Thursday, September 14, 2017

A most welcomed epiphany

Sometimes things come to us at the oddest of times.  A thought, a word, a television program, a lyric, or something someone says. This thought came to me in my evening shower. I was soaping down in my usual military way, which means I have no wasted moves. I soap down and rinse off... period. In and out in under 4 minutes tops and I have no reason or desire to change that.

However, today it was different. It was as if I received a special message or understanding; an epiphany if you will. I suddenly understood that most conclusions I arrive at are the product of living and experiencing a wide range of conclusions based on my 65 years. Sounds almost obvious if you stand back and look at it, but guess what? There's more and that is the marvel of it all.

Each second of every day we are hurtling through the space time continuum and each of us are in a separate place from those around us. For instance my bride, although at my side, is 7 years behind me in this plane of existence. The things it has taken me 65 years to understand, she won't really comprehend for 7 more years.

Now wait a dang minute Bert, you are reaching out into the cosmos there with some kind of Neil Tyson Gegrasse mumbo jumbo!  Maybe, but maybe not. To be sure, many of the things and thoughts we share we have learned and transferred back and forth, but following the rule that experience is the best teacher, I have 7 years of experience she (and others her age) have not yet been exposed to and that was the epiphany.

This beautiful woman married me September 16th, 1977 and Pastor L. S. Marcus tied the knot and he tied it tight. She was an innocent 17 year old girl and I, a worldly 25 year old man who had served 2 tours in the nasty confrontation in South East Asia. In many ways, I was almost a father figure to her without realizing it and only through many years of living together has it became apparent to me that I should be more of a husband and lover, than an instructor.

To this day I am very protective of her, but not in a jealous way. She is my number one priority in life and I can't imagine living without her. Life would lose meaning for me. It would open a fissure in my space time continuum and I would fall in. I'm honest in saying, I may not survive the fall. 40 years is a long time to suddenly have the light of your life extinguished. I want her to live my 7 years and then pass me at least 8 or more.

My revelation is more than what I have experienced with my bride, but carries over into many other facets of life. Someone once said that 99% of genius is correcting mistakes and trying again and again. Oh, that was me. It is my standard answer when I explain how I can repair computers. The mistakes are mine and I keep adjusting until I get the answer, but isn't that a pretty good explanation of how we should deal with life?

I constantly sift information and refuse to fall into a groove, which is basically a casket with the ends knocked out. I have a lot more to give and who better to give it to than the people I encounter? There is no greater mission in life than investing in people. I wish for the life of me that I could have warned Crystal Dowell what was coming her way when I talked to her in Spin class, but I didn't know. We all walk a precarious path and I do not want to waste one moment when it comes to lifting up a friend.

I admire people like Ken Pridgeon and Don Cunningham who are devoting their life to edifying anyone who will listen. They received the gift of the epiphany long before I did. People are our biggest investment. Don't set your sights on accumulation of stuff that doesn't matter. It won't mean anything down the road, as we have learned. People's lives are what matters. People.

The woman in the grocery store looking at the different cans of Wolf brand chili I talked to the other day. Her life matters. The garbage men I gave the cold Coke to - their life matters. The young couple, Preston and Tina Masichuk who are moving into their new house in Mont Belvieu with their two babies.  Yea, I was glad to have to a chance to rub shoulders with.  Every person counts.

My 65 years of experiences can be utilized for good or cynicism and it is up to me to make that choice.  Boy, what an epiphany! 

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Finally, weather we can love

I love hot weather. I love the sun. Unfortunately, my skin is spotted in places to prove my affection for the golden orb. On a side note, I guess I am an idiot for ignoring the advice to stay out of the sun so much, but that is that. Two winters in Montana taught me that the sun is my friend. We have had a hot summer and if it were not for the humidity that comes with it, I wouldn't mind the 80 degree nighttime temperatures.

For years I've watched our nighttime temps and knew that when they failed to drop into the upper 70's by morning, it was going to be almost unbearably hot the following day. Thank the Lord that during Harvey our temps stayed in the 70's, unlike Hurricane Alicia, where all of us cooked for days and weeks afterward. It's a small silver lining to some, I agree.

I'm a person who over the years has had a revelation that moderation in almost every facet of life results in a pleasantness, I never knew existed.  I don't want it too hot and I don't like it too cold. I suspect as I ripen, the too cold side is going to slowly edge higher on the temp scale.

I remember interviewing Lindsey "Zeb" Wilcox a few years ago in his room at Remington House. He was a survivor of the USS Indianapolis tragedy. It was about 85 degrees in his apartment and as I sat there recording his words, sweat dripped off my face. I am now beginning to understand the correlation in ageing and feeling cold. It felt comfortable to him. To me, it was hotter than the gates of...

