August Rain

As I wrote five weeks ago, we are experiencing an uncharacteristic wet period. Here on the patch, we’ve had four inches of rain so far this month, and some parts of Oklahoma have gotten 11 inches or more. Add to that the fact that it’s been unseasonably cool, and overall, it’s been a very peculiar summer.

This Oklahoma rainfall map is a patchwork of rain and more rain. To me, it's very welcome, since it's so good for the land.
This Oklahoma rainfall map is a patchwork of rain and more rain. To me, it’s very welcome, since it’s so good for the land.

I’ve been struggling with the bitterness of politics in recent days, noting that our nation and its morally bankrupt leadership is nothing new. Leaders have known since antiquity to wash the people in fear and violence and gluttony to keep them in slavery.

To that end, Abby and I watched the excellent 2012 movie Lincoln yesterday. I am caught in the middle ground of being amazed that our nation once debated the morality of owning other human beings, and being completely unsurprised that a “Christian Nation,” as today’s alt-right likes to chime, still harbors an element which doesn’t understand right from wrong.

Leviticus 25:44-46
However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you.  You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land.  You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.  You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.

The Bible, ladies and gentlemen.

It is with this between my ears that I work outside on these cool days, trying to keep up with a forest of grass in the yards and pastures, feeling angry with the people of our land, and so very happy with the trees and wildflowers and sunsets of that same land.

Rain clings to Abby's peace rose this morning.
Rain clings to Abby’s peace rose this morning.
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Mowin’ the Sticker Patch

One of the crepe bushes in our front yard shines in late afternoon sun last night. Abby and I planted these nearly 10 years ago.
One of the crepe bushes in our front yard shines in late afternoon sun last night. Abby and I planted these nearly 10 years ago.
For last night's imaging, I grabbed by 15-year-old Minolta DiMage 7i. Despite its antiquity, it gives a look I have always loved, particularly in the evening.
For last night’s imaging, I grabbed by 15-year-old Minolta DiMage 7i. Despite its antiquity, it gives a look I have always loved, particularly in the evening.

Summers are shorter. When I was a kid, they seemed like three long months of building dams in the creek and eating Cheez-Its. That might still be true for a handful of reclusive nerds, but if you are into anything at all, like athletics or student publications, you had about ten minutes of summer vacation.

A memory from childhood that is a sign of August: cicada skins.
A memory from childhood that is a sign of August: cicada skins.

My summers are short in terms of activities, but right now, the top of August, is very slow. That will come to an end shortly; my first high school sports media day, Ada softball, is tomorrow, after which it is, in effect, fall.

Though most of them are at the end of their lives, the Rose-of-Sharon lining our driveway still make a few gorgeous blooms like this one last night.
Though most of them are at the end of their lives, the Rose-of-Sharon lining our driveway still make a few gorgeous blooms like this one last night.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound gives me his equivalent of a handshake, a slobbery mouth on the wrist.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound gives me his equivalent of a handshake, a slobbery mouth on the wrist.

This August is being unseasonably cool. There are no 90ºs in the current forecast. I’ve been taking advantage of that by working outside. With decent rainfall, mowing is a repeated necessity; keeping the grass spurs in check is extra-important since I am walking Hawken the Irish Wolfhound every day.

My efforts over the years to shape our small patch of the world have paid off. Trees we planted years ago are huge and healthy. Flowers are blooming. Grass is green.

Who I work outside during evenings like last night, I am profoundly grateful for our lives here on our green patch in Byng, Oklahoma.
Who I work outside during evenings like last night, I am profoundly grateful for our lives here on our green patch in Byng, Oklahoma.
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Summer Slowdown and Stupid Questions

My Nissan Juke and Abby's Nissan Frontier sit in the driveway after I washed and dried them. They look like new.
My Nissan Juke and Abby’s Nissan Frontier sit in the driveway after I washed and dried them. They look like new.
I spotted this at a Sunday school classroom recently. I know the spelling isn't right, but I thought Abby would get a kick out of it.
I spotted this at a Sunday school classroom recently. I know the spelling isn’t right, but I thought Abby would get a kick out of it.

