Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Republic for which it stands

Our founding fathers gave us a Republic, not a Democracy.

I was probably about 17 the first time I picked up a copy of George Orwell's book, 1984. I'm thinking this was 1969 and just before I real Tolkien's trilogy the first time. We were coming out of the turbulent 1960's and I was a young man close to graduating high school with no plan for my future. All that was about to change with the Vietnam War on my horizon, but I didn't know that. I learned of the horror of war about this time when I found a copy of "Johnny got his gun". About 10 years ago, I reread it and Fahrenheit 451.

I have this predilection to read everything concerning a subject until I fully understand it. For instance, about 20 years ago I became interested in black history. 19 books later, I pushed back from the library table, sated. Unfortunately, like food for the stomach, I consume this knowledge and it fades, so once again I find I need to go back and reread some material. This is what is happening now with the book "1984". Now somewhere over the years, I also saw the movie and have heard reference to this book many times. Now it comes to me that many of the folks who claim knowledge of it have only seen the movie.

If they would have read the book, they would be shaking in their boots over the current climate in the United States social political scene. Donald Trumps systematic dismantling of the oligarchic democracy would be impossible in Orwell's dystopian society. Heck, it might just be impossible in ours. Our government has ceased to be a republic and we proles don't even know it - or care. As long as we get our government bread and circuses, we are happy to be blissfully ignorant of how a select few dictate what we accept as the norm.

Our government has directly adopted Orwell's War is Peace philosophy and each new President, regardless of said position carries it forward. The United States is the most predatory country on earth. In the name of freedom, we walk all over countries traditions and culture and ruin them. To get an idea of how many troops we have in foreign countries "protecting them", our military in Europe spends close to a million dollars a day on alcohol and food alone. War means money and by golly, we are good at it. The USA spends more on "defense" than the next 7 countries put together. We have 200,000 troops stationed in 177 countries, yet we can't stop drugs from flooding into our own land.

Orwell coined the term Newspeak. While there are many interpretations of what exactly this is, suffice it to say almost everything we read and hear as news has been massaged to get across someone's interpretation. Gone are Chet and David and Walter. What we have now are a group of giddy news teams or angry late night "comedians" telling us the real dirt. When only 20% of the adult world will read a newspaper and 62% get all their "news" from Facebook, we have set ourselves up to run off the nearest cliff.

A man at work one day got defensive and all but yelled "I don't discuss politics with friends!" I looked at the fellow and I swear the thought that ran through my mind was, "Well then, who do you discuss them with - enemies?" Anyone who challenges you to define what you believe, is your friend. Don't get mad or defensive, get educated. If you belly up to The View to get the news, then god bless you, but I wouldn't recommend that line. I watch the athletes taking a knee at professional sports venues and I wonder how much history do they know or care about. I watch angry people incited by who knows who, stage protests, yet when reporters ask them to define their grievances, they are so vague that a 5th grader would walk away confused.

As in 1984, we are erasing history until many people cannot explain major events. Ask about the Spanish flu of 1918 that killed 20-50 million people worldwide and they stare back at you with hollow eyes. Don't even ask them about World War One... or Two or the Civil War. They think Vietnam was WWII in size and scope and their line of reference is Saving Private Ryan. At the end of the movie, many couldn't tell which war it was.

It's time to drain the swamp. Boot out the old guard and bring in the new who remember what a Republic is. Our democratic oligarchy is killing our freedoms. We must vote out the established cancerous system. Privileged "representatives" on both sides of our government are screaming foul because they see their thrones threatened. Their only concern is staying in office. It doesn't matter who is in the White House as long as they can conduct business as usual and that business has nothing to do with you or me.

Freedom of speech? There is no freedom of speech, because of newspeak, political correctness trumps it. You literally cannot say anything that could possibly be offensive to one of 500 splinter groups or you are a monster. A monster and a pervert and a racist. People literally want to kill you or have you locked up. Back in the day, folks would just avoid you and mark you as someone undesirable, but they sure didn't try to stuff a sock down your throat. No. There is no first Amendment freedom of speech right. It's gone.

