Thursday, July 19, 2018

It can only happen while shopping!

As the big man is my witness, every word of this is unquestionable and void of hyperbolic incredibility. With that taken into consideration, let me tell you what happened yesterday right here in the Tri-cities on what used to be "out in the country" Garth Road.

Let me first lay a little foundation to this tale of extreme brutality and sweaty violence. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking I beat some Chuck Norris 28 year old heavily muscled criminal to the point he needed 4 paramedics... right?  Not to be and thanks for the vote of confidence. I do appreciate it. I really do.

Because I live the life of a behind the scenes self-effacing servant, I feel compelled to tell you I did not do so well. No ma'am. No sir. I have a few more bruises as evidence of my misfortune. The sad part is I now realize the reason I did so poorly against my assailant, is I just didn't see them as a tangible threat until they fully engaged me and in the most embarrassing manner I might add.

Mind you, I'm still in the foundation of this predicament mainly for clarity. Because of my background, I have always felt like I could handle about any hand to hand fighter, at least long enough to deliver the fabled "Dim mak", which is as we know, is the death touch, all seasoned fighters fear, but few can deliver. I cannot divulge whether I can or can't, as I am sworn to secrecy like those Mason fellers. To those guys, their big deal is a secret handshake. To those select few it is the Dim mak, which loosely translated is "Divine bowels". I admit, it doesn't translate well.

Now, the details. It was hot as the red handle on a cast iron skillet on the fire and as made my way toward the entrance to get a shopping cart. Did I say it was hot? Well imagine my shock when I realized I had stepped on a blob of grape bubble gum that would choke a 6 year old. I didn't realize I had stepped in it until as walking, it pulled my new pair of black high-top Chuck Taylor's off. Seeing the gum was on the bottom of both shoes, I went ten feet before falling forward as the stretched gum literally and physically and embarrassingly jerked my shoes off.

As I hit the parking lot, the only thing that kept me from grunting loudly (and other unmentioned rude noises) was the trash. I might be wrong, but I think it was a large fast food bag or two full of chicken bones and such that actually padded my fall. Being the extreme fitness buff I used to be, I attempted to do a kip after rolling on my back... without success. I slowly mounted my feet and stretched, laughing in case anyone was looking. No one saw or cared as far as I could tell and I brushed off my previous embarrassed state. I quickly tied my shoes back on and began my search for a cart.

But that is not what really set the day wrong.

The more I think about it, the stupider I think I must have been. Let me explain. I'm a big guy and I'm active. Sometimes I'm too active and I start showing out in the gym (since I'm usually the only man in a Zumba class... well you get the idea). The truth is, even at my advanced age, I look a little too sturdy to appear to be a good victim. Little did I know the person who calf-roped me (figuratively speaking - come on!) had me by a good 186 pounds. That is an estimate of weight times mass times impact. On me. Four times. Or more.

Now let me say this. I have Vietnam Veteran license plates on my Jeep and truck. Is it possible to appear more threatening to a motorist who reads that when they are behind me? No. It is not, so how is it I was beaten so soundly with no regard to this warning? Now that I think of it, they appeared after I had fallen down and didn't see my threatening plates.

The sun was so bright, I staggered to my feet and just under the overhang was a lone shopping cart. All the others were being used or out in the parking lot and so hot, you could cook food on them. Looking up I thought at first it was one of those old style dark red soda machines, but no. It was a very large person who was laughing at me, like they knew something I didn't. They want the cart! Both me and my adversary looked at the wheeled blessing and then out to the hot flaming parking lot. Then we looked at each other. I've never, ever...

To be continued.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Why do so many rabidly hate Donald Trump?

I didn't vote for a number of presidents who won election. Maybe I should never play the lottery. I can't seem to win the great majority of time and its my understanding that this is a prerequisite for getting ahead. I cast my vote based on the preponderance of evidence, and then pray, hope, and go to bed. When I awaken, I either say, "Wow, we won!" or "Oh rats. Oh well!"

A rare development has occurred in this country concerning job availability. It now appears that if you have a peg leg, one good eye, at least 4 fingers total, and only speak one language... there is a job you can apply for and get. Yes, one report lamented that there are now more paying jobs than applicants.

Now everyone on unemployment can get a job. Every persona getting Federal assistance  can get a job that pays real dollars. All those people sitting on the couch staring at their Smartphones can now go sit in an office or operate machinery and get a pay check. Good times, right? Heck to the yes! Yeehaw! Gollygee gump, we are now rolling in opportunities to help us break free of the man. We can now call our own shots by swimming in the labor pool.