A buddy asked me the other day if I had posted anything on my site. He hadn’t seen anything. The answer was that yes, I had, but just a couple of items. I expect that he hadn’t seen them because, like a lot of us, we use social media as site readers, expecting to see links to our favorite stuff in our feeds. Recently, though, several people had indicated they aren’t seeing my stuff consistently, which doesn’t surprise me.

I see less content in general in the summer. The optimist in me hopes this is because people are outside.

So, what’s going on?

  • This is Michael and Thea's old house. (Insert joke here about it or the neighborhood being a toilet.)
    This is Michael and Thea’s old house. (Insert joke here about it or the neighborhood being a toilet.)

    Michael and Thea recently moved from Norman, Okla., to Oklahoma City, to a larger house, and to a location closer to their works. I’m happy for them, but I don’t admire the “interstate culture” that involves constantly using interstate highways every time you need a loaf of bread. My role in their move was to use Abby’s Nissan Frontier pickup to move a new dining set and a new huge-screen television from the store to their new home. The Visio television was interesting: it is a 65-inch flat screen with the option of using a phone app as the remote control.

This is Michael and Thea's new house in south Oklahoma City. In addition to being a bigger, nicer house, it cuts their daily commute to work in half.
This is Michael and Thea’s new house in south Oklahoma City. In addition to being a bigger, nicer house, it cuts their daily commute to work in half.
  • This is the 2017 Nissan Juke Ada Nissan lent me. It's a nice car, but the dark blue reaffirmed my love of white cars, as it was untouchably hot sitting in the afternoon sun.
    This is the 2017 Nissan Juke Ada Nissan lent me. It’s a nice car, but the dark blue reaffirmed my love of white cars, as it was untouchably hot sitting in the afternoon sun.

    I had a big 48,000-mile service on my Nissan Juke, including oil, transmission fluid, air filters for the engine and the cabin, tire rotation and more. Props to Ada Nissan for getting the work done quickly, and for lending me another Juke, no charge.

  • My wife Abby and I finished the quilt squares her aunt Judy asked us all to make for the next family reunion. The whole family was asked to decorate these squares, which Judy plans to make into a giant quilt and raffle off at the reunion in October. Abby and I took our squares – with pictures of family stuff – to Duncan last weekend, where we had lunch and fed the deer.
Abby and I used a fairly inexpensive transfer product to put photos on these quilt squares for the reunion quilt.
Abby and I used a fairly inexpensive transfer product to put photos on these quilt squares for the reunion quilt.
  • I've cut a lot of grass with this mower, since the first summer Abby and I were dating. It seems to give up once in a while, only to come back to life with some care.
    I’ve cut a lot of grass with this mower, since the first summer Abby and I were dating. It seems to give up once in a while, only to come back to life with some care.

    My push lawn mower has decided to be vexingly inconsistent. I was certain 10 days ago I was on the verge of buying a new one, but when I cranked it the last time, it started on the second pull. Ghost in the machine.

  • I cranked up the power washer and washed my Juke and Abby’s Frontier, which always re-reminds me how much more we love our vehicles when they’re super-clean.
  • I just finished teaching another intermediate/advance photography class. We had a great time. At one point, one of my students asked, “Is there and advanced advanced after this?” which I consider very flattering.
  • One of my reporters and I covered a story about a firefighter who delivered a baby by the side of the road recently, and we both noted how cringingly stupid tv reporters’ questions are. “How does it feel to deliver a baby like this?” It’s like being punched in the groin, Sylvia. “Is there anything your want to say to the firefighters who delivered your baby?” Yeah, perv, get out of my coochie.
It's hard to believe based on his appearance, but Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is still a puppy.
It’s hard to believe based on his appearance, but Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is still a puppy.
  • Max the Chihuahua, who is now completely deaf, dug out of the front yard for the first time in a couple of years. I was very proud, though, when I caught up with him, that he followed me back to the house without a leash or picking him up. Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is off the charts lovable. Sierra the Chihuahua is fine, and eats her breakfast and dinner in about three seconds. She’s also been eating a lot of sh!t lately. Bad girl.

