I, Too, Bought the Baofeng

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Summer of the Peach is Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

T-shirt Bonanza

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

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

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

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

Goodbye Open Mic Nyte; What’s Next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dream Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can You Be a Patriot without God?

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

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

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

Enlightenment

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

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

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

We all remember.
We all remember.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love our nation, and I am a patriot.

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

The First Day of Summer

Abby and I look at each other like we hung the moon as Robert photographs us Wednesday evening.
Abby and I look at each other like we hung the moon as Robert photographs us Wednesday evening.
Hawken, our Irish Wolfhound, and I pose for Robert near the pond last night.
Hawken, our Irish Wolfhound, and I pose for Robert near the pond last night.

Today is the first day of summer 2019. Spring brought tremendous rain, gorgeous pastures, peach and plum trees sagging from the weight of fruit, and early yesterday morning, widespread thunderstorm damage in our neck of the southeastern Oklahoma woods.

A fortunate collision of timing allowed our good friend Robert to join me in our coverage of the storm damage from a fast-moving line of severe thunderstorms that rolled through about 3 a.m. Damage was widespread and caused damage to numerous trees, and downed power lines across the region.

We were fortunate at our home in Byng that we only had a few branches blown down, and none of the garden or the peach trees were affected. Some areas had more dramatic damage, and power was out throughout the region for more than 15,000 customers at one point.
We were fortunate at our home in Byng that we only had a few branches blown down, and none of the garden or the peach trees were affected. Some areas had more dramatic damage, and power was out throughout the region for more than 15,000 customers at one point.
Our summer intern, Ashlynd, looks on as I edit storm damage photos Wednesday. It was a huge news day, and Ashlynd, Robert and I all had a blast covering it.
Our summer intern, Ashlynd, looks on as I edit storm damage photos Wednesday. It was a huge news day, and Ashlynd, Robert and I all had a blast covering it.

More than 15,000 residents were without power, including us in Byng. As luck would have it, we did have power at the office, so we got the paper out, but the Pauls Valley paper wasn’t as fortunate, and I don’t know how they eventually got their product together.

Hawken steals peaches from a low-hanging branch while Robert makes images.
Hawken steals peaches from a low-hanging branch while Robert makes images.
Your host holds our spritely indoor dog, Summer the Chihuahua.
Your host holds our spritely indoor dog, Summer the Chihuahua.

Robert lives in the D.C. area, but came to Tulsa to photography his niece Rowan’s wedding, and had some time to come down yesterday, just in time to round up some nice storm cleanup images, which are in today’s Ada News.

After a long day of that, and Abby texting us “Power!!! Power!!!” at 2:04 p.m. (for an outage time of about 12 hours), we went home to shift to phase two of our day of photography, photographing our pets, our patch, and each other.

Readers might recall that Robert photographed Abby and me in November, and those image ended up being some of my all-time favorites of the two of us, and I hoped to recreate the magic, and the session was everything I wanted it to be.

Robert moved us to an even sunnier spot as our portrait session progressed. I feel happy when I look at pictures of us together like this. This is now the lead image on our home page.
Robert moved us to an even sunnier spot as our portrait session progressed. I feel happy when I look at pictures of us together like this. This is now the lead image on our home page.

A Beautiful Little Life

I think this is one of the most beautiful images I've made this year: my wife Abby carrying her Chihuahua Summer as the neighbor dog Elly walks alongside as the sun goes down on our patch of green here in Oklahoma.
I think this is one of the most beautiful images I’ve made this year: my wife Abby carrying her Chihuahua Summer as the neighbor dog Elly walks alongside as the sun goes down on our patch of green here in Oklahoma.

In recent weeks my wife Abby and I have gotten in the habit of me picking up dinner from San Remos Pizzeria hera in Ada, a baked ziti for her and a big veggie pizza for me, and eating on those items for several days, since it’s a lot of food. I always feel happy when I can bring it home to her, and she feels happy when I do.

San Remos Pizzeria in Ada is currently one of our favorite places for take out. This is their veggie pizza.
San Remos Pizzeria in Ada is currently one of our favorite places for take out. This is their veggie pizza.
Abby and Hawken have a cordial chat on our front deck last week.
Abby and Hawken have a cordial chat on our front deck last week.

Abby’s been walking our Chihuahua, Summer, when I walk our Irish Wolfhound Hawken. It’s been unbelievably warm, green and beautiful out the last few weeks.

