Freezes, Thaws, and Sweaters

I put two camping tent rain flies over my tomatoes Thursday night, and though there was still some frost damage, most of the leaves and fruit are still healthy.
I put two camping tent rain flies over my tomatoes Thursday night, and though there was still some frost damage, most of the leaves and fruit are still healthy.

We had a freeze Friday morning. I tried to cover my tomato plants with two rain flies from two of my camping tents, and it was partially successful.

The changes in the weather make Abby’s bones ache, but she remains in great spirits as we begin our 16th year of marriage together.

Our community now seems to have more medical marijuana dispensaries than Baptist Churches, and a friend of mine with several health problems just received her “card,” permitting legal purchase of medical cannabis. I’d like everyone to feel free to weigh in on this in the comments: is this good, bad, ugly, a trend, a mistake, an answer?

Among other tasks, Abby is crocheting new sweaters for Summer the Chihuahua, including one that is the exact same color as the afghan she just finished…

Between the afghan and the sweater, it's a little hard to make out the dog in this picture.
Between the afghan and the sweater, it’s a little hard to make out the dog in this picture.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound won’t wear sweaters, and didn’t seem to want to wear the bandana I put on him this morning, or maybe he thought it was a funny game of keep-away, but I finally got him to wear it. It was a gift from my sister, and is supposed to be infused with a substance that repels insect and arachnids.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound wears his green bandana today after a comical chase around the yard to get it on him.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound wears his green bandana today after a comical chase around the yard to get it on him.

The Case for Blogging

When social media makes us frown, which is all the time, maybe it's time to take to a different kind of internet experience.
When social media makes us frown, which is all the time, maybe it’s time to take to a different kind of internet experience.

“Blogging is passé.” — Long-ago coworker.
“I hate blogs!” — Current coworker.

I don’t agree with either of these points. As it happens, I author three blogs — a social blog (this one), a teaching site, and a travel blog. I post to them all the time, and I feel like it is a great contribution to my intellectual presence. I also know six people, Michael, Dan, Jen, Doug, Wil, and Scott, who currently curate blogs that I prefer to read over social media by a factor of 60.

The passé blogging to which my long-ago coworker referred was the post-MySpace, pre-Facebook, soccer-mom blog scene, which, dare I say, wasn’t much of a scene in the first place. They are the minivans of web sites. Most of the participants during this period (circa 2007) had little to say, so their blogs weren’t very satisfying, and most of these people abandoned their blogs the day they signed up for Facebook.

The young lady who told me she “hates” blogs oddly reads every word of mine if I send her a link. It’s possible she is right to hate blogs. They can be as awful as television or superhero movies. Maybe a good blog could change her mind.

When I talk about a blog (which is short for “web log,” which was originally an online journal), I’m really talking about a place for self-expression that goes beyond day-to-day chat, and with that in mind, blogging might not be for you.

Why do I like blogging better than social media?

A blog can be a repository for your personal history. Facebook has tried to remedy this deficit over the years with features like being able to save a post, and with their campy “Deb and Lisa are celebrating six years of friendship on Facebook,” but when I see those, I scroll by, and if Facebook creates one for me, I delete it. I neither want nor need the world’s largest social media company defining my friendships or what my life is like.

You can write much longer stories with stronger narratives. A blog can be home to your short stories, movies, poems and novels. You can set blog posts to remain private or be protected behind a password. You can save blog posts to your “drafts” folder so you can work on them for a while before publishing them.

You can set your own terms of service. With a blog, there’s no more agreeing to egregious rights-grabs or unwelcome redesigns. The look and feel of your blog is based on themes, so it can look a lot smarter, trimmer and more inviting than, say, Snapchat. Additionally, you can customize your site to look just right on a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone.

Blog are searchable, meaning if you put the word “carrot” into the search box, you can see all your entries containing the word “carrot.” You can’t do that with social media, and, since social media is organized only chronologically, posts on social media vanish into the ether to disappear forever.

• If you don’t like blogs because they don’t seem to generate the flurry of comments, likes and emojis of social media, blogging is definitely not for you. Those are shallow rewards, and I’m talking about creating something deeper than “the guy in drive-thru was so rude today.”

• This might be the best one: you control the commentary. How often have you popped off what you thought was a clever comment on a social media site, only to have it demolished in a furious flurry of hate, scoring off your perceived idiocy? With a blog, you can turn off comments, have comments held for your approval, and even filter comments by keyword. You’re the boss of your blog’s comment section.

I used WordPress to administer my blogs, and you can too, for free, at WordPress.com. It’s fast and easy to learn, and allows you to construct a web site that best expresses you and your intellectual goals, instead of a social media site that best expresses how to “drive traffic toward advertising clicks.”

If you still feel the need to be in the social media fray, your blog posts can be part of social media: anything you post to your blog can be instantly shared to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, anything.

I look forward to reading your next blog post.

If it’s well written enough, it will appeal to  genuine readers, as opposed to skimmers, who have rapidly learned to filter out lengthier, more involved communications, while at the same time devouring anything that forwards their agendas. Of course we all run into a intellectual snobs who “know” that blogs are full of potty stories and kindergarten graduations, and they’d be right to some degree, at least in the last decade.

By all means, go down the rabbit hole of this blog. Bookmark it for later and read it when you get the chance. It’s been around since 2007, and I hope to keep it going for the foreseeable future. Enjoy. And if you start one, share it with me, and I promise to read every word.

Social media can be a bitter pill sometimes, with its squabbling and lying. My name is on this site, so I feel I am accountable for it. Let my blog be the sugar that makes the medicine go down.
Social media can be a bitter pill sometimes, with its squabbling and lying. My name is on this site, so I feel I am accountable for it. Let my blog be the sugar that makes the medicine go down.

Where Were We 15 Years Ago?

Abby and I exchange wedding vows at the beautiful and iconic Delicate Arch in Utah's Arches National Park in October 2004.
Abby and I exchange wedding vows at the beautiful and iconic Delicate Arch in Utah’s Arches National Park in October 2004.

Did you hear about the two antennas who got married? The ceremony was only so-so, but the reception was fantastic!

Everybody talks about milestones in their lives, from school graduations to grandchildren’s births. Today is one of those milestones, our 15th wedding anniversary.

After 15 years of marriage, there is still no place we would rather be than at each other's side.
After 15 years of marriage, there is still no place we would rather be than at each other’s side.

Early in our relationship, Abby said, “I’m going to want to be married,” and I not only agreed with it, I was thinking it myself.

People, mostly women, talk about beautiful weddings, and often put too much emphasis on that one day, but the truth is, it really is only one day, the first day of an amazing adventure that, for those of us who like being married, is among the best things in our lives.

Marriage is what you both make it. Our marriage is good. I know many people who married poorly, or behaved poorly when they were married, and now despise the concept, but that’s a choice, not a fact. Marriage is what you make it.