This morning it is in the 60's outside and one of my favorite times of the year. Dry air and cool temps on the Texas Gulf Coast make me drink coffee on the patio as the sun comes up and honestly? It doesn't get much better than that here. A friend once joked that home is where you hang your head, but home is where you are most comfortable. I am most comfortable with my bride, in my home, with my 2 dogs and cool dry weather just bumps it up to a whole new level.
 We pretty much only have a couple of seasons here.  Hot and humid and cold and rainy, but 2 times a year it is dry and cool and god help us if we don't take advantage of it and step outside and simply enjoy the absence of humidity. Forgive me, but I think the good Lord is sending it to assist cleaning up what Harvey brought. This brings up another point and it was pointed out by someone who apparently doesn't believe in "a Christian god", because that is the way they worded their cynical question.

"If you are a Christian, how do you explain why god would do this?" I can safely say that it rains on the just and unjust. Good people have bad things happen to them. It's called "life" and it is the hand we are dealt. What we do with it defines our religion, whether your are Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, or Christian. I want to add in that we are Texans and in my book, that doesn't make us better than anyone, but shows other states how to respond to chaos and adversity.

The weather can be a blessing or a curse, but this cool morning temperature sure makes me smile. Like everyone here, I sat inside for 5 or 6 days and watched the pounding rain and to be honest, I simply endured it like a toad under a mushroom. I am not a fan of gray weather, although I know it is integral to our planet health. I know I sure appreciated not having to water all the stuff we have growing... but COME ON!

We can't always get what we want and the Rolling Stones have reminded us of this for 50 years, but this cool weather couldn't come at a better time. I love it. With my imagination, I can be any place in the world and be just as happy as if I were there. Home is not where you hang you head. It is where you choose to hang your hat.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

You don't have to live like a refugee.

 For many years those of us working in safety, maintenance and operations in the chemical plants were served up a hurricane season video as a monthly safety topic.  It was the 1969 Hurricane Camille emergency response/ civil defense film named "A lady called Camille". I know I personally saw it at least 20 times. The video is posted on YouTube and shows the devastation those folks experienced in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

The only difference between what happened there and here is we did not get the wind and all of us are thankful for that. However, for those folks whose houses, apartments, and trailers are underwater, the feeling of being a war-torn refugee is the same. How do we start over when everything is gone? Who is going to help us get back on our feet? Why, oh why did this happen to me? It feels hopeless and overwhelming. The good news is it starts first with friends and family.

Tom Petty said it best and I fudged it a bit to make it fit. "Somewhere, somehow, somebody must have kicked you around some. Who knows maybe you were kidnapped tied up, taken away and held for ransom. Honey, it don't make no difference to me. Everybody has to fight to get free, you see? You don't have to live like a refugee."

It's going to be an epic struggle; possibly the greatest hardship you've ever experienced. At first and maybe for quite a few days it's going to seem impossible and nothing anyone says makes it easier. All you've worked for; all those hours of overtime to get where you were; all the blood, sweat, and tears you devoted to accumulate the things for your precious family are gone, soaked, damaged, or ruined... or are they?

We all know life is temporal and have repeated it to others all our life. There is no promise of tomorrow on this terra firma, but this is real this time. This is me and my family we are talking about. Baytown is not some war-torn Third World country where every 3 years we lose the stuff we own and get in food lines and we are not used to having our schedules disrupted. So where does it all begin?

We are experiencing a statewide catastrophe of epic and unprecedented magnitude and it will take a bit of time for our emergency system to catch up to what has happened. Food, water, shelter will begin to arrive, but it will seem sluggishly slow. Volunteers will be needed due to sheer almost unmanageable logistics and people helping people will be the answer. Everyone will be called up to be patient and tempers geared way back for this to work. Instant gratification will become a luxury none of us can afford.

"Baby we ain't the first. I'm sure a lot of others been burned. Right now it seems too real to you, but it's one of those things you gotta feel to get through. You don't have to live like a refugee " Refugees don't have your network of friends and family to draw on. You are stronger than that.

We are in the greatest challenge many of us have ever experienced and business as usual will not resume until far into 2018. We are going to rebuild and we are going to not only survive, but we are going to thrive. Like the man in the Camille video said, "We have a lot of beautiful country here. We'll make it beautiful again." We have each other.

We have the opportunity to build on rock and we are going to be ready the next time - and there will be a next time. We are not going to live in self pity, but stand tall and shake our fists at the sky and declare we are stronger than what the clouds have to throw at us. We won't have to be by ourselves when we do this, because we have each other. When life threw us a lemon, we are not going to make lemonade. We are going to throw a banquet.

Volunteerism, compassion, and cooperation will create bonds that will last a lifetime. Our city of interlopers and nomads will stretch a web of love toward each other than beats anything we've ever experienced. Wait and see, down the road people will laugh and smile and declare they were here during Harvey and fought back. To all those who have already began the process of rescuing and comforting those who have evacuated, God bless you. Now it's time for the rest of us to join in and let's get these folks back on their feet.

