Friday, January 30, 2015

The Four Cache Loop Phoon

This past Saturday I joined 12 geocachers to do the amazing Four Cache Loop geocache hike up east of Huntsville, Texas on the Lone Star Trail.  13 miles of hiking, the often muddy trail with 20 something water crossings.  It rained Wednesday and Thursday and some who planned to attend dropped out figuring the waterways would be impassible.

They missed an excellent fairly dry, cool weather hike.  Of course, along the way, buns hit the ground numerous times, including my own.

The perfect sunny weather was a calm-winded 32 degrees when we started and rose to the low 50’s at end, 7 hours later.  One of our group wasn’t really prepared for the rigors of the trip and became a walking casualty about 2 miles in.  Since I organized the first half of the trek, I refused to leave her side and by the 6 mile mark, I was pushing her along with my hand in the middle of her back just to keep her going.

She was game, but hopelessly out of shape and I warned her to half her next challenge… and then half it again.  The trail is 11 miles with often elevation changes and water crossings.  At the halfway point, we planned a detour to get the infamous D.B. Cooper cache, which was off the trail a ways and added a mile or more.

For some time I urged her on, telling her it was only one more half mile, when it was actually triple that.  She gave it her all, but every so often, she would flat stop.  Brian Miles (better known in geocaching circles as 4 Miles) and I would chat about geocaching and hiking while she rested and we would start again.  The main group would travel a good ways and then wait for us, as we only move as fast as the slowest hiker.

Eventually we arrived at the designated lunch location, which meant sitting on a forest road. Originally I had convinced our weakest hiker she would get a one hour rest before we tackled the last 6 miles.  But after the struggle to get here, it was quite apparent there was no way she could finish the hike.  Fortunately, another group of geocachers arrived from the east, only showing up to do D.B. Cooper and after we ate and relaxed, she followed them back a mile or so to their vehicles.

In the spirit of spontaneity, before we parted ways, we posed for a mass Phoon photo.  Phooning is described as “To stand motionless on one foot, tilted forward at the waist, with one bent arm held in front and the other bent arm held behind.”

Now mind you, this is an intrepid bunch of people who would rather ford streams and climb slippery banks, then invest their time watching the Ellen DeGeneres show.  We phooned to create a historical moment in time that we can relive again and again.  Not to mention we can rub the photo in the face of our friends who didn’t come “due to the weather”.

From here on we moved at about a 3.5 mile an hour pace and about 2 miles up the trail, we began to encounter a large group of maybe 50 college-age hikers coming towards us.  Another Houston area geocacher and Lone Star Trail volunteer named Tom, who we all know as Great Birds, was leading an over-night hike and camp group towards us and we stopped and chatted with Tom briefly.

As I passed by the many young hikers, I blurted the great line from the movie Airplane, “Everyone who ate the fish got sick” and the old timeless staple, “You can’t get there from here.”  Both silly lines may have been lost on them, but maybe not.  They looked pretty bright.

Canine Queen was leading us and she bumped up the gait to about 4 miles an hour and I dogged her every step.  FYI:  Our median group age was probably 50 years old, give or take and this group was taking no prisoners.  Split evenly between men and women, I will never be found guilty of making jokes about the female gender’s ability to bang their feet on the ground (or race on a stationary bike).  By the by, I think Canine Queen is close to 50, but I feared to ask.  She’s an alpha female after all and even though I can hold my own; there are some paths I would rather not trod.

Our next phoon photo will be taken at the Baytown Nature Center Nurture Nature Series just before Chrissy Butcher’s survival class.  Maybe you would like to join us at 9:45am on February 7th to join in the fun?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Scar tissue is our roadmap.

Like you, I have my share of scars.  I’ve been fortunate enough in all my adventures to still have all ten fingers and toes, so I’m doing okay.  I’m going to pick my left leg out as an example and focus only on the area below my knee and above the ankle.  I have 4 very visible scars and three of them have happened while geocaching.

The oldest I received in an injury about 50 years ago and it is about 2 inches long and looks like a knife wound.  I haven’t recalled what caused it in so long, that the memory is lost.  The most recent happened this past year when I was stung by a ground hornet in Pedernales Falls State Park.  It happened on October 24th and appears now as a dime-size brown spot.  I imagine it will remain that way, just like the spider bite above it.

I got that one 3 years ago, also while geocaching.  The hornet sting is a ditto of it.  Right at the top of my calf is a 3 inch long slice scar I got while geocaching in palmetto plants over close to Beaumont.  Did you know that stuff will slice you like a hot knife in warm butter?  It will.

None of these have left a mental scar on me though and that’s a good thing.  The dang hornet is one I don’t want to repeat, but I haven’t lost any sleep over it.  My friend Larry Houston is fond of repeating my quote about wearing shorts when in the woods, “If the British can conquer the whole world in shorts, I can go geocaching in them.”  He is a long pant advocate when stomping through grass that is often over our heads..

“Well, it’s danged hot here on the Gulf Coast of Texas” I am fond of retorting, but I imagine my legs look more beat-up than his.  Now mind you, only an MMA fighter, spelunker, BASE jumper, or bank robber goes into their activity wondering what it is going to feel like if everything goes wrong.  I don’t.  I prepare the best I can for my activity and eliminate as many potentially dangerous obstacles in advance.