  • My favorite thing to wear is my wedding ring. Abby has literally never taken hers off except to clean it.
  • Abby has me referring to myself as “Daddy” and her as “Mama” when I talk to the dogs.
  • We have never stayed mad at each other for more than a day.
  • She is the first person I want to tell when I hear news, and I tell her everything.

So, where were we 15 years ago? We were young and alive and so happy to be standing in the chilly southern Utah sunshine with the iconic Delicate Arch behind us, trading vows.

You can read the whole story of our wedding trip here (link.)

After all these years, Abby and I still look at each other like this, and we still mean it.
After all these years, Abby and I still look at each other like this, and we still mean it.

Shoffner Reunion 2019

Amber and Darrell hold up the afghan Abby made for the auction. The funds from the auction help fund next year's reunion.
Amber and Darrell hold up the afghan Abby made for the auction. The funds from the auction help fund next year’s reunion.

The Shoffner Reunion 2019 is in the books.

Despite the reunion being only one day, there was a big meal. Everyone got their fill.
Despite the reunion being only one day, there was a big meal. Everyone got their fill.

The reunion has changed in the last three years. In 2017, it was at Abby’s aunt Judy’s farm in Duncan, Oklahoma, where she hosted it for over a decade. But with Judy and her sons, who were instrumental in helping Judy organize the event, getting older, and with attendance waning as the family dispersed across the country, and as some of them died, the three-day affair on the farm stopped being the best choice.

Last year, Abby’s cousin Al Shoffner, the commander at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, near where I grew up in Lawton, and his wife Carron, stepped up. Everyone had a great time, but there were fewer family members than ever before.

This year the reunion was at the Ryan, Oklahoma Senior Citizens Center.

See more photos of this event on the reunion’s Facebook page album (link.)

The Ryan, Oklahoma Senior Citizens Center was host to this year's Shoffner Family Reunion.
The Ryan, Oklahoma Senior Citizens Center was host to this year’s Shoffner Family Reunion.

Washing in Dirt

John Martin photographed me at my office last week when he visited from Colorado.
John Martin photographed me at my office last week when he visited from Colorado.
Your humble host photographed himself at PEC Day Saturday.
Your humble host photographed himself at PEC Day Saturday.

Our 16-year-old water softener recently died. By the time the entire system was depleted of soft water, I remembered why I like soft water: showering in the City of Ada’s treated Byrd’s Mill Spring water is like showering in dirt.

We got a new softener late last week, and it’s good to lather again.

Some other notes…

  • It appears there is a good chance Donald Trump will be impeached soon. That doesn’t mean his presidency will end. Bill Clinton was impeached. Of note: someone in office can be a complete bastard, and you can hate him or her to tiny pieces, but you can only impeach a president for illegal acts. But Trump supporters continue to assert that accusations against him are liberal efforts to … well, things are less clear in their minds about why liberals want to get rid of him. They hate freedom. Yeah, that’s it.
A couple of things about this bumper sticker I photographed downtown: 1. If she had won, they wouldn't be over it. 2. "Get over it" implies we should stop disagreeing, which is not only absurd, but unpatriotic. 3. If he is impeached, when will they "get over it?"
A couple of things about this bumper sticker I photographed downtown: 1. If she had won, they wouldn’t be over it. 2. “Get over it” implies we should stop disagreeing, which is not only absurd, but unpatriotic. 3. If he is impeached, when will they “get over it?”
  • A Boeing B-17 warbird I photographed in March here in Ada as it toured with the Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom tour crashed this week in Connecticut, destroying the aircraft and killing at least seven of the 13 on board.
  • Work continues on the cell tower: this week, a dude is over there with a tiny track hoe, digging something. Hopefully it will soon have antennas and equipment, and we will have a signal in Byng.
  • Abby’s iPhone 6S Plus died slowly over the past few months, so we finally replaced it with an iPhone XR. An Apple aficionado at my office is thoroughly offended when I refer to it as an iPhone SEX, so I do it as often as I can.
Your host photographed himself inside the Boeing B-17 "Nine-O-Nine" during the Wings of Freedom Tour March 20 at Ada Regional Airport. The aircraft was destroyed Wednesday when it crashed in Connecticut.
Your host photographed himself inside the Boeing B-17 “Nine-O-Nine” during the Wings of Freedom Tour March 20 at Ada Regional Airport. The aircraft was destroyed Wednesday when it crashed in Connecticut.

 

So Much Very Many

Last night I gave away some bell peppers, then found something to cook with some of them: this amazing black bean burrito.
Last night I gave away some bell peppers, then found something to cook with some of them: this amazing black bean burrito.

Today is Sunday, and I am bouncing around doing about a dozen things, not finishing any of them, starting another one, getting distracted, going down rabbit holes. This must have been what I was like when I was four. And like a four year old, I expect within an hour I will be sweetly napping.

I saw this note in the street and photographed it some years ago, but never really found a use for it. Here it is for your consideration.
I saw this note in the street and photographed it some years ago, but never really found a use for it. Here it is for your consideration.

So now I will go do a focus stack, learn about Adobe Premiere Pro CC, fold my towels, make the bed, feed my wife, feed myself, help a fellow photographer in the yard while he makes macro photos, cut the grass, help Abby throw out clothes that don’t fit, and … hm. I’ll think of some other stuff.

One thing I am deciding just today is to try a lot harder to post stuff here, then link to social media, rather than posting straight to social media. I think posting to social media sites is a little like doing drugs… we take the hit by posting, then feel the high when we got likes. It feels unhealthy to me somehow.

This isn’t about clicks or metrics. This is about identity. Zuckerberg vs Barron. “And I’ll do it myyyyyyyyy wayyyyyy!!!”

Jeepers, I need to switch to decaf.

This is me working a wildfire ten days ago, smelling very smoky. When I am working or when I am at home, I work hard at a dozen things at once.
This is me working a wildfire ten days ago, smelling very smoky. When I am working or when I am at home, I work hard at a dozen things at once.

Welcome Back Open Mic, If Only Once

Kellyn Kimbrell reads by the light of her cell phone Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 during Open Mic Nyte at Hot Shots Coffee Shop.
Kellyn Kimbrell reads by the light of her cell phone Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 during Open Mic Nyte at Hot Shots Coffee Shop.

One of my favorite Ada community events, Open Mic Nyte, ceased meeting in May for a variety of reasons. But the gathering came roaring back for a one-time event Thursday on the patio of Hot Shots Coffee House in Ada, drawing many regular artists and readers, and a few new participants.

Sterling Jacobs glances skyward as he reads a particularly meaningful passage of his writing at Open Mic Nyte Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 at Hot Shots Coffee Shop.
Sterling Jacobs glances skyward as he reads a particularly meaningful passage of his writing at Open Mic Nyte Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 at Hot Shots Coffee Shop.
Open Mic founder Rhonda Ragsdale and I pose prior to the event.
Open Mic founder Rhonda Ragsdale and I pose prior to the event.

The event was precipitated by the death of Terry Ragsdale, father of Open Mic’s original founders, Lisa Ragsdale and Rhonda Ragsdale. Since they traveled to Ada for their father’s funeral, they decided to get Open Mic back together for one night.