YouTube hurricane Camille video:
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers: Refugee

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Who are we going to hate this week?

If you are like me, you sit back every day and scratch what little bit of hair you still have (on your head) trying to figure out what the press is telling us. It appears 70% of the country is mad about something enough to stage a demonstration and maybe turn over a statue or two. I'm trying to figure out how so many people can schedule vacation at the same time to get off work so they can join in on the passion.

I'm mad too Eddie!  I think! But am I mad enough to get maced?  Am I mad enough to get educated on what I am mad about? Does it matter if I know what I am demonstrating about, because it appears to me it doesn't. Using the new rules, all I have to do is think someone doesn't see things the way I do and that is grounds for me to knock their block off, or key their car.

If I actually believe what passes as news reports these days, I am missing out on a happening.  Remember those?  I certainly don't want to miss out.  It appears it's now my civic duty to squash 1st amendment rights and get out there and make a difference because their opinion is so obviously wrong.  The end justifies the means has never been more relevant. Who gives a flip if you want to talk if my message is so righteous that only people like me deserve to be heard? On top of that, I have a literal axe to grind and your head is the target, you fascist, bigoted, misogynist, racist piggie!
Passionate violence is definitely allowed when the future of my vision of America is at stake. If a few heads have to roll to get the point across, so be it. Anything that offends my dogma, must be torn down and history be damned. We must cleanse our country of any and every vestige of what might possibly be offensive to even the smallest percentile of our population. To be truthful, we need to tear down just about every statue, carving, artwork, image, namesake, or memory that is racist and dang it, that encompasses the entire spectrum.  Tear it all down RIGHT NOW!

Whew!  I feel better and now I wonder what is left that isn't offensive. Wait a second, there has got to be more. I say we gather up a collective and begin to scour every book in every library and erase and discard (read burn) anything that falls into this heinous and offensive category. If we work really hard, we can do this in about 10 years. It's going to take a group effort and everyone will have to march stiff-legged in unison to wipe this disease from our society.

It will help if we can all wear the same brown shirts and conservatively... say 40% of us become watchdogs for the thought police to insure no one becomes subversive. That would be counter-productive to the movement and ultimately terroristic and racist. Racism will become the new word for terrorism and anything and everything bad will fall under it when it comes to pursuit by the law. Its only fitting, because there is nothing as horrible as believing your race is superior to another race - nothing. A person should be beaten for even thinking it. Its so disgusting to think that anyone would entertain any idea that isn't politically correct.

I envision a world free of anything offensive, where we all live in harmony and no one has individual thoughts that might offend someone. Wouldn't that be wonderful? We would be a one world government and a one world people, happily living in harmony. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Our current world rife with self-entitlement demands we get what we want, even if it destroys America as we know it and I am right there with that philosophy. I want what I want because I can't imagine a world where I can't get what I want. I have been spoon fed to this point and I am willing to go along with whatever the press says the state of affairs are. I don't have to think because the commentators explain everything to me. It's bliss multiplied. Who said pabulum tastes bad? I love the stuff! Can I have seconds?

If anyone questions why I believe what I hear, I've been supplied with stock answers and questions that reveal I am a party member and this is most comforting. If they come up with a devious question that circumvents my defense, all I have to do is scream racism! It's a wonderful and exciting time we are living in and I feel so much a part of the historic upheaval.

I can't even imagine that I am wrong, let alone listen to the opposite view.  Who will join me?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The older I get... No regrets please.

The older I get, the more I realize how much time I've wasted that could have been productive. Not for one second do I think I should have played more. As I've written before, the reason for this is a deep need in myself to prove my worth to my dad. He always set the work bar very high and no matter what I did, I never felt I measured up. Did he intentionally put this burden on me? I think not and probably went to his grave not understanding my plight.

The older I get, the more valuable my time has become and this is also a conundrum, as in my retirement years, I am actually trying to put the brakes on and attempt to create recreation. I'm not sure I know how to get off this merry go round. Almost every day I have to remind myself that I am not on a schedule and if I want to stand and talk to a stranger for 5 minutes, I can. So on one hand, I am trying to squeeze the most out of my minutes and on the other, waste some by enjoying not having to go, go, go.

The older I get, the more I realize how spending all those hours working alone have robbed me of the most important option in life; meeting and talking to people. I spent hundreds of hours with my camera documenting everything from mountains to spiders and looking back, I should have been photographing friends faces. What is more fun than people?

The older I get the more I understand that repeating a person's name when talking to them is the key to their soul. It is the most precious word spoken when we hear it. Dale Carnegie taught us this years ago, but few of us practice it. Hearing our name is to our ears as seeing money on the ground to our eyes.

