Thursday, May 17, 2018

What is all the fuss about?

I am seriously scratching my head over the state of our country and the political warfare between not only the 2 parties, but among my fellow voters. Yes, I know discussing politics in public is taboo... or it was until the last decade, so please bare with me a bit.

I didn't vote for Bill either time or Barack, because I did not share their vision for America. I never cursed them while in office and don't intend to do so now. When they were elected, I accepted that as fact and continued my life as before, working to help my family prosper. I did not waste time or breath lambasting or plotting to derail them. I simply accepted them as our President and watched, hoped, and prayed that our country would get the leadership and direction we needed.

Even when things appeared to be changing in what I felt were the wrong direction, I continued to pray for the President and use every opportunity to help my family prosper, as any husband or wife should. I read the Baytown Sun letters to the editor and shake my head over the acerbic and vicious attacks on the mental health of voters who were stupid enough to vote for or against Trump. I truly wonder what inside information Robert De Niro and Stephen King have that they feel compelled to take a podium and spew blistering accusations.
Instead I wonder who is pulling Hollywood's puppet strings. I've read more than one account how Hollywood controls the livelihood of actors who don't take the blue pill. Conservative actors are ridiculed if they speak out against the liberal agenda and those who march to the One Ring are hateful toward Trump and all who disagree with them. However, there is something new on the center stage and it came out in this week's news on Monday.

Remember when Mel Gibson was figuratively shot to pieces when on a drunken rampage he claimed a certain group were controlling everything? “The (redacted) are responsible for all the wars in the world!” the Hollywood star spouted at the time, according to the 2006 arrest report. The reason this simple opinion was blown out of proportion is because in truth this particular group does indeed control a lot of the worlds commerce and media, along with funding, diamonds, and precious metals. Its fact and I have no problem with that at all. It does explain why things are changing.

On Monday, I read that the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem has the Israeli premier praising Donald Trump for keeping the promise no other president could and that was to support Jerusalem as a Jewish capital. A Jewish soccer team has even changed their name to Beitar Trump, " in honor of the US president’s recognition of Israel’s capital and moving his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv". "Today's historic event is attributed to the vision, the courage, and the moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and eternal debt of gratitude -- President Donald J. Trump," Friedman said to a standing ovation at the ceremony."

Now enter Trump caustic critic Jimmy Kimmel the very same day and he has a sudden revelation. " Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel says that the American people have had enough of the type of anti-Trump humor that he regularly spews and that it is now time for him to “make fun of ourselves.”

Roseanne Barr has a new hit show and it's pro-Trump. Imagine that. Saturday Night Live is back-sliding away from politics, as even the cast's own mothers are urging them to "do something besides political jokes". Gee, I wonder why the sudden change. Will Alec Baldwin become homeless? Who is next, Stephen Colbert? Will Hillary suddenly have an epiphany? Will Nancy Pelosi all of a sudden see the Trump train as a great ride? The lady politician can barely finish a sentence as it is. Let's wait and see.

Now I've always heard that whoever carries the purse, they are de facto in charge. Do the math with me. If I own you, you will do as I say and this goes all the way to the top. Over the next few months let's watch this political spectacle for a major change and I hope and pray it benefits the average American.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Information overload is working against us

The recent school bond proposal had a dismal turnout, wouldn't everyone agree? The projected cost of implementing it and the debt it would incur scared a lot of people. It appeared to me to have a lot of "wants" inside it, but the idea of boosting education and facilities (read amenities) seemed plausible enough to cause division also.

On my forum, the subject was dissected daily with a very negative view by some very bright people. The points brought out against it seemed very valid and the reluctance of the contributors was reinforced by not wanting to get us in major debt. I read with interest David Bloom and Bob Hoskin's support of the bond and both appeared to justify its passing, so why didn't more people vote? I can sum it up in one sentence.

No one knows who to believe anymore.

There are simply too many "expert" opinions available. Never mind that many of them are nothing more than talking heads, or athletes, or movie personalities. If Oprah or Steven Colbert are for or against something, many will follow suit and not bother to research anything. We all tend to watch or read the news sources we trust and you have the Huffington Post people over the Drudge Report folks and both groups only read the one they like.
The "news" channels are devoid of actual news and have become entertainment opinion venues with more commercials than actual live news content. Depending on these sources to set you straight on any hot issue is akin to trusting the weather report or thinking the roads are not going to clog up after you leave for work. Never mind that the traffic girl and the guy in the bow-tie said everything was peachy.

