Saturday, October 25, 2014

Don’t Mess With… Baytown?

 When our esteemed Mayor DonCarlos said Baytown has a litter problem, I took it with a grain of empty plastic water bottle.  Its not like I didn’t believe him, I just didn’t think it was the mentality of many people to litter in 2014.  Not in Baytown anyway.  Didn’t we stop doing that, like, 30 years ago?

Well.  Shut the front door; he was right.  It’s not like I don’t trust his judgment; I do.  Heck, I voted for him as Mayor at least 10 times so far, maybe more now that I think about it.  It’s just that until I experienced it first hand, I had no idea it was anything more than stuff blowing out of the back of a pick-em-up truck, or maybe a shopping cart.

I remember when he said it I saw a bunch of trash in the field south of Home Depot and told myself trash and litter was relegated to places like this – and why didn’t the store owners clean it up?  I can say this and not be self-righteous and that statement right there stinks of self-righteousness doesn’t it – but it’s true just the same.

This year alone, I’ve participated is 7 trash bashes.  The city had a big one at Bergeron Park on the 18th, but I was at an event in Livingston (and yes, we picked up trash) and missed it and the Baytown Photo club has about 4 a year out on Tri-City Beach Road.  By the way, I need to attend the next one.  Heck, I even went over to Beaumont to attend what Geocachers call a CITO, or Cache In Trash Out event and picked up trash on 2 miles of highway there.  So am I being self righteous when I get miffed over tossed garbage?

I can’t say for sure if that giggly happy fellow in the Facebook photos at the Bergeron Park clean-up was Scott Sheley, but it probably was.  I didn’t see any donuts though, so maybe not.  Picking up other peoples trash is hard work and requires stamina and thus the donuts, kolaches, and of course – Gatorade or some other high-powered salty drink.  I’m a BRAWNDO man myself, because it has electrolytes, so an army of trash picker uppers deserve their food.

I’ve come to the conclusion that trashy people with no conscience or ecological awareness are those who unroll their car or truck window and throw out that great big bag of fast food refuse.  They might also belong to the same group who chug a bottle of Thunderbird or a half-pint of Old Granny and toss it onto the spanking new Blue Heron Parkway median.

Because I walk it with one or two empty grocery bags and pick up the constant resupply of litter, I know for a certainty that it is NOT the many people texting as they drive that I observe, as they simply don’t have enough hands to toss trash while they mindlessly peck away on their Smartphones that often are as large as a Whataburger samich was 30 years ago.

Until I saw the daily water bottles, food wrappers, beer cans and (gasp) a used condom on the trail around the detention pond at Blue Heron Park and the long trail running behind Chaparral Village, I thought it was only refuse blowing out of cars.  Now I know otherwise.  What perplexes me the most is that health conscious rational thinking people, walking for exercise, would casually drop their water bottles, only to see them the next day and drop more.

Kathy Nelson is a Board member of Keep Baytown Beautiful and has contacted me.  Their mission is to work within our community to strive for excellence in making Baytown a cleaner, brighter place to live and play.  I like this and there is hardly a day goes by that I don’t pick up trash in this town, so I fit in with this philosophy real good.

The bottom line is trashy people dump their trash on the ground everywhere they go and those of us that don’t like to live in filth, pick it up.  If you are a person who throws everything out the window of your car, please stop it.  Thank you.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Baytown Walks. Wait! What?

I grew up playing outdoors, unlike what is commonly accepted as normal child activity  today.  Being hyper was unheard of; we were boys.  Baseball, football, whiffleball, Army – we played Army almost every day.  We were the baby boomers, being born after World War Two and the Korean conflict.  Of course we had toy guns and a lot of times, we had sticks that in our vivid imaginations were machine guns.  We shot a lot of imaginary enemies of our country and many times, were wounded or killed.

My 3 brothers and I spent untold hours on long hikes in the woods, often staying gone from my Mom’s scrutiny for hours – or we rode our bicycles and would many times chalk up 10 mile adventures.  We would climb trees and when our body weight over-powered the tall plant, we would hang on and ride the tree to the ground before letting go.  This was our entertainment.  Its what we did to entertain ourselves.

We would find a brick wall and one would bat, while the other threw a rubber ball at the strike zone or we would find a circular track and ride our bikes around it 100 times or more simulating a race track competition.  One summer in Woodstock, Georgia, we camped out in the wooded section behind our house for over a month, only using the house for the toilet, a meal, or the occasional shower.  We loved staying outdoors and it was plenty hot, wet, or cold all of the time.