As good as this sounds, guess what? It simply does not apply to a certain faction of the unemployed. Some do not want to work, but want the unchallenged financial assistance. They want the very thing they got under Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama... a free ride. Sorry folks, but that's not how you make America great again and just one reason some hate Trump. He's going to make them earn their own pay.

Has it ever occurred to us that not everyone on the government dole thinks actually getting a job is a good idea? When they show up to prove they deserve unemployment checks because there are no jobs and are greeted with multiple opportunities to work or lose this wonderful temporary benefit, not everyone will welcome this new development.

Maybe this is why so many Democratic politicians hate Trump. He is the new hand that helps them feed them and the Liberal/Socialists don't want to relinquish control. They scream foul publicly while privately they are panicking. Evidence is everywhere.

I read today that a warning to the Hollywood crowd that their vulgar and hate-filled speech toward Trump is most likely going to have the opposite effect. “I think that they live inside this cultural bubble where they all talk among themselves and make the incredibly erroneous conclusion that the rest of the nation must think like they do,” GOP consultant John Brabender said in an interview with The Hill this week.

For the life of me I can't figure out what Trump being president has anything to do with the fantasy world these actors live in. Do they have a special pipeline translator that filters data and provides them with the real facts or what? Do they have a secret chat room they meet in and scrutinize his policies and deal the cards so they can see his heinous invisible intentions?

I wish I had a fact-based sluice box, like the one my dad made to pan for gold in the Rockies. I could sift everything I read on the news through it and get the truth, right? Well, sometimes the truth is a very small part of the overall plan or picture. Sometimes we Americans are short-sighted, not realizing world politics is a giant chess game and that a certain amount of posturing is necessary.

Please correct me right now, but in 2018 I would rather have a businessman leading the country than a professional and polished politician. We should have done this already with Ross Perot, who incidentally is a more successful businessman than DT. I do however want a leader who reflects my ideals of America, over one who wants a Socialist approach. The less government we have, the less of my tax dollars they can give away. Honest to god, our government is like a whale with a million leaches attached to it with more being invited to dine every day.

Unlike many Liberals I do not want the government in my bedroom. I will pay my taxes and obey the laws and in exchange, I want them to stay the heckfire out of my life unless there is a serious need or disaster of some sort, thank you. I want a government that serves the people, not the other way around. Our government should provide a secure and stable environment, but it is up to us to make something of it. So for me, I do not hate Donald Trump. Then again, I didn't hate Barack Obama. I just want what is best for America.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Is it okay to be patriotic?

"Patriotism or national pride is the ideology of love and devotion to a homeland, and a sense of alliance with other citizens who share the same values. This attachment can be a combination of many different features relating to one's own homeland, including ethnic, cultural, political or historical aspects. It encompasses a set of concepts closely related to those of nationalism" according to Wikipedia. I sat down and asked myself if that description fit my idea of what it means to be patriotic.

To be honest, I scratch my head and wonder if I truly share a sense of alliance with other American citizens who have the opposite values. I do indeed consider myself a 24 hour a day 7 day a week patriot even though some people on my side of the philosophical fence may see me as weak because I don't routinely break down my firearms and clean them. I don't get all teary eyed when Glock issues a 5th generation 9mm handgun either.

Being a mild history buff, I believe I have a good idea what the Constitution is telling us and the amendments. I've read the Bill of rights, but like most of us, I could use a refresher. The reason I could brush up on these important documents is simple. I feel they are safe and being upheld for the most part. Seriously. If I didn't, I would pour over those documents on a daily basis while I watched the neighborhood for anarchists (for my family's safety of course).

I truly believe in law and order and although I keep my eye open for deviant police officers, I have an inherent trust in them. I actually believe if I don't do something stupid when an officer inquires, everything will be fine and dandy. Of course I may get a ticket, but that's my reward for breaking the law. Should I blame the cop? Nope, no more than blaming the mailman when he delivers my bills.

During my 4 years in the Air Force and the almost 2 years I spent in our effort in Southeast Asia, I do not remember celebrating the 4th of July, or Memorial day, or even Veteran's day as something special. The reason was probably because our country treats holidays as a time to relax and BBQ. Everyone in the military with rank above about a Corporal, takes the day off. Well, lucky me was a Buck Sergeant, which was the Air Force's equivalent of a Corporal. Almost every enlisted person in this branch will not be promoted until after their first enlistment is over, so no holidays for you! You get to work!

Entering the civilian labor force didn't change this because I almost immediately began working for a large chemical company and once again I was at the bottom of the rank structure. This meant holidays, including the venerated 4th of July became just another day, but with premium pay and all the senior folks took off and cooked BBQ with the fam.