Then I begin my adventure.  Make a note here I am talking about driving on Garth Road at noon.  Not really, but every one of us that gets behind the wheel of a car needs to remember it might be our last normal day on earth.  As a side note, nearly every day I watch someone run through a red light to save one meaningless minute of travel time.

Your scars and mine define who we are and where we’ve been.  They are a roadmap of our adventures, albeit painful ones.  I have one between my eyes by my nose where I ran headlong into an aquarium in the dark when I was in Junior High.  It opened me up like a machete on a can of Spam.  I looked like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster.  Man, I still remember the impact.  I don’t think a ball bat to the head would hurt any more than that did.

These physical scars prepare us for the worst kind of injuries life will bring – the emotional kind.  As bad as the physical wounds are, they often pale to what life drops on our noggin.  Just like the hornet and spider injuries, we must pick ourselves up and go on.  No one can do it for us.  Only time can heal both types of injuries, but rest assured, the scars will remain.

This week I had a dear lady drop off a couple of computers for me to repair and in the course of chatting, she revealed she had lost her boyfriend 2 months ago and in a moment of sympathy, I blurted, “Why, you are still wounded.”  Both of us began to cry, as I too have experienced loss.  The hurt is deep, real deep.  She apologized and I then told her my own story.

What I told her is the deepest truth.  Although I had suffered loss, it was not the same as hers and I couldn’t rightly tell her I know what she is going through.  No one can at a time like this.  I did however tell her that as time passed, it would get better, but only if she worked at it.  “No one can pull you out of loss and depression but you.”  Mind you I am not saying God won’t be there for you, because he will if you lean on him.  I am talking about friends and family.  Try as they might, only you can pull you back to happiness.

She said “I think about him every minute of every day.”  I told her one day she will be shocked to realize 30 minutes has passed.  “How long does this take?”

I told her it was up to her, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t take a year or two, or three.  You see, the scar is there for life, but we can learn to bear it and continue on.  Our scars are what define us and if we do not break, they make us stronger.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Is anarchy in our near future?

I was on the phone with a Harris County Deputy Sheriff the other day for 35 minutes.  The initial reason for his call was he needs his computer repaired.  We are longtime friends, as I've known him since he was a kid. 

Eventually the conversation turned to the state of affairs of police shootings and the general unrest across the country.  Now being a Harris County cop and according to him, he literally wrestles with someone every day.  The reason for this is because they fail to follow his instructions and he is forced to make them obey.  It’s as simple as that.

They become argumentative and combative and ultimately it is because they are prone to violence, have something on them that is illegal, or they have warrants.  To a bystander, it often appears the cop is being too aggressive, but what they fail to realize is the cop often has inside information that makes them very wary of the person they are attempting to arrest.  Or, their body language alerts the cop that everything is not as it may appear.

I know this guy.  I know him and I know he isn’t out there trying to bully anyone.  He explained to me the mountains of rules and regulations he and every cop must conform to.  He said it is almost impossible to remember everything they are told to learn.  Due to these restrictions in almost every instance, the criminal has the advantage.

I told him I believe we are on the brink of anarchy.  All it takes for anarchy to evolve is for the police department to be unable to answer calls and maintain law and order.  We saw this after Hurricane Katrina and in Ferguson, Missouri.  Can you imagine this happening all across the country?  These giant demonstrations draw police away from their duties allowing the criminal element to act with near impunity.  He agreed that a few simple acts of terrorism could create this environment.

Mass irrational terror, organized and violent demonstrations, and the criminal element run amok and we suddenly are reduced to a Third World environment.  Armed citizens will be territorial and jumpy as grasshoppers.  Criminals will prey on the weak and the few cops who are still able to patrol will be drawn back to their own families to stand ground.  Nighttime will be ruled by the violent and our streets will be empty.

It’s a horrifying scenario to be sure, but to believe it couldn’t happen here is just plain ignorant and frankly, stupid.  In the recent December demonstrations in New York City, 25,000 demonstrators drew almost every cop in the large city away from actual crime related issues.  Does anyone believe that criminal activity outside of this area actually decreased?  Heck no and the proof is there.

Many of the signs being carried by the protesters of the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “I Can’t Breathe” demonstrators are provided by (which is printed at the bottom of the signs).  “RevCom” is short for “The voice of the revolutionary Communist Party, USA”.  RevCom is using social unrest to further their own goal of over-throwing the government and no one in the assembly seems to be aware.  They make no bones about it on their website.

I am for peaceful demonstrations, but understand they drain police resources.  Be very cautious what causes you support.  Quanell X loves to be portrayed as a human rights activist and proponent, but in reality is a member of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and the New Black Muslim Movement with their own agendas.  According to Wikipedia, the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights consider the New Black Panthers to be a hate group.

Anarchy can be prevented in the USA, but it will take a revelation like the one Reverend Jarrett Maupin got in Phoenix, Arizona.  As a local civil rights activist outraged over the Maricopa County police shooting of an unarmed man, he accepted a request by the PD to attend a shoot /don’t shoot class.  


“I didn’t understand how important compliance was… people need to comply with the orders of law enforcement officers, for their own safety.”   And that is the solution to stop anarchy.

If our country falls under terrorist attack, as France did the past few days, stay calm and assist the police department until a safe and friendly environment is restored.  This is not the time to make a social statement or collect a debt.  People will be skittish and the criminal element will be active and by all means, do what the police tell you to do without argument.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Cold weather? No thanks.

