“You Got a Haircut!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Plant-Based Diet Continues to Succeed

This is also my column for Saturday, April 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Weeks We Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Constitutional Carry” in Oklahoma

Abby shoots her .380 at our pond recently. We both legally carry firearms, and neither of us care if you are black or white, young or old: if you threaten our lives, we will defend ourselves.
Abby shoots her .380 at our pond recently. We both legally carry firearms, and neither of us care if you are black or white, young or old: if you threaten our lives, we will defend ourselves.

My fellow Oklahomans and I are aware that Governor Kevin Stitt signed the so-called “permitless carry” bill February 28, which allows Oklahoma residents 21 and older to carry open or concealed firearms without a permit, background check or training. The law takes effect November 1.

This was the first item Stitt signed into law.

As a safe and sensible firearms owner with a handgun license, I thought I would weigh in. I will not take sides on this law. The lines are drawn and the law is signed, and opinions about this law are very inflexible. As I hope I often do, I want to offer some sanity outside of the rhetoric.

  • If you want to carry a firearm, get some training. I don’t mean go to the river and empty your grandfather’s .357 into a paint can. I mean you should get some real, vetted training that includes force-on-force encounters, and at least somes elements of how the law regards deadly force encounters.
  • The training my wife and I were required to receive to get our permits wasn’t useful. No one came out of that class more knowledgeable about the real world of self defense, since the class was required to hit certain points, and was left to ignore others

    The .380 ACP vs the 9mm Parabellum vs the .38 Special; all cartridges in 9mm diameter, all capable of ending the life of another human being.
    The .380 ACP vs the 9mm Parabellum vs the .38 Special; all cartridges in 9mm diameter, all capable of ending the life of another human being.
  • The shooting portion of our permit class might have been the weakest part of it all. We were all asked to shoot 50 rounds at paper targets at an indoor range. No, that was not a typo. Shooting 50 rounds at paper is equivalent to backing a car out of the driveway to get your driver’s license.
  • Some of the people in our class had no business handling a firearm because of their inexperience or ineptitude, while others had no business handling a firearm due to their arrogance or violent inclinations, yet all of them passed the class.
  • Carrying a firearm isn’t about being a hero or a vigilante. One person in the back of our classroom would occasionally mutter, “I’m only gonna need one shot,” which is not only demonstrably untrue (watch some videos of trained police in deadly force encounters), it also has an air of desire to kill. If you carry a firearm hoping to one day kill a bad guy, you are carrying for the wrong reason, and you are probably dangerous.
  • The internet cannot train you to shoot or how to defend yourself.
  • Never, ever mix guns and alcohol or drugs. Keep your guns safely away from children.
  • It’s never about caliber: if you can’t defend yourself with a .380, you can’t defend yourself.
  • My wife and I carry when it is safe and legal to do so. Know the law. When you cross a state line, you have to know a whole different set of laws. We carry with utmost respect for what it means to possess a firearm, and we understand clearly that use of it only comes as a very last resort.
  • Your best options for self protection are avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.

I expect I will have more thoughts on this as it develops.

My number one carry weapon is the compact, capable Ruger LCP.
My number one carry weapon is the compact, capable Ruger LCP.

 

Insecurities of Maturity, or Preaching to the Tone-Deaf Choir

Am I attending Open Mic Nyte for all the wrong reasons? Am I there just to be the center of attention? If that is the case, has my whole life been one giant egogasm?

When I get up to speak at Open Mic Nyte, do my friends in the crowd perceive me as a pest? As a loser? As a weirdo? Are they politely waiting for the next act?
When I get up to speak at Open Mic Nyte, do my friends in the crowd perceive me as a pest? As a loser? As a weirdo? Are they politely waiting for the next act?

Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine! ~Pink Floyd

We all have some insecurities. Some of us are defined by them, while others bully those insecurities into silence.

I am second from the left in the white Misal of India shirt and black Leica hat. I don't know what became of that hat, but I miss it.
I am second from the left in the white Misal of India shirt and black Leica hat. I don’t know what became of that hat, but I miss it.

