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.

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.

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.

Sure. A Sneeze.

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

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

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

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

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

Boeing’s Mistake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Religious Paradox

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

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

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

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

Pounds, Inches and Sizes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Formula for Sanitation of Suburban Emotionalists

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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.

Yes, but Why “People”?

I am pondering over coffee this morning.
I am pondering over coffee this morning.

For some time this month I have been coming back to a vexing question: why “people”? Why do we spend so much time and energy being angry, being disappointed, criticizing, vilifying, and trying with all our might to change and control people? Is it that we are programmed as a hive, and feel we must make the hive into our perfect image of how it should be? Is it that we really do need each other? Or is it something less elegant, that people are all around us, and cruelty to them is easy and convenient, like the ants under a child’s magnifying glass?

“More animals were harmed by the stocking of the snack bar than in the making of this movie.” ~Reality

Years ago, a love interest, who was demonstrably in the top 99 percentile of attractiveness, told me she was depressed, and added, “That word doesn’t begin to describe what’s going on inside me.” The fact that I thought it was ridiculous for someone so beautiful to be depressed illustrates that in some ways, I don’t know how human behavior works.

Even Jeremiah Johnson ostensibly wanted to get away from all people, yet, despite his paucity and isolation, is unable to avoid conflict with them or attachment to them.

Then there’s war. Many wars start with claims about needing resources like land or minerals, but are really almost always about hating other peoples, be they of a different faith or a different face. We didn’t spent ten trillion and change to defend ourselves from the Russian winter; we did it to defend ourselves from Russians. And it’s too easy to chime in with, “there’s evil in the world,” because that itself is an admission that we have no idea what to do about evil except destroy it. That hasn’t worked so far; there is just as much evil in the world now than ever.

Fast forward to the present: so many of us want to destroy those who seem to oppose us. What would it be like if we tried to understand and educate them? I know, I know. What the world needs now is love sweet love, blah blah. Also this: does hating some group or faith or behavior ever change it? Does hating cancer cure it? Does hating an ex wife fill her with regret?

Okay, since we’re confessing things, hear this: My wife and I loved the action thriller Olympus Has Fallen. But when DT moved into the White House, we won’t even watch it any more because its whole meaning has been flipped. I never thought I would root for terrorists.

I’d like to take the lead by not gossiping, not complaining, not being a cog in the people-hating machine (which I originally typed as Pretty Hate Machine, NIN fans). My favorite quote about this comes from Eleanor Roosevelt…

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

I know this rant is all over the place. I want to be a great mind. Show me how.

I honestly don't care about your morals. They are too subjective. I intend to create my own morals on my own high ground.
I honestly don’t care about your morals. They are too subjective. I intend to create my own morals on my own high ground.

“You Don’t Ever Change”

or “You Still Look the Same”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Name at the Top, or “Amazing and So Real!”

Alternate title: Unsigned, Sealed, Delivered

This item was updated May 2019.

I use social media, including Facebook,  to stimulate interest in this web site, richardbarron.net.

The biggest reason social media is popular in the first place is that it gives Everyman a web presence, while at the same time preventing him from ruining it with his terrible taste and lack of creative talent (vis-à-vis MySpace in 2006).

Facebook also seems, it appears, to be the place for vapid, childish idiocy…

We'll start with something I found on the web (so I am pinching it under "fair use"). I am not making this up. People actually think this is miraculous. People, LOTS of people, look at this image and fail in every way to understand what's really going on.
We’ll start with something I found on the web (so I am pinching it under “fair use”). I am not making this up. People actually think this is miraculous. People, LOTS of people, look at this image and fail in every way to understand what’s really going on.
Here are some actual comments about this image...