I've made the claim before that our ability to pull up any subject at any time on our Smartphone is not necessarily a good thing for our mental growth or stability. In fact, I've claimed the phones are making us stupid(er). And I'm a heavy user. The reason for this is using this device becomes a crutch and a bite-size info tool at that. Everything is served to us on a tiny screen and in short sentences. What could go wrong? Let me make a short example. Texting or talking while driving is stupid and we all know it, but we do it anyway because our usage is important and justified, even if yours is not.

Getting tiny bits of info on our phones makes us jack of all trades and master of none. We are like hummingbirds eating. For every byte that goes into our brain, an equal amount drops out the pooper because we no longer use anything more than short term memory. "What time is it? I don't know, let me check my phone." One minute later we can't remember the time.

No one memorizes anything anymore because we can simply use a search engine to grab a snippet and that is what we do. Now looking back at the bond that failed, I believe the reason many didn't vote is not because they want innocent baby Johnny or Jenny to have a substandard education. The reason was they didn't know what to believe or who to trust.

No one knows who to believe anymore.

In the past, voting on most political issues has been easy. You vote Republican or Democrat and let the chips fall where they may, but now even that is becoming cloudy. We, as American voters are now realizing the real collusion in the news is not Trump with Russia; its career politicians on both sides of the fence ganging up to stay in power. Conclusion by most voters? They are all corrupt and in bed with each other. We cannot trust them to represent us. One fellow even suggested this was true of the school board.

Ex-chief of police, Charles Schaffer once told me that everyone seeking something big or some change has personal profit as a motive, regardless of how they present themselves. I am not quoting him here, but it is a good representation of what he said. By the time a person gets high enough in politics in this country, they are most likely no longer serving those who voted for them. Our city council has openly been accused of this on my forum.

An equal number of people on both sides of any issue will swear they are giving the public "the facts", so what do we get? Confusion or blind faith. I'm a bibliophile and spend as much as 6 hours a day reading and I don't know who to trust or what to believe. The sad future is not that this will remedy itself, but get worse. I'm afraid we are setting ourselves up for a great leader to rescue us. I hope not even though it is a prophesy in the Bible.

No one knows who to believe anymore.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

What's the big deal with tariffs?

Tariffs are used to restrict imports by increasing the price of goods and services purchased from overseas and making them less attractive to consumers. A specific tariff is levied as a fixed fee based on the type of item, for example, $1,000 on any car.

Concerning raising tariffs on China and the trade deficit, we are about to see some changes in how far our money will go and a lot of us are going to be very mad, but let me tell you why it is a good thing.  The historic imbalance the US has over importing much more than we export, is changing right now and what it will mean, at least for a few years, is the rising cost of goods, especially those manufactured by new American companies. When the pendulum swings back and healthy Capitalistic market place competition finally arrives, the price of goods will once again be driven down.

Remember years ago when hamburgers were roughly the same price as they are now? Its because of competition. If this town of (who knows how many are here every day) many people only had one burger joint, the business could get whatever people are willing to pay.

Look for a lot of griping and finger-pointing as the cost of correcting the trade deficit consumes our funds. If the Republicans are still in the majority, they will be demonized by the Democrats and if the Democrats are now in power, they will blame Trump. Any thing but the truth will be offered to explain why it is happening. If eye-gouging were legal, our politicians would all be wearing full-face helmets.

It is vital to understand why prices are historically low, but if you consider the near pass our government has made to other countries via generous tarrif, then you can see why raising the tariff, will retard the profits of a distant enterprise. At the same time, it gives a US venture the time and profitably to start that identical business here, whereby putting people to work, and those people paying taxes. Who will pay for these new ventures? We will, by paying higher prices. The Chinese and other countries will be forced to also raise prices to remain profitable.

Think about this when you see the American version of a Chinese offering on the store shelves. Initially it will cost twice as much for nearly the same thing. I say nearly because Chinese knockoffs on many products are inferior in design and materials. Americans in 2018 are very cognizant not to offer or purchase junk. Its no longer profitable for a company to get bad feedback. The American version will most likely be more expensive, but better quality. As "cheap" Chinese goods disappear off the shelves, the new American made item will be there to replace it. This will take a few years and in the meantime the finger pointing will escalate.