The event was Open Mic’s first occasion to be outdoors, and the weather was about as perfect as anyone could ask. Since Hot Shots is in the Ada Arts District, the neighborhood had an air of night life about it. People came and went from various businesses, or passed us as they walked their dogs.

Without an Open Mic event all summer, it seemed to me that our creative energy built up, then came out in a flurry Thursday night. We all still write and sing and read and play music, but expressing it in a public gathering allows us to hear it out loud and assess our voices. Someone told me once that a thought isn’t really real until it’s shared, and I think Open Mic Nyte helps us bring our thoughts to life.

Our one-time venue was the patio at Hot Shots Coffee House.
Our one-time venue was the patio at Hot Shots Coffee House.

How Washable is Your Dog?

Your humble host washes Hawken the Wolfhound last night.
Your humble host washes Hawken the Wolfhound last night.
Photo by Abby S. M. Barron
Photo by Abby S. M. Barron

Every dog falls somewhere on the washability index, from “Okay, this group of four-year-olds is soaping me while I calmly sit in a red wagon” to “I will kill you the next time you lift that garden hose.”

We don’t use groomers. Abby worked for a veterinarian for years and knows how to do all that stuff, so she and I take care of it, including washing our dogs. Chihuahuas Max and Sierra, who have both passed away, were tolerant of baths but not enthusiastic, while Summer the  Chihuahua is still figuring it out. One thing Summer does surprisingly well is get her nails trimmed.

Our front porch ended up resembling a rastafarian barber shop.
Our front porch ended up resembling a rastafarian barber shop.

Hawken doesn’t get along with water. To bath him, I have to leash him to a rung at the bottom of the stairs on the front porch.

If Hawken looks particularly filthy, it’s because he is: to keep cool in the summer, he wallows in holes he’s dug under the back porch. If it has rained recently, he gets even muddier, and after we wash him, it’s difficult to get him dry enough that he won’t get completely filthy as soon as he lies down for the night.

I knew better than to dry Hawken with a good towel, so instead I used this car wash towel, which he enjoyed shredding.
I knew better than to dry Hawken with a good towel, so instead I used this car wash towel, which he enjoyed shredding.

I made an effort to cut some of the mats out of his fur, which are just tangles of hair mashed together when he lays in the grass or dirt.

He’s such a happy dog, though, and while he seems super-annoyed to be getting bathed, he is then instantly glad to play with us. Last night as I was drying him, he decided it was a game, and before the game was done, the towel was torn in half.

Abby and I use a dog shampoo called Plum Silky. It is foamy, smells good, and leaves the dogs' hair soft.
Abby and I use a dog shampoo called Plum Silky. It is foamy, smells good, and leaves the dogs’ hair soft.

Into the Void of Misunderstanding: The Journals of Kurt Cobain

I write this on the 41st anniversary of my journal.

My reading glasses sit on a map of Colorado in the morning sun. Two things of note... 1. I recently switched to 2.0x readers, partially due to trying to read Kurt Cobain's child-like handwriting, and 2. Abby and I hope to visit Colorado again very soon.
My reading glasses sit on a map of Colorado in the morning sun. Two things of note… 1. I recently switched to 2.0x readers, partially due to trying to read Kurt Cobain’s child-like handwriting, and 2. Abby and I hope to visit Colorado again very soon.

My reviewance of Kurt Cobain’s journal continues. I am about halfway through, but I grab his big red book at every commodal sit-down and late afternoon nap. So far, it has been every bit the epic roller coaster I hoped it would.

“No matter what you write, it will be completely misinterpreted by everyone who reads it every time.” ~M7

“Don’t read my diary when I’m gone.” ~Kurt Cobain, in his journal

When I got ahold of the journals of Kurt Cobain and published an insistent social media post about it, I was set upon by immediate misinterpretation by friends and acquaintances, the most significant of which was the notion that this was about the band Nirvana or the grunge music scene in the early 1990s.

The Initial Commentary...

“I’m not a fan of Cobain or Nirvana. It’s not because I specifically dislike him or their music, it’s just not my thing.”

“…never cared for Cobain or Nirvana. I know the ‘Teen Spirit’ thing always made the charts and lists as a great song and I never understood why. Love music and my taste runs from Pink Floyd to Johnny Cash and a lot in between but Nirvana wasn’t one of them.”

“Nirvana was meh. I don’t think it translates very well post-90s, but that is just me.”

“Overrated band….period..and history has now proven that.”

This has nothing to do with music.

I saw these journals and, as a journal writer and reader, I was fascinated. I said that in the initial post, but… sigh. Maybe M7 was right. Maybe my best efforts to unravel Cobain’s thoughts are doomed from the start.

Sometimes I see myself as far too organized, far too careful. Part of me admires Cobain’s total chaos. Even when I try to let myself be chaotic, in writing or photography, the chaos I create is pretentious and fraudulent. I am not, however, a fraud myself. Two works I admired as a teenager and later found out to be complete fakes were Go Ask Alice and Jay’s Journal, both conjured by a religious nutbag to try to scare kids away from drug, the occult, and Satanism. Ironically, it drew more kids to those things than away, so hmm. Maybe it was a false flag. I don’t know. Maybe no one knows.

I won’t make this post a review of Cobain’s journals, at least not until I have made a couple of complete passes through it, but this is an indictment of myself: too careful, too controlled, too controlling, too disgusted and afraid of what I might become if I let go of all that.

I made this pretentious illustration of journals this morning. Possibly the most pretentious thing about it is that my own journals, the spiral-bound ones from years ago, and a hardback volume of today, above and beneath the others. Wow, Richard. Blunt.
I made this pretentious illustration of journals this morning. Possibly the most pretentious thing about it is that my own journals, the spiral-bound ones from years ago, and a hardback volume of today, above and beneath the others. Wow, Richard. Blunt.

Red Hot Poker of Death

Hawken the mighty Wolfhound stands near the back door last night.
Hawken the mighty Wolfhound stands near the back door last night.

One evening earlier this summer, I had just finished walking Hawken the Irish Wolfhound when I came across a nest of red wasps in the gap between the back door and the siding, and I guess I got too close, because they broke the treaty and stung me twice in the left arm.

Within 90 seconds they had been sprayed into oblivion in what could only be described as a mission of destruction. The stings were painful initially, and lasted for more than a week.

I know they're not aggressive and don't attack unless provoked, and only defend their nests, but they build those nests too close to areas I transit every day, and since they did break the cease-fire, I have no other recourse but annihilation.
I know they’re not aggressive and don’t attack unless provoked, and only defend their nests, but they build those nests too close to areas I transit every day, and since they did break the cease-fire, I have no other recourse but annihilation.

This morning I opened that same door to bring Hawken breakfast when I heard the papery whisper of dozens of red wasp wings coming from that same spot. I backed off quickly and avoided getting stung this time, but come on: They reoccupied the position! Again I sprayed them into oblivion, and tonight after walking both dogs I looked around to see dozens of dead wasps on the back porch.

