Thursday, August 16, 2018

If this house is rockin', don't come a-knockin'

 I don't think I am alone when it comes to uninvited guests suddenly appearing at my door. Gone are the days where people opened their front door to strangers. If you haven't heard, this is the new hospitality. With a few exceptions, I will welcome you to my front door under a couple or few conditions.

One, if you are family (and we are not fighting). Two if you are a neighbor in need (and I have to recognize you as such). I say this because these days a person can live 2 houses down and you never see them face to face. This would seem odd that a person can live close by for 8 years and you have never talked to them, but that is why the old rules are obsolete. People drive in from work and pull into their garage and close the door. You may see them leave to grab a bite to eat, or to drive to work the next day, but no one waves because we don't know each other.

Three, I will welcome you to my door if you call first. Apparently this is not an obvious consideration. Four, if by chance you do call, be punctual. Arrive when you say you will arrive. From the time I was a teen old enough to catch a ride with a buddy, I have hated standing by the front door waiting for my friend who is "on my way". After an hour of standing on first one foot than the other, they finally arrive even though they live 5 minutes away.

An exception to these rules are children accompanied by their parents selling cookies/candy as a fund raiser. I have also opened my door for scavenger hunting teens.

Back in the day before all rules changed, visitors were acutely aware they were visiting. Punctuality still applies believe it or not. If you show up to visit, be aware that your host might not be keen on you burning up 3 hours while you wait for the next folks to get home, so you can surprise them with a cordial visit.

If you are selling something (or swearing you are not selling something), I won't open my door. Sorry, times have changed. Like my dad used to say when a salesman came to the door, "I wasn't shopping". I really won't give you consideration if you want to argue that I should listen to your sales spiel. The same goes for the salesman attempting to gain entrance via the telephone.

The telephone is the modern day salesman at your front door tactic. I would like to think all of us know this, but the programs and robotic voices are getting more difficult to detect. The latest one sounds like a human and calls from "Dealer Services". Dealer services? Really? That is all the better they can do? I blatantly asked them what they were dealing. "Dope, drugs?" I asked and yelled out to my bride, "Honey, I have a drug dealer on the phone," and then hung up. I don't know if the robot responded as I wasn't shopping.

Here is the real poop on this whole front door thing. My home is my sanctuary. Please see it as such. Don't make me install a moat and a draw bridge; just take the hint. If you want to visit, give me a ring. We all have phones strapped to the sides of our head, so I will answer, or not. The "or not" is a subtle message that I will call later or never. If no one answers, don't come over. I may be sun worshiping my pale body with a mankini on in the back yard. I may be in a bad mood and bite at you and that's why I don't answer the door. Yes, sometimes I am anti-social to the point I simply don't want company.

In this complicated time of political and racial unrest, my home and yard are where I go to avoid conflict. If a casual visitor would like to join me, I simply ask that they warn me first. Is that weird, or am I just an old fossil that is not in step with the slippery times? I am not in a bad mood, give me a call. I may answer.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Ball of confusion revisited

I proclaimed for many years that we as a country would never experience the level of unrest we faced in the 1960's... but I was wrong and it is getting worse. I first noticed it on the federal level when it appeared no elected official was concerned with anything other than keeping their lofty aerie secure. Every action was meant either to further their career, or attack the opposite party and members. Never mind that privately they sit down and dine together and giggle like love-struck teens. Maybe that is what good politics is all about; I don't want to know. I just want all the fighting to stop. Its childish and frankly, embarrassing.

I read today that the Republican party is running scared because they may lose some seats to Democrats and I thought, "What's the difference?" The Republican's for the most part won't support their own Republican President because he won't play ball the way the other two parties like to play. None of the incumbents care how many of the opposite party occupy a position as long as they don't lose theirs. Business as usual will continue and it appears it matters not to any of their ilk if the country goes to hell in a hand basket.

After Hurricane Harvey flooded us, everyone regardless of their political views now realize rain/flood abatement is the most important issue and we want politicians that make it the number one priority. Handling the many important issues like security, education, veterans benefits, Social security, Medicare/Medicaid, and immigration should be what we are reading in the news, not looking for Jimmy Hoffa's shadow. I can't hardly bear to listen to the news in rapidly disappearing 2018.

Networks and publishers keep the whole country in a massive state of confusion clouding anything that will actually benefit the true citizens of this great country. I'm sick of it, but then there is state, county, and even city level squabbling going on and this is why I think it is worse than when we were in the Vietnam War, seeing the president and his brother and Martin being gunned down, race riots, and the expanding drug culture that defined the 1960's.

I never thought I would again see so much confusion, but guess what? Its here baby. All we need now is to witness our Senate and Congress get into a mass fist fight and we can all check off living in a Third World Country from our bucket list.