Self awareness. At the center of insecurity is self image. We see ourselves differently than anyone else does. In the mirror. In pictures. In the eyes of our parents and spouses and children.

I know a lot of people who are not self-aware. They have no idea how absurd, ridiculous and annoying they are.

When I was a teenager, I was very insecure about talking to people in general, and especially about talking to girls. Most teenagers feel this way, though it’s not always true: the Proud Crowd had it worked out.

For the record, most of those early bloomers ended up fat and bald, with soul-crushing jobs and a few divorces, and when they tell me they “really admired” me or thought I was cool, I know it’s not true.

I’m taller than I realize. Sometimes I can seem like an intimidating goon, particularly when I am talking to smaller women.

I look disinterested and dismissive, with my nose in the air. This is a trick of my posture.
I look disinterested and dismissive, with my nose in the air. This is a trick of my posture.

Once when I was eavesdropping on my next door neighbors, a young, attractive, shallow couple of newlyweds, I overheard them talking about me. “He’s wweeiird!” I heard the girl say, in an accent so hickish it almost parodied itself.

They didn’t stay long in that apartment, and I have no idea what became of them, but I’m willing to bet it was boring.

This f*ck and his vulgar cpw costume is among the douchesacks we got to know all too often.
This f*ck and his vulgar cow costume is among the douchesacks we got to know all too often.

Do I sound a little bitter? If so, why would I care what two strangers thought of me in 1993?

Are they actually afraid of me because I am “weird?” Do they think I don’t wash my hands after I pee, or that I’ll open up with an AK-74U at the mall?

And what, young judgemental neighbors, would you do about it? Do you think weird people should be shunned? Walled off? Locked up? Finished off? Do you think hating weidos and loners will make them better? Make them go away?

A girl I was dating in 1998* knew my next door neighbor. “He thinks you’re an idiot,” she told me.

Scene from Fight Club...
Narrator: When people think you’re dying, they really, really listen to you, instead of just …
Marla Singer: … waiting for their turn to speak?

Is that who we are? Are we a race of non-listeners?

Flash back to 1978, when I first started writing in my journal. By many measures, it was brilliant, I was brilliant. Most kids who just turned 15 are still giggling at farts and pretending to be in the NFL. But me? Obsessed with a girl, and writing real, deep thoughts. But by many measures, it was far more idiotic masturbation than brilliance, and if there was a wayback machine and I was there on that first day, I hope I could quote Voltaire and Nietzsche.

Even in our own midst, things fall apart.
Even in our own midst, things fall apart.

For many years, I not only let people read my journal, I sometimes kind of insisted on it. I made at least a few people mad about that, but some, like Frank R. or Melissa B. actually thought it connected us.

What have I been doing this whole time?

Then I think about ex friends. At one point or another in my life, I knew people and got close to them such that we felt like brothers and sisters, that we knew each other inside and out, that we really cared about each other.

Now, we not only make no effort to be in each other’s lives, we probably say terrible things about each other. How many of those terrible things said about me are true? Am I self-involved, egotistical, manipulative? Is my manner so weird and awkward that those neighbors were right?

I Know You by Henry Rollins (excerpt)...
Yeah, I think I know you
You spent a lot of time full of hate
A hate as pure as sunshine
A hate that saw for miles
A hate that kept you up at night
A hate that filled your every waking moment
A hate that carried you for a long time

In conclusion, how many of us have it all together? Who among us preaches the right sermon while believing the right facts, while putting everyone at ease with their smooth handshakes and neatly ironed lapels? Who would my neighbors welcome to dinner, to drinks, to play with their kids in the yard?

And how much of this judgement, this rejection, this hatred is merited? Do I deserve to be cold, to be lonely, to be that target of faraway laughter? Do I deserve to be called “weird.”

And should I hide?  Should I change and fix it? Hang out with the cool kids? Learn to wear the right tie and the creased trousers? Or should I stand up and be weird from the rooftops?If so, who am I? Who should I be?