"I have sat in the airport in Anchorage, AK many times and watched one gigantic Chinese jet full of goods land - one right after another, all day, every day. It is astounding and disturbing. No jets leaving going from AK to China that I ever saw." My Air Force veteran sister wrote me this concerning her numerous years working there. I agree with the decision to try to balance the trade deficit and I don't care which party is in control (it doesn't appear to make a difference).

"A sign of the huge trade imbalance for global commodities: 45% of ships travel empty. Furniture, toys and footwear were the top three items transported by container last year to the United States from China, according to Piers, a U.S.-based research company. In the other direction, waste paper and other paper products were by far the largest commodity shipped from the United States to China, followed by scrap metal and raw cotton. In other words, the United States received millions of new manufactured goods and sent back tons of trash and raw materials." According to

Navy veteran Joseph Dykehouse told me, "I made the same argument with some people last week. Let capitalistic competition right here in the US do what it is supposed to do and everyone will benefit. This whole globalization concept has raised everyone else's standard of living and lowered ours. We shouldn't have a trade deficit with every country in the world, especially when we feed, educate, and take in the rest of the world."

Most Americans already have 2 of everything and we are accumulating more everyday in our pursuit of the Capitalistic dream. Evidence of this is when you try to give stuff away and have no takers. Take a peek in your neighbor's garage for a good example. Personally I want to see quality replace cheapness and the first step is to raise tariffs and bring back American ingenuity in available products.


Wednesday, May 02, 2018

What does my geocaching hobby say about me?

Geocachers come in every size, color, nationality, gender, and education level which in itself is not peculiar for a hobby. What is peculiar is we all have a strong sense of curiosity mixed with adventure. How else can you explain a 55 year old grandmother in rubber boots and dress wading across a muddy ditch to find a small box in the woods behind a superstore? That is odd behavior considering she's a court reporter or dentist, or professor. What could possibly motivate this normally prim person to step over blown debris, broken glass, through thorns and poison ivy to possibly wander around "back there" for 20 minutes swatting mosquitoes by the hundreds?

Normal hobbyists do not put themselves through this much abuse for so little return. In fact, this woman's husband, who is an avid golfer, sits in the air conditioned car in the back of the parking lot and watches a YouTube golf match while his obsessed wife side-steps a snake 80 feet away. Normal husbands would be worried for her safety. He's just glad she didn't ask him to join her.

When this normally well-coifed lady kicks off her rubber boots and slips back into her heels, she rattles on enthusiastically describing in great detail the container, location, degree of difficulty, and the many hazards she experienced. He looks at her smile and the sticks in her hair and nods. He doesn't see the allure and fascination of the game, but if it makes her happy and he can stay in the car and out of the woods, he is more than happy to go with her.

My observation as to what common traits we appear to have is elusive at best and I pride myself on paying attention to detail. Wait, that is another item we tend to share. We are detail people. I've often wondered why the police departments don't ask geocachers to a crime scene to find out what they see. We not only look, but we see, if that makes sense and the sooner you develop this observation skill, the quicker you will find the containers or boxes.

Here in the Houston area, it appears to be an equal number of men and women who play the game, which I think qualifies as being peculiar. On top of that, most married people play the game sans their mate. That is also odd for a hobby. Geocachers tend to be more outdoorsy than most other hobbyists. Geocachers are the new outdoorsmen, as we spend more time in the woods and out of the way places than hunters. We are more likely to be in some remote place than any other mainstream hobbyists also.

Geocachers appear to have a nerd gene despite all appearances to the opposite. They also tend to talk to themselves when on the hunt. They say stuff like, "The hint says small rock," or "I see you Mr. poison ivy!" They purchase all kinds of stuff and accouterments to aid them caching and then forget to bring it or leave it in the car. Why is this so and why do I still do it knowing it is stupid? There is an unwritten law which states we must forget one important item when we go out caching.

For the most part, geocachers are friendly and like to eat. They are also generous and will share anything at any time. Cachers are opportunists with the hobby always lurking in the background. Otherwise how do you explain our curious tendency to find a cache in the cemetery after a funeral? I clearly remember the first time I did that.

Geocachers have photographic memories of where a cache is located, but can't remember what they ate for lunch yesterday. They point at various locations whenever they travel about town with their muggle mate and announce, "There is a geocache right there," and always get the same silent response. We will jump through hoops to add a souvenir badge to our profile, or dash like a lunatic to get a FTF on a cache. Never mind that it looks idiotic to everyone who doesn't play. "What? You went where at 3:30am to do what?"