I imagine most of us would finish the older I get with a regret. I don't want to. It would be easy to write a tome on regrets. Most of the things I could regret, I can still repair. I could say I wish I spoke another language, but if I really did, how come I am not actively pursuing it? Maybe its the effort that stops me? Old dogs - new tricks got me?

The older I get, the more I wish I would have learned to dance and kiss every pretty girl I could. Like most young guys, girls were as unapproachable as the Hope diamond. I always felt so awkward and just found it easier to try to pop a wheelie on my bike or make funny sounds with my mouth, thinking that would impress them. I had no idea that just being me, was probably good enough and they suffered from the same confusion I did.

The older I get, the more I struggle with cynicism and this is something I really need to work on. Many things I once believed to be solid are crumbling around me and those vested to represent me, often are found to be fallible or untrustworthy. When I was a child I never thought I would live in a time when people in cars could be as rude as they are today. I remember people waving at each other as they passed. Maybe driverless cars with remedy this? If so, I say the quicker the better. My cynical side says it will simply further alienate us, as people will hunker down inside the coach with the electronic distractions and not even bother to look out the window.

The older I get, the more I enjoy personal customer service. It is rare, but I see it reemerging and when it does, it brings a warmth with it that is so nice, it is worth sharing. This is one area social networking is a positive force. People talk and when a company or a friend does you a "big", we tell everyone. It can literally make or break a business, so my question is this - if you own a business, why not put the most cheerful and helpful person out front?

I have been to the new hardware store on Business 146 three times and each time when I walk in, the first person I've seen has looked like they are attending a funeral. Not really inviting, although the store is well stocked. In my opinion, that person ought to be the happiest person I've met that day. Walking around one of our larger home improvement stores, every sales person  is doing their best to appear they are on a anti-collision mission and flee like foxes before I can ask a question. I guess this isn't taught in their sales motivation meetings.

The older I get, the more I want to be content and enjoy the world around me. I want quality food, quality friends, and the stuff in my house to keep working so I don't have to fix them. I want to go to bed at night and know the woman I married nearly 40 years ago is beside me. The older I get, the more I realize it is the little things that really matter.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Right or wrong, Loki's law is real.

Have you ever noticed that if you drop the cap off a water bottle, it will inevitably roll under the refrigerator? Or if you absentmindedly set your car keys down after coming inside, the next time you look for them, they have moved? How about filling the gas tank on your mower, leaf blower, or string trimmer? Yup, no matter how careful you are, it will overflow a bit.

Some folks will automatically and quite smuggishly announce this is Murphy's law at work. I'm not convinced it is. It is a mystery, kind of like the word smuggishly. It's there because it has to be to fulfill a purpose. What that purpose is, is sometimes unclear.

How many times in a lifetime have we stubbed our toe on an invisible projection, or shut a finger in a door? While barefoot I couldn't count the times, I've stepped on a hard dog food pellet and it had the same effect as stepping on a pointy rock. What mysterious Lokian force was at work there to guide me to place the exact center of my heel on that agonizing and pain-inflicting protein-rich pellet?

There is some sort of... can I say deviltry at work in our daily doings. Can I say daily doings without grinning? One fellow remarked after finding a 1/2 drive shiny socket that he lost while working on his car, "I found it in the last place I looked!" It was on top of the air filter the whole time and he looked for 10 minutes. Now tell me there isn't some heinous trickster at work there because I also find stuff in the last place I look!

I was eating a delectable morsel the other day and bit my lip and I mean I chomped down on it to the point I was bleeding. Why? Why me? Why then? I mean, I have been chewing since the day I discovered food and here all of a sudden... CHOMP! It's that hidden prankster of the universe that deliberately alters our path so we can experience new and sometimes painful things. That is the only logical conclusion and I invoked Ockham's Razor for that one. You know it, right? If there is more than one explanation for something, the simple one is usually the correct answer.

Sometimes this law works in our favor, like the time we had a flat tire in the middle of nowhere and I got out and there was folding money on the ground. Or the other day when in a crowded restaurant, I reached for something and almost knocked over a glass of a sugary beverage. Like a striking cobra, I righted the vessel and then looked around expecting a 4 foot tall trophy. The Force was strong in me that day, but alas - no trophy was forth coming.

Two days later while walking my dogs around the Blue Heron Parkway trail, I spied my first double rainbow and again, this unwritten law put me in the exact right place to experience this visual rarity. Sure, I prefer the benefits of this mischievous law, but I am more than often, it's victim. I've noticed that if I open up a wound on any part of my head, hand, foot, elbow, or knee, somehow this law will direct me to bump into something to compound the pain and it will happened repeatedly until it finally heals. Then I cease to bump into anything. The Loki law ran its course, closing the loop and I am safe once again.