I said it once, years ago, and I’ll say it again: it’s easy enough to pat yourself on the back. The hard part is to keep everyone else from kicking you in the crotch.

The endless, lonely nights alone were filled with committing words to paper. Did anyone hear my message?
The endless, lonely nights alone were filled with committing words to paper. Did anyone hear my message?
*I had lunch with her not long ago. I was pleased to see she’d gotten her life together and was happy.

Belief Paradox

Let us, for the moment, compare apples and oranges.
Let us, for the moment, compare apples and oranges.

Here is the current paradox that troubles me…

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” This is a foundational tenant of skepticism. At that same time last fall, supposed skeptics and free thinkers were asking me to believe claims of sexual misconduct against various politicians and celebrities.

I am not advocating inappropriate sexual conduct. And of course I agree that the gamut of this behavior, from institutionalized sexual harassment to overt rape, is criminal, and should be punished.

Here’s the problem: these are extraordinary claims.

We demand the Sagan Standard of science and belief. We test and analyze claims to verify their validity.

When is it reasonable to believe claims that are offered without evidence? When should we demand evidence? Is it valid to accept claims without evidence when we are all in agreement? When we all want to believe? When it seems these claims are valid? And how does this differ from believing religious experience?

A big portion of this issue: is it really a form of evidence that many people are making the same claim? “39 women have come forth to say that Celeb Celebrison fondled them or sexually harassed them.” In what circumstance would claims like this be dismissed? When 39 people claim to know that a spaceship is hiding behind a comet and will take them to heaven? When 39 people claim to have witnesses a dead human come back to like? That’s a functional fallacy called Bandwagon. The religious trot this out all the time.

The most significant difference between dismissing religious claims and dismissing personal claims of assault and/or bullying is that religious delusion has always been logically show to be false, but personal claims of assault have often been shown by evidence to be true.

On the other hand, it is extraordinary to claim or believe that something happened without evidence? “It wasn’t seen by anyone else, I didn’t record it, and there is nothing left of the event to reconstruct it. But I want you to believe it.”

Also, “I won’t believe two billion people making an unverified claim, but I will believe 15 people making an unverified claim.”

Thrown into this mix is the inevitable decay of truth in the presence of politics and the internet.

This is a tough one that’s been going through my head off and on for a while now. And I’m not alone. It’s a very real concern I see and hear expressed all the time. I have friends who I trusted who became furious that I wasn’t eager to jump on one bandwagon or another, but that’s passion, not evidence. How dare I doubt unverified claims? How dare I.

I feel I will be set upon again by my liberal friends for casting doubt on something they believe I should accept, my #metoo friends, my #blacklivesmatter friends. They have done it before. It’s the nature of debate to use the ugliest tools at your disposal to justify your beliefs. For those of you: I am not asking you to step off your bandwagon, and I am not claiming that human cruelty is acceptable. I am asking questions about the nature of critical thinking.

I feel like I am getting into a sticky mess here. So be it.
I feel like I am getting into a sticky mess here. So be it.

Why Teladoc Sucks

This is how I feel when lazy professionals sh!t all over my intellect.
This is how I feel when lazy professionals sh!t all over my intellect.

This has got to be the health care laugh of the decade: Teladoc. Why? Here’s my very short story.

Two years ago our corporate office decided to offer this service as part of our compensation. For a $25 co-pay, we could call a doctor on an 800 number, tell him/her what was wrong, and they could presumably phone in a prescription. I had a raging sore throat and a cough at the time, and knew I wouldn’t feel much better any time soon if I didn’t get some treatment.

I described my symptoms.

“Well, you know,” doctor on the phone told me in a rather condescending tone, “nine times out of 10, these things are viral in nature. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses. I recommend you get plenty of fluids and enough rest.”

These are all medications I can buy myself without a prescription.
These are all medications I can buy myself without a prescription.

