive such a large (34-foot) vehicle, and as it aged, repairs became increasingly expensive as major items stopped working.

Donald was an excellent choice to take the reigns of The Kokopelli because he is a machinist and engineer, and has extensive experience repairing machines just like this. He does exactly that for a living.

Abby and I feel that one day we might buy another RV, hopefully newer and much smaller. I expect that since it’s staying in the family, we will see the this one on occasion, so it’s not like we’re really saying goodbye.

Abby sits on the couch in our RV, The Kokopelli, after cleaning it out prior to selling it to her cousin Donald Ashford.
Abby sits on the couch in our RV, The Kokopelli, after cleaning it out prior to selling it to her cousin Donald Ashford.
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A Doodledog Update

Hawken gives Abby a giant, wet puppy kiss on the front porch last night.
Hawken gives Abby a giant, wet puppy kiss on the front porch last night.
Hawken piles in Abby's lap on the day we got him, March 7. Compare it to the next image, made just seven weeks later.
Hawken piles in Abby’s lap on the day we got him, March 7. Compare it to the next image, made just seven weeks later.

As Hawken, our Irish Wolfhound puppy, grows, he continues to amaze and amuse everyone. Though we haven’t weighed him in a couple of weeks, we think he’s about 60 pounds now.

Abby and I have made a point to leash train him well, and he’s taken right to it. He likes walks and seems to know how to heel like he was born for it.

Abby tries without success to get Hawken in her lap to recreate the photo we made on the day we got him in March. As you can see, we've been feeding him.
Abby tries without success to get Hawken in her lap to recreate the photo we made on the day we got him in March. As you can see, we’ve been feeding him.
Abby walks Hawken down our driveway last night. He is bigger and more powerful every day, but stays at heel with slack in his leash like he was made for it.
Abby walks Hawken down our driveway last night. He is bigger and more powerful every day, but stays at heel with slack in his leash like he was made for it.
As you can see in this image, Hawken still retains the awkwardness of a puppy, and Max and Sierra, who are under me in this image, haven't warmed up to him in the least.
As you can see in this image, Hawken still retains the awkwardness of a puppy, and Max and Sierra, who are under me in this image, haven’t warmed up to him in the least.
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A Plague of Frogs and Other Items of Interest

I found this tiny frog living in our rain gauge. The gauge measures inches of rain, not inches of distance, so the frog is actually smaller than it appears. It is about the size of my thumbnail.
I found this tiny frog living in our rain gauge. The gauge measures inches of rain, not inches of distance, so the frog is actually smaller than it appears. It is about the size of my thumbnail.
I had to dump the frog out of the rain gauge so it could measure upcoming rainfall, so the frog clung to a bench in the front yard for a while. Hopefully he made his way to the pond.
I had to dump the frog out of the rain gauge so it could measure upcoming rainfall, so the frog clung to a bench in the front yard for a while. Hopefully he made his way to the pond.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound puppy is vying for the title of "Most Sincere Dog" of the house. He is only 18 weeks old and already weighs more than 60 pounds.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound puppy is vying for the title of “Most Sincere Dog” of the house. He is only 18 weeks old and already weighs more than 60 pounds.

With rain in the forecast and nice evenings, I spent lots of time outdoors the last two weekends, rebuilding the roof of the doghouse, cleaning out the pen where the chicken coop lives, moving bricks and boards, re-attaching loose siding, weed whacking, cutting down dead trees, limb lopping, and of course, mowing.

Abby and I switched up some of the living room yesterday at her request, and we actually had a lot of fun doing it.

After moving some furniture and vacuuming everything in sight, Abby and Sierra fell asleep.
After moving some furniture and vacuuming everything in sight, Abby and Sierra fell asleep.
I am many things - including a hard worker - but I am not much of a carpenter. I built the roof for this thing, but it isn't pretty.
I am many things – including a hard worker – but I am not much of a carpenter. I built the roof for this thing, but it isn’t pretty.

I saw my doctor this morning for my six-months checkup. He had nurse Amber give me a big bolus of methylprednisolone for what he and I like to call “Photographer’s Syndrome,” or achy-break joints from standing around news and sports events with 15 pounds of gear on my shoulders.

The only surprise was that their lab tech quit, so they sent me down the street to give a blood sample, but it was so crowded that I vowed to come back first thing in the morning.