"People movin' out, people movin' in. Why, because of the color of their skin. Run, run, run, but you sho' can't hide. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Vote for me and I'll set you free." Yeah, they will set you free alright, just like affordable health care. What a shocker that was for all those who giddily help get it into law. There are no free lunches and the sooner people wean themselves off the government teat, the sooner they will truly be free.

"Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation. Ball Of confusion that's what the world is today. The sale of pills is at an all time high, young folks walkin' 'round with their heads in the sky. Cities aflame in the summer time, and oh the beat goes on. Eve of destruction, tax deduction, City inspectors, bill collectors, Evolution, revolution, gun control, the sound of soul, Shootin' rockets to the moon, kids growin' up too soon. Politicians say more taxes will solve ev'rything, and the band played on." Incidentally, these lyrics were published over 45 years ago.

Right here in Baytown, we have the school Board debacle which is dividing the city. We have a firefighter under the microscope over insurance eligibility and its my understanding whatever happens here could have national repercussions. It's as if no one can be happy. Now my friend and veteran law enforcement professional has tragically taken his own life.

Whatever happened to Mom, baseball, and apple pie? How about opening the door at the Post Office and let a few people through for starters? Maybe push a grocery cart in from the parking lot instead of grabbing one at the door? Charity starts at home and if we are truly going to make America a place that is what we all want, then all of us need to pitch in a little. We need to contribute, not argue. Stop fighting and work on solutions.

I want to offer my deepest condolences to Stewart Beasley's family, coworkers, and his many friends.

Note: Lyrics The Temptations - Ball of confusion

Thursday, August 02, 2018

My pain in the neck saga

In March of 2017, I suffered with what was diagnosed as spinal stenosis and for clarity, I'll add the definition. "Spinal stenosis in the neck is a common source of chronic pain that is caused by a gradual narrowing of nerve pathways in the cervical (upper) spine." I awoke with a stiff neck and 4 hours later, it was blinding pain. I learned a lot about pain from this malady.

I wrote about it before so there is no sense beating my neck against a dead horse. To sum up the journey since this prognosis is easy. I took a lot of pills. Pain pills which barely took the edge off, followed by massive treatments of steroids. Then my blood pressure spiked dangerously high to the point that I was living on the edge of a stroke. This went on for months and no matter what I did or ate or drank, it stayed up around 180/110.

I went from being on blood pressure medicine to taking 13 pills a day. I finally said stop and I did. I went cold turkey for a month and opted for acupuncture, which of course is alternative medicine. I experienced instant results and after the first treatment, I could actually turn my head side to side. Have you ever tried to drive a car without turning your head to check behind or beside you? It is challenging, as you have to turn your entire body to see.

You do not feel the needles; they are that small. What a difference it made and it sure beat sitting in a waiting room with all the sick people. I went 2 times a week and with each visit, I became more flexible and was slowly moving away from the constant pain. I used Fusion Acupuncture & Holistic Healthcare off the North 610 loop.

I now wanted to try and realign my spine and through the VA, I requested a chiropractor. They sent me to San Jacinto chiropractic on Massey Tompkins which suited me just fine. It sure beat a 30 mile one way drive to the VA. While on about my 8th treatment, I came to learn that Dr. Lindberg had been tragically killed in a car accident. I was making excellent progress and was transferred to a chiropractor in La Porte named Victor Peres. I finished my allotted treatments under his skillful techniques. At this point, pain was not really the issue. It was learning to live with stenosis and what I could and couldn't do.

I am most likely never going to be neck injury free and I have some days where my neck lets me know I over did it yesterday. Most all of it is self-inflicted I might add. You and I are probably on the same page as all of us have an issue of some kind and the point of this column is not really about my particular injury, as much as it is my quest to use alternative medicine rather than taking a fistful of pills.

Bill Daley has been after me for months to try reflexology and I finally agreed to 4 treatments. Bill also does bee sting and honey therapy and I may try that next. Bill treated his wife for many years with reflexology and the stings and I think he told me over the years, he had stung her 40,000 times. He has the exact number recorded of every sting of all his many visitors.

So, after 4 treatments, I have arrived at a very favorable conclusion. Reflexology deals with the manipulation of your hands and feet through pressure and massage. Bill explained everything in detail and gave me laminated cards to keep for reference. The first treatment was 2 hours and the others were more like 1.5 hours. He doesn't like to do them until 3 full days have passed since the last one.

During the first treatment, I was very aware of every squeeze and massage point. Some hurt, some didn't, but none of it was really painful. He can feel stuff there that he knows will hurt and you simply confirm it as he draws conclusions about what he is affecting. Push here for your pituitary gland. Push there for your colon. All of it is pressure on your hands and feet.