Wasp stings are a nuisance for me, but if Summer the Chihuahua got stung, it could be fatal. She has recently discovered that she loves for me to walk her, so I have doubled my daily dog walking.

Summer the Chihuahua pokes around the driveway on a walk recently.
Summer the Chihuahua pokes around the driveway on a walk recently.
The disk shape on my hand is the projection of the morning sun through the peephole.
The disk shape on my hand is the projection of the morning sun through the peephole.

Finally, a unique feature of our exactly-east-facing house is that as the autumnal equinox approaches, the sun shines through the peephole (mistyped at one point “poophole”), in the front door in the morning, which is  neat.

The lensing of the peephole causes the light to split into spectra. Moving the camera to different colored parts of the light changes the result.
The lensing of the peephole causes the light to split into spectra. Moving the camera to different colored parts of the light changes the result.

Smells Like Teen Suicide

Kurt Cobain wrote in Mead spiral notebooks? So did I!
Kurt Cobain wrote in Mead spiral notebooks? So did I!

Browsing YouTube recently, I came across a video from The Nerdwriter called, “Polly: Nirvana’s Darkest Song.”

I wasn’t into Nirvana when the band was huge. I found their sound, like a lot of grunge/garage of the era, a bit too ratty and melodiless.

In the video, Nerdwriter mentions front man Kurt Cobain’s journals. I literally stopped the video right then, swiped over to the Amazon app, found and bought Cobain’s journals. Why? Everyone who knows me knows that not only have I curated journals since 1978 (when Cobain was just 11), but also that I read all the journals I can find, from friends who shared theirs with me or gave them to me, to famous journalers like Anaîs Nin or Franz Kafka.

I read Cobain’s suicide note years ago, and it left me wanting more, and more than just music.

This is Kurt Cobain's suicide note.
This is Kurt Cobain’s suicide note.

Today I got a fat book in the mail. It is photos of his journal pages, which, honestly, is beyond cool. It is messy, chaotic, vulgar, brilliant, interesting. I will dig in with my multi-colored highlighters, and attempt to decode the journal of this troubled, complex, dark soul. Watch this space for a review.

Look at this beautiful chaos! I can't wait to dig into this!
Look at this beautiful chaos! I can’t wait to dig into this!

Finally Losing My Mind

As if anyone needed evidence that I am losing my mind, here is a seminal story from just yesterday:

As I was about to leave the house for work, I couldn’t find my wedding ring. Hmm. When was the last time I remember wearing it? Ah, it was when I took the Wolfhound to the corner with me to buy fuel for the lawn mower. Maybe my ring is in the truck, maybe I dropped it next to the pumps, maybe it fell off in the garage. In any case, I didn’t have time to look for it then, so I put a “travel ring” on my left ring finger.

A wedding ring is just a small symbol of the marriage you build, but I happen to love this simple piece of titanium on its own merits: it is cut to be comfortable, it is very lightweight, and I can brag that it's made of the same element as fighter jets.
A wedding ring is just a small symbol of the marriage you build, but I happen to love this simple piece of titanium on its own merits: it is cut to be comfortable, it is very lightweight, and I can brag that it’s made of the same element as fighter jets.

My day progresses normally. Photo assignments. Deadlines. Hurry up and wait. By midday I needed to tell my editor something, so I stepped into his office, leaned on the door frame and started talking, putting my hands in my pockets in the process… wait, is my wedding ring in my pocket? How did it get there? I haven’t worn these pants since last week.

I must have grabbed it thoughtlessly with the earbuds and jump drives and put it in my pocket without telling my brain.

Also recently, my wife needed me to get some of her prescription meds together. I put them in a plastic pill cup, walked from her bathroom to mine, realized I was thirsty, popped the pills in my mouth and swallowed them with a big drink of water… wait. Did I just take Abby’s prescriptions? Hmm. Oh, well. Maybe I’m not getting enough estrogen.

Also, I take credit for ruining Open Mic Nyte with my incessant use of the word “weiner.”

Underwhelmed by the Impossible Whopper

At the urging of my wife and my coworkers, I decided today to try the “Impossible Whopper,” a new supposedly vegetarian offering on Burger King’s menu.

Burger King's "Impossible Whopper" awaits consumption on my deak at my newspaper's office today.
Burger King’s “Impossible Whopper” awaits consumption on my deak at my newspaper’s office today.

Those of you who know me well might remember that I have been a dietary vegetarian since 1989, and my ears always perk up when I hear of another vegetarian lunch option.

Our local Burger King has offered a Morningstar Farms vegetarian burger for years, but I don’t get it very often because it is expensive and, honestly, not particularly nutritious. Well-heeled vegetarians know that vegan and vegetarian foods can unhealthy, and it takes some effort to design a legitimate diet no matter what restriction you place on it: low carb, low sugar, no meat, no dairy, no wheat.

A healthy diet is composed of balance, and, in my opinion (which is not without merit), is composed of whole foods, vegetarian foods, and foods that have been vetted through history as good for the human body as well as the environment. The best meal I had this week was a bowl of Anasazi beans I cooked in my Instantpot. They were amazing, and amazing for me.

So what did I think of the Impossible Whopper?

  • It might have tasted a little like meat, but that means little to me, since it’s been so long since I had meat, and I neither crave meat nor miss it.
  • It was a good sandwich, but mostly because of the mayonnaise and onions.
  • It was very expensive. The “meal” with fries and an unsweet iced tea was $9.49.
  • It was too many calories. Vegetarian or not, I am certain that the average American eats too much food, and this meal was about 40% more food than I like to have at lunch.
  • The sides (chicken strips, mozzarella sticks, chilli cheese bites, fries, onion rings, and hash browns) are tasty, but not at all good for me. Fast food restaurants are all about profit margins, and as a result they serve sides that are super-cheap to make. I would love sides like fruit or steamed vegetables, but like everyone else, I don’t want to pay $3 for 14¢ worth of green beans and carrots.

About 30 minutes after eating the Impossible Whopper I felt kinda ooky, probably because I ate too much. My conclusion about this item? Meh.

The "Impossible Whopper" is not only possible, it isn't all that great.
The “Impossible Whopper” is not only possible, it isn’t all that great.

When in a Pickle

A friend and webizen recently posted some new photos and stories about "the pickle." It's not my pickle, but in the pickle genre, here is my wife Abby at The Chubby Pickle Restaurant in Phillipsburg, Kansas.
A friend and webizen recently posted some new photos and stories about “the pickle.” It’s not my pickle, but in the pickle genre, here is my wife Abby at The Chubby Pickle Restaurant in Phillipsburg, Kansas.

“I love sleeping. It’s my favorite thing to do,” someone at the office said.

“I love eating. That’s my favorite thing.”

Another coworker asserts that playing the bag-tossing game “cornhole” is his favorite thing to do.

The discussion got me pondering what some of my favorite things to do are, and it marries well with my recent Dream Job post.

All of these items can be appended with the phrase “with Abby.”