Max the Chihuahua is more of a trash dog than Sierra. He is pictured here eating the dishwasher.
Max the Chihuahua is more of a trash dog than Sierra. He is pictured here eating the dishwasher.

Those who read the teaching blog know that in my rare spare time at work, I am organizing bunches of old prints I dug out of the morgue. It’s been incredibly fun, since I am able to post photos of people I know from when they were 20 or 25 years younger.

This is Sports Editor Jeff Cali's "Wall of Fame," a cork board behind his desk. Some of the items in this photo have been up there since 1990.
This is Sports Editor Jeff Cali’s “Wall of Fame,” a cork board behind his desk. Some of the items in this photo have been up there since 1990.

Finally, I published a note on Facebook called I am an Atheist. I had a feeling when I did it that it would have an energizing and potentially divisive effect on my readership, but I was quite happy with how many comments of support I received, from theists and atheists alike. My regular readers know where I stand, but here is the message in its entirety…

I Am an Atheist...
I am an atheist. I do not believe in any god.

I was raised in the Episcopal Church, and was an active participant in their ceremony as an acolyte and lay reader. When I was very young, I believed that when our congregation prayed, a beam of spiritual energy shone through the roof of our little church for god to witness.
Though I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I discarded religion and its deities, it was apparent from my early teen years that I had reasoned away god. My journal from tenth grade indicates that I still participated in the Episcopal Church, but only at the behest of my parents. Journal entries, and conversations I clearly recall from high school and college, show that I was an atheist. As an adult, my journal and my blog are filled with unambiguous statements to that effect.
If I don’t believe in god, the real question is: what do I believe? I believe in evidence. I believe in reality. I believe in nature, and I believe that everything in nature is rational, discoverable, and real. I believe that science and genuinely open-minded exploration are the best and most elegant servants of the human condition. I believe that the science in which I have this trust is a learning, growing, changing entity that, through the scientific method, is constantly reevaluating even its most fundament principals, and is ultimately capable of discovering the core truths of the universe.
Abby was going through a box of stuff from her office (from which she retired two years ago) and found about 20 of these solar-powered bobble toys. They all dance when the sun shines on them.
Abby was going through a box of stuff from her office (from which she retired two years ago) and found about 20 of these solar-powered bobble toys. They all dance when the sun shines on them.
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What the What?

The recent political environment has caused me to think harder about human nature. Why is power so intoxicating? Why is cruelty appealing? Why do so many people hate so many other people? How could there be Treblinka, the Bataan Death March, the Murrah Bombing, 9/11?

Then four things happened that helped answer it for me.

  • Steve Jobs’ Cancer: I read on Wikipedia recently that Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs was diagnosed with operable pancreatic cancer and declined treatment for six months. One doctor called it “suicide” since he tried a bunch of new age bullspit instead of real medical care.
  • Harrison Ford’s flight incident: actor Harrison Ford overflew an American Airline 737 while accidentally landing on a taxiway instead of the runway he was cleared to use. I am a pilot with far fewer hours than Ford, and though saying this may catch up to me, I’ve never done anything even remotely as stupid as landing on a taxiway.
  • Oath: Verizon recently announced they were folding AOL and Yahoo! into a company called “Oath,” baffling the tech and business worlds. No one in the press has any idea how they came up with something so lame, but I know there are people in the halls of AOL and Yahoo! right now who can’t believe their idea was passed over for “Oath.”
  • Donald Trump’s Inevitable Plunge into Awfulness: pretty much every time he opens his mouth, the President embarrasses himself and us. I have noted that since his election, the Trumpeters on social media have shut up about him, seemingly realizing what a bad choice he is to lead our country.

How can human beings in charge of millions or billions of dollars, in positions of authority with power to change the lives of thousands or millions of people… Be. So. Stupid.?

I have a long-time friend, LeAnn Skeen, who found herself is a position of serious workplace bullying a couple of years ago. We all know how that feels because it takes an incredibly charmed life to avoid workplace bullies. Just 18 months ago, most of the news staff at my paper were verging on quitting and/or felt they were verging on getting fired because of a very serious problem with a workplace bully. And if you handed me a calendar, I could mark periods of time over the years we were stuck with one bully or another.