Time to vote. Time to drain the swamp.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Geocaching attire for Summer primer

Geocaching attire for Summer primer
By Bert Marshall (BaytownBert)
Ex- Southeast Texas Representative Texas Geocaching Association

Years ago when geocaching was relatively an unknown hobby, I was convinced that the best clothing I could wear was something that made me nearly invisible to the casual observer. I’ve changed my mind on that approach about ten times and finally arrived at what I now believe is the best choice.

First, let’s start with footwear. I am on my third or fourth pair of hiking boots and they are comfortable enough to run a 5K race and not get blisters. I wear Timberland White Ledge waterproof boots and although they wear out much quicker than, say, a $200 pair, I will continue to buy a new pair every couple of years because they are so comfortable and fairly light weight.

I wear them almost exclusively whether I am in the Grand Canyon or a parking lot looking for a skirt lifter. Footwear is under-rated by many cachers and I’ve seen Crocs and tennis shoes on the trail. The hiking boots offer arch and ankle support and to be honest, just look cool too. They look like you mean business and set you apart from muggles in some instances.

Next, let us move on to what sort of britches we need. I like shorts with side pockets. It’s hot here on the 29th parallel North most of the year. We hit 110 degrees F. (real feel temp) the early part of June and that is hot by any standard. Our humidity on the Gulf Coast of Texas exacerbates everything and for about 6 months of the year, shorts are a logical choice.

Now, Columbia Sportswear (and other companies) offer a rip-stop nylon pair of fishing pants with zippers at the knees to turn them into shorts. They have swimsuit inner crotch lining that wick moisture away from the body and are gaining popularity. They do not help you one iota in thorns though and the only remedy is denim or Kevlar chaps. For winter caching, wool is a great choice as it is warm wet or dry, but blue jeans are good also. However, for my primer, I am basically going to cover geocaching clothing for summer.

For headwear, nothing beats a Tilley hat in my experience. I can put my head down and push through the meanest brush and if it blows off my head when I’m kayaking – it floats. It’s guaranteed for life or they will replace it - and when you see people on Safari in Africa, that is hat they are wearing.

Occasionally I will bring a pair of gloves and a large Boy Scout-sized bandana. The material can be used for a number of life-saving techniques and a wonderful rag to wipe the sweat away. Like my shirts, the bandannas are colorful.

Now, what about a shirt? Like I said before, I once believed in being invisible. I now wear the brightest, loudest, and most visible Geocaching t-shirt I can muster. When I am approached by a home or land owner, I want them to not only see me, but have evidence by my shirt that I am playing the game; times two for police officers. Dressed as I do, I look like the opposite of someone about to commit a crime – unless it’s being cited as a fashion terrorist! When I offered this suggestion on social media for research and I had submissions of everything from sunscreen and bug spray to what have you. Many had no real long term experience, but those who did, pretty much parroted my own observations.

Add a bright orange or green safety vest and you are good to go!  So, that is my recommendations.  Let’s see what you think. Write back for others to learn from your experience. 

Where oh where did my cache go?

Where oh where did my cache go?
Bert Marshall (BaytownBert) Ex-SETX Rep Texas Geocaching Association.

Whenever I am explaining the game of geocaching to newbies, this particular line of questioning always surfaces. "What do you do with it when you find it? Do you keep it?" I explain that finding it is step one and the last step is replacing it exactly as you found it. What happens in the middle is the fun part. I then go on to explain signing the log, exchanging swag, and the possibility that a traveler or personal item is inside.

I own a rather peculiar cache in the Baytown area. GC75F4Q BB's (9AA) BHP TB Letterbox Motel!  It's a letterbox, a TB motel, and a large container. It is also the only premium member geocache I own. It currently has 12 travel bugs and a number of personal identification goodies inside.

I noticed a newbie premium cacher with 5 total finds found it a couple days ago and signed the log, "Nice find" with no mention of the travelers.  I just had to go and see if some were missing, or if the person just didn't understand what they were. Imagine my shock and horror when the container was gone! It's in the edge of the woods behind my house along the walking trail, overlooking a 14 acre pond with alligators in it.

My first thought was "Oh my god!  All of those travel bugs gone! How do I fix this? Do I just post that it was muggled? Do I write each person and tell them that maybe they will surface down the road? I began to look off into the woods, as it is very dense with thorns, as I could "kind of" see in there. I began looking for a place of ingress (commonly cryptically called a geotrail) thinking maybe they grabbed the container and took it out in the open to see what was inside and then forgetting, pushed back in.