On a serious note, do I really believe there is an invisible imp sitting on my shoulder waiting to cause me discomfort or possibly let me peek into the sublime? No.  I do not, but then again it is an easy way out and lifts the embarrassment of admitting that self-infliction is the logical solution. "My fault?  Seriously?  No way!" I can't find my keys because I put them down anywhere that's handy and the reason my injured finger doesn't hurt after it heals is because it's no longer injured. The reason a bottle cap will roll under the refrigerator is because its round and rolls until it stops.

Dang that Ockham's Razor!  It's more fun to think an imp named Loki is causing it, but the truth is life and gravity are two things we cannot completely control and sometimes it gives us stubbed toes and other times, double rainbows.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Hiding an evil geocache!

Hiding an evil geocache primer
By Bert Marshall (BaytownBert)
Past Southeast Texas Representative Texas Geocaching Association

I've heard this term thrown around over the years like it is a common occurrence. Sure, the first light pole cache I found was evil, but guess what, it took me exactly ONE before I didn't fall for it again. But let me say the first time I stumbled upon an LPC or skirt-lifter, I thought it was danged amazing. I didn't know about phoning a friend, or reaching out to social networking or even what that was 10 years ago. I actually lifted the skirt and it was like a rainbow came across the sky.  I looked around feeling extremely gratified and waited for a marching band to come across the Baytown Blood Donor parking lot right here in my hometown.
As of today, I've hidden or hosted 463 geocaches or events, so I think I can speak on this subject with some clarity. When I hear the word 'evil" in relation to a cache, I am cynical enough to automatically believe it is a "mean" cache or better explained as a "needle in a haystack" hide.  I have unwittingly been guilty of these very hides in the past and currently own a few, but not because I hid them that way.

It is nature's fault.  Here on the Gulf Coast of Texas it is quite possible to hide something in winter where it can be spotted by Blind Melon Chittlin' from 200 meters away and by spring time, Tarzan couldn't find it with one of those fancy magnifying glasses for the lush foliage.  This is not what I am talking about.

For instance, in some climates where they have white cold stuff fall out of the sky 6 months of the year, a cache could be buried under 6 feet of the crystalline H2O, so that's not an evil hide either. Okay, now hold up here.  I'm going to break it down and using the (KISS) keep it simple stupid rule, I am going to define an evil cache.

When you hide a geocache in plain view and people don't recognize it, dismissing it as "not it", then you have hid an evil cache.  Anything else is most likely a mean hide. Now realize, I am exempting tricky hides, which fall into a separate category and depending on the generosity of the finder, may get a favorite point. There are also "cool" hides, but that is not what this primer is about.
Placing a nano on a wall with 7000 look alike bolt heads is not evil; it's mean.  Double bump it if it's in a conspicuous place that makes the cacher uneasy. How many times have you looked through the shrubbery just outside the tinted window of an office or restaurant for a "micro" that turns out to be the smallest bison tube ever made?  Evil?  I say it's mean and I do not want to hide caches that put people in that position.

Here's another scenario.  You arrive at a stand of bamboo because no one can find it and that's is when you realize it is a micro and only a miracle will help you stumble upon one of the million places it could be. I'll be honest and tell anyone who asks, that I immediately call anyone I know who found it and chances are, they did the same thing. Evil?  Nope.
 Now, let's look at a true evil hide.  IF you find it, you probably won't tell anyone because you want to save the integrity of the hide and to keep it truly evil.  You will feel like the cache owner (CO) deserves that for their awesome effort.  THAT is the difference. Evil hides are amazing hides that no one wants to give away without making the person looking for it - LOOK FOR IT.  There is a cache (GC36NF3) in Highlands, Texas that probably had a thousand hours put into finding it.  It has a 5 difficulty and a 1.5 terrain and two days after it published, it looked like a herd of buffalo had descended on the area, but still no find. The catch was hidden by my friend, thacatfish.

Go read the logs and then ask yourself how many real evil hides have you looked for? My name is there, whining and crying and it was right there in front of me and others the whole time. After 4 days, of which I spent in excess of 30 hours looking, Muddy Bones alone found it; a Force Recon US Marine, who just wouldn't take no for an answer. He arrived at sunrise, alone, and after 2 hours, discovered this heinous cache. It wasn't his first time here.

Now, let's take a look at his log:  "I will honor the CO request and not give out any hints." Eight more DNF's followed his log and then, 8 days after it published a group of 4 descended upon the area determined to look again. I am Air Force and Rambetta is a retired US Army Colonel and we simply could not let the Marines have this one unchallenged.