I add this because it, too, raises vexing questions about the nature of humanity. How can people in positions of power such as bosses and company owners..  Be. So. Stupid.?

Finally, in the last few months, much to my dismay and amazement, some of the very pillars of marriage in my life have divorced their long-time husbands or wives. You can hear the loud “boing!” sound and see the springs and stars popping out of my head as my eyes spin counterclockwise.

This image makes about as much sense as I am garnering from the issues discusses in this entry.
This image makes about as much sense as I am garnering from the issues discusses in this entry.
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Phones and Dog Teeth

Max the Chihuahua didn't always have grey hair. He is now 13, but remains my all-time favorite pet.
Max the Chihuahua didn’t always have grey hair. He is now 13, but remains my all-time favorite pet.

Yesterday morning, I took Max the Chihuahua to the vet to have his teeth cleaned. It’s an all-day procedure, so I left him and headed home.

The vet took out these four tiny incisors from Max the Chihuahua.
The vet took out these four tiny incisors from Max the Chihuahua.

In the afternoon on the way to pick him up, I tried to call up Siri on my iPhone 5 to ask Abby what she needed from the store. I found that the home button on the phone wasn’t working, and thought it might be a grain of grit in the case.

I picked up Max. They cleaned his healthy teeth, but removed four tiny incisors (front teeth), which is fairly common for older dogs. He was otherwise healthy for a grey-headed 13 year old Chihuahua.

When I got home I couldn’t get my phone to work at all, and once I pried off the case, I found the whole thing coming apart. I consulted our provider’s web site and found I was due for an upgrade, so today I went to the local store got the newest iPhone, the 7 Plus.

Last night the home button died on my iPhone 5, and today the whole thing basically came apart in my hand when I took it out of its case.
Last night the home button died on my iPhone 5, and today the whole thing basically came apart in my hand when I took it out of its case.

Here are the highs and lows of the situation:

  • I don’t love that phones are so big these days, but I understand that this feature increased their versatility.
  • Though my iPhone 5 was five years old, it wasn’t subject to abuse, and it should not, in my opinion, have disintegrated as it did.

    No phone is my phone until the wallpaper photo is Abby.
    No phone is my phone until the wallpaper photo is Abby.
  • I bought a phone with smaller storage. Many people stuff huge amounts of data on their phones, then end up losing it when the phone is crushed by an ostrich or drowned on a waterslide. They also don’t organize their data very well, and can never find it when they need it. I, on the other hand, download and archive everything, and keep only the bare necessities resident on the phone itself.
  • The vendor had all the colors available, and I chose silver, along with a transparent case, which I think matches my other Apple products well, and makes it easier to find in computer bags and travel bags.
  • I use the cloud effectively, and had no difficulty logging in, and didn’t lose any data, phone numbers, photos or apps.
  • The 7 Plus has a double-camera arrangement, which allows it to mimic the selective focus effect of large-aperture lenses, though only with a fair amount of software fussing and fumbling. It wasn’t why I got the phone, but I expect I’ll find an occasion or two when I will use it.

Abby has an iPhone 6S Plus, so we now both have fairly large phones that are fast, modern, and capable.

The iPhone 7 Plus features this double camera arrangement, which I briefly tested and found it worked as promised, but that it was probably an overrated selling point.
The iPhone 7 Plus features this double camera arrangement, which I briefly tested and found it worked as promised, but that it was probably an overrated selling point.
Apple calls their two-camera selective focus feature "depth effect." On the left is the untouched image, and on the right is the "depth effect" image.
Apple calls their two-camera selective focus feature “depth effect.” The phone saves both versions. On the left is the unretouched image, and on the right is the “depth effect” image.
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Dogling Rivalry and a Dad Breakfast

Hawken looks at me as I work to build a gate to keep him out of the garage.
Hawken looks at me as I work to build a gate to keep him out of the garage.
The derpy Hawken meets the edgy and defensive Sierra.
The derpy Hawken meets the edgy and defensive Sierra.

Raising the giant puppy is going predictably. Hawken, who I have taken to calling Hawk or Hawkendoodle, weighed 46 pounds Monday at the vet. He is sincere and loving. He plays too hard and injures us. The Chihuahuas fight with him constantly, and he thinks this is a game and that they are toys.