This happens fairly often to containers that aren't tethered and quite often the cache gets moved, but this thing is a big protein container that you could stuff a large softball through its mouth.  Nothing, nothing, and then?  There it is, about 50 feet from where I hid it.  I blew out a lungful of thankfulness and retrieved it.  Opening it, I found all 12 travelers and the fellow's signature on the log. I replaced the geocache to match the coordinates and walked off relieved.

Now, this brings up what to do when you are sure you find an established geocache way off coordinates. Do you leave it and write a log explaining it needs owner intervention and post the coordinates of where you found it?  Yup! That is what you should do! But do most veteran cachers do this?  Nope, not in my experience. They write a vague, if anything log and leave it to find by the next unsuspecting cacher.  Why that's harsh BB!  Shame on you!  It is what it is and I am speaking from the vantage point of experience.

Think about. What do you, as a five year geocacher do when you encounter this phenomenon? I have located caches 100 feet off coordinates and read logs by my own peer group that said "expand your search" as advice. I know by the coordinates and hint where the cache is supposed to be. The absentee owner hasn't responded in 2 years. Call me whatever, but I carry it back to coordinates after calibrating my Garmin Oregon 650, and place it where it originated.

Then I log it as such.  "Found container 100 feet from posted coords.  Returned to coords and placed in accordance to hint on cache page."  Then I post a watch on the page and sure enough, other cachers begin finding it again. Quite often, being the anal retentive type, I do cache maintenance on it and add swag if it will fit.

I looked for a cache in Houston's Midtown 3 times before I reached out for help with a couple of PAF's only to hear back, "It's not at coords.  Its in the plants about 80 feet deeper in the alley and on the other side.  Six of us went in there and found it."  What?!  That's not what their logs said. The absentee owner hid it and people kept logging it for about 4 years. Me, actually believing it was where they said it was moved 20 to 30 feet up and down the vine covered fence 3 times with no luck.

Well, you guessed it.  It is now back at coords. I should have flagged it, but to keep the game going, I just returned it to the coords and the hint. Now understand me when I'm saying I do this at my own risk and I'm not telling or admonishing anyone to move a cache. If I get a dirty Rep for moving caches, then so be it, but I don't do it often AND I log it as such. I'm an advocate of truth in logging. If you do something, by all means, tell the truth.

So, in conclusion, the best thing to do is write a great log and post coordinates of what you find amiss.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Happiness is best served earned.

"True happiness comes from the fulfillment of our duties." This is one of my oldest and favorite locutions. The main reason is it simply sums up and answers the age old question of how to obtain peace and contentment. Think about it. In this one sentence is the key to happiness. Here all along I've been led to believe it was that shiny new truck, or that winning lotto ticket worth 70 bazillion koruna.

I first recognized the correlation between completing a task and feeling really good about myself in the mid to late 70's. I heard a sermon in church about wasting time; time that could be spent investing in service to Jesus. The preacher said "Procrastination is the thief of time." Research reveals it was penned in 1752 by Edward Young, but I can't say I heard it before that day. It stuck in my crop, so to speak. I had no idea at the time, that almost 40 years later, this would become my mantra.

Now, knowing to jump right on a project doesn't mean that the motivation will be right there like an over eager helper, because most times, it won't. It is very convenient to brush off the completion of a task due to our current economic standing and this justification is real a large percentage of the time, but that won't stop us from taking that same 60 bucks and going to Pappa's.

It is also extremely easy to forget that high-five ourselves feeling when we do right and complete a task. It could be small reward, like cutting the lawn, cleaning up our closet, or leveling that kitchen table your wife has been asking about for 6 months. Small jobs bring small, but nice rewards. The bigger and more difficult tasks can be performed by you, or someone you scheduled and both give us that great feeling of accomplishment.

I like to subtly remind my bride, oh, about 7 or 8 times after I get something done. I've been married long enough that "getting lucky" is a coveted pat on the head. Doing the task is reward enough and that satisfying feeling cannot be purchased with money. It is akin to the sensation we revel in when we perform an unselfish act. Let's face it, we are not going to get our jollies watching the news, weather, and now even sports has become a source of hand wringing. We have to reach from within. What?