I’ve lived in my present house for 22 years and with a large track of woods behind it, I’ve never seen kids playing there, so yes, times have changed from the ancient times of my childhood.  Thank the big man in the sky, that is about to change again.  Boomers are once again coming out of their houses and… walking.  Maybe, just maybe, it will include kids and teens.  The Blue Heron Park Trail has about 2.5 miles (estimate) of 10-foot wide sidewalk for us to bang our feet upon and it has a lot of activity and it is just one of the many trails our city has built for us Baytownians.

Thanks to Scott Johnson’s strong leadership and Sonja Payne, we now have a Baytown Walks program and I am pleased to say we had a good turn-out on its first day.  Baytown for many years was a very hostile place for hikers, bikers, and walkers, lacking even a modest number of sidewalks, let alone walking trails.  This has changed, but there is more work to be done and more wide sidewalks are needed.

We are fat, folks.  There is no sense in denying it.  We need to get off our rumps and walk.  What, you’re not fat?  Good for you.  No go outside and start walking.  Sweat all you want, but walk anyway and while you’re at it, bring a plastic garbage bag and pick up a little trash while you’re sweating.  All that bending over will work wonders for that soon to develop six-pack and make the city look cleaner at the same time.

Speaking of making the city look better, I confirmed with a city employee that the proliferation of signs being stuck at every intersection advertising “Repairing credit for $250” and another that “Buys Homes Fast” are illegal signs, so feel free to remove and recycle them in your green can.  They are litter, nothing more.

The city has an OAP (overall plan) to connect all of our trails together in the future and I for one applaud it.  The sooner the better and every dime spent on it is an investment in our city’s future and our personal health.  I am anxiously awaiting the trail expansion and fourth bridge across Cary Bayou in Walter Jenkins Park.  I’ve put a bug in Dustin Schubert’s ear to certify the trail at 5000 meters so people will come to Baytown to train for long distance running.  The area behind the dog park could be a spaghetti trail with elevation changes in that would make a runner’s mouth water.

And speaking of water, let’s get that kayak launch point on Cary Bayou at JC Holloway Park!  The new launch point at the Baytown Nature Center is awesome!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Our Wonder-filled Sky

This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas and this is Podcast 017

As far back as I can remember, I’ve turned my eyes toward the heavens, both literally and spiritually and I guess that’s one reason I got up this past Wednesday to watch the lunar eclipse and the awesome phenomenon known as the blood moon.  I saw it at full eclipse and it was indeed reddish in color.
Baytown photographer Carl Schier
I remember being 11 years old and living in Dundee Michigan like it was yesterday.  We lived on a farm with tall corn growing out around us for miles.  Much like in the movie:  Signs”.  The only real view besides the corn was straight up and I would lay in a small depression in the grassy front yard and stare at the giant cumulonimbus cloud formations.  They would move and transform into identifiable shapes of peoples faces and animals.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was developing my imagination skills, which later in life have helped me write about my experiences.

I owned a refractive telescope and I would try in vain to keep it focused on the moon.  Over the years I’ve spent hours watching the sky at work, or looking at the stars while camping.  On the desktop of my computer is a vivid photograph of the moon in all its glory taken by Baytown photographer Carl Schier.  He posted it on Facebook and I just knew I wanted to see it often.  I find the heavens… fascinating. 

Every so often a comet will appear, never to be seen again in our lifetime and most folks I talk to, including family members have no interest in it.  I remember watching the comet Hale-Bopp in 1995 and Hyakutake a year later and each night, binoculars in cupped fists, I would stare at them in wonder.  My family came out the first night at my insistence, yawned, and went back in the house, apparently bored by the whole thing.

The 2 years I spent in the Big SkyCountry of Montana rewarded me one night with a reflective display of the Northern Lights and each night with the Milky Way.  Incidentally, if you haven’t seen the MilkyWay, it is terribly majestic and truly amazing – not amazing like seeing a squirrel ride a skateboard, but awesome in the truest sense of the word.  At first observation, it looks like high clouds, but on closer examination, it is, what it is, trillions of stars – trillions.
Baytown photographer Carl Schier mars moon
My brother, son, and his two boys were camping out near Austin a number of years ago and it was very late.  We laid under the stars on sleeping bags and watched the satellites orbit the earth… then one turned and went the other direction.  The unidentified object literally stopped and went another direction.  It was a celestial phenomenon – like all the others.

For some time before I retired, I would watch the International Space Station orbit pattern on the Internet and announce to my coworkers when it would pass over us, usually around 0415 in the morning.  On occasion, a few guys would join me in the back of the Plant where it was quite dark and using the projected data, I would point in the sky as the clock ticked down.  As if by magic, it would appear and logic would dictate you could watch it, horizon to horizon, but that is not the case.