So, we have had a dilution of what holidays stand for, for many of the working class. What many of us have done to offset this is become real patriots who through our labor have allowed our families to enjoy the festivities while we suited up to spend the day or night shift-working. Our work ethic has promoted being a patriot through our actions. My uniform had an American flag on one shoulder and a Texas on the other. My full brim hard hat was covered in a vinyl American flag and frankly, I didn't care if anyone liked it or not. I paid my dues and I didn't have to justify why I loved this country or explain it.

Each patriotic holiday, my flag flies in front of my home and it doesn't matter who is in the White House. I refuse to argue over current perceived bumps in our leadership when it comes to my love of this country. I also will not attempt to cram my version down anyone's throat. The reason for this is I've lived in a Third World country and seen what the citizens there have and what we have here. At our worst, we still shine like a diamond.

Isn't it odd how so many people of so many different ideologies can live in harmony because we haven't lost sight of the goal of a free America? That is how it should be and I myself need to be reminded of it time to time. When it gets right down to it, you take 50 Americans who couldn't agree on anything and put them in an emergency situation and just watch how fast they pool their resources to resolve the problem.

Our diversity is our strength. Embracing it is our future.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

What is your geo-name again - revisited

A Geocaching event in Baytown, Texas

Back about 3 years ago I wrote a primer on protecting your geocaching name from defamation. Along with your log comments you are giving a snapshot of who you are. Hopefully it isn't like this: "TFTC, signed GloriousMonkeyLips".

So, here you are. You've hid a tricky series of caches on a dirt road that a contortionist couldn't traverse and you're very proud of how sneaky it is. Low and behold, the very next day a newbie cacher named GloriousMonkeyLips finds all 12 and signs each of them TFTC or KCCO, or (fill in the blank). If you are like me, you immediately pull up their profile and they haven't posted any photos or other identifying info.

Note: If you are a hardcore purist, you may even go out and climb through your caches to verify they were actually found by GML. I don't recommend this by the way. Its just a game, right? Why be so militant about it? I rarely delete a log, unless it is a duplicate and then I write the cacher to let them know why I cut it.

If you are like me you wonder who they are and especially what they look like. Another example is a seasoned cacher with thousands of finds, who you've never heard of, writes very interesting logs that are funny and alive with imagination. Again, if you are like me, you look at their profile and find hundreds of photos... but none of the author. You can't even tell if they are a man, woman, or team. I am always a bit disappointed, because I want to see this person.

Back a long time ago, I found a cache by ParkerPlus. as a newbie I remember wondering who this guy was and now, many years later, he is one of my besties. He's in his 80's and the "Yoda" of the Houston area. I don't think there is a veteran cacher who doesn't know and love Neal Parker. Neal attends a lot of events and hides a lot of caches and has for years.

I attend a good many morning events and it is surprising how I see the same people over time and am still not sure who they are. I know, its called senility in people my age, but the truth is I meet a lot of people teaching geocaching classes and I simply can't remember who is who. Now I can tell you where a pill bottle was hidden 5 years back, but who is who can be challenging. "Oh! So you are GrosslyInflamedSpiderLegs!" I would say.

Maybe the answer is to wear a name tag at events, especially if you use a cryptic geo-handle, like 382764956thb938rt8743monkeylips-from_Toledo_Texas who incidentally is not related to GloriousMonkeyLips, come to find out.

If you read my other primer, I said you can play this game for a long time gliding under the radar and no one will actually pay you much attention, but the day you hide one is the day where folks will begin to notice you. Suddenly other cachers are asking each other who you are. Now, if you are like one Deer Park, Texas geocacher named "theSneakyOne", you may well want to remain anonymous to increase the mystery, but then again, this cacher never attended an event that I know of. They did have some unorthodox caches and most lived up to their moniker. Sadly, they dropped out of the game.
For years I would drive south and find MarinPower's caches, which I enjoyed, but there were no photos of this cacher available. Imagine my surprise when I was logging a cache with my smartphone and he pulled up. We had a good chat and it was a rewarding experience. Granted, you as a cacher might enjoy your anonymity, but if you don't care one way or the other, post a photo of yourself on your profile for those of us who own caches and want to get to know you.

