Thursday, December 13, 2007

A memorial blog

"Bearmagnet" died this morning, after a long, hard fight against cancer.

He was here.

http://bearmagnet.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chemical scare






I don't like chemicals.

This is the Sand Springs Fire Department responding to a smell of chemicals coming from a railcar. The call came out Nov. 20.

They went into full HazMat mode, but found no leak. Good... some bad stuff rolls through town.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Norman's new fire truck


As you may know, Norman's the home of the University of Oklahoma.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Family fun night

So tonight was my niece's reward. I had challenged her to go a month without TV (mostly because I would have thrown up if I had to watch "High School Musical" again).

Doggoned if she didn't do it. It was a great month. We read more, played board games together, played outdoors more (I rediscovered two-square -- I rocked at that game in elementary school), and she's writing another song for the piano.

So today I paid up. We went to "Incredible Pizza." Think "Chuckee Cheese," but without the rat. Took my sister, we all ate and then played a bunch of arcade games.

Watching those kids play around made me reflect. Some day I'll have kids.... I'll be taking them to that Incredible Pizza place, taking them camping. Quite a weekend.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Just got back

This is kind of a placeholder post... I just got back from Philly / NYC / Valley Forge / Woodstock / Cooperstown / Proposing to Katie.

And boy are my arms tired.

I'll write up a trip report proper here tomorrow, but I'm a little exhausted now. Also a lot to be done. There's a wedding to plan! Next year, about this time.

I also have no idea what's been going on in my home burg of Sand Springs... guess I'll have time to get caught up tomorrow.

That's all for now. Pictures and righteous ruminations to come. Just not tonight. ;)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Engagement

Big news! I got engaged to Katie! More to come later. But gonna be married soon... wow, that sounds weird, but great.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mike Gundy is funny

Oklahoma State's head coach went on a rant about a column by Jenni Carlson that appeared in "The Oklahoman," the daily newspaper in Oklahoma City.

Here's the rant:


Until I knew what the column was, I thought he was looking directly at the guy in blue who rubs his nose at the end...
But instead it was Carlson... I would have hated to be her. Awkward.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Evil kitty

You need a cat,” she said.

I do?”

I was sitting in my apartment in OU, talking to Ingrid, my Mennonite hippie friend from Durant. We were splitting dinner, which, given my negative bank account balance, consisted entirely of the pepperoni pizza somebody called in and never picked up from my night job at Pizza Shuttle.

I was taking 12 hours, working full time at night, and considering dropping out and walking Route 66 to the Pacific Ocean.

She looked around my apartment. We were sitting in the two plastic Wal-Mart patio chairs, with the pizza box resting on my coffee table, my only other piece of furniture, besides the foam pad I slept on.

You need a cat,” she repeated.

I thought about it. Can a cat subsist entirely on day-old pizza? Did my apartment even allow it? How could I care for another living creature.

No, I don't think I do,” I said.

She weighed that as she peeled a slice of pepperoni off.

Yeah, you do.”

That was the end of that discussion. My friend Ingrid was born and raised on a farm, and like all farms, colonies of farm cats roamed about freely. The half-feral critters earned their place by catching rats, and she knew of a litter of kittens that had just been born. Coyotes or stray dogs had already picked off a couple, and she didn't give the remaining kittens much of a chance to survive to adulthood.

Ingrid also saw that I was living a lonely life, headed for the worst kind of long-term bachelorhood. She didn't give me much chance of ever finishing school, finishing my novel, or quitting my job delivering pizzas. I would be in the same routine when I was 40, in her eyes.

Don't worry. I'll pick out the perfect one. She'll suit you,” she said.

Some men are born into cat ownership, and some have cats thrust upon them. I had my cat thrust upon me. And so it was decided: I would be a cat owner.

The other day, one of my writers accused me of being a fatalist. I have to admit, she was right. When you've had as many life-altering decisions made for you by a hippie Mennonite woman from Durant as I have, you would be too.

The next weekend, Ingrid returned from her farm with a tiny little ball of puff with a distended belly. She handed her off to me, and despite my better judgment, I took it and cradled it in my hands.