Keen shoes aren't for everybody, but they are among my favorites. They are waterproof, so they are great for everything from hiking with wet crossings to washing the cars and the Wolfhounds.
Keen shoes aren’t for everybody, but they are among my favorites. They are waterproof, so they are great for everything from hiking with wet crossings to washing the cars and the Wolfhounds.

It’s Father’s Day, and though I am not a father (except maybe to our dogs), I am a step father, and I also have a birthday coming up shortly, so I decided I wanted new shoes. On Amazon, I found a nice pair of casual black shoes to go with dressier clothes, and I got another pair of Keens.

I got my first pair of Keens from my sister as a Christmas gift, and I like them so much I tend to wear them so much I wear them out. I learned years ago that different styles of Keen shoes fit very differently, and if I find a style, I should stick with it. Mine is the H2 Newport. They are rugged, waterproof, and super cool-looking.

Our trees and the pasture and garden are all happy and healthy. “It’s sure pretty out,” Abby commented as I wrote this. Tonight I’ll be out there again, walking dogs and tending tomato plants on our little patch of green in the country.

Epic clouds roll across the eastern sky last weekend as I drove home from a meeting.
Epic clouds roll across the eastern sky last weekend as I drove home from a meeting.

My Life in Two-Way Radio

Updated July 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruminations on The Convention

Your host listens to a guest speaker at the 2019 Oklahoma Press Association's annual convention in Shawnee.
Your host listens to a guest speaker at the 2019 Oklahoma Press Association’s annual convention in Shawnee.

I spent Friday and Saturday at the Oklahoma Press Association’s (OPA) annual convention at the Grand Casino and Resort in Shawnee, Oklahoma. I offered my services as photographer since they were so happy with the product I gave them in February at their Legislative Summit. I shot well, and had some breaks between sessions, so I was able to deliver images as I generated them. I feel like they will be happy with them.

OPA convention attendees listen to a breakout session speaker yesterday afternoon. The young blonde girl on the front row is Ashlynd Elizabeth Huffman, our summer intern.
OPA convention attendees listen to a breakout session speaker yesterday afternoon. The young blonde girl on the front row is Ashlynd Elizabeth Huffman, our summer intern.

Some ideas for the coming year regarding OPA….

  • Our Publisher, Mark Millsap, speaks to a session yesterday. In addition to The Ada News, Mark is Publisher at five other newspapers.
    Our Publisher, Mark Millsap, speaks to a session yesterday. In addition to The Ada News, Mark is Publisher at five other newspapers.

    I should make a hard push to enter my work, both in photography and in column writing. I didn’t really get around to it last January, nor did my staff, so we were unrepresented in the competition…

  • …as were many newspapers across the state, probably for the same reason. I feel like I should compete.
  • There is also a monthly photo contest I should enter. It’s easy as my career winds on for decades to regard contests as “been there, done that,” but I think it would be fun to rejoin the ranks of the competitions.
  • I like dressing up. I think I look good in a tie and a dress shirt. This might be because I am tall and thin.
  • They fed us constantly. I probably had more calories in the 24 hours of OPA than I did in the preceding week combined, much of it starchy and sugary. I kept asking myself how these people eat so much all the time without getting fat, but then took a closer look around me and realized that…
  • Journalists still fit the doughnut and Snicker’s bar paradigm. Very few of my friends and colleagues seem thin and healthy.
  • Everyone was glad to see me, and they all seemed to hold me and my work in high esteem.

I am  finished with my images, and uploaded them to the server for the OPA staff. It was a good time.

The OPA convention was hosted at the palatial Grand Casino and Resort in Shawnee.
The OPA convention was hosted at the palatial Grand Casino and Resort in Shawnee.

Unwitnessed Suffering

Unhappiness.

I am a big adherent of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s a very well-vetted theory, and has always made sense to me. For much of my life I was stuck in the center of the pyramid, lacking what I perceived as a necessity, romantic love. I had it off and on, but never with much promise or stability.

As I thought about this…

“My life is filled with undocumented suffering.” ~Journal, 1998

I listen to music as much as I am able. I am particularly attached to it when I am in my car, traveling around for work. My car has a USB port, and can control my iPod from the dashboard stereo and even from the steering wheel.

I almost always have it set to shuffle the songs.

What if you wanted every word you said unheard?
What if you wanted every word you said unheard?