Sooner or later you are going to want folks to recognize you, as geocaching can be quite a social activity, so grab a stick-on label, write your geocaching name on it and slap it above your pocket. Now go to an event and shake hands. You are now well on your way to being part of the vast geocaching network!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Overcoming Our Biggest Obstacle

Life is indeed like a box of chocolates in that you never know what is on the horizon. You plan for the day when you do not have to go the office, or the company truck, or the commitment to work in a chemical plant on Christmas. Man, we have it all figured out, or at least we thought we did. I've always been told, "Do everything you want to do before you retire, because at that point, you will be physically limited. Bah humbug! Who listens to advice anyway.

Now I want to go on record and say after 15 months of a steady diet of VA visits and pills out the wahzoo, not to mention many visits to the acupuncturist and chiropractor... I was handed a clean bill of health. Not only that, but my cholesterol numbers are in the excellent category and there is no sign of colon cancer or diabetes. A full bank of blood tests reveal that I have everything in fine working order, so why my lamentation about activity?

The main obstacle I now face is you got it, the heat and humidity! Wow, where did this come from? We went from the 40's in April and early May straight into this hell? I wrote about this phenomenon about a month ago, but it needs repeating. The walkers behind my house in CV were having to get a number to walk when it was cool and now it has thinned out exponentially.

My friend Jose likes to get in his 6 miles every day and has had to resort to getting on the trail at the crack of dawn and then because the dew point is at 77, he is drenched before he crosses the first mile marker. We chatted the other day about the real villain concerning our weather and its not heat or humidity, per say. Its the danged dew point. Why don't our weather prognosticators tell us this number? Its because we are not real smart and we need the "real feel" number so we know how we are feeling.

"How you feeling fella" How on earth is being told a number tell anyone how they feel? I would rather they tell me the dew point and then I'll know exactly how I feel. Its a simple scale to be honest. If it is below 60, it feels comfortable outside even if the humidly is relatively high and the temp is in the lower 80's. Take this same temp and humidity and raise the dew point to 71 and it feels oppressive and uncomfortable outside. Remember in early May when it was 83 outside and we had a wind? Yup, you almost needed a light jacket and that is because the dew point was very low.

By the way, this morning the weather person is going to flash maps and wavy illusions on the screen and tell you it is 78 degrees outside, with a slight wind and 88% humidity. The humidity sounds a bit high, but the temp is below 80, so with the dab of wind, it should feel good, right? Wait a second, the real Feel temp is 87! This is because the danged dew point is 75 and that means it feels oppressive. Can it get worse?  Yes, raise the DP to 76+ and now it feels miserable.

So, what can a poor boy do except go to an air conditioned gym to sweat with the other retired people? You could say, "Well, I'll just wait to cut the grass at 6pm when it isn't as hot, but guess what? The DP is going to be right where it started and that means you are going to sweat like a proverbial stoolie.

So, I have the clean bill of health, so lets take off real quick like and do something entertaining, right? Well, this is where aging once again pulls tricks on you. Back in the day, you would simply walk out to your car and blast off. Now days leaving means grabbing your phone, wallet/purse, bathroom visit, bottle of vitamin water, making sure you have your meds, and the list goes on and on until you plop down in your comforter and order pizza.
While you are waiting for the grub to arrive, you decide to check the mail and by the time you get back into the house, you are drenched. I remember spending a week in Wyoming back in 1986. The month was September and up there it was often cold enough that you had to be careful. We flew back into Houston and our first impression was the smell of mildew and this was September. To new arrivals, Houston smells like spores and fungi and stuff that is disgusting.

"How do youse guys handle this heat?" One fellow from Pennsylvania asked? "Easy, we stay inside for 4 months." was my answer and it was pretty much the truth. Now don't take me wrong; I prefer heat over cold, but this combination of moist air and high temperature can really dampen the old adventure spirit. This is why come July, most of us who garden have pretty much given up trying to keep everything perfect. Now we are just trying to survive. "Well, the tamaters are gone! They died of heat exhaustion. There's always next year."

Thursday, June 21, 2018

This tariff business ain't going away

I read Steve Showalter's opinion piece in Wednesday's Sun and I posted a comment in response. If you recall he is qualified as a government professor at Lee College. Seeing that I have a 9th grade education, I quickly ciphered he does not work as a government agent, but actually instructs on how our government works, right? I mean you can't jump to conclusions anymore; that's racist, or misogynist, or something. Oh I'm being intentionally silly, but for a reason and my apologies to Professor Showalter for including him in that nonsense.

He made some astute and accurate assertions and I appreciate that. Tariff's are a sticky wicket, as the Brits say and as old as the ancient trade routes. International rules of trade are almost sacred in some respects and way beyond my understanding for the most part. He cited the negative  impact of raising the tariff on aluminum and steel with Canada and Europe and how prices will rise. I didn't see any comparison on the negative impact Europe and Canada places on the USA when it comes to our dairy and other products. Tariff on milk products coming from the US to Canada is over 250%. To be sure, we have a major trade deficit no matter how it is interpreted by the reader.                             