The thing didn't have a name. She'd need one. I picked “Bobbie Sue,” after the country song by the same name. Also, I liked the name Sue because Johnny Cash had died not long before, and I wanted to remember him some way. Sue would fit.

That was in 2003. I have had the cat for almost four years now.

If this were fiction, this story would be about redemption, and how the power of love and responsibility for another living creature changed me, and gave the cat a chance at a second life.

This is not fiction. This is my life. The cat, though cute, has the dark soul of something from a Stephen King novel.

She either loves me, or loves the taste of my blood and the sounds of my shrieks of pain.

There's nothing like the feeling of coming home at night after a long day at the office to know that there's a stealthy hunger out there waiting to try to kill you. She goes for the feet and ankles, and when that doesn't work, uses her tawny brown coat as camouflage to hide on the stair steps leading up to my bedroom. Once I get close, she darts under my foot, engaging in an occasionally successful campaign to trip me and roll me down the stairs.

When I'm gone, and not there for her to shred, she turns her attention to the furniture and carpet instead, and has recently learned to climb the drapes and hang there like a Garfield car ornament.

Yet I love her. Why? Familiarity, I guess. Obligation, maybe. Maybe just because she doesn't judge me – only abuses me.

I wouldn't dream of living without her – she's among the best things to happen to my life.

And she's the worst cat in the world.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ten levels of awesomeness

11. Soccer.

10. Living in your parents' basement.

9. Living in someone else's parents' basement.

8. Birkenstocks.

7. Driving an Iroc T-Top convertible.

6. Mythbusters.


5. That Lion v. Water buffalo fight video on Youtube.

4. Stuff 'sploding.

3. Roy Williams (the Dallas Cowboys one, not the Detroit Lions one).

2. Johnny Cash.

1. This:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Two weeks

Two weeks until I see my sweetie again.

I'm a little bit nervous. I've never been to New York City, and I'm a not sure how I'll handle the big city, bright lights, and everything jammed together. However, it is all worth it for my week with Katie.

In other news, spent a very long and ultimately unproductive day during a meeting with the pro- and anti- river tax people. The company's editors couldn't come to a formal consensus about what editorial position to take. I hope we come up with something soon. For or against.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Football Friday night

A few moments into the second quarter, with Mannford already up 15-0, the Pirates were running plays from their own 5-yard line.

That's when Nick Replogle, the Pirates wide receiver, started to trot over to the sideline. Before he could get there, he paused and hunched over.

Then Replogle launched. The contents of his stomach came shooting out all over the numbers for the 10 yard line. Replogle trotted off to the sideline, a few more convulsions scattering his huevos rancheros on the field.

Welcome to football Friday night.

Replogle isn't the kind of guy to be out of shape. He is tall and lean, pure muscle. The guy's built like a gazelle. He isn't one of those linemen you'd expect to see launch (although there were a few who spent most of halftime vomiting.

The weather was hot and humid and just plain as muggy as all getout. Hardly the kind of fall football weather that is soon to come. It sure didn't help the players' condition at all.

Combine that with some twisted knees, bent-over ankles, and quarterback John Winfield taking a shot to the coin purse, and you have a tough and rough game.

Fortunately Mannford won, 35-0.

The impressive thing was how the kids handled themselves. Mannford players always helped Kellyville players up after a game, even helping an injured Kellyville player limp off the field. After the game, Mannford's high school kids came up and congratulated the coach and other players. Some really impressive sportsmanship.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Lessons learned from being sick

1. Your receptionist does not like it when you give her the specifics of why you're calling in sick. Just say "upset stomach" rather than being more graphic.

2. It gets boring after a while.

3. There is nothing worthwhile on daytime TV. I think once all the analog TVs go dead in 2009, I'm just not going to bother replacing mine. I only keep it for football really, and I can always go to a sports bar for that.

4. Did I mention boredom.

5. I actually can not wait to go back to work tomorrow. Tricky.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

This girl...

This girl... this girl is doing things to me.

She makes me want to build. She makes me want to build a bed, a home, plant a garden. She makes me want to settle down and homestead.

I want to own tools and know how to use them, chop wood, build fires, plant our own food.