Sometimes a song will shuffle through that will take me back, often way back. 1997. 1992. 1986. 1979.

As those songs shuffle past to memories, particularly memories of times after breakups, I think about what it was like then. Maybe I felt like a failure. Maybe I was angry. Maybe I was down. Maybe I was feeling sorry for myself.

Then, as I was walking our wolfhound recently, an epiphany: no one else witnessed that, and especially, the ex girlfriend the song was about didn’t witness it. It was just me, in that small downtown apartment or in my room in high school or on the road trying to do my job far from home, night after night, thinking about her. She never heard those songs or had any idea what was happening to me. She moved on.

So I assumed, anyway. Maybe she was all torn up inside and listening to a whole different cadre of music to wallow in it or get over it.

In any case, when Forever Autumn or Mercy Street or Impossible Things or Do What You Have to Do shuffles past again, it will mean something different to me. Melissa never heard those songs. They meant nothing to Michelle. Pam moved on. Kathy found someone else. And so on.

This is me in 1998 with my journal. It was a hard year, filled with unwitnessed suffering about yet another woman. Do I look pensive? Thoughtful? Self-indulgent?
This is me in 1998 with my journal. It was a hard year, filled with unwitnessed suffering about yet another woman. Do I look pensive? Thoughtful? Self-indulgent?

A ginormoose advantage to being married is that I don’t have to deal with courting. I somehow ended up going out with quite few women in my youth (a friend told me her 40-something husband was a virgin when they got married and had never been out with another woman more than once… eeep!), but I got smote on five times that many occasions trying to get women to go out with me, or, fate forbid, go out with me again. That was an even harder blow… “he seemed nice, but after lunch with him, ick.”

A long-ago girlfriend, who I had loved very deeply at the time, recently confessed to me that, “Now – I know with all my heart – you were who I should have been with.” I have to admit to being very flattered by such a pronouncement, but at the same time understanding that it was neither true nor had any relevance. Or maybe I should say that there was certainly no way to determine it was true, at least not without a time machine. Sure, I would have loved her like sunshine, but that doesn’t mean we could have married and stayed married. Marriage isn’t magic or in the stars, but the result of patience, planning, working, forgiving, building and rebuilding it every single day. I was 29 and she was 27 when we were together, and neither of us was ready to be married.

She was a writer, a good one. It’s one of the most interesting things about her. Now, decades later, despite my encouragements, she doesn’t write much. She puts pen to paper and nothing comes out, a result of her physical disabilities and the treatment for them. It breaks my heart, because she was brilliant, and I think she could still be brilliant if she could find a way.

There was a fair amount of unwitnessed  suffering about her and our breakup as well. Songs. Pictures. Smells. Memories. I had no choice but to let her go, with no real idea if any of her feelings for me were real or if she felt anything after I was gone.

Through it all I wrote and wrote. I don't know if it helped, but it does help me remember what it was like.
Through it all I wrote and wrote. I don’t know if it helped, but it does help me remember what it was like.

Why Rebranding?

I know I wrote it, but what if I unwrote it? Would you read it then?
I know I wrote it, but what if I unwrote it? Would you read it then?

I see this a lot: someone will start a blog or website, post content to it, be disappointed in the result, abandon the site, and start another site with another URL, and post the same content with a slightly different style or stated goal. This is tail chasing, and here’s why…

  • Changing your URL from iheartphotos.wordpress.com to ilovephotos.wordpress.com has no effect on who sees your site. This might have mattered in 2001, but today, very few web users care about URLs.
  • You can change your existing site to reflect your new ideas and presentation without abandoning it or moving to a different web address; just change the theme and move the old content to the drafts folder or delete it.
  • If you do abandon a site or blog, do us all a favor and delete it into the stone age. Nobody likes link rot, and it will divide and confuse your potential readers.
  • Abandoning a site alienates people who visited it, and they often just give up rather than adjust their bookmarks, because people don’t use bookmarks like they once did.
  • Nothing about changing where you blog will change how you blog. If you generated boring stuff for 123.com, your content will still be boring on 456.com.
  • Changing your site or your blog has little chance of changing your life. Really, that whole millennial “reinventing myself after long hours of soul-searching” is just bullshift.
  • “I plan to start a blog” means nothing. Start. Your. Blog.

I write this as yet another friend has reinvented herself for about the fifth time. Her work remains exactly the same, as does her notion that changing web addresses will change everything.