I'm omitting a number of the traits that make us a peculiar bunch, but I think its safe to say there is a very common thread that unites us happy adventurists. Maybe you can write me to add them to this list.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

April Showers bring...what?

Cedar Waxwing birds migrating north

Holy Toledo, have you ever experienced an April with these temperatures? I've been living in Texas since 1970 and I can't recall it being this cool. I've almost broke out my long handles. In a confession to my advanced age, I have actually owned long handled underwear with the flap in the back. I am not old enough to have wore the red wool variety though. I had a couple pair as a kid living in Michigan. Looking at the weather in the north, I imagine a lot of folks there are wishing they had a pair.

Even though we are having much cooler temperatures than we normally experience, seeing the snow still falling in Colorado, the Dakotas, and Montana makes me appreciate living on the Gulf Coast all the more. One reason I love our current cool days is because for the most part, we are experiencing humidity below 50%. On top of that, who can remember temperatures in the 40's in April? Where are the April showers that bring May flowers?

Don't get me wrong, I am loving this weather - much of the time. I feel like a caged animal if I am stuck inside and for the most part, unless I'm working on one of my many projects, I am outside on the patio or working in the yard. Our yard is showing how much it enjoys these better temperatures also. Seeing everything is growing very fast, my chipper/shredding machine has already paid for itself. Everything I trim goes through it, cutting and chipping the green and brown refuse to look like oatmeal.

I put it right back in my beds and hit it with a liberal amount of 10-10-10 fertilizer. Of course I would like Mother Nature to lend a helping hand so I don't have to use drinking water to wash it all into the ground. Question: does it bother anyone else to use precious potable water to feed our shrubs and lawn? When a large population of earth have little or no drinking water and we throw it on the ground and simply pay extra, it seems terribly wasteful.

My neighbor collects all of his A/C condensate in a large tub and uses it to water his many container plants. I'm thinking of doing the same. All you have to do is plug the drain hole in the A/C pan and let it overflow out the side of the soffit. He extended the drain pipe with PVC to direct it into a 50 gallon poly tub. It makes me wonder how many other little projects we could do that will recycle waste. Maybe we just have to let younger generations handle it, right? Scratch it off the list as a old dogs, new tricks, kind of thing. Anyway, its just a thought and probably a paradigm shift we all should make.

I like to keep the house cool and it stays on 69 degrees most of the time. In winter, we let the house temp fall to the low 60's or even the high 50's before we fire up the furnace. Now, I'm trying to wean us off the 69 by raising the thermostat to 71. I know. Its hard and a true sacrifice. After all, we are Americans. We want what we want and that is that. Come take my guns, just leave my thermostat alone! Yes, that is an unrealistic compromise, but just as passion-filled.

All too soon, these perfect temperature days will give way to high humidity and a sun that will bleach our bones. Then we will be back in hurricane season and torrential downpours and these days will be forgotten. However, they are not gone yet and if you love being outside as much as I do, please take advantage by eating outside and just sitting on your patio and basking in our great outdoors.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

I am old school

 I remember 78 RPM records. We had an "ice box" and at my grandfather house in Dundee, Michigan you could get a bottle of Coca-cola for a nickel at the granary. I remember walking to the dairy in Morgan, Utah and the man asking me if I wanted "Butta, Chackalate, or sweet milk. I wore Redball jets over PF Flyers and they were black high-tops that stunk like a pig sty.

Gina Lollobrigida was the most beautiful woman I had ever imagined and a new sling shot was the closest thing to heaven I had ever experienced. My 3 brothers and I skinny-dipped in what would now be considered lewd behavior. Geewillikers, we were just having fun. I shot marbles in what was considered MMA fighting back in the day. I snuck a cig from my parents pack! Maybe I snuck one more times than once?

I thought Roy Orbison, Lou Christie, and Jimmy Dean were incredibly talented. I collected baseball cards and listened to games on a tiny transistor radio. I discovered the fairer sex at 13 and it opened up a mystical and magical world that sill confuses, pleases, and amuses me. I learned to pop a wheelie. I mowed a lot of grass with a push mower. I went to church camp and swam in the lake trying to impress the girls.

I got my arm caught in a washing machine roller. I ate a lot of fruit cake the rest of the family disliked. I played Army in post-WWII and Korea with my 3 brothers. We showed the Huns no mercy. I played baseball like they did in the movie "Sand lot". I hate hotdogs, not hamburgers. I drank soft drinks with "cyclamates" and drank water off of water hoses.