All is well. Abby was briefly very ill, but we got her fixed up. Later this morning I hope to make her cottage cheese eggs.

The magnetic dry erase board in the kitchen has been replaced by the Reminders app on our iPhones, so it's just for-fun art now.
The magnetic dry erase board in the kitchen has been replaced by the Reminders app on our iPhones, so it’s just for-fun art now.
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More Fun Facts…

When it comes to tea, dryer is better.
When it comes to tea, dryer is better.
  • If your tea doesn’t taste right, it might be because it is what connoisseurs call “too wet.” To fix this, just add a dryer sheet when steeping! Try it!
  • The new iPhone 7x allows you to charge the device in a microwave oven. Try it!
  • When Author “Fonzie” Fonzarella jumped over the tank of sharks in the fourth season of Happy Days, all of the sharks and 52 migrant workers were killed.
  • It is impossible to photography distant objects with fast shutter speeds because light only travels 186 miles in 1/1000th of a second.
  • All my towels are named Thurston Towel III.
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Worms on a Stick at the Fungus Farm

This is a delicious, nutritious sandwich I made with cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, spinach, cheese, and mustard on a whole wheat roll.
This is a delicious, nutritious sandwich I made with cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, spinach, cheese, and mustard on a whole wheat roll.

My wife Abby spotted some nice whole wheat sub sandwich rolls at Wal Mart the other day, so much of this week’s dining has been in one iteration or another of sandwich.

Stick it into the web, give it a twist, then pull, and out comes the web and the worms that made it. I made this tool from a broom handle and a shelf bracket.
Stick it into the web, give it a twist, then pull, and out comes the web and the worms that made it. I made this tool from a broom handle and a shelf bracket.

After dinner tonight, I tried to devise an apparatus for removing webworms from hard-to-reach branches of trees on the patch. Every Oklahoman knows these ugly parasites that weave thick, sticky webs on hardwood trees while consuming all the green within. The webs are tough enough that the birds can’t get to them, so I decided to fashion a stick with a metal tool on the end – a shelf bracket, actually – that would allow me to stick-twist-pull to remove the mess from the branches I could not otherwise reach, and it worked pretty well.

Later when I was mowing near the old walnut tree, I came across a lovely, funny stand of mushrooms that I’d never seen before, and photographed them.

Nothing indicates a healthy ecosystem like a stand of mushrooms like this one under our walnut tree tonight.
Nothing indicates a healthy ecosystem like a stand of mushrooms like this one under our walnut tree tonight.

Also, today was the Stratford Peach Festival, and while the local farms didn’t have much to offer, I was able to secure some from nearby Sallisaw, which are quite tasty. I bought a very large bag of them and in addition to eating them fresh, I’m sure Abby will make a cobbler.

Colorful, ripe, nutritious and delicious, the Sallisaw peaches were for sale today in Stratford at the Peach Festival.
Colorful, ripe, nutritious and delicious, the Sallisaw peaches were for sale today in Stratford at the Peach Festival.
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Extra Large but Not Wide

I wear shoes every day, all year long. These are the new shoes I got for my birthday this year.
I wear shoes every day, all year long. These are the new shoes I got for my birthday this year.

For my birthday, Abby agreed to let me order new shoes from Zappos.com. (Before you ask me why I didn’t buy locally, ask the locals why the same shoes are 20% more.) I got a pair of  brown New Balance casual walking shoes for everyday wear in my office casual environment at work, and another pair of Merrill Moab 2 Ventilators. I got my first pair of Moab’s because of the name: Abby and I got married in Moab, Utah, but that led to the discovery that these are best shoes I’ve ever owned.

I have the healthiest feet of anyone I know. My feet never hurt and they are anatomically ideal. I don’t require wide sizes or insole inserts of any kind. I wear shoes all day, every day, all year long. It’s possible the shoe companies are sneaking in at night to measure my feet and make shoes exactly for them.