You know what wins awards? Content.
You know what wins awards? Content.

I’ve Never Had Peaches Like This

My picking basket sits on the ground full of cherries and peaches this week. I have probably picked a hundred, and if I can, I'll pick a hundred more.
My picking basket sits on the ground full of cherries and peaches this week. I have probably picked a hundred, and if I can, I’ll pick a hundred more.
The mimosa trees on our property seemed to blossom overnight, and I was very happy to see them.
The mimosa trees on our property seemed to blossom overnight, and I was very happy to see them.

I planted my small orchard in a semicircle around the garden in 2007. It has been an amazing adventure to watch them all grow and thrive, but for the most part, weather and circumstance have limited the amount of fruit I’ve gotten from them. In fact, previously my plum trees have only ever produced one plum. One.

A ripe peach hangs on my early Elberta peach tree two nights ago. Unlike years ago, it was among very many peaches on this tree this spring.
A ripe peach hangs on my early Elberta peach tree two nights ago. Unlike years ago, it was among very many peaches on this tree this spring.

This year, however, has been different. All my trees have numerous fruit on them. My early Elberta peach tree is delivering huge, juicy, flavorful peaches this week like I have never seen. My cherry trees are both loaded with fruit, though they are smaller and not as sweet as grocery store cherries, possibly because the trees are immature. I also have dozens of small, sweet plums that are hard to eat because they are so juicy.

I expect this bounty is a combination of abundant rain and “just right” temperatures.

I have a zillion cherries this year as well. They are sour, but fun to eat, and Hawken the Irish Wolfhound loves them.
I have a zillion cherries this year as well. They are sour, but fun to eat, and Hawken the Irish Wolfhound loves them.

My good friend and fellow photographer Courtney Morehead came out last night to pick a dozen or so peaches and sample a couple of plums and cherries, as well as meet Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. Courtney and I have been working on sidelines and courts for years now; me for newspaper and her as a senior/portrait photographer. It was great to share the fruition with her.

I grabbed my 50mm f/1.4 this week to shoot these wildflowers in the pasture. Forgive me if the selective focus is a little too millennial-y.
I grabbed my 50mm f/1.4 this week to shoot these wildflowers in the pasture. Forgive me if the selective focus is a little too millennial-y.
Wes Edens shows me his pollinator garden during a visit to his home this week. He gave me some flowers to take home and plant in my garden.
Wes Edens shows me his pollinator garden during a visit to his home this week. He gave me some flowers to take home and plant in my garden.

All the fruit on the early Elberta is ripening at once, so it will be gone soon, in me or on the ground. I have six more peach trees what should make fruit on July.

I am also cultivating an excellent selection in the garden that includes regular tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, Cherokee purple tomatoes, two kinds of bell peppers, cucumbers, squash, and cantaloupes. Between them are marigolds and some pollinator flowers my other photographer friend Wes Edens gave me Tuesday when I went out to his place to shoot some of his guns, which is always fun.

I feel happy when I think of being a part of nature.

Eating your home grown fruits and vegetables can be a goal for some, but to me, it's the icing on the cake of being a part of nurturing the land.
Eating your home grown fruits and vegetables can be a goal for some, but to me, it’s the icing on the cake of being a part of nurturing the land.

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.

Some Seasons…

I started the morning by weighing myself, 145 pounds. My wife Abby and I are both thinner now than the day we met, maybe even a couple of pounds too thin.

After I picked some peaches, cherries, and plums, I dumped the basket out in a clover patch to make this image. Even if I were to never eat a single bite of this fruit, growing it is worth it because it is so beautiful.
After I picked some peaches, cherries, and plums, I dumped the basket out in a clover patch to make this image. Even if I were to never eat a single bite of this fruit, growing it is worth it because it is so beautiful.

Yesterday I covered the Artesian Arts Festival, a growing, super-popular Native American street festival in Sulphur, Oklahoma. I usually go early so I can beat the heat, and even though I was there right at the start time, it was packed.

I saw my friend Margaret, who was showing her art in one of the booths.

I got these four giveaway garden plants in the ground last night, two bell pepper plants and two Cherokee purple tomatoes.
I got these four giveaway garden plants in the ground last night, two bell pepper plants and two Cherokee purple tomatoes.

I shot well, and as I was leaving, I got two green bell pepper plants and two Cherokee purple tomato plants from a giveaway program. I got them planted in the garden last night.