Soul searching for that blood diamond? Grab a sheet of paper, cause "we gonna make a cipher!" Take a look around (Note: men just ask your wife) and pick the smallest tree in your forest and cut it down. Now take a break. You did it. You are a success story. Have a root beer. Tomorrow, pick the next tree. Each day you chop down another. Don't pick a 6 day $2300 project for starters, or chances are you'll enjoy that root beer while you ponder the economic blockade from the safety of your foxhole.

Go 5 days and take 2 off, but stay the course. That's what your list is for. Personal accountability and if you are like me, you staple the list to the inside of the garage closet door. This serves more than one purpose. It shows what you've done and it shows what you need to do, but it's also your trophies of accomplishment. Yea, you can gloat. Leave it up there too, even when it gets full.

Now, like I alluded to earlier when I said something about getting lucky. Don't believe it. If you do, then you are trapped into the false reward system and the first time there is no delivery, you will mope and whine like a 6 year old. We're going after the gold, baby! We want those reward endorphins that only come to us when we do good and they don't come from anyone else but good old us.
Now I realize I am writing this as if women are excluded, but the contrary is true. Pointing out projects for your mate to accomplish does not qualify you to get anything except frustrated. You have your own forest and your own axe (No, not the one you normally grind). Your plan is the same as his. Blood diamonds baby and the reward only comes by doing. I like to express to my bride that I didn't learn how to do whatever it is that she wants me to do, when I was attending school for that craft - because I didn't attend a school for that craft.

In short, do research on YouTube and it might just surprise you what all you can repair on your own. We are talking tasks, repairs, maintenance, and undesirables, right? Chances are if you don't want to do something, it is because you feel like it will be a hassle, too complicated, or just plain difficult. Okay. That's what your axe is for. That's why you feel so good when you chop that sucker down. 

Happiness is best served earned.
Alana Goodman Gill being happy.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

So much information, so little history

I was chatting with a young lady in Seattle while we were trying to set up my appointment to see a local chiropractor. The VA allows for this when it's not practical to make the 30 mile drive into Houston for what can be done locally.

She asked me how the weather was in "Texas" and I immediately figured correctly that she envisioned a steaming desert with saguaro cactus springing up around the rocky terrain, replete with rattle-moccasins. For just an evil second, I almost went off in that direction, but I told her it was raining here on the Gulf Coast and about 80 degrees.

"It's raining there?" were her surprised words. I told her, "I am in beautiful Baytown". She'd never heard of it. I asked if she had heard of Exxon-Mobil and she said he had. I told her that is here. "We are near it and our west side is the Houston Ship Channel."  She had never heard of it. "It's very close to Houston."

"Oh, Houston, the hurricane place!" By this time I can tell she has pulled it up on her computer because she comments that "You are indeed on the water!" She tells me the chiropractor I will be scheduled to see is on Massey Tompkins and she gets that right, but when she says "San Jacinto Chiropractic", she butchers it badly. I explained how it is pronounced and tell her it is like the Battle of San Jacinto, where Sam Houston defeated General Santa Anna.

It is dead quiet on the other end and I ask her if she has heard of these men. "No. I have not." I explain that Sam Houston beat the Mexican army nearby to secure Texas independence in 1836 and the city of Houston is named after him. "Of course you remember the Alamo, right?"  There is total silence on the other end. I couldn't help myself at this point, and I hope my readers forgive me, but I all but screamed, "Didn't you ever watch Pee-wee's Big Adventure where he went to the Alamo to look for his stolen bike?" 

"Nope, never heard of it." I wanted to tell her there is no basement in the Alamo, but let it go.

"Yea, the Alamo where Davy Crockett died?" She giggled and I almost swallowed my tongue.

"Who?" At this point I stopped asking questions because my blood pressure felt like Dandy Don's Grand National doing a 40-yard burnout. I backed off as she was no longer a person to question, but a victim of our American history instructors. I told her to grab a pencil, which I knew would be a pen, right? "Write this down.  Alamo, Houston Ship Channel, Battle of San Jacinto, Davy Crocket, Sam Houston..." and then I told her to Google "Baytown Bert" just for grins. Note: I told her I am a famous highly respected writer. Why not, right?

