25,000 Words

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote anything on my blog. Other stuff just kept taking priority—but that was priority of my choosing, so I really have no excuse.

Anyway, rather than write any big, long piece to make up for what I haven’t posted in almost a month, I’m going to share some of the output from one of my hobbies: photography.

My grandparents gave me my first Vivitar camera when I must have been three or four, and I’ve been snapping pictures ever since. (I still have the Vivitar!) I upgraded to a digital Panasonic when I turned thirteen and more recently upgraded to a Canon DSLR last year to really take it to the next level.

Now, whether my eye for photography has ever been any good is for you to decide. And whether the shots come out looking great is also up in the air.

My goal as I work on photography on the side is to learn not only the mechanics of camera settings and framing the shot but also the post-processing that is done with image-editing software such as Photoshop. I’m a cheapskate (and Adobe charges out the nose for a Photoshop subscription now), so I’ve been using the open-source image-editor called GIMP. I think the results are pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

So, without further ado, here are some shots of airliners taken at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Grapevine, TX and muscle cars taken at Lone Star Muscle Cars in Wichita Falls, TX. Enjoy and please let me know what you think.

Omni Air International 767 taxiing in the foreground; American A321 taking off in the background.
Omni Air International 767 taxiing in the foreground; American A321 taking off in the background.
American MD-83 in the foreground, American 777 in the background. Both planes are landing into the south.
American MD-83 in the foreground, American 777 in the background. Both planes are landing into the south.
American 737 landing in front of Omni Air International 767.
American 737 landing in front of Omni Air International 767.
American A321 coming in for a landing.
American A321 coming in for a landing.
Omni Air International 767 taking off into the south. A Qantas A380 is parked on the tarmac in the background.
Omni Air International 767 taking off into the south. A Qantas A380 is parked on the tarmac in the background.
Omni Air International 767 retracting its landing gear as it switches to the departure frequency.
Omni Air International 767 retracting its landing gear as it switches to the departure frequency.
Volaris A320 "María Amalia" approaching the runway.
Volaris A320 “María Amalia” approaching the runway.
Alaska 737 painted in a Toy Story 4 livery.
Alaska 737 painted in a Toy Story 4 livery.
American A321 landing in the foreground. The Alaska 737 is lined up for takeoff on the neighboring runway. Lined up in the background are an American (Embraer) ERJ-175, American 737, another American ERJ-175, and an American 787 Dreamliner.
American A321 landing in the foreground. The Alaska 737 is lined up for takeoff on the neighboring runway. Lined up in the background are an American (Embraer) ERJ-175, American 737, another American ERJ-175, and an American 787 Dreamliner.
Air China Cargo 777, JFK-bound, taxiing in the foreground. A Canadian CargoJet 767 waits to cross the runway in the background.
Air China Cargo 777, JFK-bound, taxiing in the foreground. A Canadian CargoJet 767 waits to cross the runway in the background.
The Air China Cargo 767 waiting for clearance to cross the runway.
The Air China Cargo 767 waiting for clearance to cross the runway.
American A321 at the moment of touchdown.
American A321 at the moment of touchdown.
Hmm, which one do I want?
Hmm, which one do I want?
1970 Ford Mustang Mach I. Easily my favorite Mustang ever.
1970 Ford Mustang Mach I. Easily my favorite Mustang ever.
1985 Mustang GT Predator 302. Probably my second-favorite Mustang.
1985 Mustang GT Predator 302. Probably my second-favorite Mustang.
1969 Dodge Super Bee.
1969 Dodge Super Bee.
1962 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster.
1962 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster.
1969 Chevrolet Camero.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro.
2001 Dodge Viper. Get stung with V10 power, baby!
2001 Dodge Viper. Get stung with V10 power, baby!
1966 Dodge Charger.
1966 Dodge Charger.
1967 Chevrolet Camaro RS "Moovin' Milk". I wouldn't mind if the milkman drove this. Wait, I guess milkmen don't exist anymore.
1967 Chevrolet Camaro RS “Moovin’ Milk”. I wouldn’t mind if the milkman drove this. Wait, I guess milkmen don’t exist anymore.
1965 Ford Mustang grille.
1965 Ford Mustang grille.
2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. I really like the firebird graphic on the hood.
2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. I really like the firebird graphic on the hood.
A spider! Guess the Dodge D150 he was hanging out on hasn't been driven in a while.
A spider! Guess the Dodge D150 he was hanging out on hasn’t been driven in a while.
Another shot of the 1969 Dodge Super Bee, but the grille this time.
Another shot of the 1969 Dodge Super Bee, but the grille this time.