GeoGeex, our puzzle-solving guy suddenly started laughing and we had it. After all the time we had been here, this day took 2 more hours and honestly, there is not much to see at the location. Months later, there was a whole string of finds, which pretty much tells you social media was working, because everyone before them gave it favorite points... Evil hides?  Please give us more of them.  Mean hides, no thank you.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Robotics and Socialism - Welcome to the future

My bride and I were sitting in the back yard the other evening enjoying the lower humidity, a slight breeze, and waving at the steady stream of people hiking and biking the Blue Heron trail. She was in her swing and I, a chair and the subject of robotics and the future came up. I'm sure this is something you and yours have mulled over ad nauseam, but hear me out.

Now before I go any further, let me answer your first question. Why were we not out hiking and biking instead of sitting on our thinking caps like a pair of contributors to America's obesity epidemic? Because we are morning exercisers and had already did our daily quota. With that out of the way, what about those robots?

She was pondering the idea of possibly marketing a product that was unique and would suddenly become popular enough to mass-market. "It might just make us rich!" she exclaimed. Now seeing that I lived in a Third-World country for 2 years, I already know the majority of Americans are rich already and I felt compelled to bring up what some would call a "Debbie Downer" statement, but I believe is our future.

"If you have an idea that will suddenly become popular enough to mass market, companies like Amazon with their robotic warehouses will put you out of business. There is no way you can economically compete with machines that run 24 hours a day, without a break, benefits, or any sort of human interaction," was along the lines of what I just quoted.

"Using the same advanced technology, they can manufacture an improved variation with more efficiently and probably cheaper." Her reply was that if machines will be doing everything, "What will people do?" This is a conclusion that every human should consider and make plans, if it isn't already too late. The truth is we will be given tasks by our government in exchange for credits. For nostalgia's sake, we will call it our job. It will be a bumped up welfare system that nearly everyone will be required to partake of, or starve. Of course, the elite will be excluded, as in all past systems including our current one.

It could be a called a tax credit, or a food credit. One way or the other, the long term vision of our government will be the management and well being of the population. Along with this comes total control of us. As in George Orwell's book, "1984" the government's job will be to keep us occupied. The easiest way to do that is create "make work". Make work is defined as "an activity that serves mainly to keep someone busy and is of little value in itself." Kind of like using a fidget spinner, except for 8 hours a day and calling it your job.

Anyway, our true preoccupation and one the government will endorse is recreation. The more "work" credits you earn, the more recreation time you can enjoy. There will be weekly lottos held to reward a certain percentage with more extreme recreation. Everything good and fun we now take for granted will be served as recreational credits and regardless of your current station in life, you will be herded into this system. It will be a brave new world dictated by automation and an all powerful, but nearly invisible one world government and like the matrix, there won't be any option to opt out.

Now wait a second there, Bubba.  What if we don't want to be a part of it? No worries here (notice I didn't say no problem) your children's children will openly embrace a life of ease without the nasty hassles of having to earn an education and get out there and go toe to toe for a slim to non-existent job market. This inevitable and unstoppable change will come into play by invitation, not by invasion. What you now see as freedom of choice, the future generations will see as chains and shackles and giggly embrace their government caretaker.

There will be no need for anyone to invent anything as artificial intelligence will be dictating our course "for the good of the people" and the entire human population will be regulated. Birth rates, ecology, environment, law and order, economics, health care, and recreation facilities will all be dictated to and for us and compliance will be mandatory and strictly enforced. "Remember the Smith's in C sector? Yea, they disappeared yesterday.  I knew they were heading for trouble when they started complaining about the credit system."

"Why fight and grapple for your place in the workforce when all you have to do is earn credits and then you can play?" I concluded and suddenly looked up at my bride there in the swing. "Too much information?" She told me it wasn't and said she hopes to never see that day. I agreed with her, but that is the direction we are heading. I am sure of it.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

I'm not distracted, I just can't remember.

Our country has been clobbered with a pandemic and it's not caused by mosquitoes, terrorists, or a childish Asian communist with a Moe Howard hairdo. This insidious enigmatic parasite has somehow invaded our consciousness (and the rest of the planet apparently) and folks are blissfully unaware it has taken up shop inside their head. The ultimate goal of this demon is to distract or make us forget stuff. I say stuff because I can't remember what it is exactly.

Take our leadership as an example of the stuff I'm trying to write about. Evidence couldn't me more apparent even if Donald Trump held up a huge sign with the words "I dinna ken!" boldly displayed. Of course, the far left would claim he does indeed dinna ken and then the argument would escalate. John McCain would somehow throw a gavel into the spokes of the argument by possibly agreeing with the President or not and Nancy Pelosi would demand to find out exactly what George Bush dinna ken. I know, right?

It's confusing to half of us and the other three quarters of the population are too busy to take the time to stop doing whatever it is we might be doing in the next ten seconds. People are losing their ability to not only retain, but as Jethro Bodine so aptly put it, "Cipher it out.". Take this question a fellow recently posed as an example. "Two rather odd-looking women moved in next door 3 months ago. They are different to put it mildly and I've never seen a man enter their apartment. Do you think they are Lebanese?"