Sometimes it would appear almost over our heads and be visible for only 15 seconds, traveling at 17,500 miles per hour, give or take.  Everyone would remark how amazing it was, but most would only make the trip once.  Other times, I would walk into the control room and ask if anyone has seen the planet Jupiter.  “No?  Well, follow me; it’s in plain sight just outside, right besides Mars and the moon.”  Often, no one would bother to go outside.

My friend and fellow sky gazer Ruthie Ames sums it up best.  She loves the outdoors and often posts photos on Facebook of her kayaking in some remote place.

“I've always felt closer to the earth than the things we manufacture from it. When I was four or five years old I remember my grandparents dragging our mattress out and laying it in the middle of the backyard out by the clothesline. We would lie there in the dark looking up at the stars. I remember us quietly talking, sometimes giggling or laughing about a joke that was shared. But mostly just getting lost in that black sky with all those stars. My grandmother would tell me stories; some of them true some of them fanciful, Some of them in between. I remember noticing as the warm night began to turn chill and my little nightgown started to get damp from the creeping dew. It smelled so wonderful being close to the grass and my grandmother's garden of vegetables and herbs. There were lemon trees and fig tree's and peach trees that made a wonderful perfume that swirled around and made a kind of potion with the oil and grease smell of the nearby train. ... And like magic, every morning I awoke safe and warm in my bed.”

Monday, October 06, 2014

Is the media just scaring people about Ebola?

What is written below is my original thoughts on Ebola, not something I copied off the InterWebs:

I am watching this disease to make people aware of a known contagion. For some stupid reason, American citizens need a 9-11 strike or a Pearl Harbor attack before they wake up.

The Flu, AIDS, malaria, Ebola, etc. are all very real and dangerous and we need to be aware of how they are spread and work to keep ourselves safe. The CDC has said quite plainly that Ebola will come to the United States. The long incubation period will allow people to come into this country, mix it up with friends and loved ones, even after they begin to show mild signs or symptoms. We are seeing this in Dallas, Texas.

So, its not a witch hunt. The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed 150 million people around the world. Here is the kicker that most people do not know or understand. The Spanish flu was an avian (bird) disease, which spread to pigs, then jumped to humans. Ebola is also an animal virus which has jumped to humans, so we are talking about two of the diseases that originated in birds/fish/animals; like AIDS.

Ebola turns your insides into jelly. Hemorrhagic Fever to be exact. Look it up on Google. Heck, I'll link it for you.

It is only sensationalized reporting when it is "over there", but if you found out you spent twenty minutes in a restaurant sitting behind someone who two days later is diagnosed as having Ebola, you would scream your lungs out. Think about it.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Zombies and the 70 virgin delusion

This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas and this is Podcast 016

I have a romantic fascination with the end times and when I say romantic, I do not mean I like the prospect.  In fact, I do not want to live in a post-apocalyptic world.  Only a delusional fool would want to.   

October 16th, season 5 of the Walking Dead premiers and I will be glued to the tube to watch what Rick does to prove that they “Don’t know who they are fooling with!”  I have a very personal interest in this series, as I went to school for 2 plus years just north of where the story takes place in Atlanta, Georgia, land of kudzu and red clay.  It brings back a lot of memories, except the zombie part, of course.

The end times… the Biblical term associated with Christians vanishing, the aftermath, and the Book of Revelation.   Not to ruffle feathers, or get into a war of what is going to actually happen, I swerve hard and go into the world of fiction – which incidentally can be manipulated at will or speculated to – to death.  This is the world I fantasize over and the one I am directing this column towards, so relax.   There’s even a little levity thrown in.

I want to go on record and state firmly that I like my conditioned air, my electricity, my fast Internet connection, etcetera, etcetera.   I prepare for anarchy, but never want to actually live it.  I like to sweat at the gym and the hiking trails, but I abhor sleeping, well, sticky.  I did that for 2 years in Southeast Asia. I like eating when I want to, but learned after Hurricane Ike that MRE’s can be quite tasty.

Living minute by minute and watching your back with a loaded AR-15 is really exciting on TV, but in real life?  Nightmarish.  Can you imagine pulling into the Donut Wheel on Garth Road to get your morning boudin kolaches and seeing a bombed out store front?  Horrors!  Not to mention, the kind and friendly proprietor would most likely be, well, he would be absent or even ghoulish in appearance?

One reason I love watching the Walking Dead is the zombie arch villain could be replaced with anything from the weather to an alien attack and it would still depict anarchy and be an accurate depiction of how it would be if the government could not maintain law and order.  It could even be an Ebola outbreak…

However, the criminal element is always involved regardless and the one I fear the most likely antagonist we will encounter in a time of anarchy. 

