My 15 minutes of fame!

2019/05/28 at 16:29

A writer from MEL Magazine contacted me via a comment that I had made on a reddit question about whether men should run shirtless. My whole email interview got included in the article.

Running Shirtless


2019/05/06 at 08:20

After I graduated high school in 1982, I spent the following school year as an AFS high school exchange student in Austria. This past weekend, I started scanning the hundreds of slides that I took during my year abroad, including the photo in this post of the village sign. Yes, I spent the year in a village called Großklein. For those of you who don’t speak German, groß = large, klein = small. Yes, I lived in big-little. Note that in Austria it’s common that if a new village springs up next to an existing one, they use the prefixes groß and klein to distinguish them. In the case, the existing village was named Klein.


Happy Holi!

2019/04/16 at 08:16

At work we celebrated Holi this year. A good time was had by all.
Me at the Holi celebration, March, 2019

Reflecting on my history as an amateur photographer

2019/04/13 at 07:42
Pentax MX SLR camera

Pentax MX SLR camera

Recently I’ve been reflecting on my history as an amateur photographer. I spent 1982-3 as a high school exchange student in Austria (for you German speakers, I really lived in a village called Großklein). Before I left, I decided that I wanted to buy myself a good camera. A friend had a Canon AE-1, which was the consumer-grade pinnacle of SLR technology at the time with shutter-priority auto-exposure. My dad, however, asked a professional photographer for camera buying advice, and he recommended a Pentax MX SLR camera. The only technology on the MX was a built-in light meter. As you manipulated shutter speed and aperture size, a row of LEDs along the bottom of the viewfinder indicated whether the light level was good (red – yellow – green – yellow – red).

Film photography had two big constraints that are unknown to digital photographers. The first is delayed gratification; you don’t get to see your photo until after the film is developed and printed–which was a matter of days at the very least (hence the eventual popularity of same-day photo processing). The other limitation was cost; there were three separate expenses related to film photography: the film itself, and the costs of developing the film and printing photos.

My maternal grandmother

Candid portrait of my maternal grandmother taken with my Pentax MX, 1982

The constraints of film photography with an all-manual camera forced me to really learn the basics of photography–the interaction of film speed, aperture size and shutter speed–and to become a disciplined shooter in order to get the shot that I wanted. Taking multiple photos with different settings was prohibitively expensive;  there were essentially no do-overs; and post-processing was expensive and limited only to professional photography.

I’ve been taking photographs with a digital SLR for well over a decade now, and post-processing gets easier all the time. Yet I remain a mediocre and ambivalent post-processor of my photos. I reflected on this recently and realized that this attitude is due to my long history with film photography: I still consider getting the photo to be 90% of photography, whereas photographers who grew up on digital consider post-editing a much larger and more important part of the process.

Katie and Duncan, 1984

Katie and Duncan, 1984

When I lived in Austria, I shot slide film mostly–it had better color and was somewhat cheaper since you didn’t get prints. All this reminds me that I still need to get my slides from that period scanned. I think I’ll work on that today.

Why do you take photos?

2019/01/12 at 12:34

I haven’t had any direct experience with someone who was trying to monetize their Instagram, Twitter or other social media feed with their photos, but I have certainly noticed a different motivation for taking photos among people who were brought up with social media. I’m old school. When I take photos, I’m interested in either preserving the memory for me and my loved ones or taking artistic photos. When many younger people take photos, their first motivation is how they think their photos will look to their social media contacts. I guess there’s nothing wrong with this motivation–assuming they don’t go to the lengths described in this comment from reddit–but it’s foreign to me:

My [relative] is definitely not a huge “influencer” but she has a pretty strong following and what she and her friends do is beyond bullshit and is like a continual eye-roll. Some great examples: buying books she will self-admittedly never open just to take photos with them, posing with somebody else’s Louis Vuitton luggage without asking them acting as if it was hers (it was left in the hallway of a hotel for some reason and they pounced on it to take photos before the owners came back out to get it), etc.
This year we were on another family vacation with her in [country] over [holiday] and it’s exhausting. The “photo shoots” are never ceasing, they happen all the time, she takes hundreds of photos a day and the whole group is supposed to wait for her. And the photo shoots become extremely rude (ie, she took a 6-7 minute “shoot” in a [place] once we were done eating that was blocking any of the [staff] from moving around the tiny place or [doing their job], I was so embarrassed I walked out). She hates her life pretty much and complained the entire vacation about how much she hated [the cities] but on her Instagram…[insert witty pun or hashtag based on the city and how much she loves it].

Any meal or museum or whatever she was on her phone updating and editing and filtering and airbrushing photos for a never-ending parade of Instagram Story updates. And on top of that she would demand (family ignored most of them thank God) to traverse across the cities to go to certain spaces or restaurants not because she wanted to experience the space, but because she wanted the photo. For example there was a restaurant in [city] she was dying to go to because they give you a balloon to hold while you wait and she thought it would make a fantastic Instagram story post. She couldn’t tell you what type of food this place served or what they were known for. She just wanted the photo. We denied the demand.