I was speechless in that I had accidentally swallowed a fly and bobbed my head fiercely trying to dislodge it and I heard him yell out, "I knew it!" before he stormed off. I was going to say maybe Sri Lanka? You see, I didn't have a chance to actually answer his question because he was off on a tangent and this is where people are these days;   Tangentville, Texas.  "Honey, I'll be home sometime in the future! I'm going to Tangentville whether I want to or not."

This mysterious place exists only in our heads and Baby boomers are not exempt from a visit or 2 at the worst possible time. In our self-righteousness, we blast away at the younger Millennials over their constant need to text or stare at their phones, but the truth is we don't need electronics to forget what we are doing or to be distracted. All we have to do is have a conversation and blam!  Tangentville, Texas suddenly blocks out what we were talking about. We take a side trip and can't remember our way back into the conversation.

It's embarrassing to say the least until whomever we were talking to can't remember what the subject was and we stare at each other like a pair of potheads and giggle.  "Oh yea!" we suddenly exclaim and rush to get it out before another side trip hits us. More giggling follows until all of a sudden you realize you can't remember again.
I think this pandemic is caused by sensory overload. Those two words, if you could weigh them, come in right at 20 pounds. Trust me. I have a scale. I bought it on... a web site. It's guaranteed to be calibrated and everything and if it breaks I can return it for a full refund - if I can remember which web site I bought it from. Remember when everything came from Sears, JC Penny's or one or 2 grocery stores? I can't either and that's the problem. I've slept since then.

Too much info.  I now spell "information" as info. Just like I've shortened "Yes, indeed" to "Yup". The truth is half the time I can't remember how to spell information and frankly, I have side trips to take and just don't have time for propriety. For one, I have to drive on our streets. Do you realize how long it takes to strap into my Jeep so when someone texting slams into the side it won't kill me? I simply cannot go to Tangentville when I am driving if I want to survive and I can't control those who couldn't care less (read: apparently a whole lot of people).

Military and police keep their head on a swivel and that is how we have to drive these days, but is that what we see around us? Nope. What we see are glazed over eyes staring at their electronic devices as they pretend to pay attention to the road or they are sunk down so low in the seat all they can see is the top of the steering wheel. When people walk into light poles texting, why do they think they can do it going 40 miles per hour?

So which is worse, a momentary lapse of memory or a major distraction such as operating a smartphone in public? The first one is probably inevitable, but the second is preventable, or is it? Maybe not. The intoxicating lure of Tangentville is simply too strong to resist. Wait a minute! What were we talking about?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Customer service is not what it used to be

I was called by a local business today to pay for a maintenance service on my in-ground pool. My debit card on file had expired. I explained that the technician hadn't completed the job and they had accidentally broke an expensive valve on my pool equipment and I was told I would have my pool back in service today. This happened Friday. The guy was friendly and an expert and I thanked my lucky stars I didn't tackle the job.

The lady told me I was paying for the part of the job that was originally scheduled and I wouldn't be charged for the other repair. I told her that is not how it works. Once I pay, what is their impetus to finish the job? She informed me that they have other jobs scheduled and they would fix it Wednesday, but would I kindly update my information so they could be paid. At this point, I realized all logic was out the window and I told her I would get back to her.

Then she threw down this catch phrase, which any business or customer service should eliminate at all levels, "No problem" and she hung up. I will never, ever pay for a service until it is completed satisfactorily and her implication that there was no problem told me all she was interested in doing was clearing my ticket. I fully intend to make a very civil complaint to the owner.

I will pay extra every time for excellent service, but I have a problem in that until I experience it, I inherently don't trust it. In other words, I don't believe everyone who claims to be an expert, or a professional knows what they are doing. My pool guy was very good and an expert and seeing he is being paid to do what he was doing, he is a professional, so understand my complaint is not about him. Stuff happens and in my case, it meant replacing the entire pump motor, housing, and pump assembly.

It was a simple PVC job right? NOT and that's why I decided I would turn it over to the pros and just pay the labor charges, as I had the entire replacement assembly already. You see, there are specifications on how high the discharge of the pump is to maximize flow, etcetera and I could see that by cutting into the pipe, I would probably have to modify all that and sure enough, I could mess something up.

And it happened and the manual valve to direct flow was cracked on the bottom and I thanked my lucky stars that I did not do this. He assured me it would be covered and then schooled me to make sure the tech who worked on it did certain things if it wasn't him. Okay, I can let my 18,000 gallon salt pool set for 3 days, but then we had a lot of storms which blew a barrel of leaves into the pool. In our climate, letting your pool set for 5 days is a big no-no. No problem.