  •  Woah!!!!
  •  That gives me chills all over!!!!
  •  Wow!
  •  Lord trying to say get ready to do his work here in Eureka Springs AR.
  •  That’s awesome
  •  Amazing
  •  Wow that is great! How exciting! Things are fixing to change!!!!!!
  •  Amen It gets you thinking, could have been an angel watching
  •  Awesome!!!
  •  Amazing
  •  That is beautiful I love that it is so amazing what Jesus Christ can do for his children
  •  Amazing…
  •  We were just talking about this today. Planning to come see it real soon.
  •  I think everyone needs to share this. Let’s let this go viral!!!
  •  I just got chills. Amazing. Amazing!!!!
  •  Wow!!!
  •  Amazing
  •  I’m sharing
  •  these things happen.
  •  wonderful!
  •  Wow! Signs & Wonders
  •  Wow that is awesome. I work at the play and enjoy every moment of it. I wasn’t on set for this part but that is truly amazing.
  •  Wow!!!!
  •  Awesome!
  •  This is wonderful! What a beautiful sight, I wish I was there to see that! I have a pic of myself with several other Ladies with me, and there is an angel covering   hovering over us. When I asked the Lord about it when I picked the pics up at Walgreens. He told me it was my guardian angel! I was brought to tears and awe!
  •  Pretty neat. I shared your post.
  •  That’s amazing and so wonderful!!
  •  Awesome
  •  GLORY BUMPS FROM HEAD TO TOE!!
  •  Beautiful
  •  Wow…
  •  God knew we needed to see this & be reminded that he loves us & is with us !! Thank you Lord 
  •  Awesome
  •  Wonderfull
  •  It’s amazing and so real! I Believe
  •  Even the real GOD loves the Great Passion Play. You should come see it for yourself. You never know you might just see the real GOD there. I know you will feel HIS Spirit there.
  •  Nothing is impossible with God in our life
  •  But wait is that satin in the lower corner of the picture??
  •  Whoa!
  •  Amazing I wish I had been there.

Look! A ghostly image appeared near a very bright compact fluorescent bulb! It must be a miracle! Praise Bulb!
Look! A ghostly image appeared near a very bright compact fluorescent bulb! It must be a miracle! Praise Bulb!

I can’t make up this stuff.

Christians, it makes you look so ignorant and silly when you believe and assert that simple optics is, “amazing and so real!” This isn’t a sophisticated extract of the possible nature of the Universe. It’s a bunch of hillbillies who think a cell phone camera captured a miracle. They are the overwhelming resonant voice of the faith.

Another thing that seems to be directly related to my being on Facebook (both then and now) is an uptick in intolerant Christian rhetoric toward me personally, so far exclusively anonymous. I think I see it when I am on Facebook because friends of friends click through to check me out. I shouldn’t be surprised by this, since intolerance, ignorance, and willful stupidity are ugly, inbred siblings who have nothing creative to contribute, so of course their only contact with my web site and its opinions is the lowest common web denominator, Facebook.

Sometimes when I get these letters and comments, I think that they are so obvious and inadequate that they must be some kind of false flag arguing in the other direction. Nobody, not even the hyper-religious, I rationalize, can be this stupid.

So let’s run some stuff up the flag pole and see who salutes it…

Do Christians think that hating me will change me? Do they think hating gays will make them straight, or hating Muslims will end terrorism?

Do the Christians who commented on that photo think I will change my wicked ways when I see its testimony? That anyone will?

Answer me this: if god is real, why do you have to argue for it? Why would you even need to teach your children about god, for if god is real, would he not be completely self-evident?

Why do you think there are so many re-inventions of church? H20? Turning Point? Crosspointe? New Horizon? Because the Baptist Church and the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church, despite their claims to the unerring truth about god, can no longer deliver. God needs to be updated. God needs a makeover. No, really. The absolute truth is rewritten, then rewritten again, updated and upgraded to a new, modern, popular god, throughout history.

And then. Oh, this one is just. Ugh. Some of my friends do this: they cite “math” as proof of god, while obviously, demonstrable not using math. Educated people. People I like and trust.

When is math not math? Do I really have to explain this?
When is math not math? Do I really have to explain this?