It's a strange instinct. I've never wanted to take care of myself in this sort of way. But I want to take care of her.

On another update, today, I weighed 231. That's either a loss of three pounds, or the scale wasn't accurate yesterday.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Mr. Marshmallow

Oof.

If someone were to ask you what you weighed, what would you say?

Apparently, I was way too kind to myself. Fortunately, our cabinets are now stocked with healthy food, so it's easier. I think the biggest thing is to just get used to taking my lunches instead of getting some drive through fast food crap.

So, looks like I'll be on a mission for the next couple of months. Starting weight: 234.
Goal: 190.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

DUI checkpoint



Do you ever stop to think about how many people on the road with you are driving drunk?

I went to cover a DUI checkpoint in Sand Springs Friday night, Aug. 24. Police and sheriffs were pulling cars over left and right. Most of the infractions were minor, like driving under suspension or something. (That's what the girl being arrested had -- plus some warrants).

But before long, they'd already arrested some guys for DUI.

One man drove through the barricade, down the wrong way. He said he didn't see any cop cars, and, of course, only had two beers. He was arrested.

The guy being given the test there was cut loose, by the way. Don't know the story on the big Indian in cuffs.







The flashing red and blue lights and big loud siren are there for a reason, sir



Guy in the blue pickup truck ran a light and smacked into the EMSA ambulance unit. To be fair, lights and siren weren't running at the time.

And fortunately, the drivers of the medic unit probably knew how to administer first aid to themselves. ;)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Late night


OK, so I should be sleeping, but can't. My sleep schedule has been so screwed up lately. Hate work, but love life, and love my Katie. She's a cutie, can't you tell?
So, I could go on and on about why I love Katie, but that's probably private-ish kind of stuff.
Why I hate work...
I have a job where everyone thinks they could do it better than me. Any article, anything that goes in the paper, any time, someone, without fail, will call and tell me what an idiot I am and how I could have done it better.
Add on top of that an ever-increasing workload of non-paper related stuff to do, and it makes for a frustrating job. I've got to find a new one that demands something less than 60 hours a week. After all, I'm going to be married and have a family soon, right? Right.
Enough whining. I've got to focus on the positives...

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The view from the cheap seats

Katie just left after spending the weekend with me. Once again I find myself alone, but marveling at how lucky I am.

At any rate, sorry about taking so long to update. I'll be better as time goes on.

Back to this weekend. Katie landed Friday night. Saturday, we woke up, went to look around the town some, checked out Sand Springs, and then went to meet my family for lunch. Katie was a little bit nervous about meeting the family. You know... the first time you meet your significant other's family, it can be a bit of a nerve-wracking experience.

But she did fine. I'm sure my family loved her... I know I love her, so that's what really matters.

Saturday night, we went on our first real "date." I took Katie to a Tulsa Driller's game. They're the minor-league AA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. They were playing in Tulsa, taking on the Springfield Cardinals.

I was proud of myself for picking out seats that weren't facing the sun. I didn't realize that I picked seats over where they store the garbage dumpsters. The whole night, the fragrant smell of used diapers kept on wafting our way, making the hot dogs somewhat less enjoyable.

Oh well... it was still a good game. Even though the Drillers lost, they capped the night off with a fireworks show. Surprisingly, they set the fireworks off from centerfield. I'd hate to think what the groundscrew saw the next morning...

Now Katie is gone, unfortunately. But soon enough I get to go se her, in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Weekend in the Wichitas

Katie packs bad luck for airplane flights the same way other people pack a travel pillow or Stephen King paperback. How else to explain why, the day her plane was to land at Tulsa International Airport, lightning struck, knocking out power. So Katie arrived for her Memorial Day vacation to a darkened, powerless, very warm airport.
After meeting at the gate, we had to wait for the baggage handlers to drive their baggage carts from her airplane to the curb in front of the airport. Amid all this, I was trying to reassure her: This is not an omen.

Oklahoma's Wichita Mountains sit in the southwestern corner of the state, rising abruptly from the planes like a row of jagged, broken teeth. Granite, mostly, popping up out of the rolling plains and crosstimber forests, the Wichitas are likely the oldest mountain range in North America. Some geologists consider them the eastern-most foothills of the Rockies.