She’s totally lost touch with reality and lives her life on her feed. She has no ability to comprehend the enormous cognitive dissonance between what she is actually experiencing and how she portrays her life to her followers (like I said, she’d hate a meal because it wasn’t some basic American food but then act as if it was the best thing she’s ever eaten on Instagram). Or the fact that she is barely scraping by in life and most of the nice things in her life are gifts from my in-laws, but she portrays her life as this incredible luxurious parade of objects and spaces, and on wayyyy more than one occasion has tried to make a house or item look like hers when it is not. Not to mention there is not a shard of intellectual curiosity or personal passion left in her life at this point…every situation is assessed simply on “how will this make my feed look better/can this make my feed look better”. Places are not “experienced” they are just exploited for photos. The rest of the group would discuss the “place” itself (breakfast menu, painting, whatever) and she would only be able to talk strategy about how to photograph it and would seem genuinely confused when this wasn’t the priority for others as well (not our own photos mind you, but hers).

If you can’t tell I have strong feelings about this….


This takes me back…

2018/05/06 at 15:50

I just searched for snapshots of my domain, which was for many years my small business with my friend Susan Brumbaugh. Below is the earliest snapshot of the web site, from January, 1998. That Aphids graphic was cutting edge at the time.


Running stats

2018/05/04 at 15:10


Runkeeper status

Runkeeper status

I’ve been a recreational runner since about age 18. I started tracking my runs via GPS in 2011, and since then I’ve run almost 5000 miles. I can extrapolate that I’ve run 15,000 – 20,000 in my lifetime. Last year, I decided I would run a half marathon this year for the first time in 13 years. My training late last year went really well, and I logged 960 miles last year. This past February, I ran the half-marathon and although I was much slower than thirteen years prior, I finished without any problems.

My goal for this year is to run at least 1,000 miles. It’s the first of May, and I’m already at 459 miles, so barring injury, illness or any other unforeseen circumstances that keep me from running this year, I’m on track to exceed that goal. Exciting!

I’m a finisher!

2018/01/21 at 13:25

This morning, I ran the 3M Half Marathon for the first time in many years. I was not nearly as fast as the last time, but I’ve aged, the weather was warm and muggy, and I think I’m getting sick. To be fair to myself, the 9:03/mile pace was consistent with my recent training, but I was hoping to go faster in a race. But, I’ll take it.

3M Half Marathon 2018 results

3M Half Marathon 2018 results

College graduation is upon us!

2017/03/19 at 09:59

In preparation for Hannah’s imminent college graduation, last night we did a photo shoot at Pfluger park.

Hannah graduation photo

Hannah graduation photo

Learning to type

2017/01/28 at 13:37

When I started college in 1983, papers were still typed on typewriters. Typing was considered a clerical skill, and most students paid typists to prepare their final drafts. My freshman year of college, my  mother typed my papers.

My sophomore year at UT, I started working for professor of German Ralph Read, who had gone blind a few year prior due to complications of diabetes. I drove him to and from campus each day, ran errands for him, and helped him some with class preparations. Since going blind, Prof. Read’s primary academic work consisted of translating German novels into English. To do this, he had quite a process. One of his graduate student assistants would read the novel into a dictation machine. Then Prof. Read would play the recording back and type the rough English translation on his IBM Selectric typewriter. The IBM typewriter was tactile enough that Prof. Read could load pages himself, feel when he was near the end of a page, etc. The only problem that plagued him from time to time was that he couldn’t tell when his ribbon ran out of ink. After typing out his rough draft translation, then he would produce a final draft with the help of a German-speaking assistant who would type the final draft for the publisher.

Ralph Read was a generous man, and he taught me many things, both academic and personal. (Unfortunately, he died unexpectedly after I’d worked for him for about a year). One of the gifts he gave me was the ability to type. Back in the days before personal computers, most professionals had typists. College professor was, however, one of the few professions where people did a lot of their own typing. And of course, typing was especially important for Dr. Read, since it was his only means of written communication. When he found out that I didn’t type, he advised me repeatedly that I needed to learn the skill. So, I bought a portable manual typewriter at a garage sale, taped over the keys, bought a typing book and taught myself touch typing.

About this same time, the first consumer-grade standalone portable word processors were introduced. I bought one that had a one-line LCD display, stored a 5-page paper in internal memory and printed onto heat-sensitive paper. I used it to type my own papers! Of course, I could only work on one paper at a time, and I had to delete one from memory before starting the next one. But it was markedly better than paying a typist or my mom.

While I was working for Dr. Read, the first Macintosh model was introduced, and the UT German department bought a couple. Nobody was very sure what to do with them, but because I had learned to type and had used a word processor, I was one of the first to sit down at the Mac and figure out how to use it. And the rest, as they say, is history.