  • Photography is almost all of its incarnations
  • Hiking in all its incarnations, including walking our Wolfhound.
  • Travelling, especially in the Four Corners region
  • Gardening and working in the yard
  • Flying
  • Teaching photography
  • Writing, especially outside-the-box fiction and experimental writing, and writing that I can share online or in front of a microphone, or when I commit pen to paper.
  • Speaking in public about myself or my craft

Okay, about two items mentioned by my coworkers…

  • Sleeping: I don’t sleep without some kind of assistance, and only like to sleep as a remedy for exhaustion.
  • Eating: thought we all enjoy eating to some degree, for decades I have been an adherent of the maxim, “Don’t live to eat. Eat to live.”

Finally, I love the self-expression afforded me by the internet, with some important caveats…

  • I stay out of comment wars, since there is no way to win, and internet commentiers tend to deliberately push your buttons to get a response. It’s a lot like being in a sixth grade boys basketball locker room. Thus, this web site.
  • I don’t take quizzes, for two reasons. First, if they are legitimate, I always ace them. Quizzes are aimed at adjudicating egos, not actually finding out anything. Secondly, most quizzes are data mines for corporations.
  • There’s been a lot of promise of rejuvenated web presences recently, and I guess we’ll see.

As I write this, I feel like I am in the midst of my usual August-heat-waves writing doldrums. My writer friend and next door neighbor Jen has recently “lost her mojo” in the same fashion, but recently told me she got it back. As a journalist and columnist, I can’t really afford the luxury of  letting my mojo sleep, so my favorite thing to do when I am in heat (August heat, that is) is to power through it. I start a paragraph and type, or pick up a journal and write. It works.

This is me with a pickle, but not "the" pickle.
This is me with a pickle, but not “the” pickle.

Making Friends with Our Intern

Ashlynd Elizabeth Huffman, our 2019 summer intern, looks completely serious as she covers a three-vehicle injury accident just west of Ada earlier this month.
Ashlynd Elizabeth Huffman, our 2019 summer intern, looks completely serious as she covers a three-vehicle injury accident just west of Ada earlier this month.

“Our intern’s last day was Friday. It’s been years since we had an intern, and we had all kind of forgotten how great it can be to have fresh eyes and fresh ideas in the newsroom.”

This was the lede for my column today, part of a straightforward telling of our intern’s adventures this summer. On a more personal note, I won’t hesitate to say that Ashlynd and I became friends this summer, and we both had a great time throwing her into our news cycle, changing her from a slack-jawed Snapchatter into a white hot grease fire of journalism. Okay, okay, she wasn’t really a slack-jawed Snapchatter, but I could make jokes like that all summer with her and she would laugh and laugh.

Ashlynd and I ran out to the scene of a trailer fire earlier this month. She ended up using this photo as her profile picture on social media for a while.
Ashlynd and I ran out to the scene of a trailer fire earlier this month. She ended up using this photo as her profile picture on social media for a while.

“If you had to use one word to describe me,” she asked, “what you it be?”

Before she finished the sentence I knew the answer. “Fun,” I told her.

“RICH-CHARD!” she chided, hoping I would say something like “journalist” or “professional,” but the truth is she’s a really fun person.

Nothing says, "I'm a journalist" like a highway safety vest that is 11 sizes too large.
Nothing says, “I’m a journalist” like a highway safety vest that is 11 sizes too large.

Ashlynd has been tagging along with our staff, including me, as we cover all kinds of news events this summer, including items like the severe thunderstorms that blew down trees and power lines across the area June 19, and a tragic fatality accident near Asher July 11.

It was amazing to watch: the scanner would page out a fire or a crash, and she would instantly perk up. “Are we going?” she asked me with anticipation in her voice. When I said yes, she would burst into action, grabbing her phone and her cameras, and putting on the orange safety vest we gave her that was about 11 sizes too big. By the time we got to the car, more details would come over the scanner, and she could hardly contain her excitement.

Ashlynd and I attended the two-day Oklahoma Press Association‘s annual convention in June, and both came away from it with great memories of the event. Part of it was that she was so excited about being around so many journalists.

“I think I learned a lot about photography this summer,” she told me recently. She’d been struggling with it, so I made a point to drag her to a bunch of my assignments. Nothing forges a young journalist like being thrown into the fire. On several occasions with her, I didn’t even grab a camera, telling her, “It’s your show.”

Ashlynd told us she could sleep anywhere, then proved it by sleeping on the floor in the newsroom during her lunch break. Once when she was asleep, when we heard a scanner dispatch about an injury accident, and she was up and in action within a few seconds.
Ashlynd told us she could sleep anywhere, then proved it by sleeping on the floor in the newsroom during her lunch break. Once when she was asleep, when we heard a scanner dispatch about an injury accident, and she was up and in action within a few seconds.

While photographing a trailer fire earlier this month, she got a little too close to the action, so I urged her to step back out of the way. A Byng firefighter looked at her and pointed to me, saying, “He doesn’t know much, but he knows how to get out of the way.”

Ashlynd holds her dog, Jack Frost Huffman, at her desk in the newsroom.
Ashlynd holds her dog, Jack Frost Huffman, at her desk in the newsroom.

Ashlynd got to meet my wife Abby and our dogs, Hawken the Irish Wolfhound and Summer the Chihuahua, on one of our assignments. Ashlynd is a “dog person” and has a dog of her own, Jack Frost Huffman.

We were at a basketball camp earlier this month when a coach asked me, “Who’s your little helper?” and after that the newsroom and I would tease her about her new title being Little Helper, which she thought was hysterical. I also began calling her “Ashlynd America” because I liked the ring of it, and it halfway stuck too.

Ten days ago we needed some art for an open page inside the paper, so I suggested the splash park, and took Ashlynd with me. Not only did she shoot it really well, as we were leaving, one of the moms told her, “You’re beautiful.”

Ashlynd and I shot the Stratford Peach Festival and Car Show together last weekend, and we both made some great images.
Ashlynd and I shot the Stratford Peach Festival and Car Show together last weekend, and we both made some great images.

Maybe the thing I like best about Ashlynd is that she looks up to our profession, and she looks up to me. Few things are as flattering as when people, especially young, talented people like her, look up to you and your craft.

As a lifelong photojournalist, I know how great this job can be, and I will be absolutely delighted when my “little helper” becomes a full-time professional journalist.

This might be Ashlynd's favorite photo from her summer internship, made at the scene of a police-involved shooting in Allen.
This might be Ashlynd’s favorite photo from her summer internship, made at the scene of a police-involved shooting in Allen.

I, Too, Bought the Baofeng

The Baofeng UV-5R
The Baofeng UV-5R

The amateur radio and the scanner scene was turned on its end in recent years by the introduction of a very cheap Chinese-made two-way radio from a company called Baofeng. This company makes two-way radios for all kinds of applications, but at the top of my list is its use as a public safety scanner and amateur radio transceiver.