We finished our conversation and I gave her my email addy and told her to let me know what she'd learned and she thanked me and said she actually really hungers for knowledge. I respect that. The only reasons people don't learn is they think they can't, have inept teachers, incorrect material, or simply don't want to.

I watched a number of videos on YouTube where college students were asked simple history questions, like "Who won the civil war?" and believe it or not, most of them had never heard of it. What? I would think a more realistic question that might stump people would be, "Name one of the years that the civil war was fought?" The answer is 1861-1865 by the way, but these college students did not recall it... period. Try something like this on students and you may get a correct answer. Give me the question to this answer: Executive, Legislative, Judicial. Answer: What are the 3 branches of government?

They may get that one right, but what is the old curse concerning history? "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." General George Patton was so effective as a strategist because he studied all the ancient battles and understood the hardships of the terrain, along with why a general failed or succeeded. On the other hand, we have a lot of George Custer's in the land who rush in where they shouldn't, because they have forgot history. "Uh, who is George Patton?"

I hope my short brush with this young lady spurs her on to a greater understanding of our country's history. We watch the news every day and see the signs that many have no clue where we came from.

As a final little note, I want to acknowledge that Tom Petty died and I have always been a big fan.  RIP Tom Petty (and the Heartbreakers). He is a big part of Southern rock history.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ball of Confusion Redux

 Back in 1971, the Temptations had a popular civil rights song labeled Ball of confusion. In the song, they lament how downtrodden black people are on a broad scale. They exposed the underbelly of America 46 years ago and made some strong points. The problems cited were the very same ones we hear about today: Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation.

Why is it after 46 years nothing has became better? In recent times we had 16 years of  liberal Presidents and it seems like every major city has a police chief or mayor that has minority status, including Houston.

"The sale of pills is at an all time high. Young folks walkin' 'round with their heads in the sky," hasn't changed, in fact it's worse, especially if you add in Smartphone distractions.

Please help me understand how the progressive liberal constituents are liberal and progressive when all their representatives do is poke sticks in the wheels of anything that they do not like? How have they made things better? When you have Hillary Clinton refusing to accept that she wasn't elected and fomenting first one accusation after another  and Barack Obama openly criticizing much of what Trump does. How on earth is this what is best for unity and America? It's destructive and expands confusion, especially to those who won't think for themselves and it does appear this number is growing.

"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." It's the same complaints of injustice magnified. This song came out at the height of racial tension when we were in a prolonged war and black men were feeling singled out to do the fighting. Today the same claims are still being made, but now its the police beating them down and its not one cop doing it either. According to Black Lives Matter, it's all cops.

Talk about stereotypical rhetoric! Every day someone is screaming their 1st Amendment rights allow them to do whatever they decide to do and then will shriek down or strike someone with an opposing view. Our liberal press does a real fine job of showing us them doing it too, but it's okay because the conservatives are racist, misogynic, homophobic (insert anything that makes them feel justified).

Everything from erasing our history to tearing down traditions is going to have such a negative impact on future generations that they will not know what to believe. Mom and apple pie you say? There's bound to be something about it that's hateful. Violent clashes with police do nothing to further a cause, except to expose it for what it is - violence. How can a plight be understood if they are looting a store in the name of civil and racial injustice and carrying away flat screen TV's and Michael Jordan b-ball shoes?

The constant reinforcing of negative stereotypes imprints the exact opposite image of what any of these movements are trying to achieve. Rallying and loudly chanting while refusing to hear a rebuttal is sad, shameful, and counter productive. Debate? There is no debate. The very act of civil disruption, whether its taking a knee at a sports venue, or throwing a brick at a police car only widens the chasm between us, convincing no one that the plight is anything other than angry people tearing away at our laws, traditions, and liberties.

Other than assassinations, we are reliving social upheaval as bad as the 1960's and in some ways worse. I fear assassinations are the next level of "social disobedience." Forget terrorism. We have our own war here and its an open attack on traditions and values. Disrespect is quantified by many, as the end apparently justifies the means. I think that is what propelled Hitler forward. It was the Final Solution.