Regardless of who the booger man is, the criminal element will always prey upon society.  It happened in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit the city and this element was portrayed as victims for the most part.  Most could have left, but stayed to exploit vacant city.  It happened in Ferguson, Missouri also.  The criminal element turned a peaceful rally into something the local police could not contain.

We live in a real world where actual fanatics believe they will be welcomed into the bosom of Abraham for killing people who do not believe or practice their peculiar brand of twisted and perverse dogma.  They erroneously believe they will be rewarded with 70 very dead, but chaste young girls if they die in battle with the name of their god on their lips.  It sounds like something from an Stephen King novel and just as preposterous.  70 dead girls; now that is some reward.  It doesn’t add up any more than a dead zombie walking around biting a living human for a hot meal.  It’s impure horror/fantasy fiction.  This 70 virgin reward is the greatest lie and astoundingly more people are signing on every day. 

In a country where we believe in tolerating other religions, this particular one for the most part is lying low and to many of us, this is a clear sign of complicity.  I would love – love to see a mass movement in this country of said religion openly condemning these fanatics.  I’m not holding my breath though.  According to some “experts” at least one third of the practitioners in this country actually agree with the radicals.  They choose to remain quiet, much like the mutants in the Walking Dead.  This causes many of us to watch them with suspicion.

To me and many other Americans, they are nothing more than flesh-eating zombies, at least until they come alive and condemn this aberrant and devilish behavior toward other religions and the American way of life in particular.

Now after saying all that, I know that I will ruffle the feathers of one vitriolic and sanctimonious liberal neighbor, who will swear that somehow, I am calling Barack Hussein Obama a zombie, but I’m not.   I am however suspicious the President’s rabid walkers most likely are themselves mindless followers of his weak and flawed leadership.  Only the brain-dead could prop up the man’s actions as beneficial to we, the American people.  It’s as if he rolls the dice every day to find out what can be done “for the good of the people” and regardless of what he does, his people get all giddy over it.

No, I do not want to see America brought to its knees by religious zealots, Ebola, bad White House planning, or... yikes, zombies.  I want to see it prosper.  I want to wave at a cop knowing they have my back.  I want to eat at the local taqueria or juicy hamburg joint and sit in my air conditioned abode and watch make believe zombies get slain by desperate American fighters on the tube with my doggies curled up next to me, but there’s always that danged criminal element to watch for and thus, I will continue to prepare for the… end times.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The threshold of happiness

This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas and this is Podcast 015

We are taught to believe that the future holds the key to our happiness.  The future is that elusive and beautiful butterfly that is always just out of reach.  We chase it, or not, but it is always flitting about, out there in the hemisphere, the sun reflecting the many colors of its wings in our face and we comfort ourselves with the simple fact that down the road – we will find happiness.

As little kids we have already grasped the idea that when we get into Middle School, things will be better, then it comes along and the bar is raised to the High School goal line.  Becoming a 13 year old teenager came and went and we found it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, because 14 seemed to be the real place we wanted.

The Holy Grail of teendom arrives! 16!  We know when we reach that amazing pinnacle of maturity; we will find freedom in the form of a driver’s license and a shiny new Mustang convertible that daddy buys.  That position on the football team or number one chair in orchestra is good for a season, but you know in your heart that until that big something comes, you just will not experience true happiness.

Your first real romance is magical and you honestly believe you couldn’t be happier – until your cruel life deals you a horrendous blow and you sink into depression and despair feeling that nothing good can bring you back.  Lost loved ones, sickness, bullies, arguments, and friends who turn on you seem to strip you of anything resembling happiness, yet here and there, a kind word, a song on the radio, or an unexpected gift cause your happiness flame to once again flicker.  There’s hope, yes, hope of that evasive entity – happiness.

The Mustang car never materialized and you find yourself working two side jobs to pay your way through community college.  You’ve had enough bad romances that you honestly believe Mr. or Ms. Right do not exist, but you keep trying; just like you do in your classes.  Where is this Utopia you always heard was in your path?  Is this all life has to give?  When can you find Nirvana?

Things begin to accelerate and one day turns into the next, with no real anchor to help you distinguish one day from the next.  You get your Associates degree and are immediately hired on at a place you feel will make you happy, but soon learn they expect you to get your Bachelor’s degree to stay on.  Now you are working 40 to 50 hours a week and attending night classes.  You have no time for romance and the demands of your job and school keep you so occupied, you feel you are unappealing, so why bother?

On the upside, you are steadily advancing in the workplace and getting satisfactory evaluations and you are 26 years old before the first inkling of true happiness enters your consciousness.  “Happiness is a state of mind, not a location.  Happiness is the fulfillment of duties, more than a trip to Six Flags”.  You sit at your desk at the end of the day and decide what will really make you happy at this very moment is knowing that you just turned in a project you can be proud of and in about 30 minutes, you are going to enjoy a delicious salad and maybe a glass of wine, or sweet tea with real sugar.