A century ago, sensing the impending extinction of the bison from the American plains, some men with foresight sought to set aside a refuge for the magnificent beasts. Thus, the Wichita National Wildlife Refuge was established. A small herd of bison was imported, followed by Rocky Mountain Elk, and even longhorn cattle. Other animals were already there, including armadillos, rattlers, bobcats, coyotes, and perhaps the ghostly mountain lion. We don't know for sure about the mountain lion – they excel at not being seen – but the manager of the refuge reported a sighting in 1984.

Katie and I arrived at the refuge midday Friday. We made a driving tour, including up and down Mount Scott, and almost saw a Texan get himself killed by a bison. Then we visited prairie dog town to chat with the cute little guys for a while. A few more minutes, and we were at the trailhead. We paused for photos and a DEET bath, and chatted with a ranger.
Before the trip, I told Katie that the Wichitas were among the most arid places in already-arid Oklahoma. But we'd gotten rain nearly every day for most of the year. So it probably shouldn't have surprised me when the Ranger told us “That bridge is washed out, by the way.”

The rain did wanders for the Wichitas. Wildflowers had exploded on the landscape, blanketing every part of the earth that wasn't granite mountain with brilliant yellows, reds, pale blues, and every other color imaginable. Indian Blanket, Prairie Cone Flower, Horsemint, others we couldn't ever identify: They gave the Wichitas a new face, one I'd never seen before in all my travels there. What wasn't a brilliant yellow color was a lush green. It was amazing.

The hike in was just-tough-enough. It was challenging, especially with the softball-sized rocks that covered the entire earth. Combine that with the crosstimbers, Washington Irving's “Impenetrable forest of wrought-iron,” and you have a tough hike. Still, we wound our way through the terrain, up and over countless little hillocks, eventually finding our campsite.

The campsite was my favorite, one I used every time. This time, it was nearly flooded out from all the rainfall. What wasn't flooded was blanketed in wildflowers, and I would have felt too guilty to camp on those. Eventually, though, we found a patch of grass where we would do less damage. This was our home for the next two days.

That night, Katie and I sat on a rock, eating dinner, listening to the elk bugle at us. The sunset was obscured by rainclouds, but it was still vivid. It took both of us a while to get used to the sound of nothing manmade. It was paradise on earth for that night.

The next day broke casually. We had precisely zero miles we absolutely had to make that day. So after a quick breakfast, we set out for our dayhike. We went up and over the rolling prairie at the western end of Charons Garden Wilderness Area. We spotted five bison on a hill a little ways from us, along with some elk. Then we took a route back south, with the intention of climbing Sunset Peak. Durned if I could figure out a way up there. Instead, we settled on the next highest peak.
Rain looked like it was moving in, so we made our way back to the campsite, getting there about 1 p.m. Seeing as how we were on vacation and all, we figured that we might as well take a nap. So we did. I felt like the laziest hiker ever, and I loved it. After a couple of hours, we roused again, and made some dinner. Sunset came around 8:45, and it was back to bed. We had some fearsome lightning storms come through around 1 a.m., which kept us up for a while, but they left by 2 or so, and back to sleep it was.
The next day consisted of trying to find a new way up and out of the Wichitas. Against all odds and some slight misdirection on my part, we got there, and before long, were back at the trailhead.

The end of a hike in the Wichitas means a lunch at Meers Burgers. Katie, the lil' Yankee, downed a pound of longhorn, fried green tomatoes, and fried okra, washed down by an RC Cola. I was so proud. :)

We went to Oklahoma City that night. Katie and I drank at Toby Keith's bar, walked around, and met up with Lostone and Carmen, his better half, for dinner followed by drinks. Conversation was great, and Katie finally got to meet Lostone. I was happy to see him and Carmen again, too.

The next morning, Memorial Day, we went to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, a sight every American needs to see at least once.

That afternoon, back to Broken Arrow along old Route 66, a road every American needs to travel as often as they can.