I remember almost freezing to death as a teenager deer hunting in North Georgia.  I was about 15 and I went with my dad and our church’s pastor.  I was good to go the night before, but when the alarm went off at the very ungodly hour of 5am, I tried to talk dad out of taking me.  Nope.  Dad was going to take me dead or alive.  It came dangerously close to the former before 10am

Now I was no stranger to being cold.  I lived in Michigan and Ohio as a kid and it gets as cold as a mother in law’s love in them parts, trust me.  One winter in Hillsdale, Michigan, my dad made an actual igloo out of blocks of snow that stayed for much of the winter.  Our German Sheppard slept on a blanket in it at night.

In Dundee, Michigan, my 3 brothers and I made a near tragic mistake of skating up the Little Raisin, as the wind was at our backs and four hours later, unable to fight the wind to get back, we stepped out on the road about 10 miles from home.  We were near frozen solid and a good Samaritan brought us home.

In 1965, the “Marshall boys”, as we were known, skated out and across the great Ottawa river in Toledo, Ohio.  TJ, brother number 3 got so hypothermic that he lay down on the ice and refused to move.   We were all so cold, we knew that to lay down was to die and somehow we made it back to shore, dragging TJ and crying, walked the 11 blocks, on skates, back to our house.

When I was about 10 or so, my brothers and I followed a teenage boy far out in the woods in Morgan, Utah and came back near death and I say that without exaggeration, as it was about 10 degrees.  The 60 degree water in the tub felt like boiling water.  Now, before you judge my parents, let me say that back in the 1960’s kids were a heartier bunch and the times were different.  Kids spent hours unsupervised out of doors.

For every time something bad happened, fifteens of hundreds of other times, we pulled it off.  Sometimes we didn’t.  My brothers and I spent a lot of time on adventures in the woods and would venture out 4 or 5 miles at a time. I remember squirrel hunting by myself with my shotgun in Georgia 4 miles from home, more than once and I was only 15.

The 2 years I spent in the Strategic Air Command at Malmstrom Air Force base, in Great Falls, Montana was the icicle that broke the polar bear’s back though.  As Louis L’Amour put it in one of his great novels about an American Indian in Siberia, “I haven’t felt cold like this since I was in Montana”.

In the winter in Montana, the sun comes up on the horizon, goes up about a foot, and sets a short time later on the horizon. I hated it.  The wind blows non-stop and even in summer, you have to wear a jacket when the weak sun sets.  To put it in perspective, when I was there in 1971, it snowed on the 4th of July.

To get back on my Georgia deer hunting occurrence, I wasn’t experienced with sitting on a ground stand in sub-freezing weather, so I did not dress for it.  Instead, I had an orange plastic-type suit that I drew over my jacket and jeans.  It was uncomfortably hot in the car and when dad asked if I had on enough to keep warm, I nodded a sleepy yes.

I slept all the way there in fact and when we got out, I donned the suit.  It was toasty.  I loaded the 16 gauge shotgun with number one buckshot and walked off to find a place to hunt.  There was no such thing as a lease back then and on government land, first come first served.  It was bitterly cold and I did not have gloves and I laid the gun in the crook of my arm and tried to keep warm as the wind picked up.  Each minute that passed, I grew colder.

The weak winter sun finally arrived and I was shaking violently.  I was just an hour into it and I was so cold, all I could think about was how cold I was.  As a son of the generation which fought World War II, I didn’t dare to interrupt our hunt though and besides that, I had no idea where my dad was or our pastor.  By 10am or so, I was beyond caring and stumbling to my feet, I headed back to the car.  Snow was falling and the wind began to abate, but I was so stiff, movement was difficult.  All I wanted to do was get in the car… but it was locked.  I began to cry.

I had reached the place where I was out of options and I did everything in my power, to get the safety off, so I could fire 3 warning shots, which I finally did with frozen unfeeling digits.  I waited what I felt like was a long time and fired 3 more.  This brought both my dad and my pastor and immediately seeing the sad shape I was in, they quickly loaded me up for an emergency trip home.

I just know I disappointed my dad, but he never said anything to confirm it.  What I got out of it was I never want to be that cold again, or disappoint dad.  Unlike being too hot, being too cold is a very painful thing.  Being too hot is uncomfortable.  Thawing out from hypothermia can kill a person.  With all these swings in temperature we are experiencing these days, bundle up.  Take a good hot shower.  Put a coat on.  Stay warm and thank the Good Lord above for the shelter we often take for granted.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Gym bullys, yes, there are gym bullys

What follows is an actual conversation at the gym today with a guy who slams weights around and ties up 3 machines, making it his personal gym. I pegged the guy as a bully the first time I saw him. I was using a machine and I got up in between sets and he came up and laid a towel on the machine, a bottle of water on another, and began to work out on a 3rd machine.

I detest bullies and rather than avoid them, I, for some twisted reason like to get in their path. I know. It’s a weakness in my personality, but I learned years ago that placating a bully only empowers them. Besides, I like a bit of drama now and again, but who doesn’t?

The machine I wanted to use, or was using was a shoulder press and I sat down, facing his towel, which he had draped to claim ownership. Immediately, like a wasp guarding his nest, he walks up and says, “Really dude?”

He had on Beats headphones, as he is very fashionably conscious and I looked at him and spit out, “What? You think you own this machine?” He turned and walked away.