The radio I bought is the UV-5R Plus. Some thoughts…

The LED on top of the Baofeng between the antenna port and the volume knob is a flashlight.
The LED on top of the Baofeng between the antenna port and the volume knob is a flashlight.
  • Programming the radio and interfacing with it are poor compared to most other radios. The menu system seems to have been developed in China by non-English-speakers, then awkwardly translated into English in the manual.
  • Audio is tinny but loud enough.
  • Through some legal loophole or mistake, this radio will transmit on any frequency in its range, 136-174MHz VHF frequencies, which includes 2-meter amateur radio, government, and public safety (which is some police and fire around here,) and 400-520MHz UHF frequencies, which includes a bunch of government frequencies, the entire 70-cm amateur radio band, and another huge swatch of public safety frequencies.
  • This radio is sometimes marketed for sale as a Family Radio Service (FRS) or General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). GMRS supposedly requires a license.
  • The radio is great-looking, but plasticky enough that time will tell how it ages with regular use. It came with an awkward-looking SMA male antenna, but I like compact antennas with compact radios, so I use a BNC adaptor and a 2.5-inch stubby, which seems to work pretty well.
  • It uses a proprietary lithium battery and custom drop-in charger, so when it dies, the radio may die with it, since batteries probably cost five times what the radio cost.
  • The three-color display lighting changes when it’s receiving, transmitting, or in use, and you can program which color means what.
  • The Baofeng is small enough to fit in the front pocket of the safety vest I wear at crime scenes, fires, and car crashes. It is easier to hear in that pocket at those noisy scenes.

For some reason, YouTube has gotten ahold of the Baofeng scene. Some of it is that the gun community, one of the most entitled-feeling in America, buys these things thinking they will use them when they have to “bug out” when society crumbles. Beware: if you tell them they need a license to transmit on amateur radio frequencies, they will throw you under the bus, claiming, incorrectly, that they don’t need a license since the airwaves aren’t government property. They are bullies, and they are wrong. If you are an amateur radio operator and hear these guys on the repeaters, notify the club administrator at once.

I bought this radio to see what all the fuss was about, and it is mostly that: fuss. It’s not a great radio, especially compared to “real” gear like Motorola, Kenwood, Yaesu, Alinco, and Icom. And this radio can’t hold a dim candle to the ultimate handheld ham radio, Radio Shack’s excellent HTX-202/404. Still, I don’t regret getting it for the absurdly low price of $36.

The Baofeng sits next to a quarter for scale. As you can see, it is quite small.
The Baofeng sits next to a quarter for scale. As you can see, it is quite small.

My Summer of the Peach is Over

If we are what we eat, at the moment I am about 30% peach.

The last of my peaches hang on tree #1 last night. I picked them, and will eat them today. It has been a great peach season.
The last of my peaches hang on tree #1 last night. I picked them, and will eat them today. It has been a great peach season.
I like to slice peaches to eat eat them. It's a little less messy, and it allows me to cut out any brown spots.
I like to slice peaches to eat eat them. It’s a little less messy, and it allows me to cut out any brown spots.

It’s been the spring and summer of the peach for me. I’ve had peaches on my trees before, but this summer was the bumper crop. I believe this is due to a normal, cold, wet winter, and a wet spring, so my trees had abundant deep moisture, and healthy pollinating insects.

I have picked peaches almost every day since May, and I have been able to eat most of them. Except for some losses to brown rot, my peaches have been big, beautiful and nutritious, and I couldn’t be happier with them.

Harsh, but True...
It aggravates me to no end when people immediately suggest that I make something out of my fruits and vegetables. “Are you going to make peach cobbler?” “Are you going to make peach ice cream?” No, fatty. Peaches are food. I’m going to eat them.

Mike, our next door neighbor, rolled his tractor while brush hogging, his business now that he is retired. He was injured and spent some time in the emergency room, but he’ll be okay. It’s a good reminder that something as simple as mowing merits extra care to be safe.

I hold in my hand the last peach I picked this season. Isn't it beautiful?
I hold in my hand the last peach I picked this season. Isn’t it beautiful?
My old DR All-Terrain Mower sits in the yard today. I fire it up when I need to mow in "beast mode."
My old DR All-Terrain Mower sits in the yard today. I fire it up when I need to mow in “beast mode.”

My DR all-terrain mower started with no effort last night, which is nothing short of Twilight Zone weird because I hadn’t started it in three years, and when I did, it took half a bottle of starter fluid to get it going. “Maybe it just needed the rest,” Abby jokingly suggested.

So, with the pasture partially mowed last night and the last of the peaches picked, I hope to get some more of that done today, and concentrate on my next crop, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, and cantaloupe.

Large slicing tomatoes ripen on my vines last night. I also have cherry tomatoes.
Large slicing tomatoes ripen on my vines last night. I also have cherry tomatoes.

 

T-shirt Bonanza

I flopped this mirror shot so you could read the shirt. Abby bought us each a souvenir from a trip to Baltimore and DC years ago, me a blue one and her a red one, but she recently gave me the red one because we both lost some weight and it now fits me.
I flopped this mirror shot so you could read the shirt. Abby bought us each a souvenir from a trip to Baltimore and DC years ago, me a blue one and her a red one, but she recently gave me the red one because we both lost some weight and it now fits me.
It's no secret that Abby and I love New Mexico, and our shirt collection shows it.
It’s no secret that Abby and I love New Mexico, and our shirt collection shows it.

Those who know my wife Abby and me personally might be aware that she and I have both lost some weight over the past couple of years. Neither of us was overweight, but as we get older, we are both cognizant of the benefits of staying at a healthy size and shape.

One amusing consequence of this is our clothes. We are both wearing smaller clothes now. I am, for example, able to wear large t-shirts in addition to extra large. Large t-shirts now fit me but don’t fit her, so I have inherited a new casual wardrobe.

"We got married right there," Abby bragged as she removed the tag from a Moab, Utah shirt she handed down to me. If you get married in a famous place, you can get lots of commemorative stuff with your wedding site on it.
“We got married right there,” Abby bragged as she removed the tag from a Moab, Utah shirt she handed down to me. If you get married in a famous place, you can get lots of commemorative stuff with your wedding site on it.

Goodbye Open Mic Nyte; What’s Next?

Your humble host speaks at Open Mic Nyte earlier this year.
Your humble host speaks at Open Mic Nyte earlier this year.

I am saddened to report that Open Mic Nyte, which I have attended since June 2017, has suspended performances.

We saw this coming when its long-time home, Mojo’s Coffee, closed in October 2018. The Grandview hosted us for a while, which was unassailably generous, but the space wasn’t quite conducive to our scene. Another factor that contributed to this was that many of the musicians who performed at Open Mic moved to Sessions, a new live music and alehouse venue, which hosted performances on the same night just down the street.

Sterling Jacobs organized Open Mic Nyte for the last couple of years. When he read something, anything could happen.
Sterling Jacobs organized Open Mic Nyte for the last couple of years. When he read something, anything could happen.