On the way home, I brought lunch for us from San Remos, a bake ziti for Abby, and a veggie pizza for me, then ate as I worked my images from the festival and delivered them to my editor.

Later in the evening, I decided to pick some of my huge crop of early Elberta peaches, from the tree I felt certain had doomed itself by blooming too early, just before a hard freeze.

I am also astonished by how well all my other trees are doing. I have plums for the first time ever, and a huge number of cherries. Some seasons I am just happy to see my trees be trees, and some seasons shower me with produce. It’s almost impossible to guess how it will go, since there are so many variables, but in many ways, that’s one of the fun things about it.

Hawken, our 160-pound Irish Wolfhound, slobbers over a peach I gave him a few nights ago. The next time I looked up, he had eaten it.
Hawken, our 160-pound Irish Wolfhound, slobbers over a peach I gave him a few nights ago. The next time I looked up, he had eaten it.

FInally, I had the urge to shoot a few mags of 9mm through my Ruger P95, the same one I dreamed about recently.

In the dream...
I catch some thugs trashing the house, but am too late to confront them. I am able to shoot one round from my 9mm into the back of their car from more than a mile away. Abby and I are then in the first class section of a 747 headed for Houston. For some reason I still have my 9mm. I wear it in an open holster or put it on the table in front of me. No one seems to notice or care, which I find very odd, and am unable to find anywhere to put it out of sight. People complain that my laptop is too loud, but say nothing about the fact that I am armed.

I hadn’t put any combat calibers downrange since January, and felt rusty. It was good to get back in the swing, and I shot competently.

There has been a lot of Oklahoma weather news this month, including tornadoes and flooding, but our little patch of green in the country is doing just fine.

My Ruger P95 leans against my tan range bag on the gun bench down by the pond last night. I put 70 rounds through it, with satisfying results.
My Ruger P95 leans against my tan range bag on the gun bench down by the pond last night. I put 70 rounds through it, with satisfying results.

 

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…

Goodbye Max

Sierra, left, greets Max on the day we brought him home from the animal shelter in January 2006.
Sierra, left, greets Max on the day we brought him home from the animal shelter in January 2006.
Max and I hike near Utah’s Butler Wash in October 2006.

Maximum Speed Boulevard, our male Chihuahua since January 2006, has died. He was about 15 years old.

We originally adopted Max from the Pontotoc Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) on January 7, 2006, one day before he was slated to be euthanized (which PAWS no longer does). One of Abby’s coworkers told us about him, and Abby took her nephew to the shelter and got Max.

Max was a great pet. He was a trash dog and a burglar alarm, and when he was younger, dug out of the front yard several times every spring.

Max travelled with us to numerous locations from the glittering Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, the deserts of the Four Corners region, Christmas in New Orleans, the Great American Eclipse in Park Hills, Missouri, and even to the east coast of Florida.

At one point on one of the Florida trips, we thought we’d lost him, but someone opened the pantry door, and there he stood.

Max’s long-time sister Sierra died fourteen months ago.

As you can see in this recent image, Max is tired, old, and blind.
As you can see in this recent image, Max is tired, old, and blind.

His health was failing in the last couple of years. He couldn’t hear or see, was reliant on two drugs for his heart and his joints, and was no longer able to leap onto couches or laps, which he did like a spider when he was young. His teeth were mostly going or gone. He was prone to yelping at the door when I was outside mowing, and in recent weeks got lost trying to find his food bowl.

After putting it off repeatedly, we decided to put him down. He was a great dog.

Max and Sierra sit on one of our couches last year. Both these great dogs have passed away.
Max and Sierra sit on one of our couches last year. Both these great dogs have passed away.

The Intimacy of Pillow Talk

Abby and I discovered each other to be awake at 4:30 this morning. We talked for a while in the dark, petting the dogs, holding each other’s hands, laughing quietly, reaffirming our love, our marriage, our lives. We were like newlyweds, teenagers. It was intimacy at its very best, and it comes from the core of our marriage.

I don't know if you have ever experienced this, but if you haven't, find it. It is the best.
I don’t know if you have ever experienced this, but if you haven’t, find it. It is the best.