Sierra and Max double team Hawken as he gets too close to Abby on the couch, as you can plainly see on all three of their faces.
Sierra and Max double team Hawken as he gets too close to Abby on the couch, as you can plainly see on all three of their faces.

I repurposed a latticework wooden gate and attached it with hinges on the outside of the back door of the garage so I could have it open for light and ventilation and still keep Hawk secured in the back yard.

I installed this gate to let the breeze and light into the garage when I work out there, and still keep Hawken safe in the back yard.
I installed this gate to let the breeze and light into the garage when I work out there, and still keep Hawken safe in the back yard.
Hawken and I play in the back yard a week ago. He's only 12 weeks old in this image.
Hawken and I play in the back yard a week ago. He’s only 12 weeks old in this image.
Abby meets with untrained puppyness as she begins the process of leash training last week with Hawken. He caught on fairly quickly, and is doing well now. Rebuilding the roofless doghouse on the left side of the frame is one of my tier 1 projects in the coming days.
Abby meets with untrained puppyness as she begins the process of leash training last week with Hawken. He caught on fairly quickly, and is doing well now. Rebuilding the roofless doghouse on the left side of the frame is one of my tier 1 projects in the coming days.
Mushrooms and squash roast on our propane grill. I also made hobo potatoes, a hamburger for Abby and a veggie chicken thing for me.
Mushrooms and squash roast on our propane grill. I also made hobo potatoes, a hamburger for Abby and a veggie chicken thing for me.

He’s going to be a good dog.

I also cooked out for the first time this season, and it was amazing.

I worked a couple of hours, one of the few Mondays of the year I work, since the Ada Cougars host their only golf tournament then.

On the way home, I called Abby and asked if she would eat breakfast from McDonald’s, which she said she would. Anyone who knew Dad knew that he loved buying the family breakfast from McDonald’s when we visited, and as we ate, it tasted and felt like those days.

Abby ate my Canadian bacon, since I am a vegetarian, but neither of us touched the sausage. It was a fun breakfast that reminded us of my dad.
Abby ate my Canadian bacon, since I am a vegetarian, but neither of us touched the sausage. It was a fun breakfast that reminded us of my dad.
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The Weather Season Again

As the sun set, we found ourselves between two thunderstorms, and I made this colorful image.
As the sun set, we found ourselves between two thunderstorms, and I made this colorful image.
Our Sunday started with this rather dire forecast map, that turned out to be right on the money. We live in Ada, which is at the center of the red zone.
Our Sunday started with this rather dire forecast map, that turned out to be right on the money. We live in Ada, which is at the center of the red zone.

As residents of “tornado alley,” we all hear the same truncated slang, “Are we getting any weather tonight?”

Obviously, there is weather everywhere on earth at all times, but this question is very Oklahomacentric. It asks if the forecast calls for severe weather – thunderstorms and possibly tornadoes.

Last night we had our first round of “weather,” and it was exciting without being tragic. We had tornado watches and severe thunderstorm warnings, and a tornado warning right here in our county.

This is the back side of the storm that produced the tornado warning and a small, intermittent funnel south of Ada in the community of Ahloso.
This is the back side of the storm that produced the tornado warning and a small, intermittent funnel south of Ada in the community of Ahloso.

Abby and I were surprised and annoyed that our cable television service was taken over by the Weather Service, interrupting the coverage of the weather to give us a text message of the warning. Our phones also sent us noisy messages. None of that mattered – we were already listening to all the right public safety frequencies and were hearing their reports in real time.

I didn’t see or photography any tornados, though a coworker did. My attempts to photograph lightning fell flat – it’s never easy, and last night the sky wasn’t cooperating.

This was the best I could muster for lighting last night.
This was the best I could muster for lighting last night.
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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: I am at a party at my friends Michael and Thea’s house. They live on an empty country road. The other guest is a beautiful blond woman with deep blue eyes who sits in the front drawer of Michael’s desk writing love poetry and being depressed. She says she got this way from “the Kozakis stream.” We cut up lemons, which turn to limes. I cut up some other fruit and she takes out a pad and asks, “Will that be all sir?” I tell her she’s not my waitress. I realize I am having too many yellow and orange fruits for dinner. An angry teenager with a knife approaches Michael, who repeatedly provokes the angry man by tugging at his shirt. The angry man head-butts Michael, who falls to the floor unconscious. I walk down the road, which changes from dirt road to the hallway of a housing project. On the walls, I see numerous maps of cell phone service in the Congo. When I get back to Michael and Thea’s, a crowd has gathered and are very concerned for Michael. We then try to roll out a large rubber mat so we can do an MRI, and a comedy ensues when it is too heavy and too floppy to unroll. The angry man runs through the crowd, trying to escape from police, stopping to threaten us with his knife. The crowd gasps audibly.