Hawken's idea of posing for a portrait is to tackle me and slobber all over me. The shoes look good, though, right?
Hawken’s idea of posing for a portrait is to tackle me and slobber all over me. The shoes look good, though, right?

Also among the huge and the healthy is Hawken, our six month old Irish Wolfhound. Ten days ago he weighed in at 108 pounds, so he is still growing, but he is well and loves us to pieces. Abby has taken to putting bandanas on him. Last night I tried, but he wants to play with the bandana as a toy, so it’s really a two-person job. Once we got his Harley Davidson bandana on him, I asked Abby to make a few pictures of us, which was particularly fun when he decided to knock me down and cover me in huge-tongue dog slobber.

I finally got Hawken to pose for this image by rubbing his belly.
I finally got Hawken to pose for this image by rubbing his belly.
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“The Bloodbath”

I thought this image of myself reflected in downtown windows at dusk was dreamlike.
I thought this image of myself reflected in downtown windows at dusk was dreamlike.

My wife Abby and I both awoke thinking we heard whistling. She even seemed to hear a tune being whistled, which was too weird to ignore.

I got my Ruger P95 9mm, which has a Streamlight on it, and swept the house for intruders.

“Is it clear?” she asked when I came back to bed. Of course it was, I explained, since if I had found a home invader, I would be holding him at gunpoint and asking Abby to cover the sector behind me and call 911.

Maybe that’s an important difference city life and country living: in the city, you might threaten a potential assailant with a call to the police or to scream, where in the county, we tend to offer the choice between surrender or death, since we know the police could take as much as 30 minutes to arrive.

I was even able to determine that Hawken, the back yard Irish Wolfhound, was fine when I looked through the blinds at him eating some kibble.

We speculated the whistling could have been an owl, a dove, the cuckoo clock, the police scanner, or a dog tummy, but Abby swears it was a tune. None of the dogs reacted to the sound in any way, so my best guess is that one of us, probably me, was dreaming about whistling and whistling out loud.

Back in bed, I dreamed  I was a dog handler at a wedding, in charge of a giraffe-sized Irish Wolfhound. A one point, he felt faint, so I game him a bowl of elbow macaroni and milk.

Those thoughts are from last night.

Yesterday on the way to the grocery, Abby and I got to reminiscing about a recent nail-clipping disaster with Sierra the Chihuahua. I told Abby about the mistakes I made when doing it, and to clarify, she asked, “Was the ‘the bloodbath’?” We laughed and laughed at that, since we now have an event in our lives we will remember as The Bloodbath.

This is a t-shirt I used to try to clean up the blood from our nail-trimming fiasco in November, known from now on as The Bloodbath.
This is a t-shirt I used to try to clean up the blood from our nail-trimming fiasco in November, known from now on as The Bloodbath.
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July Rain

The moon slides over the top of a small, brief thunderstorm in Byng two nights ago.
The moon slides over the top of a small, brief thunderstorm in Byng two nights ago.
Hawken and I play together in the back yard a couple of weeks ago.
Hawken and I play together in the back yard a couple of weeks ago.

As usual, I had a super-fun time covering Independence Day celebrations in Ada’s Wintersmith Park Tuesday. The weather was nice and everyone had a great time.

It rained 3.1 inches Monday, then 1.5 inches early Wednesday morning, then another half inch right on top of us and nowhere else in there state, just as I was about to walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound two nights ago.

A raindrop clings to barbed wire on the chicken coop, which we have despite not owning chickens.
A raindrop clings to barbed wire on the chicken coop, which we have despite not owning chickens.
The runt crepe myrtle in the front yard, which we once presumed dead, has huge, healthy blossoms on it this year.
The runt crepe myrtle in the front yard, which we once presumed dead, has huge, healthy blossoms on it this year.

Everything was browning just a bit, but is now turning green again, and growing fast, so I am experiencing a burst of outdoor work.

My wife Abby and I gave Hawken a bath in the front yard yesterday, then took him to the vet,  where he weighed 108 pounds, which is typical for his breed at his age, six months. He is a mess, but he loves us both.