When I am in between sets, I walk. I don’t sit and pass time. If someone is actually on the machine when I come back, I get an alternate machine – they abound, but no one can claim ownership of a machine they are not using.
I finished what I was doing and walked to the front and talked to the manager. He was incensed and asked who the guy was and I fricken pointed him out. Sue me, but it sure beats the alternative of me taking the guy to ground.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Me and J.J. – two of a kind!

Recently my bride laughed at me when I told her I was every bit the macho awesome athlete J.J. Watt is and I half meant it.  You see, it’s not all hyperbole on my part, as the older I get, the better I used to be, both for real and in my memory.

I can prove it too, starting right now.  Like J.J. Watt, when I was a younger man, say, to the age of about 50; I was devilishly handsome.  Now, not so much, but still a contender according to my friends on Facebook and Wikipedia – both plethora’s of hard factoids. 

Like Mr. Watt, I can and/or could lift heavy things.  He weighs 292 pounds and I can still push that much with my feet at the gym with the name sounding like a clock.  He has a 55 inch vertical leap and I also have an impressive leap, especially when goosed. Truth is, I haven’t been goosed lately, but I assure you, its way up there, trust me.

J. J. worked as a pizza delivery boy and once again, I can top that, as I worked INSIDE making pizzas.  I was a pizza making dude and he was the doo-dah pizza delivery boy.  Sometimes I even impress myself with my accomplishments.

The stellar Texan played tight-end at Central Michigan with only eight catches for the year.  Well in 1963, while living in Dundee, Michigan, as a 6th grader,  I won the coveted Fords Punt, Pass, & Kick contest beating every classmate above me and took home the varsity jacket, much to their dismay.  We moved to California and I never played football, but All-Star baseball as a shortstop.

J.J. gave up his scholarship to CMU and I never bothered to get one, so we are pretty much even there also.  The giant defensive player has a younger brother named T.J. and so do I.  His younger brother plays football and mine lives it vicariously.  Even Steven again!  Wait, there’s more.  The similarities are frankly – amazing.

Mr. Watt is extremely charitable and so am I.  I repaired and gave away over 40 computers to the homeless (most of them are divorced men whose wives have taken them to the cleaners).  He likes HEB and so do I.  He likes to crush things with his hands – I like to break bricks with mine.  He salutes like crazy and I did that too in the Air Force! 

His favorite sport is hockey and I love to yell that word out when listening to the Democratic party promises or people defending their policies!  Again!  It just keeps getting real here.

Last week the monster Texan set a record for 20 sacks per season for two consecutive seasons.  I yawned when I heard that to tell you the truth.  My first year as a bagger in a grocery store in Georgia, I sacked close to 5000 customers in one season alone.  I was working for $5 a day and pennies for tips. I didn’t bother to count the second year how many I sacked.

The humongous defensive lineman loves to rush out of a hole with smoke coming out all around him.  Who doesn’t?  I went through the smokehouse and fought fires at Texas A&M fire field more times than I can remember in my glorious years at the work-20 and often with a great amount of fanfare from my fellow firefighters.  Been there, done that.

And the real kicker to all this is, that he only has something like 9% body fat.  9%!  Geeze Louise, I got that one beat by a long margin.  I’m like 14% or so.  So, my beautiful bride is now set straight, as she should be.  She got herself a ringer in me about 37 years ago and maybe now, when she reads this, she’ll finally see I am everything the big man is and more.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Circumlocution on androgenic hair growth

Hold on; don’t get excited or confused by that fancy 10-gallon pair of words.  It’s just a tongue twister to get this week’s column primed.  Besides, I’ve always wanted to use the words circumlocution and androgenic in one sentence, but felt some might accuse me of being “too wordy” or “macho” for my own good. 

The hair growth thingy though, is something I obviously know a lot about, as I’ve experienced a lot of hair growth in my lifetime.  In fact, it is growing as I write this column.  There is nothing I like better than standing in a windy location and feeling my long neck hair blowing in the wind.

As I nudge closer to middle age, I’ve noticed a peculiar growth – or lack of, well, abnormal pattern of hair growth – or lack of, in certain areas of my well-toned physique.  I want to make it clear; I am basically talking about my head and back, as I do not want the Managing Editor to bowdlerize my attempt to expound on this important phenomenon.

I recently coined this timeless phrase:  "Male aging: When your scalp hair migrates to your back."  It will be around for decade’s maybe more.  Why is this so?  I’m sure there is a scientific fact out there somewhere.  I would look it up and quote it here, but then there’s Google, so everyone can be an expert.

This hair growth thing is getting ridiculous.  I skipped shaving one day and my bride asked me if I was growing a beard the next morning.  “What?  Heck no.  I didn’t shave yesterday.”  I walked into the bathroom and took a gander at my handsome mug.  My facial hair grows down to the neck of my t-shirt and up my cheeks to just under my eyeballs now.  I figure at the rate it’s growing, I’ll resemble a shih-tzu by this time next year.

That won’t happen of course, as no one wants to see a bald shih-tzu.  Can you imagine?  I can’t, so I just shave.  My eyebrows need an almost daily trim also.  If I skip a couple of days, they obstruct my view.  The upside of bushy eyebrows is I could let them grow for a week and do a comb-over the top to hide my balding pate.  My daughter Melody, who is a stylist at the Rat’s Nest Salon, tells me I could get a “straightener” product to make it look like a Rasta weave.  I may do that as a New Year project.