A Sick Day, and the Long-Awaited Eyesore

In this entry…

  • I am home sick, which is very rare.
  • Workers are installing a long-awaited cell tower next door.
  • Why and when I prefer tablets over phones.
This is the view looking southwest toward our house from the site of a new cell tower in our next door neighbor's pasture,
This is the view looking southwest toward our house from the site of a new cell tower in our next door neighbor’s pasture,

Everyone who knows me is aware that I seldom get sick, and even seldomer stay home from work sick, but the past two days have taken me down, with dizziness, vertigo, and malaise. I thought it might be a bad reaction to a medication, but Abby seems to be having it too, so now we think it might be a virus of some type.

Being down for even a day or two is very frustrating for me, as I am very healthy, very active, stay as busy as a bee, and remain super motivated to get things done. I’m feeling better enough today to be up and about, and will probably return to work tomorrow. If nothing else, being sick helps to remind me that many people deal with chronic debilitating illness, and I should always remain grateful for my health.

Although I mostly laid in bed yesterday, I did get up-ish for a while in the evening. Abby and I watched some game show bloopers on YouTube, then went back to bed, but not before I stepped out to photograph a major change to our patch of green: a cell tower is being installed next door.

Workers set blocks in the foundation of a cell tower they are installing in the pasture to our north.
Workers set blocks in the foundation of a cell tower they are installing in the pasture to our north.

My feelings about this event are mixed and complex…

  • It will be an eyesore. I have never liked the look of cell towers.
  • It is damaging to the land, as the crew dug a fairly deep hole for the foundation, and built a short gravel road to it.
  • It isn’t as damaging to the land as it potentially could have been. For example, they only tore down a couple of walnut saplings and a couple of elm saplings, which I had just kind of let grow.
  • All the work is on the other side of the property line, on the land that once belonged to the Milligans (Abby’s first in-laws), but which now belongs to the Nipps, our favorite neighbors.
  • The builders told me the first client will be ATT. We rely on cellular phone and data service, and Byng was a notorious ATT dark zone. We are glad the service will be better, although in the house now we use VoIP, not tower service.
  • The builders, who said they were from Saint Louis, also told me it will be a free-standing 300-foot tower. They said, “it’s not going anywhere. Cell towers like this in the Joplin tornado stayed up.”
  • I’m kind of an antenna guy, so it would hippocritcal for me to come down on antennas just because they are in my back yard.

The equipment has been roaring away for two days now, digging and moving earth. I expect it will be another week before the tower is up, and maybe months before ATT gets the service equipment in place, but it will be nice to have a cell signal on our phones for a change.

The tower installation crew built this short gravel road from the Nipps' driveway to the site.
The tower installation crew built this short gravel road from the Nipps’ driveway to the site.

Finally, a friend of mine recently bought an iPad, nearly identical to the ones Abby and I have, and after using it for a day or two decided it wasn’t the game-changer he thought it would be. I guess he was looking for it to revolutionize his photography in some way, possibly making it easier to shoot and edit with the bigger-screened tablet.

One of the myths of tablets is that they are better than phones, but the truth is they are almost the same as phones, with the only real difference being the size of the screen. To me as a professional photographer, I would almost always carry and use the phone because of its compact size. The times I love a tablet is personal time, when I want to stream a movie or watch YouTube from the couch or the bed.

My iPhone rests on the screen of my iPad, which sits cradled in its Zagg case and keyboard.
My iPhone rests on the screen of my iPad, which sits cradled in its Zagg case and keyboard.

Who Line Is It Anyway?

When Abby and I were first dating in 2003, Friday nights were often occupied watching a show that aired on ABC and ABC Family at the time, Whose Line Is It Anyway? We balled up together on the couch and laughed out loud all night.

In the Netflix era, we watch almost no “aired” television any more, but we own a couple of seasons of Whose Line on DVD, and last night Abby suggested we ball up on the big blue couch and watch. We laughed like hyenas.

It might be fun to pick out a couple of Whose Line games, like “90-second alphabet,” and do them at Open Mic Nyte.

If we look a little crazy here, it's because we are laughing so hard at the amazing Whose Line Is It Anyway?
If we look a little crazy here, it’s because we are laughing so hard at the amazing Whose Line Is It Anyway?

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?

What to Do, What to Do…

In the middle of Lethal Weapon, which my wife never turns down when I offer to watch it, I photographed this amazing sky from the back deck.
In the middle of Lethal Weapon, which my wife never turns down when I offer to watch it, I photographed this amazing sky from the back deck.