Dream: Mackenzee Crosby and I are interns in the photo department at The Enid News and Eagle during the film era. The department is run by an old man We see him leave and I explain, “He said when he turned 65, he was leaving and not coming back.” I look in his camera bag to find his equipment to be from the 1970s and filthy. It is such bad equipment, in fact, that some of the focal lengths are wrong; he has 280mm telephoto for example. We go outside and are surprised to see a freight train speeding down a hill out of control toward us, but when it turns at the last minute, we remember it is “the 3:10.” We turn around to find the main highway into town has been turned into a beautiful reflecting pool, and a body luge tournament is about to begin. I open my own camera bag to find the old man’s stuff inside, including three filthy 280mm lenses. At that point one of the dogs woke me up, so I went to the other bedroom. The next three dreams were about trying to restart the first dream.

Dreams: my right arm got uncovered, so for a while I dreamed I was donating blood. After a while, I dreamed I was playing softball for Latta High School. Our pitcher can’t find her uniform, so she cites a rare regulation that allows her to play in a black bra. As I result, I get to wear her uniform. We take the field, but it is the Brooklyn Bridge, and we are golfing. I then realize she has a huge crush on me. I appreciate that because she has such beautiful hair, but when I turn to look at her again, it’s frizzy like a 1980s haircut. She hits a ball off the bridge. It lands in the water, but floats, and we realize that if it sinks, it’s a foul ball, but if we can get it back before it sinks, it will be a home run. We enter the subway, which is served by canals. We see the ball floating by and form a human chain to pull it out of the water. An angry New Yorker says he will no longer support Latta because of this turn of events.

Dream: we are playing Photon/laser tag in an indoor/outdoor arena. As we play and our weapons are upgraded, they change in our hands using transporter technology. I then realize we are shooting each other’s phones. At the end of the first round, I don’t have the highest score, but I did earn the “most hate generated” bonus.

Dream: Abby and I were fighting our way out of a huge, dark grey military complex at night under heavy fire. Shoot-and-scoot, cover-and-retreat, emptying mag after mag from our rifles and pistols. Just as we seem to be out of ammo and lost, Max and Sierra scurry off, then return after finding an escape route, leading us to safety.

Dream from May 2004, recorded in my journal: I am rowing down a muddy river beneath an Interstate highway. I find a box of lollypops who are being bullied by their classmates. I escort them to a dry spot, where I install an Oldsmobile 403 engine in a lawn mower.

Dream fragment from nap: “cemetery-grade popsicle.” I then fell asleep again and dreamed that  Doug Hoke gave me a personal tour of his collection of toy airplanes and Steyr rifles.

Dream: LeAnn Skeen and I lower a huge semi into a lake at a grade school in Shawnee to separate the rabbit half from the non-rabbit half. Then Abby Barron and i accidentally crack a kitchen tile, opening an infinity. We collect the blue infinity goo in a bucket and keep it in a child’s bedroom upstairs, occasionally dropping things into it to watch them disappear into eternity.

Dream: Ashley Williams and I are recruiting for a minor league football team. We get Tom Cruise and Burt Reynolds to join. After a couple of games, we find ourselves being chased by boxes, which were throwing smaller boxes at us. Eventually we realize we are in a race in an obstacle course. Ashley is in the lead, and after crossing several difficult ladder obstacles, gets to the finish line and solves a complex puzzle to open the cabinet housing our first place award.

Dream: I was at an Allen football game when the quarterbacks tried to punch each other out. The teams were so ashamed they threw their pads on the field and went to the locker room, even though the game wasn’t over. The final score was settled by seven year olds playing tetherball.

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.

Hawken walks in the front yard with Abby this morning.
Hawken walks in the front yard with Abby this morning.

Abby wanted to name him a “gun” name, preferably after a gun from the old West. Some of the names we considered were…

  • 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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