Don’t point a finger at my nose hairs either.  I’ll do that.  I have a device I call a “nose hole grinder” and it has a 2-stroke motor to keep it from bogging down when I go deep.  It was developed by the Hughes drilling company, weighs 4 pounds, and requires both hands to operate.

Hey!  Who knew old Santa was actually bald as a cue ball under that cap?  Yup.   Its ear hair and lots of it.  Boy, I never saw that coming.  Ear hair.  About all its good for is feeling a mosquito light on the ears.  How fast does it grow you ask?  My ear hair grows so fast, I’ve considered letting it have its way and after about six months, having my daughter cut it to make a wig for those who need one.

When I swim, I of course wear a very stylish set of Argentine swim trunks, but the gasps of those around me over my copious back hair takes away from the forbidden thrill of being partially clothed in mixed company.  It does however; make sleeping on my back much more padded and comfy, so it’s a toss up.  I will not have my back hair “waxed”.  I simply would prefer to have it bush-hogged off, then to endure that kind of pain.

All of this brings up a serious question.  Why not just accept the fact that a man entering his golden years is not going to look like a twenty-five year old in the early stages of hair loss?  What?  Yup.  Sorry guys.  My male pattern baldness started when I was about 27.  From there, its went to another extreme.  Now days, when I hold my head out my Jeep window, what I hear is “My gaw, Frank, did you see that bald shih-tzu”?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sanctimony and Political Correctness

Over the years, I’ve tried my best to live a good spiritual life.  I’ve often failed and I acknowledge that.  In my early well-intentioned zeal to follow the Bible, I oft times went to extremes.  I might add that this righteous zeal was tempered through error in many ways, but helped me define the rights and wrongs of personal development and the path I chose.

However, at no time did I contemplate blowing up an abortion clinic, attempt to “beat the gay” out of someone, or walk into a military school and kill 150 students because their lifestyle or dogma differed from my own.  I simply wanted to do right and still do.

Fairly often I would engage in debates about the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, but I can’t recall ever getting angry and condescending.  In fact, I studied and studied and studied, reading the entire Bible many times because I wanted to understand the scriptures and be able to convey its mysteries to others.

I worked the bus ministry and taught home Bible studies for many years to do my share, but at no time did I feel sanctimonious, that I recall.  In fact, I always felt like I could do more.  This manner of approaching my spiritual life defined the man I am now, and my moral code, but it doesn’t negate that I am in fact a grassroots American who loves my freedom.

This religious education and gradual refinement of how I think the Almighty views things has helped me define a lot of issues, including homosexuality and abortion and a whole great bunch of other sensitive subjects that each of us have the personal obligation to define for ourselves.  The simple truth is, I am not God and I refuse to judge people on issues I do not understand or can’t change.

Oh I am sure there are readers stabbing their fingers into the black book right now and doubting my education, but truth be told, they are not their judge either.  Am I saying that I’ve become politically correct?  Heck no, but I can’t get pregnant either, so who am I to cast a stone at a woman who decides she is going to do this?  She’s the one who has to live with her conscience until that great day comes.  Do I find my same gender physically attractive?  No, and I’ve never had a homosexual try to convert me either.

I’ve heard people rail against homosexuals with sanctimonious zeal, only to find out someone they dearly love has “came out”.  For the most part, they go mute and then down the road accept the fact that they are not God and only the Almighty can sort it out.  Sure, I know this isn’t a popular subject, but a big pat goes on my back for having either the fortitude, stupidity, or the gall to write it.

It absolutely makes me laugh to read some peoples take on what others say and sit back in their over-stuffed chair and polish their shiny halo while eating divinity as they righteously spout a stinging rebuke to anyone else that lives below their high standard of religious perspective and/or misunderstanding of “the actual facts”.  Note:  this includes everyone besides them.  Do I take them serious?  Does anyone?  I doubt it.  Spewing out reams of condescending diatribe of righteousness and political correctness under the guise of superior thinking is churlish and sadly - hilarious.

To me, I sum up political correctness with this other saying I have learned to hate; “for the good of the people” and blaming misdirected and stupid “Tea Party members every time something crosses the PC boundaries some swear by, doesn’t mean anything to most other than it is more bigoted and stunted in understanding of the Constitution than the people that are being belittled.  The Tea Party is not misdirected.  For a real example of elitist intentions, take a look at the two party giggly bologna that goes on in Washington to see an example of a political self-serving circus.

The Tea Party advocates have been uniformly bashed by the powers that be because they are a threat to the established hierarchy and lemming-like, uneducated voters believe they are correct, simply because it is politically correct to follow those dudes and dudettes we elected.  The real sad truth is we elected them because they told us who to vote for and narrowed it down real nice like.

“Which flavor would you like Sir, Ma’am?  Cake or cake? “  Silent pause.  “Uh, I’ll have cake I guess…”

Nope.  Let’s toss out everything but the Constitution and expect our sanctimonious government to take a look at it every time they try to cram something down our throats for the good of the people.  With the next Presidential election on the horizon, it will behoove us to take a good look at what this political correctness has got us so far.  Not much and for the sake of this column, I want to define what the Tea Party stands for.

The Tea Party is a nonpartisan grassroots group of citizens committed to advancing commonly shared values, including strict interpretation of The Constitution of the United States, free market capitalism, fiscally responsible government, limited federal government, and protected sovereign rights of state and local governments in response to the will of the people.

Now who could argue with that?

Friday, December 12, 2014

I can’t breathe – or can I?