Sterling Jacobs, a friend for decades, organized the event, and though he has been a poetry rock star, attendance has been faltering. Sterling said in a video that he hopes to keep it going via Facebook, but it’s definitely not the same, not a scene. Besides, my writing is overwhelmingly here at richardbarron.net, not on social media.

We had some great times at Open Mic Nyte, and I feel like I expressed myself well. I always looked forward to it. I met some great people, and reconnected with some old friends.

I hope to find another frequent open microphone event where I can read soon.

Open Mic Nyte often filled Mojo's Coffee, shown here in July 2017.
Open Mic Nyte often filled Mojo’s Coffee, shown here in July 2017.

Dream Job

I have a small mountain of blank journals that I feel the urge to fill. Maybe a dream job for me could be poet laureate.
I have a small mountain of blank journals that I feel the urge to fill. Maybe a dream job for me could be poet laureate.

I see a lot of poll cards on social media like “Salt on Watermelon?”

It got me thinking about memes, the idea of sharing fun stuff about ourselves, and, through my usual long, lengthy, long thought process, about what would be my dream job if I wasn’t a professional photographer. Forgive me if these seem pretentious, but hey, dream job. All these jobs assume I would earn a decent wage…

I could be a tower rigger or antenna guy, both because I have some electronics chops, and I love to climb stuff.
I could be a tower rigger or antenna guy, both because I have some electronics chops, and I love to climb stuff.
  • Desert trail guide
  • Ski instructor
  • Any pilot job, but especially fixed-wing medical aircraft pilot or flight instructor
  • Antenna tower rigger and/or antenna installer
  • Peach grower and seller; orchardist
  • Writer, but only if I am left alone to create my own narratives
  • Travel journalist/blogger
  • Radio announcer/DJ
  • “Actor!” Dan Marsh suggested on the phone, and while the profession of acting is a fascinating career, the truth is that most of us are actors most of the time. But sure, yes, actor.

A young coworker recently asked me if I would retire if I won the lottery. I gave her an unhesitant “yes,” but she was incredulous, since she is just starting her career as a journalist. “I love my job,” I told her, “But I love my wife even more, and if we had the chance to be together all the time, travel, make pictures, fly. Maybe we’d stay here, buy a new RV. Maybe we’d move to Santa Fe or Taos.”

I would love to hear about your dream job… let me know in the comments!

More than once I have entertained the idea of being an orchardist. These are my own peaches, picked just this week.
More than once I have entertained the idea of being an orchardist. These are my own peaches, picked just this week.

Can You Be a Patriot without God?

There are many nations on earth, and most of their residents probably believe themselves to be patriots, and that theirs is the greatest nation.
There are many nations on earth, and most of their residents probably believe themselves to be patriots, and that theirs is the greatest nation.

There are a lot of holidays and observance days in the spring and summer. Memorial Day. Flag Day. Independence Day. I continue to cover events that include a lot of flags, a lot of patriotic feelings, and a lot of references to god. In the mainstream eye, god and country are inseparable. What does this mean for me and those like me, who love many things about our nation, appreciate the sacrifices of honorable veterans, and yet do not believe in god?

Adherents love to champion the idea that America is a Christian nation, and thus, its Citizens should be Christians. I know that sounds ridiculous, the same way that Islam demands that its citizens be Muslims. I know that doesn’t matter to a lot of Christians, since they are convinced and sincere that their religion is not only the correct one, but that everyone would benefit from it: gays could be “cured,” atheists could be “saved,” criminals could “repent”…

Enlightenment

A friend of mine is having a spiritual and intellectual awakening, and is beginning to see through the less-enlightened aspects of her faith, especially its rejection of and her acceptance of LGBTQIA issues. Her Christian friends comment on her posts saying they appreciate her compassion, but (scripture against gays.)  I don’t want her to be disillusioned, but I do want – and hope – for her to gain a better understanding of reality.

Like a lot of people who go down this path, she is at the state where she tries to rehabilitate the Bible and cite its compassion, and she might stop for a while at this stage, but the Bible is neither good literature nor is it innocent of contradiction and cruelty.

She is a great spirit, and one of the most generous and compassionate people I know. I wonder where her journey will take her.

We all remember.
We all remember.

I’m not sure this even makes any difference to me, since I am an atheist, and more to the point, an explicit atheist, one who asserts that I know positively that there are no gods of any kind. (This can be another topic for another day, but suffice it to say that I am certain about gods the way theists are certain about unicorns.)

I recently read that there are about 4500 active religions on earth. It can be asserted positively that everyone who practices all of these faiths believes their’s is true, since they would change faiths if it were not.

And I know I’ve said it time and again, but no, atheism is not a religion. I’m tired of hearing this argumentless argument, which only the religious ever trot out. It’s meaningless. It’s demonstrably untrue. I always hear it from petty, white Christians who have run out of actual arguments, and are frightened by, for lack of a better term, change.

As most educated people know, the phrase “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance on Flag Day in 1954. Anyone who understands basic psychology knows why: who recites the pledge the most? Children. How do you get children to believe something? Have them repeat it.

I find the Pledge of Allegiance among our nation’s most callow and empty rituals, barely one step from a loyalty oath. Why would you need constant assertion of loyalty to a nation if that nation truly merited loyalty? Wouldn’t being loyal be self-evident?

But back to the original question: can you be a patriot without god? The answer is, of course, yes. Just because some adherents say no, you can’t, doesn’t mean anything, since, at least presently, we live in a nation in which we can define ourselves and speak freely about it. Telling me I’m not loyal or not a patriot because I don’t believe in god is nothing more than bullying.

I love our nation, and I am a patriot.

This flag painted on a piece of roof tin was made by a family member of Abby's. We bought it at the reunion's auction.
This flag painted on a piece of roof tin was made by a family member of Abby’s. We bought it at the reunion’s auction.

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.

My Life in Two-Way Radio

Updated July 2019

Uniden, Radio Shack, Kenwood, Icom and more; I don't have a favorite brand, but certain radios have stood out as the best over the years.
Uniden, Radio Shack, Kenwood, Icom and more; I don’t have a favorite brand, but certain radios have stood out as the best over the years.

As some of you might know, I am a licensed amateur radio operator. My FCC-assigned call sign is kc5tfz, which is also the custom license tag on my Nissan Juke. I have several friends who are licensed “ham” radio operators. Almost universally, we use our amateur radio privileges less and less. I got my license originally to aid in storm spotting, but like most communications in the 21st century, amateur radio has been, or is in the process of being, replaced by the Internet, or more fundamentally by the “datastream.” Even our personal two-way radio needs are better met by Family Radio Service handheld radios available everywhere. Abby and I each carry one when we hike.

I have made a few antennas in my day, like the occasional j-pole or quarter wave, but I was never all that into it. I am actually pretty good at identifying antennas on towers and vehicles.

As I was driving to Utah a few years ago, I had lots of time on my hands, so I decided to make a list of all the police scanners I have owned. It was no small number, due in some part to improvements in technology and changes in the scanning environment, but also due to scanners wearing out and dying. Sometimes even boredom takes a role, and I’ll pick up a scanner as a bargain from a pawn shop or a garage sale just to play with it.