Raindrops cling to a Rose-of-Sharon bush in our back yard. It is our only remaining healthy Rose-of-Sharon, though it was eaten to near-death by our goats years ago.
Raindrops cling to a Rose-of-Sharon bush in our back yard. It is our only remaining healthy Rose-of-Sharon, though it was eaten to near-death by our goats years ago.
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Rainy Days and Sundays

I said, "Wow. Honey, you have to come out here and see this." She came out to see this and said, "Wow!"
I said, “Wow. Honey, you have to come out here and see this.” She came out to see this and said, “Wow!”

I have been taking a few staycation days as things slow to a crawl in the newsroom.

Abby's rose bush in the front yard is doing great.
Abby’s rose bush in the front yard is doing great.

Yesterday turned into one of the rainiest of this spring and summer, 3.1 inches measured at our nearest Mesonet site. As a result, I didn’t get anything done outside, and didn’t even get to walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound.

My wife Abby, on the other hand, having spent the last few days organizing some recipes, had a burst of energy and decided to make No-Knead Casserole Bread and Beef Noodle + Faux Beef Noodle Casseroles.

Abby labors with love to make a spectacular meal for us yesterday.
Abby labors with love to make a spectacular meal for us yesterday.
Bread and casserole: dinner is served.
Bread and casserole: dinner is served.

Thunderstorms rolled through and there were a number of severe thunderstorm warnings, and even some minor damage in town, but the Storm Prediction Center never issued a watch of any kind, which I thought was odd.

Abby and I enjoyed her meal, and put up quite a lot of leftovers.

We are binge-watching Season 12 of Criminal Minds.

Hawken is an outside dog, and there are several places he can get to stay dry, but got pretty wet and looked pretty ridiculous. He was bone dry this morning.

After the rain, I took a towel out to dry off Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, and he instantly decided it was a toy.
After the rain, I took a towel out to dry off Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, and he instantly decided it was a toy.
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Open Mic Nyte

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

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

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

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

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

On Tap...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is completely healthy.

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

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

 

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Self-Esteem and the Real Value of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I cooked out last night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

or “You Still Look the Same”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abby tries without success to get Hawken in her lap to recreate the photo we made on the day we got him in March. As you can see, we've been feeding him.
Abby tries without success to get Hawken in her lap to recreate the photo we made on the day we got him in March. As you can see, we’ve been feeding him.
Abby walks Hawken down our driveway last night. He is bigger and more powerful every day, but stays at heel with slack in his leash like he was made for it.
Abby walks Hawken down our driveway last night. He is bigger and more powerful every day, but stays at heel with slack in his leash like he was made for it.
As you can see in this image, Hawken still retains the awkwardness of a puppy, and Max and Sierra, who are under me in this image, haven't warmed up to him in the least.
As you can see in this image, Hawken still retains the awkwardness of a puppy, and Max and Sierra, who are under me in this image, haven’t warmed up to him in the least.
2+

A Plague of Frogs and Other Items of Interest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was raised in the Episcopal Church, and was an active participant in their ceremony as an acolyte and lay reader. When I was very young, I believed that when our congregation prayed, a beam of spiritual energy shone through the roof of our little church for god to witness.
Though I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I discarded religion and its deities, it was apparent from my early teen years that I had reasoned away god. My journal from tenth grade indicates that I still participated in the Episcopal Church, but only at the behest of my parents. Journal entries, and conversations I clearly recall from high school and college, show that I was an atheist. As an adult, my journal and my blog are filled with unambiguous statements to that effect.
If I don’t believe in god, the real question is: what do I believe? I believe in evidence. I believe in reality. I believe in nature, and I believe that everything in nature is rational, discoverable, and real. I believe that science and genuinely open-minded exploration are the best and most elegant servants of the human condition. I believe that the science in which I have this trust is a learning, growing, changing entity that, through the scientific method, is constantly reevaluating even its most fundament principals, and is ultimately capable of discovering the core truths of the universe.
Abby was going through a box of stuff from her office (from which she retired two years ago) and found about 20 of these solar-powered bobble toys. They all dance when the sun shines on them.
Abby was going through a box of stuff from her office (from which she retired two years ago) and found about 20 of these solar-powered bobble toys. They all dance when the sun shines on them.
1+

What the What?