When you get to your apartment, you are going to bathe and watch that new series you’ve become addicted to and yes, you will shut off your Smartphone and enjoy a quiet evening babying yourself because you deserve it.  It’s the end of a grueling 60 hour week, you’ve pumped out more than your share of quality work and you slide into the seat of the Mustang you recently bought and head for the house. 
You suddenly realize you are happy.

You have reached a place most people never attain.  They keep chasing the elusive butterfly of happiness, not realizing they’ve stood on the threshold all their life.  It was there all along, all they had to do was see it.  The sweet-smelling rose has always been there, awaiting your sniff, but you couldn’t see it due to your far-sightedness and the paradigm you learned by those around you.

No one or nothing can make you happy.  Happiness is a state of mind and living in that moment is the goal.  It’s your assignment at birth and there are no CliffsNotes or shortcuts.  Slow down, look around, and start living your life with purpose.  Only then my friends will you find the happiness that eludes you.

Friday, September 19, 2014

History and the Sage of Cedar Bayou

This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas and this is Podcast 014

It’s Sunday night and a cold wind out of the north sends shivers to your little five year old body as you slip into a night gown.  Your live-in nanny tucks you in, as your mother reads from the family Bible.  Your hard working dad goes out to the barn to secure it for the night and that is when you hear your fathers cry of alarm.

Violent and savage men viciously kill your dad, mom, and older brother and kidnap you and your nanny and carry you bound down into old Mexico where you are sold for little of nothing.  When the massacre of your family is discovered, a blood stained family bible is a grim reminder of the perils of living on the plain.

Sounds horrifying doesn’t it?  It is and it is Texas history.  This story took place in 1836 in Robertson County to the John Harvey family. Their daughter Ann and their servant girl lived as slaves for four years before her Alabama uncle James Talbot recovered her.  There is no mention of the fate of the servant girl.  The price the Mexicans paid the Indians for young Ann was “a few blankets”.

It is known as the Harvey Massacre and the event took place one mile west of a historic marker on Highway 6.  I stood by the marker after returning from Dinosaur Valley State Park the other day and felt real compassion for this pioneer family.  I mean it really hit me how difficult and dangerous the early settlers had it, but there is more and this shows the amazing fiber of these people.

In 1848, Ann Harvey married a man named Sanders Briggs and in 1853, they moved back to Texas – and built a home near the massacre site.  This marker is a link with our past and the Baytown area has many such markers.  In fact, there are 3 at Bayland Park alone.  I often stop when I see a marker and read every word.  I make time to do it.
Its probably no secret  I own and operate, which is a historic resource for the area.  On numerous occasions, I’ve worked with Trevia Wooster Beverly, who is a direct descendant of Quincy Wooster and her list of affiliates and positions involving history in the area is too exhaustive to list here.

Our current project, along with Mayor DonCarlos is examining the historic marker dedicated to the Sage of Cedar Bayou, John Peter Sjolander, yes, the guy Sjolander Road is named after.  This marker is at 6330 Sjolander Road and I really wonder how many people have stopped and read the marker, as it is next to a telephone pole and almost invisible.
Bayland Park Markers

On top of that, for parking, there is a grass-covered culvert which until recently was covered with a four foot high pile of tree trimmings for the last year.  The marker may need to be moved to a better location and I do believe that would be preferable to adding better parking.  I will ask a couple simple questions now.  Is this how we are going to honor this man?  Are we proud enough of our history to do better than this?

On September 20th, I’ve been invited to be the speaker at the local chapter meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  I think this group of ladies would agree that our history is very important and the moment we forget it, we will be doomed to repeat it, bad, more than good and as it turns out; I am a direct descendant of , second governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, second signer of the Mayflower Compact and a passenger of the Mayflower.

Baytown in a lot of ways is just 3 oil towns and a number of smaller communities who have been randomly shuffled like a deck of cards to homogenize us and as we grow, we may need to restructure our way of looking at things and this marker is just one of many, but its like I’ve always heard about eating an entire elephant.  You do it one bite at a time.

In my opinion the new detention Pond parking area/park on Blue Heron Parkway would be a good place to move the marker.  It is close enough to the old community of Cedar Bayou, which incidentally is listed on the old maps to be about where the Bark Park, in Jenkins Park is.  In our fast paced existence, history may not seem like a big deal to some, but to others, it is a lesson worth studying.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Come and Take It!

This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas and this is Podcast 013

This week’s column is going to brand me as just another agent orange crazed Vietnam Veteran, or a patriot – you decide.  One way or the other, I’m going to speak my mind.