And speaking of steel, didn't US Steel have a giant facility here until they could no longer compete with foreign steel? You suppose it had something to do with egregious tariff policies? The metal for the Fred Hartman bridge didn't come out of Beach city folks, but if I remember correctly, it was shipped all the way here from Apartheid South Africa after a deal with a Mexican company fell through.

I suggested in my letter to the Prof that all countries drop all tariffs and start over. This of course isn't going to happen and the reason is everything is interconnected and changing one tariff level would cripple other deals and some of them are very old. Remember the delicate balance of trade between India, China, and Japan a couple of hundred years ago? It was all about silver, opium, and tea.

"The structure of the Western trade with China was based on silver and colonial products from India and the Malay archipelago, like silver, cotton, pepper, lead. These commodities were exchanged for Chinese tea, silk and porcelain by the mediation of the so-called Hong trades. As long as the trade structure was kept in balance the Westerners were able to make large profits and commercial relations remained the same. When the trade structure fell out of balance through, for instance, a shortage of silver or the prohibition of opium smuggling, the Western powers resorted to force."

Tariffs can and have led to embargoes and hostilities. It's the old sticky wicket again and sure, adjusting them to favor the USA is going to ruffle international feathers and dip into our wallets. I get it. I am also willing to sweat it out as prices rise and eventually fall back to a safe place. Its going to happen and its going to be uncomfortable for a spell, but if it means a balance in our trade deficit, then I think most Americans would rather eat from the tree every year, than watch the fruit disappear because we gave it all away.

The fat cats that call the global shots and finance wars do not care anything about country borders. They don't give a flip that you have a home in Baytown or that you hold certain ideals sacred. They give you the same amount of consideration as the African bushman or the indigenous people of the Amazon. Their goal is global everything, so a little stirring of the pot is fine with them. Rest assured, world movement of goods will continue. The global economy will survive just like it did when wars, disease, and natural disasters disrupted it. Our world planners are master shape-shifters with a very long range agenda.

I can't help but believe that if the economy would be like it is right now under Obama, the very people who are vehemently screaming foul would be waving his banner and back-slapping each other with rabid abandonment. This is why in my opening paragraph, I joked about Mr. Showalter's government status and his final paragraph that "The real problem facing the American worker is lack of education and training." He adds that tariff's won't fix this very real problem. He is 100% correct on this in my opinion.

Over the last 20 years we have outsourced everything including our knowledge of how to perform certain tasks. Legitimate Mexican immigrants have so many skills Americans lack and unfortunately, we are incarcerating the very people who know how to do things we've forgotten, but that is another subject, isn't it? The answer is trade schools and hands on training for Americans.

This current administration has vowed to make America great again, but it is not going to be handed to us on a silver platter. It sure isn't going to help when the opposition spends a great deal of its time and energy on derailing it. How about we join forces and actually work together to make America great again? There's room for both of us at the table.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

2,000 Immigrant Children Have Been Separated From Parents?

BB's take:  Watching numerous TV news channels this morning, I noticed that they are dropping one word from their reporting which would change the national perception of the separation of family issue. That word is "illegal or illegally".

What is not being reported is mention that the parents have entered the country illegally and this makes the US Government look like the bad guy separating innocent children from their parents. As word spreads people will stop breaking our immigration laws because they will realize they will be treated as a criminal. This especially applies to those who are brought in by coyotes, by crossing a fence, swimming a river, or using a tunnel.

Sorry moms, but this is not really about the children. It is about illegal entry into this country. You do it, you are a criminal and criminals are not allowed to bring their children to jail with them.

Solution? Stop coming into this country illegally.

More misleading news: "2,000 children separated from parents in six weeks under Trump policy"  

The truth?  "To be clear, there is no official Trump policy stating that every family entering the US without papers has to be separated. What there is is a policy that all adults caught crossing into the US illegally are supposed to be criminally prosecuted — and when that happens to a parent, separation is inevitable."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Contributing to our city is a group effort

This is a modern day perception of Baytown in general.
Gene Schdrader's letter to the editor is an eye-opener about perception. It is an example of how one Baytown citizen sees our image and how our city stewards spend our tax dollars. "Two hundred and seventy thousand dollars is a lot of money for Baytown to spend on a sign saying “Welcome to Baytown.” I know the state gave us the money but where did the state get the money? That’s right - us taxpayers."