Fairly early on in the Ferguson protest debacle, some wise person projected that the ultimate goal of all of these protests would be to weaken America's many police departments.  It is becoming hip to march and show support for what?  It doesn't matter at all to many of the demonstrators.  Most of the people marching now are doing it because they want to be part of something they can't even relate to.  

It reminds me of 9-11 and the massive support that our country gave our fallen and the subsequent number of yellow ribbons and flags to show support for our troops.  To everyone who truly felt a part of it, it was wonderful – until it became cliché-ish and ‘hip” to be patriotic.

A negative side-effect was that if you didn’t slap a magnetic yellow ribbon (or one the hundreds of variations including a camouflaged version) you were almost viewed as unpatriotic by some.  “Hey doofus, where’s your yellow ribbon?”

“Hey mister, it’s a free country.  Besides, I may or not support every cause that comes down the pike, but whether I do or not is none of your danged business.”

Concerning the alleged unjustified violence by police against minority groups, I am sure some of the objection is justified, but all the footage and evidence points to the “victim” resisting the police, or worse, downright fighting the cops.  I learned possibly at the tender of age of whatever, that arguing with police will always escalate into something negative for me.  In fact, I think the current movement where people are holding their hands over their heads is probably what should be done to deescalate a confrontation with police and frankly, I find it almost humorous in its simplicity.

Our city once had the reputation of being cop-heavy on citizens, but I’ve lived here since 1974 and never had one single violent experience with our police, that a few verbal exchanges didn’t solve the problem.  In one case in particular, I drove my Jeep (not my current vehicle) out of my subdivision at 0330 with a cup of coffee in my hand.  I made a complete stop at Massey Tompkins and took a right. 

Instantly there was a cop right behind me with their lights flashing.  Now mind you, it was 3:30am and the roads were devoid of traffic and this cop almost caused me to drop my uppers AND spill hot coffee in my lap.  Of course I was angry.  When he walked up to my door, I asked him why I was being pulled over.

“You failed to use your turn signal sir.”  Now I know that cop wasn’t anywhere I could see, so I asked him where he was parked and when he told me, I spitted out these words: “You mean to tell me that you followed me all the way out on Chaparral Drive with your headlights out so you give me a ticket for not using my turn signal at a dead end?”

He admitted that there had been a number of burglaries in the neighborhood and I obviously wasn’t a suspect and let me go without a ticket.  Now let me say something here.  Yes, I was angry, but when the cop came up to my door, I had turned on the dome light and had both hands in plain sight on the steering wheel.  Even though my words were strong, I didn’t curse or use threatening words and I surely didn’t act like I was going to get out and fight.

Another time I was standing on the overpass at Loop 201 and Texas Avenue taking photographs.  This was about 4 years after 9-11 and I saw a Baytown cop car fly by headed north and the officer was looking straight at me.  I thought, “Oh boy, here goes.”  At one time there was an old dairy at Airhart Drive and Texas Avenue and I was documenting the area for, but I knew that I was going to be accused of taking photos of Exxon for terrorist purposes.  Such was the state of terror phobia in our country at the time.

Sure enough, here he came and sure enough, he had his hand on his gun and demanded I give him the camera.  I told him there is “no law preventing anyone from taking a photograph from a public road” and then what I was doing and handed him my card.  He said, “This better check out!” and went back to his patrol car.  He was a younger looking officer and after a minute, he drove off without even looking at me.

Again, I did not take an offensive posture or curse the officer, I simply defused the situation without showing anger and nothing negative happened.  I actually laughed as he drove off, thinking “hasn’t he seen Google Earth?”

I have a British friend who recently wrote and said the Brits are “a bit worried over the demonstrations in America”.  I told her to forget it.  When the hipness of it wears off, the majority of people will find some other cause to get excited about.  The bottom line here is that if you do not do anything illegal or provoke a cop, 99.99% of the time, you are going to have a positive experience with the police department.  If you fall into that .01%, good luck.  You’re going to need it.

Friday, December 05, 2014

The vanishing personal space conundrum solved!

 I am not entirely comfortable in large gatherings even though I occasionally attend them.  In fact, I don’t think you will ever spot me marching in any kind of mass assemblies, peaceful or not.

Don’t get me wrong when I say this.  I can sit comfortably in church, or an occasional sporting event and behave myself, it’s just that I would rather walk down a lonely trail in the woods, far away from any other human being or musical delivery device. In fact, I have walked for hours not hearing another human voice and was perfectly at peace and content.  Did you know that when you spend hours alone, you become very quiet?  My doggies sleep when my bride is away, because the house becomes silent, except for my constant pecking of the keyboard.

My dad once said he “enjoyed his own company” and I learned to understand this peculiar sounding confession. He would go off in his 18-foot boat and spend the day catching redfish and speckled trout and come back and clean them at his house in Aransas Pass.  He didn’t even listen to the radio.  I don’t think he was uncomfortable around other people; he just loved the freedom to make all his own choices and he got it in that boat out on the water.

As technology shrinks our privacy and let me say up front that I embrace much of it, the need to get away from it all amplifies exponentially.  Angie Middleton explained to me that a friend owns a car that spoke to her while driving.  It told her to “keep your eyes on the road”.  It’s scary on one hand and much needed by some on the other.  I do believe we are going to see a massive shift in technology very soon that will be overwhelming to most of us, me included.

The famed British theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking recently threw up the same red flag as the Unibomber Ted Kaczynski, in that "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race." 

"Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete and would be superseded" is another quote by him.  This, of course caught my eye, as I follow the (AI) artificial intelligence movement and have read a number of books by a leader in AI, Ray Kurzweil.  The real kicker here is this is happening right now.  We will see this in our lifetime and that once again brings us back to the original intent of this column: personal space.

Our personal space or comfort zone is shrinking, right along with our ability to control what little we still have.  Baytown is a good example of how little personal space we have.  Get in your car and drive onto any of our roads.  The only space you control is around you inside the car and that’s about it.  Everywhere you look are trucks and cars with lots and lots of people.  Inside almost any store you have to move out of someone’s way.  You stand in line.  You wait, due to the movement of people.  You are crowded and if you are like me, impatient.

Maybe that’s why I like to hike the trails or launch my kayak on one of our waterways.  Maybe I feel claustrophobic in the crowds or maybe I just don’t like to conform.  I don’t know and frankly, I don’t care; all I know is I don’t like the crowds.  Now, according to Angie, Ted, Ray, and Stephen, I won’t even be able to get away from technology, especially inside my own danged car.

I guess I could attempt to go off the grid, but I like my air conditioning and Food Town’s close proximity; besides gardening is danged hard work and rabbits are a poor substitute for prepared boudain, chicken fried steak, and gumbo.  I’m afraid I, we, us… are caught in an inescapable vortex of people and technology and like lumbering lemmings scurrying toward our own destruction; we’ll ultimately gallop to our own demise.

Of course we will not go empty-handed.  I wouldn’t suggest that.  In one hand we’ll have the latest 5G Smartphone or tablet and in the other a sack of rapidly prepared convenience food.  We won’t actually run either.  We’ll be driven to the cliff’s edge in our environmentally correct ‘smart” car or faux-SUV.  We won’t have to worry about criminals because all of us will be armed.  Drunk or distracted driving will be eliminated because our cars will go wherever we tell them, or just take us to the nearest de-tox center by law.  They’ll monitor our sugar levels and automatically send the results to our doctor.  A drone will deliver our meds when our house signals we are home and our universal insurance will deduct the credits from our account.

If by chance you can find a place to hike off the grid, an amber alert will automatically go out and a platoon of camera heavy quadcopters will home in on the last place you were known to be.  When you are located, your account will be billed for not securing a permit from Homeland Security to go off-grid.  It will be “for the good of the people” that everyone is accounted for and by golly, for safeties sake, we will agree to it.

Doom and gloom you say?  Nope, just acceptable social acclimation and the snuffing out of personal space – for the good of the people.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Failure is strong, but good medicine

I flunked the 9th grade.

True.  I did.  It was the most humbling experience of my life at that point.  It was also the single best life-changing experience in my mental and personal development.  I could go on and explain what led up to my failure, citing moving all over the country which messed up my math skills, but that wouldn’t explain why I bombed 9th grade basic English, now would it?

Failure is good for the soul now and again and I was like every other kid on the block, past and present when it comes to being sensitive at the ripe age of 15.  It seems like we are scared to death that kids these days will be damaged irreparably if they don’t get patted on the back for every little thing they do and that is as much hogwash as some of the bizarre stuff as is presented on Jerry Springer.

I was, and still am in many respects, a go it alone type of learner.  I inherently distrust experts.  I can’t rightly say why this is so, but it has caused me to be the kind of person who will learn a subject in great depth until I have a very good understanding of it and that is putting it mildly.  My dad was the same way and maybe that is the reason I think and seek to learn the way I do.

Over the years, I’ve studied a subject to the point of figurative nausea and then moved on, dropping interest in it almost entirely.  I do not want to fail and the turning point in young life leading to my success was a retired school teacher in Canton, Georgia who taught summer school and the English class I paid for, so  that (horrors) I wouldn’t be held back.

My Mom, who ran our house, informed me that unless I planned on repeating the 9th grade, I would have to pay the $65.00 for 6 weeks of summer school.  I was working after school at the Tastee Freeze in Woodstock, Georgia for about a buck fifty an hour, so $65 was a lot of money.  My choice was simple.  I would work and pay.

My 9th grade English teacher, a Miss Kerr, was about 5 feet tall and I badgered the poor woman with witting remarks the whole school year, goofed off on my home and class work, and basically made life miserable for her with jokes and wisecracks and come final grade time, she dropped me by one point, effectively serving me notice that my shenanigans were just that and nothing more.  One stinking point.  She could have given me that one point and moved me up, but didn’t and I am thankful to this day that she had the courage to flunk me.

Algebra however had me perplexed from day one.  I hated it so much that a mental block developed that my mathematician father couldn’t penetrate.   My hard-working dad could do scientific notation on paper, but I couldn’t grasp simple algebra.  The truth is our moving around the country had disconnected me from math progression and to this day, I wish I would have understood it properly and became an engineer.  I have the right aptitude for it, no doubt.

The “old woman” whose name escapes me, taught our slacker class of about 50, laid down the rules the first day when she passed out a sheet of the 100 books college students were required to read for college entry and informed us we had to read 6 books in 6 weeks and do a report on each – to pass.

It was so quiet in that class; I could have conducted a funeral if I knew how.  6 whole books?   One a week and do a book report?  I can speak for everyone in the class when I say, why didn’t she ask us to bench press 500 pounds or eat a 12 pound hamburger?  We might be able to actually do one or the other, but a book a week?