The truth is I have had just about all I can take of our government, talk show know-it-all’s, and liberal college professors explaining away or placating every radical or “victimized” group for the sake of political correctness and some mythical nice existence and cohabitation.  What am I talking about?  Look up the list of groups the CIA keeps of which they deem worthy of watching (keeping an eye on us), if you don’t believe me.

I’ll oblige you, the discriminate reader and believe me, if you are reading this, you are in the minority, as no one reads anymore:  “environmentalists; business groups; labor unions; churches; ethnic groups; political action committees or PACs; health groups; education groups; civic groups; youth groups; transportation groups; agricultural groups; veterans groups; women's groups; reform lobbies.”

In their own words about these groups, “This entry includes a listing of a country's political, social, labor, or religious organizations that are involved in politics, or that exert political pressure, but whose leaders do not stand for legislative election. International movements or organizations are generally not listed.”  In other words, we are the enemy, or might be and need to be watched closely.

Our government is watching us because we might be the enemy.  If it wasn’t true, it would be comical.

Our government and our news stations have instilled in our country a fear of everything when they are supposed to do just the opposite.  Thanks to them, we are afraid of dang near everything.  Terrorism, crime, drug cartels, Mexican gangs, contagions, child predators, traveling abroad, not having enough money in retirement, costly health insurance, hurricanes, flooding, drunk drivers, bullies, bedbugs, and thanks to shrewd marketing -  constipation.

I’m sick of it.  I say bring it on.  Let’s take ISIS or ISIL or whatever the current group of cowardly Islamic terrorists want to call themselves for example.  If they come here and are caught, let’s execute them.  Let’s don’t give the privilege of a high-priced New York lawyer and use tax payer money to let them languish themselves for five years.  Let’s stand them against the wall with their weapons and explosives and shoot them.
I am sure the government would have to hold a lottery due to the high number of Veterans and patriots willing to do the act.  What?  You think this is barbaric?  Don’t you know our history?  That Jihadist Major Nidal Malik Hasan was caught in the act of murdering his fellow soldiers yelling “Allahu Akbar” and as a US Army officer sworn in under the Uniform code of military justice should have been executed for being a traitor. 

Because he is a traitor in every sense of the definition.

When you swear the oath into US military service, you wave your Constitutional rights and are under the UCMJ.  Our country has become so screwed up that we can’t even honor military law without fear it might offend someone.

Ask ANY Veteran and they will tell you the same thing.  In military jargon, which I cannot repeat, suffice it to say it is a supreme insult to the honorably serving military.  It is as if the enemy of our country gets the protection of our government and don’t even get me started on Benghazi.  Having first Hillary Clinton, then John Kerry represent our country internationally as Secretary of State makes me absolutely nauseous and I am a Vietnam veteran with two tours.  As an American, I despise them both.

If our troops can’t count on our government to back them up – why are they serving?  I will tell you why if you don’t know.  They serve because they believe in America.  They believe we are still the greatest country on earth.  They believe somehow by serving, they can make a difference.  They can’t.  Our military in the hands of the current administration are disposable pawns and this has been proven by the President’s lack of a viable solution to withdrawal – something he promised if elected.

I am asking our government to stop trying to save the world and save America.  Stop killing our kids.  Quite meddling in everyone else’s business and begin to rebuild this country that was once great.  The Middle East will never become friends and any drunken fool can see this, so why keep killing our boys and girls over something we cannot and never will fix?

We have a porous border that leaks like a 5 gallon can after being shot with double-ought buckshot and we are chasing people all over Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria like it will make a difference?  Hogwash.  Secure our borders first, and then worry about what other countries are doing.
We are expending billions of dollars overseas and truckloads of unidentifiable people are crossing our borders everyday.  Who’s the fools now and why, with all the collective smart folks in Washington, can’t they cipher this?

Any politician who points this out is automatically branded a racist.  Hooey.  Get over it.  Crack down hard on people who flaunt gaining citizenship and use our system against us and it will suddenly not be a joke amongst them.  “Don’t go there.  They ain’t playin’ games no more!”

If Jihadists come into this country, ghost them quietly and deliberately and bury the evidence on it permanently.  No 70 virgins for them and good riddance.  Call me an extremist if you will, but I call myself a patriot.  Come and take it.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Junior High Sports and Vicarious Dads

This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas and this is Podcast 012

At one of the 6th grade Optimist football games last Saturday, I was disturbed at the many fathers vicariously playing their son's football game, by screaming at their kid before every play and in their enthusiasm, even venturing out on the field. It was one team’s dads in particular and not only set a poor example, but amped up the feeling of stress to everyone on the sidelines. These men were barely in control at times and during one huddle, five of them ran out to high-five the players.