The chiron in the video says “101%: from a strictly mathematical viewpoint; what equals 100%?”, follow immediately by, “What does it mean to give more than 100%.” This is the quintessential dodge of the faithful: ask a question that seems like it represents logic or science, followed by answering it without using any logic or science at all.

Apparently at some point since the first penning of this piece four years ago, a civil liberties organization filed a petition to have the cross removed from the chapel at the local university, resulting in a giant pants sh!tting by local Christian groups. The cross was not removed.
Apparently at some point since the first penning of this piece four years ago, a civil liberties organization filed a petition to have the cross removed from the chapel at the local university, resulting in a giant pants sh!tting by local Christian groups. The cross was not removed.

“Therefore, one can conclude with mathematical certainty that: …” Of course, this conclusion is just silly. Silly. You can’t conclude that the actions of a deity have an effect based on cherry-picking some words and matching their letters with numbers. It’s embarrassing when you say things like this.

So, anyway, I got an unsigned letter from a Christian. From my chair, any unsigned letter just looks like stalking. And for what it’s worth, when you send an unsigned letter, I can cherry pick and quote mine all I want.

Dear Richard:

As a blogger and reader of blogs, I was thrilled to find the “photographer of my youth” at richardbarron.net. I began reading, observing, watching, and viewing. Then, I was saddened. I suppose in Oklahoma, we assume the friendly neighborhood photographer is a believer in God, a believer in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and heaven-bound like “the rest of us.” After all, it is Ada, America. Lesson Learned.

Yes, lesson learned. It is sad that we have religious freedom and diversity in Ada, Oklahoma.

“The rest of us” is thrown in there as part of the “appeal to popularity” logical fallacy.

Seeing many of your posts tainted with the opposite of my assumption, I knew what I had to do. After all (again), if someone had good news for me, promises that were true, and a bright future but failed to tell me, well, that would be just plain rude. I’m not rude. But I am skeptical. I’m skeptical to the extent that I sought out God. I researched for myself. I read for myself. I bypassed Sunday School lessons to figure out on my own what God said, did, promised, was, is, etc. Here’s what I found.

The use of the word “research” here is an interesting misnomer. “Research” implies looking at a number of sources for information that can be verified in some kind of an independent, scientific and logical way. Our anonymous author did none of that, of course, though we in the world of logic never find this surprising.

God sent his son, Jesus, to die for me. Why? Well, years (and I mean YEARS) ago, people of Israel had to sacrifice a lamb for their sins. Pretty brutal. Ugly. Angry. Jesus was the ultimate and final “lamb.” And, just to prove that He didn’t just die for our sin, He came back to life so we could LIVE.

Ah, yes. This silly children’s story is still with us in the 21st Century. As decades of ponderance have sharpened my thoughts on this, I see more and more how so many, too many, adults think is this very troublingly childish way. Magic story. Sky daddy. Happy place for me and my kids and my dogs, unspeakable horror for everyone else. We are lambs. We are sheep.

I devoted another blog entry to addressing The Sacrifice of Jesus (link).

Live with promises from Him. He’s “got our back.”

Let me just add that the Bible never says, “He’s got our back.” That, too, is updating and upgrading god.

I’ve no doubt you have a Bible. You’re an educated man, so… here’s a few verses from a former “prove it to me” researcher to you:, 2 Peter 1:4Jeremiah 29:11Isaiah 40:29-31Matthew 11:28-29Romans 8:37-39Proverbs 1:33.

I love this part, because, as you can see if you look up the Bible verses, none of these items is any kind of proof of anything. I find it odd that in a world of ever-increasing certainty of the nature of the world, theists still seem to cling to the thinnest fallacies, these “believe it because it sounds comforting” ideas.

Don’t take my word. Click the links, read the verse, then copy and paste the part of the verse that proves something in the comments section here.

“…but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm…” Proves. Nothing.

But, if you don’t believe in the Bible, then that does you no good, right? So let me say this. I’ve experienced these promises first hand. I’ve been healed. I’ve seen others healed. I’ve seen marriages saved, jobs restored, diseases cured, joy returned, and the impossible become possible. Not because I go to church (which I do) and not because every day is sunny with Barney singing a theme song.