The next evening, I looked in the mirror and I was as red as if I had suntanned. It was very noticeable. I also slept like a log and I was very thirsty. Now I lived in Missouri, the show me state and I don't do so well when someone tries to use The Force on me or some other trickery, but I truly felt better. On top of that, my bowels appeared to work better and have now for the last 3 weeks.

This past Monday I had the 4th treatment and I all but fell asleep in the massage lounger I sat in. I was no longer concerned with what exactly he was doing and it magnified my experience. I have now scheduled my bride for 4 sessions, even though she swears she doesn't need it. I want her to make that statement after 4 sessions. Most of us recognize the benefits of a real massage, so why would we have an issue with deep tissue massage of the hands and feet? Like I learned in acupuncture, the person administering the technique is sending a cry for help for the brain to release healing hormones to the area they've targeted.

Or you can simply take a pill and then another pill (to counter the side effects of the 1st pill) and then take another pill. Or you can look up Bill Daley at the corner of East Baker and Barkuloo and give it a go. After all, why live in pain and misery if there's alternatives?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Rest of the Story

 If you remember, I was in a bit of a pickle last week when I ran out of paper. If you don't remember my pickle, then you'll just have to make up your own version and then read on. To recap, I was down on my face at this giant retail joint on Garth Road. After having both of my high-top tennie's ripped off my feet by purple bubble gum, I rapidly re-shoed and faced possibly the gravest danger of my adventure-filled life.

Here a week later, my ears are still ringing and my right eye hasn't focused properly, but I can still remember the dark red apparition of what first appeared to be a red cola machine. I want to inform I read a lot of science fiction and in my defense it was blazing hot, but every word I write is real. Apparently there was about to be a showdown over who gets the closest shopping cart and ignoring the fact that I consider myself a gentleman toward the fairer sex, I secretly relished the idea of out sprinting the shape shifting leviathan.

I also forgot the many parables Don Cunningham has taught us, because I planned to fight dirty (Seriously Dandy, is there really any other way to put a whooping on someone?). I remember my dear dad's advice that the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line as I launched toward the lone cart. I was rapidly gaining possession when out of nowhere, a full unopened can of diet soda struck me in the one place no man can tolerate.  My wallet. It was as if she tried to turn me aside, but I was on to her and redoubled my caloric burn by waving my arms and whooping it up.

She must of had an 18 pack of those danged diet sodas because they came at me like a Claymore mine explosion. Furthermore, she somehow managed to out pace me while chucking the dangerous liquid projectiles. Now I'm no physics student, but I did excel at physical education and I had a few tricks of my own. Just as we both reached the lone cool-handled cart, I leapt. One keen-eyed observer later described me as "looking like Evel Knievel without a scooter" crash landing into a giant red circus elephant.

Years ago I fell backwards out of a deer stand in Hondo, Texas and landed on solid rock. That is probably very similar to what I felt when I pile-drove into her massive gut.  Have you ever heard the term midriff bulge? Well, this time I was the bulge and I was in the battle. The whale of a fighter began to spin like an Olympic shot-putter and by the 3rd revolution, she grunted like a 400 pound feral hog, relaxed her navel, and flung me into the stack of boxed Cheerios outside the store. "Thank the Lord, I'm alive," I yelled and staggered to my feet only to sit down hard and drool on the cement.

My saving grace was she lost her balance and fell behind the stacks of bottled water and had her head wedged between the building and the wooden pallet, leaving her seated part exposed. Now I know a good target when I see one and even though inside my head it sounded like 16 cicadas were running a wood chipper, I was going to exact a kilo of flesh as payback AND take the cart, which I deserve.

Now here is the truth, the hole truth (as I now refer to it). I squared off and with a kick Morten Andersen would be proud of, I launched my infamous Punt Pass and Kick shot at her corpulence. With over 40 spectators present and all of them standing in the hot sun, I literally, figuratively, and magically hit a hole in one.

The beluga of a cart-stealing woman let out a bellow that set off every car alarm in the expansive parking lot and the sprinklers inside the store. What pandemonium! What cacophony!  What lungs! What and how do I extract my foot? At about this time, some one must have ran over a sewer main because there was a sudden wind and the most horrid odor released to the hemisphere. Thankfully I broke free, ears ringing, clothes charred, and gasping for air, I grabbed the handle of the cart thinking I had moved to the next level in this drama. Nope. Not to be. There was one final move by my antagonist that I never suspected.

I sensed the overbearing presence of the massive cart robber upon me and such was the force behind the push I was shoved to the ground like a child. Summoning the last of my might, I reached out and grabbed her by the ankle and pulled. Yes, she got away, but I will never forget the day I pulled her leg... and yours.

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

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