Sometimes it feels like I want to do too many things. I want to write, I want to load the dishwasher, I want to mow, I want to play with lights in my studio, I want to take an extra walk with Hawken, I want to clean in the garage, I want to experiment with lenses, I want to shoot my guns, I want to tend my garden, I want, I want, I want…

Summer the Chihuahua lays on Abby's lap this morning. We adopted her last year, and she has become a great member of our family.
Summer the Chihuahua lays on Abby’s lap this morning. We adopted her last year, and she has become a great member of our family.

We all get like this, and sometimes the tendency is to not do anything at all.

I, on the other hand, make myself stop for a second, and remember than I can’t do all these things at once, and I should do just one thing. That’s me today, and my first activity is writing what you are reading.

On another front, two good friends who are my age are having health problems. One of them might be having a heart attack (or may have had one), and is being stubborn about seeking medical care, and the other has a nerve issue combined with hypertension, which you can read about in his blog here (link.)

Yes, it’s disconcerting when my young friends are now old friends with old people problems, but the up side is that Abby and I are both fine at the moment, as are Summer the Chihuahua and Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. To complicate the roller coaster ride is the fact that Max the Chihuahua, who is 15, is still sliding toward the inevitable: he can’t see or hear, and he is unable to move like he once could. He remains a loyal and wonderful dog, even though these are probably his last days or weeks.

Max the Chihuahua is about 15 years old. We adopted him in January 2006 one day before he was slated to be euthanized. He is a terrific dog.
Max the Chihuahua is about 15 years old. We adopted him in January 2006 one day before he was slated to be euthanized. He is a terrific dog.

Manifest of Mary’s 24th Century Weaponry

This is from the Bl@k Bük.  It was written by a long-time friend of mine.

Manifest of Mary’s 24th Century Weaponry

by M7/Rectal Infectant

Personal defense…

  • Mood wand
  • Spider gun
  • The constipater
  • Nut hook
  • Sonic buttplug
  • Dung sabre
  • Point ‘n vomit
  • Vomit box
  • Beavisator
  • Halitosis projector
  • Dangerously infected semen
  • Wash plug in ureter
  • Julio Iglesiator
  • Crystalline toilet paper

Small Meleé…

  • Es carne el diablo
  • Tri-directional fuckstream
  • Ass packet
  • Big rock materializer
  • Neck-mounted howitzer
  • Massive chigger attack vector
  • Rectum? Damn near kill’d em!
  • Anti-nucleic jizz rag device
  • Inner fetus
  • Dohicky dick hickey
  • Insertable calculator
  • Bucket full of assholes
  • Pap smear slip-up

Mass destruction…

  • Magna ream
  • Ad agency
  • Cylinder of death
  • Nerdlinger
  • Television
  • Tater smack
  • Fat blocker
  • Blat focker
  • Quantum hurl trough
  • Democratic National Convention
  • Major League Baseball

Shopping List for American Jee-Hodd

Editor’s note: I read this at Open Mic Nyte recently, and I felt is deserved a wider audience. It was written by a long-time friend of mine in one of the notebooks we share.

Shopping List for My American Jee-Hodd

(In American, it’s pronounced “She Hot!”)

by M7/Virgil Woodpuff

  • Wood putty
  • Barbed wire
  • 1984
  • Blonde-haired American hookers
  • TRS-80
  • Five miles of coaxial cable
  • Velvet pinwheel
  • 1968 Chevy Camaro – CHERRY FUCKIN’ RED
  • Two dozen goat-skin condoms
  • Passed-over cheap Israeli combat boots
  • Inflatable McDonald’s (makes its own sauce)
  • Particle accelerator
  • Song #2
  • Arc of the Convenience Store
  • Post-modern expletives
  • Jesus fish bumper stickers
  • Undefined threats
  • Idol of the Meat God
  • Blankets infected with lust for material posessions
  • ULTIMATE WEAPON = AMERICAN TELEVISION

 

A Strange Labor of Love

The refrigerator guy is coming Tuesday to repair our 2009 model Whirlpool Gold series fridge. It is a beautiful, spacious machine with great features, and I was sad to find it was making less and less cold as the last couple of weeks progressed, so I expect it needs refrigerant or a part, but it’s such a great machine, it is worth fixing.

Our broken-ish Whirlpool Gold Series fridge sparkles after I cleaned it tonight.
Our broken-ish Whirlpool Gold Series fridge sparkles after I cleaned it tonight.
Our perishables have been exiled to the fridge in the garage.
Our perishables have been exiled to the fridge in the garage.