What I needed at this point was customer service calling me Monday morning checking on me, but this didn't happen. By noon I called and had the above conversation. No problem. No problem? Are you kidding me?  I have half a dumpster of leaves in my pool and my injured neck has more twists in it than a pretzel. I got my 15 foot pole with a net on the end and tried to get them off the bottom while my pool cleaner sat idly by laughing at me. No problem.

This company needs to worry less about closing out tickets and more on the care and follow up they provide, but am I just talking about a single pool company here? I think not. I think it is endemic these days and many businesses should see a red flag. The bottom line is people, customer service, and how they feel treated. I hate when someone tells me "No problem" when I have a problem. Tell me you will fix it, or that you are here to get rid of my problem instead. "I appreciate it!" "No problem..." Geeze. Spare me.

Note: Five days later my pool was restored and only after I asked for a complimentary pool cleaning, they agreed, but why did I have to ask?  No problem. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Can't you smell that smell?

I guess I'm out of touch with current trends and basically uncouth and white trash when it comes to cologne, but I like the smell of Old Spice. I still like British Sterling and Hai Karate, Brut, and the clean scent of Brylcreem. I also like Lava soap and Mrs. Butterworth syrup, regardless of what it does or tastes like and I've tasted both, believe me.

Butch wax is still a smell like none other and if I caught a whiff of it today, I'd say, "What, that's Butch wax." It is akin to vanilla extract; there's nothing like it. Now I was at Como en Mexico the other day to get some authentic Mexican ice cream and I got a generous dip of Rum Raisin and I looked up and said, "Why this tastes like egg nog." Now whether it tastes like egg nog to anyone else, is relative, right, but that's what it tastes like to me. On second thought, what exactly is a nog anyway?

When I was in Southeast Asia, on more than one occasion I was around the odor of burning opium. It has a very peculiar smell and once you've been exposed to it, you would never mistake it for something else. The closest smell to it in my olfactory memory bank is slightly burnt peanut brittle.

Have you ever noticed how a certain smell can launch you back in time to a certain place or event? It may not have been anything to remember, except the smell took you there. The smell of fresh cement always sends me to Cleveland, Ohio when I was visiting my Aunt Jean. I was very small and riding a tricycle on the sidewalk near her house and cement workers were pouring forms. It is a very pleasant memory.

Certain ailments can give us bloodhound smell abilities and almost everything smells either way too strong or repulsive. I went through this not too long ago after doing a 32 day mega-blitz of prednisone. Coming down off that stuff took about 5 nauseating days of smelling everything magnified and very little of it was pleasant. I remember passing a couple of ladies in my favorite grocery store on North Main and their flowery perfume almost gave me nose rickets!

Have you ever noticed how some kids often complain about certain smells being too strong? We dismiss it, but what they are trying to tell us is they have magnified smelling ability and we don't recognize it. To me, it would be a curse to be able to smell 100 times what I currently can. Imagine your neighbor coming in from work and you pick up on every odor they've been exposed to for the last 12 hours.  Pee-you!

I knew a lady who was in a car wreck and after that, she lost all sense of smell. Food lost its appeal and she ate rice with the same amount of enthusiasm that she did spicy Mexican food. Another curse! If this happened to Charlie Farrar, his love of super hot chow-chow would be gone and he would lose something precious and be boring.

Hawaiian surf!  That was the name of the (cheap) cologne I bought when I was a senior in high school (yes, I bought it with money I earned working). Man, I thought I smelled like something a female couldn't resist and then the Air Force sent me to Montana and the Great Plains where there was purportedly a woman behind every tree. I never had a chance to prove it's worth. No trees and no women. Of course at 18, I was as clumsy around the fairer sex as I am now, so maybe I really needed that cologne. It's too late, they discontinued it just like the Hollywood candy bars I loved so much.

I worked a couple of years in a restaurant ran by a Greek and he told me that burnt food spells catastrophe in a restaurant. "If it ever happens, scrape the grill, throw butter and onions on it and within minutes, people's mouth will be watering."

Geeze, I don't ever want to loose any of my senses and it does look like my hearing is taking a hit, but to lose my sense of smell would be tragic. I remember being around cows as a kid and not realizing cow manure had an offensive odor to many people. It just smelled like grass and cows to me. To tell the truth, I kind of like it.

I heard that savvy real estate agents will bake cookies in the house they are showing and folks immediately want that house. Well, it sounds like a good idea to me, because I like cookies and have been known to eat a wide variety when given the chance. Throw in a cup of black coffee and I'll sign the papers.

Each of us have a signature smell or odor if you will. If you don't believe it, ask your dog. Many of us mask it with unnecessary deodorant, but it is a very subtle part of our identity and one that each of us with a partner unwittingly enjoy. That is the one smell that is the most precious to me and the one I never want to lose.

A most welcomed epiphany

Sometimes things come to us at the oddest of times.   A thought, a word, a television program, a lyric, or something someone says...