I witnessed women becoming blonds over night and the introduction of the Corvair, Pinto, and Vega. I watched the muscle cars of the 1960's pop wheelies and do massive burn-outs. Twiggy, the Vietnam war, civil rights, assassinations, Laugh-in, the beginning of the drug revolution, protests, and the Planned parenthood movement of eliminating us as a species evolve.

Christmas evolved into opening presents day early because no one had the patience to wait. We raked and burned leaves. Everyone did. I cuffed my blue jeans, but wasn't allowed to wear them to school.  Tennis shoes were for gym class only. Teachers paddled us when they decided we needed correction... and our parents backed them up. Playing outdoors was serious business and we always felt deprived when we had to come inside.

Mom cooked and we ate it. We got paddled and more times than not it was mom who administered it, because dad was at work. We had chores and got allowances. We got grounded. We fought sleep and had trouble waking. We did bicycle maintenance and learned about over population. We practiced against nuclear fall-out. We have the scar from the measles inoculation.

We've lived and witnessed many outhouses, rotary phones, hand pump wells, houses without electricity, no A/C, taking my 12 gauge shotgun on my first squirrel hunt by myself and I was 14.  Rampaging everywhere we went as 4 brothers and no one thinking we needed to be on corrective drugs.

Knowing all our neighbors by first names, recognizing every make, model, and year of all the cars on the road, The Twist and Limbo. Maynard G. Krebs and Dobie. "Work!" Sputnik. Bay of Pigs and much later, Baby Jessica. The JFK Assassination. Desoto and Packard. Melmac. Plastic-wrapped furniture.

Climbing huge trees, eating sardines and thinking it was camping out, Hollywood candy bars, blowing in a Milk Dud box at the theater to make noise, banana bike seats and high handle bars, Chef Boyardee pizzas, 3 on the tree, fist fights, Hai Karate cologne, Beatle Mania, and saying the pledge of allegiance in school before class started.

Yea, I am old school and I do not apologize.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Its always sunny in Baytown

Nurture Nature Festival 2017 by Larry Houston

 Did you know that Baytown has a micro-climate? It does. Our 7 bays wrap around our town and keep a lot of bad weather away. If you have ever drove over the Fred Hartman bridge and noticed that it is a different temperature on this side of the bridge, then you are getting the message. Very often the Houston weather doesn't apply to us. For a long time I've observed a storm blowing in from the Gulf toward us, only to go into League City. It then makes its way toward Sugar Land and then turns north for Jersey Village pounding them with torrents of rain.

At this time, the storm will turn east and head for the north side of I-10 eventually dropping copious amounts of water on Winnie before it heads toward Beaumont. It has happened so many times, I fully expect it each time a storm comes in. The only variation is when the storm is so big that nothing can stop it. So, if its been raining a lot here, everyone else is getting it too. Quite often I stage geocaching events here in Baytown for various reasons. A standard event is to simply meet and eat and trade idea, etc. I like to have my event coincide with actually doing something... outside.

We may hike to find geocaches, or have a workshop to learn various stuff about the game. I've been involved in geocaching since 2003, teach classes on it, and yet, it seems I learn something I didn't know. The point of this is my events prove my theory that Baytown has a micro-climate. It can be a 90% chance of rain in the Houston area and folks will arrive for my class with the sun shining over their shoulder. I'm accused of "having a rapport with the big guy" but truthfully, not anymore than anyone else.   

Our tourism department with Anna, Sheree, and Sabrina have been very active in getting activities going in Baytown. The old whine that "there's nothing to do in Baytown" just ain't true anymore. Market square on Texas Avenue if you haven't noticed is roiling with activities. There is so much happening that I can't even keep up with it. This next Saturday is the annual Nurture Nature Festival at the Baytown Nature Center at 6213 Bayway Dr. It is KID FRIENDLY, so grab the kiddos and some cash for vendors and come on out. Say hey to Christina Butcher and Tracey Protho while you are out there for extra sunshiny mojo.

There is plenty of parking the park staff is everywhere with Snake Bracelets, Crab Marsh, Seed Cups, TX Geocaching Society, Watering Hole Golf, Angler education, Backyard bass, archery to name just a few of the booths. The festival is set up to educate kids and adults on the great outdoors, but in a very festive environment. If you want them chiren to get off the couch and do something besides exercise their thumbs, then make sure you facilitate getting them there. Oh, you will find me in Tent 4 next to Baytown Tourism doing my geocaching thing!