Tuesday morning, Katie left for Pennsylvania and I'm back alone writing this trip report.
This whole weekend reminded me that truly some of the finest people you'd ever want to meet are on this board. It also reminded me that I'm lucky to live near the Wichitas, and have the opportunity to get out and enjoy them. This has been one of the greatest weekends ever.
All the photos (in reverse order) are here: http://s112.photobucket.com/albums/n174/dustin_hughes/Wichita%20Mountains%20with%20Katie/?start=0

Saturday, May 19, 2007


My family now has a new little one. My nephew was born May 8.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Nap time


I've really come to love this doberman... she's really nothing more than a big ol' lap dog.


I am not, however, too thrilled about my sis taking pictures of me as I sleep. At least she didn't pull out the sharpie and shame me.


Friday, April 20, 2007

The perfect day, the worst day

I had the pleasure of attending a high school baseball game on a bright, sunny, perfect spring day Monday.

A thousand miles away, at least 30 people had been killed in a brutal and bloody rampage at a college campus. A deranged gunman stalked the halls at Virginia Tech, taking the lives of dozens of sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and friends.

In Mannford, birds were singing and two teams of teenagers gathered to revel in America's greatest pastime - baseball. The day was set aside as Senior Day, meant to honor the three students, Matt Woodson, Jimmy Edwards, and Jason Alexander, who were playing their last regular season home game at Mannford. The three are classic examples of all-American kids. Bright, respectful, energetic, and with all the world in front of them.

In Virginia, kids not much older than those three met their tragic end in a senseless act of violence and cruelty and an incomprehensible disregard for the sanctity of life.

How many of those victims were on their high school baseball team? Theater? Science Club? FFA? Choir?

How many of those ever thought when they woke up on April 16 that they'd never see another sunrise, never talk to their parents again, never goof off with friends, and never get to have kids of their own? How many knew they'd never get to watch another baseball game?
The Mannford stands were filled with parents and friends, cheering on the Pirates and the opposing Bristow team. The parents of Woodson, Edwards, and Alexander had the honor of escorting their boys onto the diamond in the break between the doubleheader games. Arm in arm, parent and child walked.

I don't know if any of those parents had been watching the TV news, listening to radio, or monitoring the Internet throughout the day. I don't know if they knew about the tragedy. If they did, the day must surely have been especially poignant.

Watching their young men excel at America's game has got to do something for a parent. Knowing that their children are in the prime of their lives, and making memories that will last a lifetime, has got to feel good.

Hopefully, the parents savored that moment. Hopefully, they'll never forget that feeling.
In Blacksburg, Va., at least 30 parents found out that they'd never get to see their children again. Their kids were no longer going to call up between classes, shoot them e-mails, come home for laundry or summer break or Thanksgiving.

Those parents will never be able to escape the nightmare moment when they heard the awful news.

There's something about baseball. Something that cemented myself during Monday's game. James Earl Jones said it best in "Field of Dreams": It reminds of us of all that once was good in America.

Anyone who's ever picked up a glove, took in the scent of dirt and freshly mowed grass and horsehide knows what I'm talking about. See a game, watch a pitcher wind up, and you're transported instantly to another time and a place.

Maybe, if you're like me, it's your childhood and watching the Drillers take the field. Or even further back to when I was in Little League myself, dutifully manning right field.

Those times were good.

They belonged to an America that had sure footing, and to an America where things like Monday's Virginia shooting, or the Columbine massacre, or 9/11 or the Murrah Building bombing had never happened.

They belonged to a time of purity, simplicity, faith in your neighbor, fellow man, and relief pitcher. They belonged to an America that is now gone.
That America was gone with the sad April news.

All hope is not lost, though. In Mannford, on Monday night, kids got out and did what they loved to do. They played their pure sport under brilliant sunshine and a gentle breeze.
They reclaimed everything right with America.

They are what's right with America.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Flirting with death


I gave my cat, Bobbie Sue a bath today. To say this is a difficult thing to do is an understatement. I haven't tried to bathe her in nearly two years. Last time, too many people got hurt, and I couldn't bring myself to try again.