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

Then four things happened that helped answer it for me.

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

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

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

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

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

This image makes about as much sense as I am garnering from the issues discusses in this entry.
This image makes about as much sense as I am garnering from the issues discusses in this entry.
1+

Phones and Dog Teeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the highs and lows of the situation:

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

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

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

The iPhone 7 Plus features this double camera arrangement, which I briefly tested and found it worked as promised, but that it was probably an overrated selling point.
The iPhone 7 Plus features this double camera arrangement, which I briefly tested and found it worked as promised, but that it was probably an overrated selling point.
Apple calls their two-camera selective focus feature "depth effect." On the left is the untouched image, and on the right is the "depth effect" image.
Apple calls their two-camera selective focus feature “depth effect.” The phone saves both versions. On the left is the unretouched image, and on the right is the “depth effect” image.
1+

Dogling Rivalry and a Dad Breakfast

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

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

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

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

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

He’s going to be a good dog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was the best I could muster for lighting last night.
This was the best I could muster for lighting last night.
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Glad I Was Carrying

I was walking to my car in a darkened area recently when I was approached by a largely-built white teenager in a hoody, carrying a skateboard.

“Hey, can you give me a ride to the Oxford Square Apartments?”

To anyone with any common sense, this seems like an overture to no good, and I was immediately suspicious. I told him I could not, but that I would call someone if that would help.

My routine carry weapon is the Ruger LCP. Chambered in .380 Auto, I keep it loaded with Hornady Critical Defense rounds, which I feel certain would be adequate in a self-defense situation.
My routine carry weapon is the Ruger LCP. Chambered in .380 Auto, I keep it loaded with Hornady Critical Defense rounds, which I feel certain would be adequate in a self-defense situation.

What this subject did not see is that I turned my left hip away from him and placed my left hand on my sidearm. I have no desire to shoot anyone, but I have even less desire to be robbed or murdered, which is why I carry in the first place.

Turning away from the subject serves several purposes: it adds to the concealment of the weapon, it helps in retaining the weapon, it adds distance between the weapon and the potential assailant, and it allows me the option to ward off a weapon were he to brandish one.

I made a quick phone call for him with my right hand, using Siri to voice dial, and my eyes never left him, watching for any sign of aggression. Had there been any sign, the first and best option, of course, would be de-escalation and deterrence. The next would be to attempt to get to cover, getting something like my car between him and me. Brandishing my weapon is, of course, a last resort, but I was ready to do it to save my own life.

I sent him on his way after leaving a quick message with his mother, and I was glad there was no incident. It’s entirely possible that my manner and my attitude discouraged him from seeing me as a potential mark.

I was glad I was carrying a weapon, and glad I felt ready to do what it took to defend myself.

A lot of webizens will tell you that you should carry a bigger gun with a more powerful caliber. They like to cite .40 or .45 as the self-defense round of choice. My feeling, though, is that if you can’t defend yourself with a 9mm or a .380 or a .32 or even .22lr, you have no business carrying a gun at all.

Sometimes when I travel I carry the excellent Ruger SR22 loaded with CCI Stingers. Some will discourage you from carrying a .22lr, but no one ever volunteers to be shot with one to prove that point.
Sometimes when I travel I carry the excellent Ruger SR22 loaded with CCI Stingers. Some will discourage you from carrying a .22lr, but no one ever volunteers to be shot with one to prove that point.
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Dream Aggregator

I recently started sharing dreams on social media, but as you know, sites like Facebook aren’t searchable and, except when you download and save your data, are a bad place to store your thoughts, so I decided to aggregate my dream notes here…

Dream recorded in my journal, 1995: In an airport lounge, I watch a man cuddle a wad of gum he calls “Schmooggums.” I see the face of a baby inside it. He misplaces it, but I find it on a bookshelf. Suddenly there is an air show, which I am watching with the Ada High cheerleaders. I peel away the gum to find a balloon. One of the cheerleaders pops the balloon and instead of a baby inside, there is a greeting card shaped like a baby.