Thursday, April 05, 2018

The War on Drugs 101

Drugs come to this country by invitation

 We lost the drug war just a few years after we became aggressive to stop drugs from coming into this country. I'm talking 1975, when a bag of marijuana went from $10 an ounce to $30 and that was just the beginning. By cracking down on bulky and smelly pot, the prices jumped and when the prices got high enough, pushers found it more profitable to bring in heroin and cocaine than the easily recognizable marijuana.

About this time is when we in the Houston area began to hear about people carrying guns and robbing or shooting each other over marijuana. The reason was simple. Now there was a lot of money involved, not just 10 bucks.

Young people who were used to using grass for entertainment purposes, used what was available instead and this included LSD, PCP - or angel dust, Quaaludes, uppers/speed/meth and heroin and cocaine. I'm skimming the surface of what was available in the absence of marijuana. All of this was available for a price and that price didn't come with any guarantee of quality either. On top of that, the prices just kept going higher. Remember when they raised the tax on cigarettes to the point that smash and grab crimes involved grabbing cartons of cigs?

Now, bump forward 43 years later and we have the identical system in place with the identical dismal track record. Of the many heinous concoctions to come down the dope trail is this myriad of chemicals and blends called synthetic marijuana. In Illinois alone, it has recently killed 2 and severely hospitalized 54 patients who after ingesting this substance have began to bleed from various parts of their anatomy. If that isn't scary, please clue me in on what is.

Regulating vice due to our Puritanical teachings has done nothing to stop the flow of drugs into this country. Nothing. If anything, it has created a bigger monster of criminal black markets and dangerous unregulated pills, powders, liquids, and leafy substances that is like playing Russian roulette to the end user. Now if I was with the righteous far right on this matter, I would say it was good medicine, but I am not and they wouldn't be either if it was their 14 year old son or daughter on that gurney at the emergency room.

I would much rather she was guilty of sneaking a bit of Jack Daniel's or sliding a Winston cigarette from the pack than buying god knows what from a stranger. Now mind you, that is an example and kids will do what they are told not to, more times than not. The point I'm making is if they are going to experiment, I would much rather they got their hands on something that is regulated as to type and strength and for what its worth, accidentally over-dosing on anything including alcohol is not a pleasant experience.

Our country gets all up in a frenzy any time a nut job with a gun shoots inside a school and rightly so. However it doesn't make sense to me when kids are using these home-brewed or cartel drugs with unknown characteristics and mass-storming emergency rooms why our government refuses to decriminalize marijuana.

When Concealed Carry first became law, there were many who believed there would be mass shootings, or maybe we don't remember that because it didn't pan out like that. But remember recently when Open Carry was allowed? Again some folks swore it would be the OK corral.  Didn't happen, did it? Legalizing and regulating marijuana will cause a certain segment of the population to try it and those who wish to continue using it can get a known strength product, much like alcohol. It will continue to be illegal to drive or appear in public intoxicated and cops can arrest anyone they suspect of PI at any time, so nothing will change there.
Synthetic marijuana is Russian roulette
What will happen is a number of good things. First, kids will stop using crap like rat poison laced fake pot. Second, the very cartels we've made rich will have to find other animals to suck blood from. Third, people who simply wanted pot for medicinal or recreational purposes will no longer be considered criminal. Fourth, the thousands of products that can be made from hemp plants will suddenly open up a number of business opportunities. Last, there will be a mass educational effort to help people understand the safe usage of pot, as some of it is very strong.

Its time folks. The war on drugs is a miserable failure that has only created a bigger problem. The only responsible thing to do is vote to legalize and regulate it and the government simply cannot be allowed to levy a hefty tax on it. Why? Because it will create another black market.
Black markets exist when restricting laws are enacted or taxes are unduly raised.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

San Jacinto Mall to be Resurrected!

The Mall in all its glory.

Well rumors have been flying for years, but I was finally able to sit down with the planning committee and get the real 411 on our mall. The Mall has secretly traded hands to a large development design firm in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Yes the Mall of America people. AFJ, OKE Architects, Inc. has successfully turned around Malls all across the country by bringing their vision of the 21st century to a 20th century mindset.

As part of the Strategic Planning committee, I was invited, along with city planners and staff members to "be schooled" on what they are going to do. Now mind you, it was blatantly obvious since it was their property now and their money, they were going to do exactly as they plan and of course comply to all city codes, or so we thought.