One thing I really like about photography is that it gives me an excuse to get out, explore, and experiment. As you can probably tell, I like photographing machines, but really anything that (I think) exhibits beauty is worth capturing.

Coming soon: enhanced photos from my spring-break trip to Utah. Until then, thanks for reading and viewing.

Farewell to a Friend: Mazda 3

Purchase_Mazda
The Super Mazda Brothers!

When I was a senior in high school, I bought my first car: a little yellow 2003 Mazda Protegé5. It had a 2.0L inline four engine, four-speed automatic transmission, and just under 200,000 miles on it. I paid cash for it (probably more than I should have due to the number of repairs that had to be done to it), and the man I bought it from was the original owner. In fact, just before we drove off with the car, Mom found a Polaroid-style photo of the man and his family in the glovebox, taken by the dealer on the day he bought it brand-new. (He didn’t knock the price down for that find, though.)

After a new radiator, an EGR (engine gas recirculation) valve clean (which took three days for Dad and I to do), a brand-new front end and hood from when I rear-ended someone, and I-can’t-remember-how-many other repairs, I decided to upgrade to a car I thought would (more) reliably get me to college and work every day. One year after I bought the Protegé5, I bought a 2005 Mazda 3 hatchback from a guy in Dallas. When I bought it, it had just over 110,000 miles on the engine and had just had the clutch replaced. That’s right: it was a five-speed.

It took me several hours spread over the course of three days to really learn how to drive stick, and then a month or so to really master it, including idiosyncrasies like hill starts, rev matching, and heel-toe braking (not something I used every day, but taught myself anyway). After that, though, I melded with that car.

Compared to the Protegé5 that soon became my brother’s car, my Mazda 3 was a step up in almost every way. It was quieter, it rode smoother, and you could actually drive over sixty miles per hour in it at lower RPMs. The dark interior, though cloth and plastic, looked and felt more luxurious than the drab gray of the P5. Being a five-speed, it got great gas mileage: I averaged 28 mpg combined over the course of my ownership. And, while the P5 would take off like a go kart, the 3 would actually keep going.

Daniel_Mazda
Undoubtedly the best picture I’ve ever taken with my phone: Daniel and the Mazda 3 at Smithville Lake, Smithville, MO. We traveled over 600 miles that day, and traveled over 600 miles back home two days later.

Was it reliable? Yes, it was. I don’t recall a day when I didn’t drive it to school. It started up every time, had a hot heater and a cold A/C (important in Texas!), and always stopped when I needed to. Aside from replacing the MAF (mass air flow) sensor and cleaning carbon deposits off the intake manifold (I think Mazda engines, at least from this era, tend to run rich and leave such deposits), the car required no engine work. In fact, I would wager the engine to last at least 200,000 miles, if not more.

However, it did require work elsewhere. The headlights were so oxidized that I had to take the front end of the car apart and replace both assemblies. The suspension grew squeakier and squeakier throughout my ownership. I had to replace both front struts, and needed to replace both rear suspension assemblies (but didn’t). A motor mount caused a rough ride, so I had it replaced as well. These are things that do wear out over the normal life cycle of a car, and yet even as I replaced parts, things continued to squeak, creak, and groan.

Despite all this, I really bonded with the 3. In a way, I developed what some call “machine empathy” with it. I could feel when to shift gears without looking at the tachometer and isolate new rattles and squeaks from the existing harmless ones. It wasn’t the fastest or flashiest car on the road, but I felt like I operated it as an extension of my arms and legs, and that’s what mattered to me.

We had some great experiences together, too. It got me safely home during a surprise snowfall one afternoon (a rarity in Texas). It got me and my brother safely to Kansas City and back for the Great American Eclipse of 2017, and more recently to Austin and back. For whatever reason, rain is the car’s perfect weather. Everything just tightens up and smoothes out, and it’s one reason I enjoy driving in the rain.

Austin_Mazda
The Mazda parked on Baylor St. in Austin, viewed from atop the HOPE Outdoor Gallery.

It’s been a great commuter, get-around-town car for me. However, it has to stretch as a road-trip or travel vehicle. It’s fairly loud on the highway, it channels bumps abruptly into the frame, and it’s hard to pack out when camping. As I find myself traveling greater distances by road, whether in the Metroplex or on vacation, it’s sadly less and less pleasurable to drive. Though I’m torn, and I wanted to “drive it until the wheels fall off,” I’ve decided it’s time to acquire another vehicle.

So, this write-up is in honor of my intrepid little Mazda 3, which I have put through the paces during my ownership. It ain’t the young car it once was, but it’s still got a lot of life in it. It’s not a Honda or a Toyota, but I’m impressed that it runs and rides as well as it does at its age. It’s served me well, and I know it’ll serve its next owner well too.