It is indeed a lot of money. I had the same thought and then this one: "Maybe I could have bid $260,000!" However, I believe there is more in play here than a quarter million tax dollars. It's called tourism and our city is working very hard to fulfill the wishes of the Strategic Planning Advisory Committee in that we beautify our city through park improvements, landscaping, adding new roads and widening others, not to mention litter abatement. In many ways I feel like my tax dollars are being well represented. I say this because I ask the right people a lot of questions and move about the city and observe.

Old Baytown Sign from the 1940's.
Mr. Schdrader then goes on with what appears to be unqualified speculation about ownership of certain properties, which if I read it right are in Chambers County and not in the city limits and suggests "some important person" has thrown a stick in the spokes to keep it just as trashy and environmentally unlawful as Mr. Schdrader suggests. "Sounds to me like a safety hazard and an environmental hazard, where does all the polluted water go when it rains – in Cedar Bayou."

We have a good number of dilapidated buildings (like every other city) that would enhance peoples image of Baytown if they were gone. Myself, I contribute daily by picking up trash everywhere I go. Its a start and maybe if each of us spent more time working on what could improve our city, then we would have less time to gripe about what is wrong.

Notice all the trees Texas DOT is planting in the entire Houston area? They are attempting to give visitors a better view than Chemical  Plants, auxiliary services, and tire shops along the highways. It is working in other states also and that is why Texas as a whole is trying to improve our image as more than an oil producing city/state. What our city needs more than angry-sounding letters accusing people of making bad financial decisions and wild speculation about graft, are suggestions for improvement.

Years ago in the chemical industry I embraced, I would identify a problem area and then before I started pointing fingers, I tried to find a plausible solution. I am still doing this with our city government. If you want action on come city problem, create a paper trail. Write email messages to your council person so you can prove you are trying to help. " You can catch more flies with honey..." honey! Be nice. Make suggestions and follow up on them via your paper trail. I ask direct questions at times when dealing with people in charge, but I make sure to write it. They know I will quote them exactly (not interpret what they said and then write that).

It takes a village to run a village. The last thing we need is doubting Thomas' who only sees the negatives. My suggestion to Mr. Schdrader is to photograph said property and do a little research to see if it can be cleaned up. Then and only then will this specific eyesore be remediated. Maybe 10 years ago I published North Main's Dirty Dozen on and it was picked up by the Houston Chronicle. I cited code violations on businesses with descriptions and photos and all involved sign and landscaping violations. Needless to say it got immediate attention and was remedied in every instance.

Let me be clear that I am not criticizing Mr. Schdrader; I am offering a solution to his frustration, which I fully understand. We can baby-step our way into a truly Beautiful Baytown if we work together to solve its many problems or we can angrily question why no one is doing anything right. Its simply going to be a group effort to be successful.

Council response: 

Good Morning Bert,

Thank you for your editorial today.  It was good. 

As an added thought on the gateway, we want to put this there so people entering our city will know where and what community they are coming into.  We have one of these on the west side, south side and now will have one on the east side of town.  In addition, there are a lot of people referring to this corner as being in Mont Belvieu.  Its not Mont Belvieu and Walmart used to announce "Welcome to the Mont Belvieu Walmart", that is until I talked to the Manager to correct him on where he was and who was involved with getting this Walmart location on the ground (it wasn't Mont Belvieu).  So we will now have a nice attractive gateway to welcome people into Baytown.  And by the way, the city limit is the farthest north curb at the intersection on the north side of I-10 feeder road side.  In fact, all of the feeder road on the north side of I-10 is in the City of Baytown (it goes east past the intersection about 100 ft. I believe).

Oh, one other thing.  The BMX did not make the cut for year 2018 list but is still on my list and will propose again in this budget session.

Thank you,
Robert C. Hoskins
Baytown City Council - Distr. 5

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Vacation done good Texas style!

The Gristmill Restaurant in Gruene, Texas! (Pronounced Green)

I recently spent 4 days with my family relaxing near the Hill country. Its a different world and a welcome change from our fast-paced lives. Is Canyon Lake considered the Hill Country? There are hills there. After nearly 50 years of living on the flat, a hill of 20 feet is a challenge to my old legs.

We arrived in Luling on a Sunday and grabbed some authentic Texas grub at Luling BBQ and it was excellent. When we realized City Market was closed, we were going to detour up to Lockhart to Blacks, but stopped in town and we were not disappointed. I like BBQ, but I do not have a discretionary palate, so good tender BBQ tastes like great BBQ to me. This was explained to me years ago by a foodie friend named BBQBob. Only a select few can truly rate top tier food and I am not one of them. Luling BBQ to me was a top tier food stop.