Our first surprise was they are forcing a de-annexation of the property to lower their taxes to almost nothing, citing the chemical Plants privileges of supply jobs. There was quite a bit of objections, but the spokesperson (who declared she had better remain unnamed) skillfully declared it was a "non-issue". I was simply amazed at her aggressive behavior and how quickly she skillfully backed down objections. Impressive is the right word and I figured if they can get the Mall back in good graces, then this was probably beneficial to the city.

The real shocker though is the plan to "retro" the mall and make it exactly to its original design and a return of what they called a "Flagship" store, Montgomery Wards. I mumbled something along the lines that "Monkey Wards" was the first business to fail and the unnamed spokesperson cut me off declaring "It was because they were 50 years ahead of their time in this backward township. Honestly, sir, you do not know this area as well as you think you do," she said and then described a new/old look alike Mervyn's and list of the original stores followed.

"Baytown does not need to be brought into the 21st century," she forcefully declared by smacking the table hard enough to knock over the paper cups of water they furnished for the meeting. "They need to revisit the 20th century... remedial fashion!" Well, I thought the mayor was going to have a coronary. I know my blood pressure lifted a relief valve.

"The city will be pleased to know the wasted parking space behind the mall will be converted to a 1970's retro trailer park and this will be within city limits for tax purposes." Well, you would have thought she threw a gold brick at us, but we were stunned into silence when she candidly confessed, "You southerners and especially Texans are slow thinkers. You wouldn't last 15 minutes up in Hoboken. Now come on people, see the vision. A brand new mall that no slow thinking Baytonian will have to learn the layout. Its a win win and will make more money for us than you can imagine.

We have stopped all demolition and will rebuild exactly like it was.  A little paint and some caulking and we plan to be back up and running wide open by September 18.  Questions?" As she finished speaking, she was packing up her stuff and turning on her heel, she exited the building with what looked like 6 secret service agents following her. I guess the fact that most "slow-thinking" Texans carry guns alarmed her. Now I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I think a call to the city is in order. The mayor stumbled toward the door shortly after she left, as it appeared her plan had upset him too. Let your voice be heard. Vote no to refurbishing the mall. We need modernization and I resented the statement that we were behind times in Baytown.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The anti-gun movement myth

 It appears to me the anti-gun violence protests are a total manipulation of logic by some group wanting to disarm America. The 2nd Amendment is to protect us from our own government, so why would anyone want to give up this liberty? Didn't Hitler and Stalin disarm their citizens before taking complete control? Does anyone believe North Korean's are allowed to own guns? In Cuba, only the state is armed. How has that worked out for them? Well, we know how it turned out for Germany and Russia.

Any possible legislation will have zero effect on mentally unstable individuals, anarchists, neo-Ludites, religious zealots, terrorists, and criminals. Law-abiding gun owners are not guilty of a danged thing. Protesters are registering to vote and one declared they would vote out anyone supporting the NRA. Let me see. How many NRA members have been guilty of shooting up a school? Please cipher that one for me. I'll dig it up for us. None. "Worthy of note is that the victims of mass shootings constitute less than one half of one percent of shooting deaths."

If laws stopped people from committing criminal acts, why are our roads littered with beer and alcohol containers? Think about it. Law-abiding people do not drink and drive. Should we pass more laws that say that you cannot have more than a 6-pack or a pint of adult beverage in your refrigerator? Will this stop criminals from drinking and driving?

"In Texas the "total costs of a DWI arrest and conviction range from $5,000 to $24,000 for a first-time offense. In the Austin area, offenders can pay $6,000 to $21,000 in fines, fees and other costs." I don't know about you, but I don't have that kind of stash setting around marked "disposable".

I have guns... a lot of guns and carry one most of the time and have for many years. I am not a threat. I am the opposite of a threat. I may just save your life. It wouldn't matter if I was carrying a bazooka or dressed like Arnold in Commando with an M-60 and grenades hanging off my chest and belt. Logic, folks. Criminals will be criminals and if a misguided zealot wants to kill people, no law is going to stop them. Only another law-abiding person with a gun can do it.

I am always reminded of a true story of a young couple who moved to Los Angeles from Boulder, Colorado. Both were very educated and had extremely strong anti-gun philosophies. One month after arrival after she was mugged and their apartment ransacked, they were both carrying guns and taking firearms training. Their philosophy did not protect them. It is all relevant. This story is true. Hunkering and cowering down in a corner will only get you killed.