But the cat was getting dry skin, so I knew I really had no choice but to pull out the old cat shampoo, enlist the help of my niece, and throw a cat in the water.





There was much less blood drawn this time. I was smart, and wore long sleeves.

It only took a few minutes and a couple of rinses to get it done. After that, she was filled with rage, hatred, and self-pity. She took it out on the Doberman, but I think the dobie can handle it.







Obligatory after shot.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Food: Peeps

Peeps make good camping buddies



It's Easter. This is one of the greatest times of the year
No matter what religion you are, we can all get behind one thing: Peeps.
Peeps, for those who don't know, are quite simply the greatest candy ever created.
For starters, the wise and benevolent makers of Peeps start with marshmallows. Then they cut the marshmallows into cute little bunny or chick shapes. Then those are coated with colored sugar.
And that's all. The beautiful simplicity of Peeps right there, all in a sugary, sticky, sweet bundle.
They were also invented to keep dentists in business. Bite into one, and you can feel your tooth enamel dissolving away.
Quite frankly, Peeps may be the greatest and most cruel invention of mankind. Like everything else, they're meant in moderation, but are nearly impossible to take that way.
You eat one, and with the satisfaction of ripping apart a cute little baby chick guilt-free, you want another. And another. And another. Eventually, the whole package is gone, and you're faced with the realization that you might have some self-control issues. And a blood sugar imbalance.
That sugar high is awesome. I've never tried meth, but I believe the results are similar. Eat a row of Peeps, and much as you'd like to go to sleep after 86 hours, it's like “Sorry, I can't. My heart's racing, eyeballs are quivering, and there's spiders crawling all around inside my skin.”

Road trip: The Blue Whale





We're lucky enough around here to have Route 66 running through our area. Old 66, the Mother Road, was the main thoroughfare between Chicago and Los Angeles. At least it was before the invention of Interstates and Turnpikes.
Not far from Tulsa, in Catoosa, is the Blue Whale.
The Blue Whale is, well, big, blue, and a whale. It was built in the early 1970s in a pond to serve as a swimming hole destination. Its life was brief, but popular. Thousands of people stopped to visit the whale and other tourist attractions on the land, and to take a dip on hot summer days.
Today, the whale is open for visitors, but there's no swimming. It's a magnet for graffiti artists, and the pond is overridden with pond scum. But it's still a shining blue, easily recognizable from the road.
Not long ago, citizens bought the whale and fixed it up. You can drop by and visit it and imagine what it must have been like in its hayday.






Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Building a swingset


My niece's birthday is next Tuesday. This weekend, my sister and I put together a swingset for her. By "swingset," I mean "Deathtrap." At least it was after we got through with it.
The swingset was one of those do-it-yourself jobs from Wal-Mart. So we figured it'd be kind of easy. Insert Tab A into Slot B, Tighten Bolt D, etc.
Wrong.
The directions were written by someone who obviously was not a fan of the English language. The author of the instruction manual may have een slighted by an English teacher once, and decided to exact their revenge by slaughtering the language ever since.
Even the pictures were of no help, because important things like screws, nuts, bolts, and load-bearing structural components were helpfully omitted. As a result, we got quite a few things wrong. The genius of the instruction manual was that you don't know it's wrong until you are about three or four steps beyond that certain point on the instruction manual. Then you get to go back, take apart what you've accomplished, and turn some piece upside down, and put it back together.



As you can see above, we either got the directions wrong, or we bought the MC Escher model of child swingsets. That frame is supposed to be an equilateral triangle. We didn't discover that we had one side of the triangle installed upside down, so the bolt holes were several inches higher than those on the other post, until about one step from completion of the set.


As you can see above, we weren't exactly careful with throwing the ol' wood around. Some cricket gave his life in the name of child swingsets. It was nice to know there was some creature out there who had a worse time in the construction of this swingset than we did.

Cut to eight hours later and near dark, and we got it all together, and even in some semblence of what it looked like on the box. We were hot and tired, but when my niece came home, she gave out the greatest scream of joy I'd ever heard. We literally had to pry her away from the monkey bars that night, when it was too dark to see.

So I guess it was all worth it. Except maybe to that cricket.