Two dreams: Co-worker Randy and I are covering a crash at Latta Road and the Loop. I watch as several cars rear-end each other trying to see the crash, which involves a man who had crashed his camper into a building and they can’t get to him.

“I was going to tell you I was at home,” Randy says, “but now that you’ve seen me, here I am.”

I look out to the south to see the ocean. Randy says, “I know a guy who says the Atlantic is the healthiest thing you can drink. It’s full of diarrhea.”

(Get up to feed the dogs, go back to bed.)

I am then on the new space shuttle on a test flight to work the bugs out of the docking system. We get to the edge of space, then turn around and come back to Detroit. I decide to blog about the experience, but the internet is now an outdoor pigpen, so I hang my pictures of the event on the barbed wire fence.

“This was my second time in space,” I say. “The first was in 2001.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dream:  Abby Barron was killed by a porcupine. :>(

Sometimes a Classic
Sometimes a Classic

 

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Teaching a New Dog Old Tricks

Alternate title: Puppy Update or Uppy Pupdate.

Readers will recall that my wife Abby and I got a new Irish Wolfhound puppy, Hawken Rifle Trail, March 7, two and a half weeks ago. I don’t have any surprising news to report about him: he’s puppying along just fine.

Hawked sleeps on a toy dog on the ride home from the puppy farm earlier this month.
Hawked sleeps on a toy dog on the ride home from the puppy farm earlier this month.
Hawken pants after playing in the house ten days ago.
Hawken pants after playing in the house ten days ago.

He steals Abby’s yarn and chews up newspapers. He thinks the Chihuahuas, Sierra and Max, should play with him, provoking them to growl and snap at him, which doesn’t discourage him.

Yesterday I mowed the front yard with him on the porch, and while he didn’t like it, he also didn’t freak out. I’ve been digging up dead Rose-of-Sharon along the driveway, and he watches with great interest.

Max and Sierra warily watch as Hawken derps across the living room. Max is now 13 years old, and Sierra is 12.
Max and Sierra warily watch as Hawken derps across the living room. Max is now 13 years old, and Sierra is 12.

I haven’t neglected or forgotten the Chihuahuas, and Max remains my all-time favorite dog.

So far, Hawken is a good dog. He knows his name, is starting to mind us, and loves us to pieces.

Hawken watches as I leave for work this morning. As you can see, he is already starting to grow into his nose.
Hawken watches as I leave for work this morning. As you can see, he is already starting to grow into his nose.
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Cold and Quiet Moments

With the return of Daylight Saving Time, I have more chance in the evening to work outside. Yesterday, as my social media brethren might recall, was a day off to rest from weeks of working a very exciting basketball season.

Tonight I planted two Peace rose bushes for Abby, then made some effort to push/pull/chop some of the dead Rose-of-Sharon. It was quite cold, especially when the dry, north wind blew, but as sunset approached, I once again found myself wanting to make pictures. It was a beautiful, cold March evening.

Henbit, one of the first weeds we see in spring, clings close to the ground with the sun setting in the background.
Henbit, one of the first weeds we see in spring, clings close to the ground with the sun setting in the background.
A sprig of something sticks out of the water at our pond.
A sprig of something sticks out of the water at our pond.
A peach blossom clings to one of my trees at dusk.
A peach blossom clings to one of my trees at dusk.
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Defeats, Victories, and Friendships

The last three days have been something of an adventure. In addition to housebreaking our huge new puppy, I have been covering state tournament basketball games in Oklahoma City. Readers might recall my story about the Ada Lady Cougar seniors. They were one of the strongest teams we covered this year, but their championship hopes were dashed last night at the hands of rival Harrah in a battle of palindrome-named cities…

Ada senior Maddie Jessepe hugs coach Christie Jennings in the waning seconds of Friday's semifinal game against rival Harrah.
Ada senior Maddie Jessepe hugs coach Christie Jennings in the waning seconds of Friday’s semifinal game against rival Harrah.
After defeating Ada, the Harrah girls went on to beat Fort Gibson to claim the Class 4A state championship trophy.
After defeating Ada, the Harrah girls went on to beat Fort Gibson to claim the Class 4A state championship trophy.