As an example of tastes, I eat my fried chicken from Hartz over Popeye's because it tastes better to me. If it is actually better is a personal choice, but I question if Hartz would be on a foodies list of the best tasting chicken in Baytown. Speaking of amazing tasting food, we ate twice at a Mexican restaurant in Canyon Lake named Las Barcus Tex-Mex Grill and yes, it was delicious. I think my dearly departed foodie friend BBQBob would agree.
Deer were everywhere and we spent hours watching them feed. This activity kept the attention of my 4 year old grandson to the point that he and I sat of the back porch of our rented house for over an hour and neither of us spoke a word. It was dead quiet as they ate the corn we provided and when the central A/C unit kicked on below us, it caused us both to jump. We laughed for 5 minutes over our unexpected scare and we continued our silent vigil. It was a magic moment of bonding. A 65 year old man and a tiny child of 4 laughing over a shared malady is truly a magical memory. Incidentally, my 49 inch tall 4 year old turned 5 while we were there. I'll be 66 in about a week or so.

I've never drove a jet ski until this trip and at first, I had to unlearn how to drive a motorcycle in order to be successful. A jet ski steers by turning the handlebars – a real no-no on a motorcycle. I kept trying to lean the machine like you do on a motor bike. Nope, it doesn't work. By the time I figured it out, I was going airborne at 40 miles per hour in the middle of the lake. What a hoot!

The Guadalupe River was at a very low flow rate, but we still floated the Horseshoe Loop and it took 2 hours, for those who have done it in less than an hour. It was wonderfully peaceful and the temperature of the water wasn't as brutal. The giant bald cypress trees above us were magical. Just incredible feathery foliage towering above us for our viewing pleasure.

My grandson and I even found time to locate a few geocaches in Gruene! He turned 5 while we were there and we kept it a secret so we can give him a big party back in Baytown!

Back at our rental house, we continued to deer watch and believe it or not, in 3 days, we fed them over 100 pounds of corn. Some may think this is not a good idea, but it is a common practice here. All we knew was they gave us endless hours of entertainment. It is a good thing to kick back and relax in a different environment. Hopefully it is just one of many adventures in store for us this weekend and all of them will be in Texas.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

You can't get there from here?

Who would believe it could take almost 30 minutes to drive from Toys Are Us to my dentist on Ward Road? Its a true story. Maybe this is why on the customer survey, transportation ills are at the top of the list. Now I won't blame Garth Road entirely for this particular trip, as it was an unfortunate mixture of mishaps and traffic lights that caused it, besides, there is no direct route to our destination.

I've been an aggressive soul all my life and like I've mentioned many times, the fastest way to attract my unwanted attention is to do something in a car that is... well, stupid. I could say the offending driver is unintelligent, ignorant, dense, foolish, dull-witted, slow, simpleminded, vacuous, vapid, idiotic, imbecilic, obtuse, doltish... or just plain distracted. Incidentally, I have used every one of these words to describe said offenders at one time or another. I was forced to because I don't curse, swear, or use profanity, but believe me, my passionate description borders on those.

I even got very self-righteous when we were on a road trip with a semi-truck congested superhighway. I banged the steering wheel and yelled out to my bride, "They are using our roads for commerce!" I wanted all those trucks to get off the road so I could use it for vacation travel. Of course I wasn't serious... not completely. Have you ever noticed the amount of trucks on I-10? Its astounding and sometimes scary. I think the midday traffic is worse in this regard because the vehicles are usually moving faster.

The other morning we left for the gym and I swear we observed 3 different occurrences of stupid behavior before we got out of our subdivision. One car ran the stop sign. The next drove below the speed limit down E. Baker to Barkuloo Road on the wrong side of the road. The third tail-gated us the distance the car in front of us took to get from point A to B.

My bride appears to not notice these details and maybe that is why she has perfect blood pressure. Never mind, I am happy to expound on each and every one of them. I assure her, I do it for educational purposes only. Let me make it clear that I am not in rage and the one reason is I live a controlled life, but the real reason is I do not understand why people are driving so poorly. Are they simply distracted, or just sloppy in most other ways they live life? I have the same conclusion about litter bugs. Does the inside of their house reflect their trashy ways? I don't want to find out. I just want them to stop.

A real downside to living in Texas is almost all of it is private property. There is no place to take a relaxing drive. You can't just pull off on some dirt road and drive your ATV, side by side, 4-wheeler, dune buggy, or Jeep for fun, so the public roads become our playground. Modern Sunday drivers are everywhere either doing 80 mph, or tail-gaiting you at 35.