Each father was over-weight and possibly trying to relive their glory days, forgetting that it was stiflingly hot with high humidity and no wind. The poor coach was doing his best to get the plays to the boys, but time and time again I watched the boys move to a different location as directed by their dad’s loud bellowing.

Note to Dad's who can’t be spectators:  Shut up and let the coach call the plays. You are an embarrassment to everyone except yourself and your time has came and went.

Each child out there, including the little cheerleaders were cooking in the hot Texas sun and deserve supportive parents, who are more interested in their child's welfare and personal development, then being obnoxiously loud and letting everyone know how much knowledge old dad has about the game.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Coffee! Give me coffee!

This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas September 5th, 2014 and this is Podcast 11

My all time favorite John Wayne line is from True Grit when he is awakened by his servant after a hard night of drinking and utters the lone word, “Coffee”.   The reason is quite simple; it is exactly what comes to mind when my eyes open each morning and the responses that follow, shows many of us share the same experience.

Facebook.  There are a lot of negatives in our minds when it comes to social networking and I agree, but I enjoy it and practice a sort of freedom on the site and am willing to accept the dangers there also.  I frequently use the network to express provocative opinion and then gather the responses.  I’m sure at times people shake their heads at what I post, but at the same time, my comments stimulate them to define what they truly believe.

Years ago, I adopted the philosophy that anyone who stimulates me to defend what I believe is actually doing me a service – and if I am flexible enough to listen and weigh out a new approach, I may learn something.  Anyway, enough about all of that, let’s talk about the fantastically energizing morning elixir, coffee.  Great god almighty, I do love my morning coffee!

Librarian extraordinaire Angie Middleton drinks “Folger's Classic Roast, with the addition of some French Vanilla AM Coffee, a tiny sprinkle of Splenda with a couple of tsps of Cremora.”

GCCISD Educator Jennifer Stephens loves “Cinnabon cinnamon roll or blueberry mountain coffee” while fellow educator Caren Miller punches sissy coffee drinkers in the nose with “Community Club dark roast...strong and black”.  Another GCCISD teacher has a much more colorful approach.  Traci Cormier likes “Venti nonfat latte with 2 sweet n lows @ 140. - or an IV hook up, whichever is quicker.   In Hawaii I drank a ton of Kona dark roast. It was the”

Liberty County columnist and chow-chow expert Charlie Farrar offers a Zen approach by choosing “Tasters Choice with boiling water”.  Local resident Jake Daniel is old school with his choice of “Community coffee in the percolator on the stove”, as is polymer expert Darrell Bailey who goes hardcore with “Jet fuel, straight up black!”

Armed Forces veteran’s advocate Ren Fitts doesn’t bandy words. “Jail house coffee like I drank with my uncle who was a sheriff after the pot was on all day and if it was cold he would reheat it” and neither does local hawk Barbara Pugh with her humorous contribution, “Put whipped crème vodka in it. Makes a great day off cup of coffee and the brand won't matter.”

REL reunion organizer Bev Engelhardt. “I drink hazelnut flavored coffee with hazelnut flavored creamer! Yuuummm!”  Local resident Susan McGuyer, like Bev, goes for “Starbucks w/cinnamon vanilla cream, Coffee-mate & one Stevia sweetener.”  Big time Plant operator Larry Houston joins the flavor enhancer crowd with, “My fav right now is the Green Mountain Sumatran Reserve (K-cup), with a sprinkle of Truvia and a teaspoon of honey.... and some Coffee-mate French Vanilla creamer. Otherwise it's too dang bold. I like my beer dark... my coffee, not so much.”

David Clark didn’t say what he prefers, but lowers the hammer on the sweet coffee crowd with, “Sounds like some of you have breakfast drinks more than coffee!”  After that remark, I need to confess that I drink French Market with chicory and add nothing but water.  My coffee is so black and strong, a spoon could stand on end in the middle of the cup.

My son in law Michael Sievers also brings a humorous side to coffee drinking, “I chug my coffee (day old and cold) like I am shot-gunning a beer.” And like veteran Ren Fitts, retired Master Chief JW Kern is all military with “Navy Mid-watch Coffee (Generic 20# tins) at 0745, last cup before making another two 50 cup pots. Thick & black (resembles Texas crude oil straight from the ground)”.

My two favorite responses were from first, a Georgia friend since the late 60’s Debi and second, my best man, James and they are both artists in writing about their love of coffee drinking.

Deb Hearn "Cold Brew Coffee with the Toddy coffee maker. It is better if you have acid reflux and tastes great. I usually use Newman’s Own Dark Roast Organic. You put the water & coffee in the container, set overnight, pull plug in bottom & it filters into a glass jar. You will have thick coffee.  When you want a cup you put about 1/4 cup into your coffee cup, add hot water & enjoy. You only have to make it about once a week."