I’ve met with failure off and on in my life and through perseverance, beat each and every challenge, but only through struggle have I overcome them.  I have a friend who recently had his leg amputated.  When I learned of it, it hurt my soul.  I can’t imagine a trial of this magnitude.  I can only imagine the hardship I would go through if it were me.  However, his life like our own is full of obstacles and his faith and experiences appear to be pulling him through.  He’s my generation of “get over it and move on” and I am proud of him.

We were taught to suck it up and move on and in 1966, I went to summer school and read books for 8 hours a day and at noon on each Friday, I spent the last 4 hours tuning my book report.  At the end of the 6 weeks, I passed with an A+ and have never stopped reading.  In the remaining years of high school I took 3 more years of English and Literature and turned A’s in my classes – and I passed Algebra.

I owe it all to Miss Kerr and the “old nameless teacher”, who had the wisdom to challenge us to read those 6 books.  Oh how many times I have dreamed of letting her know what she did for me.  The bottom line to all of this is simply that failure can be a stepping stone to success.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I support President Obama on immigration reform

After watching and listening to President Obama and ruminating on what he says, I agree with him.  This is the McCain/Kennedy package that was ripped apart by partisan politics.  I apologize for criticizing it without really listening.  Keep the good immigrants and boot the bad ones.  The good ones will have to come clean, apply for a green card, pay taxes, and this only applies to illegals who have been in the country more than 5 years. 

I was for this very legislation when John McCain and Ted Kennedy tried to push it through.  The Left screamed that the suggested fines the illegals would have to pay was too harsh, so it was decided to drop the fine and then the Right screamed it was amnesty and the whole bill tanked.  We were left with what we presently have and that is a system that does not work!

All I ask before you bash it, is listen carefully to his logic.  If you can still find fault, then so be it.  I have also written my congressman to show support for this bill.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What is more fun than people?

I met a guy in high school who left a very good indelible mark on my life.  I wish I had a long list of people who I could say the same thing about, but very few are like this guy.  What makes him so different is he “got it” as a teenager and it took me about 40 years to begin to “get it”.

I met him in Canton, Georgia back in the mid to late 60’s and still communicate with him, even though he lives in Georgia and I of course, live in Texas.  Alan Dempsey is a preacher’s son and like many preachers kids, he went a bit buck wild only to straighten out later.  However, he was the kindest, most friendly person I had met at that time and still ranks right at the top of my kindest people list.  I was a Yankee in redneck North Georgia and needed a friend and he was there for me.

Alan, despite the fact that he had unruly straw-like shaggy blonde hair and possibly the worst case of acne imaginable, was extremely popular with the young ladies.  I on the other hand, had fairly good hair and relatively few pimples and in the ladies category was as awkward acting as boots on a camel when it came to interaction with the fairer sex.

Alan’s secret was he was genuinely friendly and interested in other people – possibly other female people times 10.  Fat, skinny, homely, socially inept – it did not matter to Alan.  On many occasions I would see him in animated conversation with 3 or more chubby girls no one else bothered with and this was all the time.  Even the upwardly mobile girls liked Alan.  He knew the names of every girl and most the guys in school, but there was a dark side effect to his friendliness.

A lot of guys did not like the competition and thus, Alan was a fist fighter and a danged good one.  In fact the last time I saw Alan in Canton before we moved to St. Louis, he was running toward me and his face and fists were bloody. Of course he had a wide smile on his face and as he passed, he informed me that he had been victorious.  You see, back in the day if you were caught fighting, you got “licks” by Vince, the ex-Marine Vice Principle.

Vince Thompson was about 5-4 inches tall and wielded a 4 foot paddle with holes in it, made in wood shop and especially for him by the very boys he would most likely later paddle.  Vince would 2-hand the flat instrument of correction and lift your bum clean off the ground and this is why fist fights lasted about 3 seconds.  Both sides would throw 2-4 punches and then run.  It was understood that you did not want to get caught.

What is more fun than people?  This is Alan’s big question and one that defines him and the attitude I learn more about every day.  Here is an example and try it to see the results.  Carry one dollar bills in your purse or wallet.  The next time you go through a fast food place at odd hours, give the window person a buck and thank them for being there when everyone else is sleeping.  Watch their face light up.  It’s money well spent and an investment in your fellow human.

Give a buck to your grocery checker or sacker when they look tired, or down.  Tell them thanks and I like to say, “You just made an extra dollar an hour.”  Often, they will cheer up and say, “I sure did!”  When the checker thanks me for shopping, I read their name tag and thank them by name.  When you do this, it transforms them from a faceless servant to a fellow human being.  Dale Carnegie taught me the single most important word in a person’s vocabulary is their first name and when you remember a person’s name, you make an instant connection with them.  Try it.

Alan was drafted and sent to Vietnam as an infantryman and survived.  Later in life he was diagnosed with throat cancer and couldn’t talk for a long time and survived.  Is it possible he is still just as excited about people and life in general?  Yup.  He sure is.

Recently I’ve began making house calls to repair peoples computers and aside from the fact that I actually like to repair computers, I have met some absolutely awesome people.  So much so that I’ve been invited to sit and eat with them, drink coffee, and jaw about who knows what for lengthy amounts of time.  Maybe it’s because I am retired and don’t have to meter out every single minute, or maybe it’s because I have learned what Alan has known since he was a kid.

What is more fun than people?