This was my communications stack in the mid 1990s. Most of the scanners in this image have died and been replaced. There is one scanner in one of the cubbies in this image I can't identify. The computer at the top was dug out of the trash at the office of friend of mine - I kept it in my stack for looks.
This was my communications stack in the mid 1990s. Most of the scanners in this image have died and been replaced. There is one scanner in one of the cubbies in this image I can’t identify. The computer at the top was dug out of the trash at the office of friend of mine – I kept it in my stack for looks.

I have a vague recollection of picking up some scanner traffic on an analog multi-band radio I got as a birthday gift when I was a young teenager. I was 15, because I noted it in my journal. “Does this subject want to breath or bleed?” I quoted in my writings. The question was asked to determine if a DUI suspect wanted to take a breathalyzer test or a blood test. I suspect this was on an unpublished frequency, since my radio didn’t pick up the UHF band used at the time by Lawton police.  That was my first experience with listening to public safety communications.

In 1982, I got an internship in a newspaper in Lawton, and there was a scanner in the newsroom, and one in each of the cars the paper owned that we photographers used. I recall that one of the scanners was the venerable Bearcat III 8-channel crystal-controlled units, and the other a 16-channel programmable. They were getting long in the tooth even then, with the emergence of better microprocessor-controlled scanners, but they got the job done, since Lawton only used about four frequencies on a regular basis.

I was so enamored of the notion of “spying” on the police and fire departments (which prior to that I thought was illegal) that for my July birthday I asked for a scanner, and my parents obliged. Thus began a hobby that has lasted to this day. The list of scanners I owned throughout the years goes something like this (red ones are dead):

  • Bearcat BC-150, 10 channel (birthday gift 1982.)

    The Bearcat BC-100 was among the first programmable scanners. Although it wasn't a great radio, it worked, and I used it for a few years in the 1980s.
    The Bearcat BC-100 was among the first programmable scanners. Although it wasn’t a great radio, it worked, and I used it for a few years in the 1980s.
  • Radio Shack 4 channel crystal scanner (scanned VHF great, but very poor for UHF, which it was supposed to do.)
  • Bearcat III, 8 channel crystal (garage sale, installed in my first car, a 1973 VW.)
  • Bearcat BC-100, 16 channel, the first ever programmable handheld scanner (bad battery setup, bad antenna design. I later got one from Ebay just for kicks.)
  • Uniden 10 channel with Service Search (installed in VW and later Renault Alliance.)
  • Radio Shack 10 channel handheld (big radio that used six AA batteries, hard to carry, but nice and loud.)
  • Radio Shack Pro-2021 200 channel (scans too slowly; in my car for a short time in the early 1990s, currently in the garage.)
  • Cobra SR-15 100 channel handheld (with leather case, one of the best handhelds I ever owned.)
  • Regency MX-3000 80 channel (slanted front, blue display, worst receiver circuit of any I owned.)
  • Uniden BC760XLT 100 channel mobile (died in stages over about five years.)
  • Uniden 16 channel with 2-digit display x2 (very cheap, good speaker – one was destroyed in a crash in 1990.)
  • Sporty’s Pilot Shop A300 aviation band transceiver.
  • Uniden 500 UBC9000XLT 500-channel (most expensive scanner I even bought, died within three years.)
  • Radio Shack Pro-2026 200 channel
  • Bearcat BD144XL 16 channel (pawn shop, gave to a friend.)
  • Radio Shack Pro-23 50 channel handheld (bought for next to nothing from a coworker.)
  • Radio Shack Pro-94 1000 channel handheld (confusing “trunk” radio programming, terrible battery performance.)
  • Radio Shack Pro-2035 1000 channel
  • Radio Shack Pro-2039 200 channel
  • Alinco DR M06TH 6-meter amateur (not really a scanner, but will scan 30-50 Mhz in addition to 6m; at home, fed by Cushcraft AR-6.)
  • Cherokee AH-50 6-meter amateur handheld (not really a scanner, but will scan 30-50 Mhz in addition to 6m; not in use.)
  • Radio Shack HTX-202 and HTX-404 handheld 2m and 70cm transceivers (not scanners.)
  • Icom IC-207H amateur dual-band + public safety (installed in Abby’s Nissan Frontier.)
  • Icom IC-2350H amateur dual-band + public safety
  • Kenwood TH-79A amateur handheld + public safety
  • Kenwood TH-22A amateur handheld + public safety
  • Uniden BD175XL 16 channel (given to me by Abby’s late father.)
  • Radio Shack Pro-2030 80 channel
  • Radio Shack Pro-2028 50 channel
  • Uniden BC72XLT “Nascar” handheld 100 channel (one of the best handheld scanners I own because of its small size and good audio.)
  • Radio Shack Pro-2055. After installing an additional quarter-wave on the roof, I poked around a couple of pawn shops and found this radio for next to nothing. It will scan trunked radio systems, though most of the agencies in my area are still using conventional channels.
  • Radio Shack Pro-2020 20-channel scanner of 1978 vintage, bought from Ebay for its nostalgia. It is noisy and doesn’t squelch well, so I only use it for experimental purposes. I paid about $10 for it. It is the heaviest and largest scanner I own, maybe 10 pounds and the size of a cassette deck.
  • Icom IC-2200H. I got this from a pawn shop for $80. It doesn’t operate properly, so I just experiment with it.
  • Baofeng UV-5R multi-role transceiver. This tiny radio is all the rage, so I bought one in June 2019 for next to nothing to see what the fuss was all about. Read it’s review here (link).
The Radio Shack Pro-2055 was added to my home stack July 2012. Although it is not able to be rebanded, its low pawn shop price makes it a good choice for local listening in my area.
The Radio Shack Pro-2055 was added to my home stack July 2012. Although it is not able to be rebanded, its low pawn shop price makes it a good choice for local listening in my area.

I had a few Citizen’s Band (CB) radios over the years, and found them to be just as useless as most of the internet is today, littered with vulgar, ignorant, undisciplined chatter.

My wife is annoyed by the daily chatter of the scanner, but I am able to filter it very effectively, and my ears perk up every time I heard a code that corresponds to something that might be newsworthy, like an injury accident, house fire, missing person, high-speed chase, severe weather, and more. The best example of my brain filtering scanner traffic was one night in March 2000. I kept the scanner on at a very low volume level, so that I could barely hear the routine comms, but sirens or urgent voices would wake me, as did, that night, the very urgent words, “The roof of the Ada Evening News is on fire!” After hearing that, I was downtown covering one of Ada’s biggest fires, of the Evergreen Feed Mill, in about three minutes.

So as long as I am able, I’ll be listening.

My main source for scanner frequencies is http://www.radioreference.com/

Nothing says "Get out of bed!" at three in the morning like an urgent voice yelling that downtown is on fire.
Nothing says “Get out of bed!” at three in the morning like an urgent voice yelling that downtown is on fire.

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.