This morning we were down to just one team, the Latta Panthers. When I arrived at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds Arena, I found longtime friend, Daily Oklahoman photographer Jim Beckel, working the game as well…

Fellow photographer and good friend Jim Beckel bangs away with his Canon 135mm f/2. Jim and I took a hiking trip together in 2013, and he was great company. It was great to work with him again.
Fellow photographer and good friend Jim Beckel bangs away with his Canon 135mm f/2. Jim and I took a hiking trip together in 2013, and he was great company. It was great to work with him again.
Also photographing today's Latta Panther game was longtime friend Sonja Jeter Anderson. When I asked her to remind me when she played as a Lady Panther, she said it was 1997, 20 years ago. It seems like yesterday.
Also photographing today’s Latta Panther game was longtime friend Sonja Jeter Anderson. When I asked her to remind me when she played as a Lady Panther, she said it was 1997, 20 years ago. It seems like yesterday.

The last time Latta claimed a championship in basketball was in 2014, when I shot beside friend and then Ada News Editor Dan Marsh.

The Panthers took home the gold trophy today.

The Latta Panthers receive their Class 2A championship trophy today in Oklahoma City.
The Latta Panthers receive their Class 2A championship trophy today in Oklahoma City.

I was back in Ada by around 2 p.m., when I went to Waddell Vineyard, where I was met by friends Bob and Debbie, who I have photographed many times. In conversation I learned that Debbie and Sonja Jeter Anderson have been friends for years. Some sort of weird circle of small town friendship had been drawn, and I was glad to be part of all of it.

Debbie Waddell looks surprised as I photograph us in a mirror at the Waddell's wedding chapel, my last assignment for the day.
Debbie Waddell looks surprised as I photograph us in a mirror at the Waddell’s wedding chapel, my last assignment for the day.
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A Brand New Puppy!

My wife Abby and I just returned from an overnight trip to Rolla, Missouri, where we got our first new puppy since we got Sierra the Chihuahua in 2005 (Max the Chihuahua  was a year and half old when we got him in 2006.)

Anyone who knows Abby knows how much she loves animals, and that her love has rubbed off on me, so I too, love them. Here Abby is shown just minutes after meeting her new Irish Wolfhound, Hawken.
Anyone who knows Abby knows how much she loves animals, and that her love has rubbed off on me, so I too, love them. Here Abby is shown just minutes after meeting her new Irish Wolfhound, Hawken.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Barron’s Hawken “Hawk” Rifle Trail. He is an eight week old registered Irish Wolfhound.

Abby had wolfhounds, Sugar and Lincoln, many years ago, and has wanted another since she retired two years ago. Those familiar with the breed know that it is the tallest, sometimes going to a 36-inch shoulder height and weighing up to 200 pounds.

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

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

  • Ruger
  • Colt
  • Desperado
  • Sig Sauer
  • Beretta
  • Remington
  • Winchester
  • Spencer
  • Sundance
  • Scofield
  • Henry (with additional reference to Longmire character Henry Standing Bear)
  • Smith and Wesson (SW)
  • Hawken
  • Walther
  • Ranger
  • Derringer
  • Bullet
  • Pistol
  • Dennis the Anarcho-syndicalist (from Monty Python)
  • Wil Wheaton or his character Wesley Crusher because the dog’s coat is the wheaten.

Hawk had an unremarkable six-hour ride home, and seems to be settling into his new life in the clumsy, goofy, happy way that puppies do.

I will have more to say about the trip to Rolla later on my teaching blog.

At 26 pounds, Hawken already weighs more than 1.3x the total weight of our Chihuahuas put together, Sierra and Max, shown here meeting the big puppy for the first time.
At 26 pounds, Hawken already weighs more than 1.3x the total weight of our Chihuahuas put together, Sierra and Max, shown here meeting the big puppy for the first time.
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