Now gas is creeping up and probably won't stop at the $3 mark. My solution is to not drive as much. I am boycotting the higher prices and we've collectively done this in the past until there is a glut in the market. I do predict that the cost of gas will have no effect on the distracted drivers and with my reduced driving, I won't see them as often.

My next question is how come there are so many people on the road during normal business hours? It seems like back in the day after the morning traffic ended, the roads were fairly open. When did that stop? I made an error in judgment when I drove down to Crystal Beach a couple of Sunday mornings ago to geocache and to look at some of the Jeeps that were attending the yearly top off event.

This was a mistake on my part because there must have been 10,000 vehicles trying to get across the Boliver ferry, or make their way back to SH-124. After finding the last geocache 22 miles down the peninsula, it took me 2.5 hours to get to the High Island metroplex. Other than being speed throttled, it was a peaceful 8 mph hour drive. Driverless cars are the only answer outside of a catastrophe of some sort. Its inevitable and my blood pressure will welcome them with open arms. If you can think of a viable solution to all of this craziness, I am all ears.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Weather, whether, wither, or whatever

Is there anything more consistently misrepresented than the weather? For ages it has been asserted that the weather person has the most secure job in the world. The reason being is they almost never get it totally right for where we are and yet, they remain employed. A 50% chance of rain could either mean it will be sunny all day, or bring a deluge worthy of Noah and his big wooden boat full of animal pairs.

In a grocery line the other day I was reminded that the weather has been unpredictable for as long as history has been recorded and also possibly predicted impending doom or even the end of the world. I wonder if the folks in Hawaii are thinking this very thing right now. Or how about the incredible fires that swept through California this past year?

I don't want to get into the whole hurricane flooding thing, as for many are still living in a cardboard box in our driveway, or a van down by the river. The weather really uckedsay this past year for many, if you will forgive my Pig Latin.

I hate hurricanes and tropical storms. I remember after Hurricane Ike, I drove west on I-10 and it wasn't until I got to Columbus 100 miles west that I didn't see evidence of its fury. I remarked that this would be a great place to live. Of course I would never move there as they simply do not need or want a Columbus Bert disturbing them. Besides, I love it here, whether I wither in the heat or whatever.

The weather predictors actually do a good job of predicting Houston's moist weather, but not ours. They cannot accurately predict the effect our 7 bays is going to do here, unless a storm is so big that it blankets the entire large area surrounding Houston. This has become a joke with my friends who drive to Baytown for a geocaching event. The weatherman predicts severe storms in the Houston area and they stay home. Meanwhile, those of us who assemble to hike in the woods or whatever, enjoy sunshine and little or no rain.

I tell them Baytown has a micro-climate due to the waterways around us. Storms come in out of the Gulf and hit Alvin and head west toward Sugar Land and abruptly turn north straight for Jersey Village. For some reason, it turns for Greenspoint and heads east passing north of us on I-10 before hitting Winnie in a boomerang movement. It has happened so many times that I don't understand why it hasn't been noted. This is how tropical storm Allison did H-Town. Some places on the west side got 36 inches of rain and here at the Orbiting Command Ship Central, we only got 9 inches.

Another issue I have with the way weather is predicted, or explained to us is RealFeel. "The RealFeel Temperature is an index that describes what the temperature really feels like. It is a unique composite of the effects of temperature, wind, humidity, sunshine intensity, cloudiness, precipitation and elevation on the human body--everything that affects how warm or cold a person feels". I reckon we are all too stupid to do the math that 95 degree heat and 90% humidity is going to really feel yucky.

When did we educated American people become too mentally slow that we need everything interpreted for us? It has reached the point that a lot of people believe we have 100% humidity all the time, which is simply not true. I would rather they gave us the real temperature and the humidity factor, or pushing the envelope, the dew point. While the way they arrive at the dew point is complicated, the scale is not.

If the dew point goes above 61, it starts to become sticky and by 66 it is going to be uncomfortable. 71-75 is our normal hot Summer mornings when the air feels oppressive, even though it is 75 degrees outside. 76+ DP is miserable. There. That's all it takes and if the weather people began pushing this scale, it would give us a better understanding than them trying tell us how we RealFeel. RealFeel is a poor attempt to explain how we will feel outside in my opinion. Anyway, the next time someone complains about the weather, just nod in agreement. How do they know how it makes you feel anyway?


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.

It can only happen while shopping!

As the big man is my witness, every word of this is unquestionable and void of hyperbolic incredibility. With that taken into consid...