Another thing I learned years ago in marital arts training is if a person wants to unexpectedly strike you, they can pretty much do it. If a misguided or deranged individual decides to target a school, or a group of people, they will do it, even if it is in a military installation and the victims are soldiers. The only thing that will stop them is a person with a gun.

I suspect many of the protestors in the anti-gun movement are in it to be part of something they feel is honorable and "cool". I also wonder what they will do when faced by someone with a weapon who intends to rob or do them or their family harm. I can pretty much tell you that being armed with a philosophy as your main weapon is going to be a rude wake up call. If you survive, I would also bet that more laws are the last thing you will want. You are going to want a gun, because laws don't stop the people who prey on society.

As a veteran, a black belt, and a graduate of the Baytown citizen's police academy I have never attacked anyone and I carry a large caliber, one shot, one kill gun. One officer summed it up very well. "If you have a permit to carry a firearm, by all means carry it. My life may depend on you being there for me." 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The trick is to get back on

 March 21, 2017 started out like every day before it. I was on a roll. In the last year I had instructed over 125 spin classes as a substitute instructor and was covering 12 gyms. Quite often in that time period, I would awaken about 4am, check my email and realize an instructor in Houston, or the Galleria had called in sick for the 5:30am class. I would log into the gym web site and "claim" the class and when 5:30am arrived, I would be 35 miles away and crank out a class. Sometimes I would be in Pasadena a few hours later and instruct another one. Or League City, or Webster. I was bullet-proof. Or so it seemed.

My sister and 3 brothers and I are all in our 60's and we share the common complaint of seniors, that stuff stops working like it did when we were younger. I appeared to be blessed in that I could hike down into the Grand Canyon and back out with nothing more than a bit of discomfort to my flat-lander's legs the next day. If I desired to ride a bike 30 miles, no big deal and the next day, it was business as usual. I got the message that I was doing everything right physically.

I was filling in for an instructor at the NASA gym location at 8am and drove over and instructed the class with my usual amount of vigor and enthusiasm and I really enjoy pushing a difficult, high-resistance hill-climbing class. Most spin class instructors are go-go-go with an abundance of very fast lower resistance peddling. Its called sprinting and they add a lot of upper body movements to keep people from being bored. I don't. In fact, I try to stay pure to the exercise and don't do anything on a spin bike that I wouldn't do on a road or mountain bike. To be clear, a spin bike is a stationary bicycle with a resistance knob. I like to push a class where the rider motivates themselves to get the best work-out possible. I am not a "driver". I'm a motivator.

I remember that morning I awoke with a stiff neck, like I had slept on it wrong or something, but by the time that class was over, my stiff neck went from mild discomfort to straight through the roof excruciating, eye-watering pain. I could hardly drive back to Baytown. My right arm was becoming so numb I simply laid it in my lap on the drive home. I was panicking and wondering if I was having a stroke.

To make a long story shorter here I am one year later - better, but unable to resume instructing. I'm not in pain and I can function fairly normally. What happened is called cervical spinal stenosis and what my VA doctor describes as "nasty neck" and affects the top 7 vertebra. To sum it up, the vertebra are impinging on the nerves causing the pain and numbness and headaches, bad headaches.

The Veterans Administration's treatment was massive amounts of steroids and shots and pills, lots of pills and I went 5-6 months this route with little success and lots of discomfort. My blood pressure had escalated and the VA's treatment was simply more meds until I was on a total of 13. Then I got gout. No one in my family has gout. One of my meds specifically claimed to increase the chances of getting the horrible malady. The VA's answer was yet more drugs. I again voluntarily stopped all of them except 2 blood pressure meds and sat it out cold turkey for two weeks. My next visit to the VA appeared that everything had returned to normal except my blood pressure which to this day has stayed dangerously high.

My big break - no pun intended - came when I asked for alternative treatment and began a twice a week acupuncture treatment at Fusion Acupuncture & Holistic Healthcare in Houston. I got immediate relief after the first visit and it was at this point that I began to scrutinize my medicine. I evolved into chiropractic and after 3 months of this, I am fairly back to normal physically.

I have 5 more appointments at the VA between now and June so they can aggressively solve this BP problem and until they do, I cannot push myself at the gym or instruct the class that I love. So, I've fallen off the horse and this horse requires a lot more than simply sitting. It took me over 2 years of constant riding to get in shape to instruct a class on the level members deserve. Can I get back on? I guess its up to me, but hasn't it always been?

What is all the fuss about?

I am seriously scratching my head over the state of our country and the political warfare between not only the 2 parties, but amon...