Wow. Wow. Did I just pay $25 to have someone patronize me with advice from Marcus Welby, M.D.? Fluids and rest? Brilliant. I would never have thought drinking enough fluid and getting enough sleep would have any have any effect on my health. Fun fact: this isn’t medical advice at all: it’s every day advice, and always true.

$25.

The last time I called Teladoc was the last time I will call Teladoc.

As an aside, if you watch the intro to Marcus Welby, you’ll notice he does almost no doctor sh!t, and spends most of his time driving, always without a seat belt. The theme song is virtually tuneless.

Stop It!

While I worked on putting boxes in the rafters in the garage, Hawken the Irish Wolfhound vigorously shredded these newspaper inserts he dug out of the trash. In some ways, this act made more sense than any I have witnessed in years. Good boy, Hawken.
While I worked on putting boxes in the rafters in the garage, Hawken the Irish Wolfhound vigorously shredded these newspaper inserts he dug out of the trash. In some ways, this act made more sense than any I have witnessed in years. Good boy, Hawken.
I kept thinking I would blog about Dr. Bronner's Soap, but this product really speaks for itself.
I kept thinking I would blog about Dr. Bronner’s Soap, but this product really speaks for itself.

Things to stop doing:

  • Stop blaming everyone else for your misfortune. Guilty or not, your resentment has no effect on their lives, and does not enrich your own. “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for someone else to die.”
  • Stop trying to disabuse people of their suffering. They love it more than anything else.
  • Stop watching so much {insert media here}. It bores me to no end to hear people talk about their most recent streaming service show, going on about it like it somehow enriched their lives. It’s one thing to enjoy entertainment; it’s entirely another to live for it.
  • Stop posting so many boring photos. This isn’t about the technical quality of your images, but about their editorial narrative and their originality. Two years ago everyone … e v e r y o n e … was posting a vertical of their kids in front of their house, about to depart for their first day of X grade of the school year. Wow. It would take a scientific device of some sort to measure how little I care about photos like these.
  • BOOP! My sister informed me that the last bullet point was invalid because I wrote it from the perspective of  a disinterested/disgruntled photographer, and I should make allowance for people enjoying their own children. But! As a professional photographer, I can say with great certainty that when you follow the latest hot item or trend, your photographs will mirror those events at the expense of the real, genuine expressions you could have made ……. what I meant to express is that when you copy what you saw on the nearest social media page, you fundamentally dilute and delete real content and replace it with someone else’s idea of that content. You change from photographer to stenographer. “These are my children posing as someone else’s children.”
Like a complete schmoe, I was grabbing a knife or other sharp object to remove the seal on vitamins and other containers. It only occured to me this week that I could just hit it against the corner of the cabinet to break the seal.
Like a complete schmoe, I was grabbing a knife or other sharp object to remove the seal on vitamins and other containers. It only occured to me this week that I could just hit it against the corner of the cabinet to break the seal.
  • This is beans and whole grain bread. If you don't recognize it as food, it may be time to reevaluate your life.
    This is beans and whole grain bread. If you don’t recognize it as food, it may be time to reevaluate your life.

    Stop eating like a four year old. Candy and Pepsi aren’t food.

  • Stop adding sh!t to food to make it taste “better.” It’s already food, and the less you do to it, the better it will be for you.
  • Stop bringing bad food into your house, especially if you pretend it’s for someone else. “Well, the kids love these Doughnettes, but I might have a few too,” is a sentence from a bad parent. A good parent says, “Here are some apples if you want a snack,” and ignores the whininess that follows, often with, “You’ll eat what I bring home or go hungry.”
  • Stop saying that a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is to keep out terrorists or criminals. Since it is inherently indiscriminate, it’s purpose is to keep out brown people. No? There are 1,053,945 Muslims in Canada, but no one is suggesting building a wall there. Why don’t you just admit you hate non-white-people?

I have many more things to list about what not to do, but I thought I’d take a breath. Whew.

I got this new shower curtain with an updated, correct version of the periodic table. I refer to it often.
I got this new shower curtain with an updated, correct version of the periodic table. I refer to it often.