I moved all the perishables into the much older garage fridge, which we had repaired when we got the new one, for occasions like Thanksgiving, or when I need a cold water while mowing, or like this one now.

In advance of the repair, I decided to unplug it, remove all the removables, and clean it. The design is remarkably friendly to this task, and before I knew it, I had all the shelves and compartments in my bathtub for a hot soap shower, and the inside of the “icebox” (as Abby calls it) and freezer sparkling like the day we bought it. It was a surprisingly fun activity. My sister will tell you that cleaning, when it goes well, is ingrained in us by our mother Sarah Jo.

I will take a moment to carefully editorialize about the state of sales and service in our world (careful since my own profession relies on direct sales): as I was attempting to set up Tuesday’s repair, the specialist on the other end of the phone aggressively, almost insistently, tried to sell me a blanket warranty for all the other appliances in our house. I let her talk, but I didn’t buy anything else but the one repair, and here’s why: if someone is selling you something this aggressively, they are making a fortune off of you, and not doing you any favors. Extended warranties are another example. Stay away.

I bought six button batteries, probably weighing less than an unladen European swallow, and Amazon Prime sent them in a box big enough for a pair of hiking boots. Is this in any way good for the environment? Couldn't they have just as easily put them in an envelope?
I bought six button batteries, probably weighing less than an unladen European swallow, and Amazon Prime sent them in a box big enough for a pair of hiking boots. Is this in any way good for the environment? Couldn’t they have just as easily put them in an envelope?

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.

Digging in the Dirt

This is where it starts. It ends with the first frost of November. My live plants this year included bell peppers, tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes.
This is where it starts. It ends with the first frost of November. My live plants this year included bell peppers, tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes.

Readers might recall that last year I got my garden in the ground a little early, on April 8, and that decision was not without consequence, as just a week later I had to cover all my plants to protect them from freezing.

A wet year has yielded a full pond. I hope it stays full, but it is shallow, so any hot or dry period will reduce it significantly.
A wet year has yielded a full pond. I hope it stays full, but it is shallow, so any hot or dry period will reduce it significantly.
I've had this small tiller for a few years, and it's never been a great machine. A neighbor and I tried all our tricks to fix it, but it either wouldn't start or wouldn't throttle up to till. I might sell it, or I might have a mechanic look at it.
I’ve had this small tiller for a few years, and it’s never been a great machine. A neighbor and I tried all our tricks to fix it, but it either wouldn’t start or wouldn’t throttle up to till. I might sell it, or I might have a mechanic look at it.

Tilly the Tiller won’t run, at least not usefully, so all my planting this year is at the end of my shovel. Yesterday I got all my tomato, cherry tomato, and bell peppers in the ground, and today I hope to get seeds in the ground; squash, cantelope, cucumber, and marigolds.

Last year I also put in radishes, turnips, and lettuce, but we didn’t eat any of them.

The garden overall will be smaller than last year. In 2018, I bought a huge number, 24 as I recall, of tomato and bell pepper plants, from a local high school horticulture program. That number determined the size of my garden in concert with the smooth operation of Tilly the Tiller. This year, I decided that so many plants demanded a lot of time and attention, so I got eight tomato plants (2 cherry), and eight peppers. I am also certain based on last year’s excessive (but fun) yield that this number of plants will provide all the produce I can pick.

Hot is the new Sweet?
When shopping for plants yesterday, I only found a few bell pepper plants, but hundreds of hot pepper plants. It’s possible that most people have gotten their regular peppers in the ground already and the only peppers left are hot, but based on the layout of the garden center, I think it more likely that more people are buying and growing hot pepper plants. Neither Abby nore I care for hot peppers, but I know a lot of people who do.
It looks like I may get peaches and cherries this year. These are cherry blossoms last week. There are no freezing temperatures in the forecast.
It looks like I may get peaches and cherries this year. These are cherry blossoms last week. There are no freezing temperatures in the forecast.

Also I took our toddler bed to Abby’s hair stylist for her child, then went to Walmart for supplies. On the way home I bought lunch, mixed vegetables for both of us from Famous Wok, and felt like a real husband bringing it home to her, and a real husband sharing it with her.

My tomato and bell pepper plants are in the ground.
My tomato and bell pepper plants are in the ground.