James Shipp "I like mine made with mountain spring water boiled over a bed of aspen coals in an old coffee can with a fistful of coarse ground coffee. I ain't picky about the brand as long as it’s strong enough to float a horseshoe. Throw in some cold water to knock the grounds to the bottom of the can and pour it up fresh! Do this while the elk are bugling in the meadow below and you will experience heaven on earth!"

No matter what expert comes up with saying coffee is bad for you, ten more will post a paper the next day extolling it anti-oxidant contribution to the body.  I like it regardless of what the detractors may say and to them, I agree with what Clark Gable told Vivian Lee in Gone with the wind, “Frankly my dear…”

Friday, August 29, 2014

To Pump or Not To Pump?

This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas. August 29th, 2014 and this is Podcast 10

Sweat.  Grunting.  Hormones.  Spandex.  Muscles.  More sweat.  More grunting. 

I’m talking physical fitness here, not speed dating and I’m talking a lot of commitment too – again unlike speed dating.  Each repetition, each crunch, each set of dumbbells bringing me closer to that Arnoldesque physique I always envisioned I would someday have.

I had no idea when my bride coerced me into joining the local clock-sounding fitness club that I would regain the lost muscles in my shoulders, or that many seniors regularly work-out and when I say work-out, I mean work-out.  We usually arrive around 9am and leave about an hour to two later and the gym is probably fifty per cent people in their fifties and over.

Like most everyone in the gym, exercising is a solo activity and most of us keep their eyes averted and follow the routine they believe will bring back their vitality – but, I know in my heart each of us are “checking” everyone else out.  It’s a body makeover place and everyone there is trying to get someplace they either were or want to go.  It’s a place of sweat and people watching.

Talking is nearly impossible anyway, as many wear earbuds, or Beats headphones, even though the loud speakers are sending out a rhythm designed to motivate us to higher levels.  Then there are the 12 TV monitors on the ceiling so a person can watch the sports channels or find out what Rosie O’Donnell and the other clucking hens think about who knows what. 

Me?  I’m old school Rocky, working out in the basement gym.  No headphones for me.  I aggressively move from machine to machine, barely resting and my muscular friend Derik Hammes tells me this is why I am so sore.   I don’t care.  I am there to slam my body into shape.  I want to look like the 20-30 year olds with the cut physiques, tiny waists, and extra large biceps.  No pain, no gain.

I’m in my third month of 4-6 times a week and I found out quite early on that my weakest muscle group is my shoulders and on top of everything else, my left shoulder positively aches at times.  I have to set the shoulder press at a lower weight and do multiple sets to warm up before I move to the heavier stuff.

I would say that the balance of sexes is close to 50 percent too and that brings up the pump part.  The club has a number of organized classes, one of which is Body Pump where light weights are integrated into a cardio workout.  Would you believe it is mostly women in that class?  Where are all the behemoth testosteronees?  Then there is the Spin class where a very toned lady rides through a series of exhausting stationary bicycle up and down hills for an hour yelling encouragement like a buff drill sergeant.  Almost women exclusively here too and this brings us to big kahuna; the Zumba class.

I pretty much think this is a class for women only, as men’s hips just can’t replicate what the instructor is asking students to repeat.  To be truthful, I do not ever want to be witnessed doing these moves, or I will be forced to turn in my man card.  Don’t get me wrong now, none of it is vulgar, just feminine in nature and women’s anatomy facilitates the gyrating movements.  In fact, I don’t even want to envision another man doing them.

The Body Pump class is a different story – I think.  I want to try it.  I think I can do it.  I’m just wired in such a way that I don’t want to fail and especially in front of a bunch of fit womens.  Yes, I said womens and I know it is grammatically improper, but I have to maintain my masculinity by talking like a caveman.  I’m at the gym for crying out loud.

They had a Boot Camp starting in the gym the other day and at the last second; I rushed in and took my place by the wall at the end of the line.  The drill was wind sprints, something all b-ball players know all to well.  You run down, touch a line on the floor, then dart back and touch the starting line.  Then run out further, repeating the process until you’ve ran 4 times and finally return to the starting line.

I’m competitive to a fault.  I’m 62 and everyone there was much younger than me, but I beat them all… twice.  To my horror, it appeared they might do it again and my man card was suddenly in danger.  Claiming my knees might not survive a 3rd time, I waved, smiled and exited the court into the gym and it took me 3 minutes to catch my breath over where the small group couldn’t see me. 

Never mind.  Yea, I’m ready.  Bring on the Body Pump!