We here in Baytown and Houston have been blessed to help each other out regardless of our differences, but apparently, it will take a disaster for people to learn that we all have a lot more in common that we may have thought. I saw a selfie of a young black man with a joint in his mouth looking in his camera. Behind him was his friend shooting the finger at 2 cops in a patrol car. Let me say that these 2 men do NOT represent mainstream black America, who want the same things I want. They want an education for their children, a safe neighborhood, a good job, and a family vacation, etc.

Our country needs a spiritual healing and politicians who care more about the people they represent and less about keeping their butt in office. Agitating fear and personal vindictiveness toward the opposite party needs to cease. Its not helping any of us. If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all.

"Round and round and around we go, where the world's headed nobody knows. Great googa mooga, can't you hear me talkin' to you, just a Ball of Confusion that's what the world is today."

Thursday, September 21, 2017

What, me read? Isn't that a 4 letter word?

I had an appointment this week at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center to have an echocardiogram, which by the way is an EKG times 10. It's a very thorough heart, artery, and vein exam. Contrary to what you may have read about the VA, these people are very good to Vets. By the by, I passed and was told I could continue to be the stud of a man that most people believe I am. Scratch that one off the list, as I am still good in that department.

I made my way up to the 3rd floor of the matrix of hallways and clinics and held up a Louis L'Amour novel, 2 copies of Reader's digest and 2 issues of Popular Mechanics and asked the 50 or so people in the waiting room, if anyone wanted something to read. Not a single taker in the bunch. Seriously? The western was Rider of Lost Creek; an awesome depiction of the 1870's gunslinger era in the old west.

I laid them on the table and sat down and chatted with two grisly old Vets my own age. One had flown in from the Philippines and was suffering from congestive heart failure. The other one lives in Vidor and they are lifelong buddies from the Vietnam war. I had already read what I brought to augment the usual "stuff" that is on the tables in this place, so I simply chatted and exchanged experiences of my time passing through the Clark Air Force Base on my way to the war.

Joan Martin hit the proverbial nail on the head with Tuesday's column titled "Writing & training my brain" and I told her so. I love to read and spend a great deal of time exercising this skill every day. Yes, I call it a skill, because evidently, it is vanishing. I call what I do exercising because as Joan stated, it does indeed exercise our aging brains.

"Writing is like reading, on steroids." I quote myself. Writing is a seriously bumped up version of reading, because writers create. We pull words out of thin air. We weave stories and ideas to fill the need of readers and ourselves. I literally see the stuff I write and often will read and reread my own column 10 times before I submit it. I write because I must. I read because I can't stop thirsting for knowledge and adventure.

But what about those who never read more than they have to? They read street signs and food brand names. Restaurant menus have become a challenge to  many unless they have pictures with a number beside them. They read Tweets and one sentence paragraphs. They speed read everything, making Reader's Digest look wordy. If you ask one of these many what book they last read, they look at you with a thousand mile stare, once reserved for combat veterans.

Online programs such as Twitter are actually making people stupid.  Texting four word sentences, if you can call them that, are promoting the same degenerative retardation of our cognitive abilities. To prove a point in how low we have fallen, take a look at this column.  I write in very short paragraphs, or no one will read it. If a friend sends you a joke and it is more than 3 short paragraphs, do we read it?  Highly unlikely, right?

Reading books is already a socially diminishing skill. Those of us who still do it are vanishing dinosaurs and when and if we pass on to the next life, what does the future hold? Like Joan Martin said, each of us has a story inside us. Each of us crave to have that story told. Reading and writing go hand in hand and if you have a keyboard and a computer, start writing stuff down. You never know who will read it down the road. You may discover that as a reader, you are also a writer and to me, that is something special.

Truth be told, if you are reading this... you are a reader and like I pointed out, you are much in the minority. Reading is a dying skill being replaced with someone or some piece of technology talking to us to tell us what to think and what to do. "Press 1 for this, press 2 for that. Punch in this code and then leave a message."

Smart phones have us reading everything in micro-bytes and using our fingers to communicate. Do everything virtually for happiness. Press 1 for extra happiness. Press 2 for self-gratification. Pres 3 to put your brain in neutral. Lord help us in the future.

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?

The Republic for which it stands

Our founding fathers gave us a Republic, not a Democracy. I was probably about 17 the first time I picked up a copy of George Orw...