Experience isn’t evidence. Testimony isn’t evidence. Incredulity isn’t evidence. Feelings aren’t evidence.

No, it’s because I trust in the God who loved me so much that He went to a lot of trouble to prove it.

Actually, it’s quite apparent that god has gone out of his way to hide it, not prove it.

I have personally witnessed the failure of prayer: man prays with all his might for his wife, who is trapped in a vehicle after a crash. She died right then. Christians have brilliant rationalizations for when this happens: god’s will, her time, god needed another angel, blah blah. It’s so thin.

If this hits home at all, if you want to accept these promises, it’s as easy as believing & confessing something like… “Jesus, I believe you died on a cross. I believe you rose again. I believe in You and want to make you ‘King’ of my life. From this point on. Forgive the life I’ve lived without you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

As always, the faithful seem to think that it’s possible to believe something that is not true or believable by simply deciding to believe it. “…it’s as easy as believing…” This might be the most damning thing of all about theists. They don’t believe things because those things are true. They believe them because they believe them. Their logic is a brilliant mirror of, “The Bible is true because The Bible says it’s true.”

Signed, well, you know I’m not going to sign it. You wouldn’t know me from Adam (ha!)

That’s the punch line, really. No signature. What is this? Ashamed of your beliefs? Afraid of them. Embarrassed by them? Afraid of me? This all points to what I think is a terrifying perception: the religious can’t actually believe what they claim. It’s too silly, too absurd, too shallow, and too fictional. Unicorns. Hobbits. Demons. Dragons.

“I truly believe” doesn’t make any of it true. The “why” of it, though, resonates repeatedly with me. Is the answer really as simple as fear? Fear of emptiness, loneliness, meaninglessness, eternity, death? Or is that too deep? Fear of not fitting in, not obeying?

So thus the name of today’s entry. That’s my name at the top of this entry, at the top of every entry. I am Richard R. Barron, and I am not afraid for you to know who I am and what I think.

Oh, meme, how well you know me and my intentions.
Oh, meme, how well you know me and my intentions.

“At Least You Have Your Health”

I made this image in 2003, more than a year before we were married. We were so young then.
I made this image in 2003, more than a year before we were married. We were so young then.

“We’re all just one phone call from our knees.” ~Mat Kearney

“We’re all just one trade away from humility, Bud.” ~Wall Street

When I was younger, during less happy periods in my life, sometimes people would try to encourage me with the maxim, “At least you have your health.” Having been healthy all my life, and healthy and surrounded by healthy people when I was young, this maxim tended to fall on deaf ears, or at least ears living in a small world. I knew little of what it might be like to be in poor health.

This is probably common among the young. You can join a pick-up basketball game any time you want, and you can go on as many ski trips as you can afford. In fact, there were significant periods of my young 20s during which I had no health insurance of any kind.

I write this as my wife Abby sits in a hospital bed, recovering from another in a long line of serious illnesses. She has a number of conditions that fall into the constellation of autoimmune disease, and as much as we both try to keep her healthy, sometimes she gets alarmingly sick.

The night before, at home alone, I awoke to the sound of her voice calling my name, as though she were calling to me in my dream. I miss her quite profoundly when she is gone.

This isn’t a complaint about money. Abby and I have always had good insurance, and we have never hesitated to seek medical help because of financial concerns. When Abby is sick, we bring the best medical care at hand to her bedside.

I am also well aware that my own life and health are just as fragile as anyone’s. I could live 40 more years, or a clot could sneak into my left ventricle ten seconds from now and kill me dead. Life itself is fleeting. As I write this, I have a nasty cough I can’t seem to shake. I might feel better tomorrow, or I might be on the news tomorrow as someone who died from a “superbug.”

I accept my biology.

Abby smiles as she and I walk our dogs on The Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico, last October, on a perfect autumn Saturday.
Abby smiles as she and I walk our dogs on The Plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico, last October, on a perfect autumn Saturday.