Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Why does Reefer madness still exist?

BB's take: Doesn't anyone else find it odd that so many seniors who smoked pot by the bushels in the 60's and 70's are now returning to it for medicinal and/or also "recreational" use (which is a way of saying they smoke it to relax or sleep better)? AFAIK, none of these people are currently against its use.

The naysayers are those who have never really indulged in it other than a toke after getting drunk in their teens or attending HS/college parties? The issue has become septic to Republicans because the Democrats are voting for it. This automatically demonizes it to many Conservatives. Add in religious folks who are against it along with alcohol and tobacco and you have a block of resistance that is unjustified.

Education is key here. Please look into it for yourself and forget what you have been fed. Hemp and marijuana were considered the same by our government until recently. The next step is to decriminalize the plant so it can be openly researched. Heck, it might cure the very health problem you are struggling against and in most cases you won't even feel it in your system. It might stop the pain you live with even when taking your prescription opioids.

Dr. Oz claims in the States that have legalized it, there has been a 25% decrease in opioid deaths.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Just say NO to extending the school year

BB's take: I agree with the professor's assessment of the problem and his solution of stopping the standardized testing and have raised these concerns in the Baytown Sun for years. We do not need more hours of school. What we need is to clip the wing of state mandated testing and allow school management to dictate a more robust approach, where school boards are allowed to set curriculum and be competitive with other institutions. Reading, writing, and arithmetic should be taught as a strong foundation and by junior school students should be allowed to take courses that massage their propensities and aptitude instead of passing state standardized testing.  Listen to Professor Showalter:

Steve Showalter is a government professor at Lee College in Baytown.

"Two weeks ago, the legislature discussed a proposal to add up to 30 days of instruction to the school year.   The online reader poll showed no interest in it, but the idea raises an important issue for discussion. Currently, the state of Texas requires 180 days of instruction every year. Nations that are kicking our butts in the worldwide education rankings generally require over 200 days of instruction per year. 

Well over half of public school students in Texas live below the federal poverty line. Advocates for these at-risk students feel that low income students and English language learners need far more than 180 days of instruction to catch up to their middle and upper class peers. The advocates also claim that the extended summer break harms low income students. Over the course of a three-month summer hiatus, at risk students lose ground because they do not have access to enrichment activities available to children in financially stable families.

Middle and upper income parents send their children to summer camps, enroll them in summer reading activities, and can afford to take their kids to museums, science exhibits, and historical sites.  Because of this, the gap between stable and poor students gets wider and wider each year. By the time they reach high school, low income kids could be two to three years behind in reading, writing, and math, and it is highly unlikely that they will ever catch up.

The problem is more complex than simply adding 15 instructional days in August and 15 instructional days in June. It would require a complete re-working of the school calendar, which would generate howls of opposition from all quarters.

A 210 day school calendar would require classes to be held almost year round with quarterly breaks of two to three weeks. From an educational standpoint, that would be better for students.  Periodic breaks give them enough time off to re-charge their batteries, but not so much time off that their knowledge and skills deteriorate.

Let the howling begin. Politicians do not want to increase taxes to pay for the additional six weeks of instruction. The Legislature estimates the cost to be $50 million for each extra day of instruction. Teachers might protest. No doubt they would appreciate the additional compensation, but they really need the time off.  The job is very stressful and demanding, and the long summer break keeps them from losing what is left of their marbles.

The tourism and hospitality industry would immediately mobilize against it. Summer is their bread and butter, and their business models are built around three months of sun and fun. Some readers supported a longer school day. Additional daily hours of instruction would negate the need to add days in August or June, but that would interfere with sacred cows, namely sports and extracurricular activities. 

There is a much simpler solution.  Cut back on standardized testing. 

School districts already spend up to one quarter of their instructional days (45 days) each year on test preparation, practice tests, test taking, and remediation for students who fail the silly tests. Those 45 days could be used for much meaningful activities. If the Legislature backed away from its peculiar obsession with standardized tests, the schools could use their existing time and money much more efficiently."

Thursday, February 07, 2019

The State of the Union 2019

I thought Donald Trump looked and spoke very "presidential".  In 2 years he has really improved his delivery. I also though Nancy Pelosi behaved herself and this was most likely due to the fact that Chuck Schumer wasn't whispering in her ear.  That man's smirk rankles me. Is smug partisanship the message he is trying to send to America? The man is the Senate Minority leader for God's sake representing a huge portion of the voting population. I believe the man only cares about his personal vision for America and not the voters in general. Are there no scraps for the other 165 million of us that didn’t vote for Hillary?
The Senate Minority leader, Chuck Schumer

Is there a voter in this country that can’t see the border wall battle is nothing more than a political tug of war that has nothing to do with the budget or America’s security? The Democrats simply want to keep Trump from fulfilling his campaign promises, as most of them have walls around their mansions. If Nancy and Chuck don’t believe walls keep strangers off their property, why do they have them? Why do they lock their doors and gates?
The accused and the accuser (Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford
Let’s step back to the Brett Kavanaugh hearing for a second, I want to make a point.

A giant wake-up call for me as a voter was the outrages behavior and blatant stalling of confirmation by the Democrats in attendance and how their only goal besides denying Kavanaugh was denying Trump AND Kavanaugh. The overwhelming ridiculous kid glove handling of Christine Ford by both parties was so over the top, you would think they were attempting to save the last hope for humanity. I had no problem with that one hour they took to hear her side of the claim and I gave her a guarded benefit of the doubt which I later retracted.

Her unsubstantiated claims were treated as fact and I am waiting for the day when someone comes forward and exposes her for the liar she is. If the roles had been reversed and Kavanaugh was accusing any female of the same thing it would have been booted out in a heartbeat. Every reasoning voter knows it would.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
However, when the Democrats viciously accused BK for hours even though he denied knowledge and no witness could corroborate her version, I felt like I had been violated as a voter and a citizen as much as the man being questioned. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked for clarification from the onset: "We’re talking today about Judge Kavanaugh’s conduct in high school — and even then, and as a freshman in college, I guess, as well."

The hearing should have stopped right then. After watching this attempted witch trial by the Democrats, I now hate the extreme side of the Party, whereas before, I had no idea just how twisted their vision is for the country. It appears to me that the far-left leaning Democratic Party’s vision for America is twisted and each bill they pass is destructive to the American way of life as we know it. They will not relent until the country has become socialist and anyone who has studied history knows this vision has failed all across the globe.

The ridiculous display of partisan politics led by a junior congressperson with no experience who proclaims a solid socialist agenda.

I believe the Democratic Party will never return far enough toward the middle to change my mind, but I am hopeful. I hold the same attitude toward the extreme right’s efforts to force the country in a direction most of us would not like. As a country I believe we must be progressive as times change, but too much too soon is always a recipe for disaster. The SOTU address by Trump was maybe the best he’s done, yet so many Democrats couldn’t even stand and clap when their Party agreed with what he was saying. They would look to Nancy to see if they were supposed to clap... or grimace. Chuck never gave up anything except his pat smugness.
Nope. American politics are worse than the Jerry Springer show and just as preposterous. We need a bi-partisan government which expends all of its energy on making the United States the greatest country in every way. Anything else is unacceptable.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What is wrong with this picture?

My grandson is 5 years old and over 4 feet tall. He weighs 76 pounds and is not fat. He’s a big boy with a 5 year old rapidly developing brain. He’s as tall as most kids 2-3 years older than him and at first glance; everyone thinks he acts like a “5 year old” instead of his supposed age. Many of the children in his kindergarten class are a year older and at this stage of development, that is considerable. Recognizing his future starting school, I advised him to explain to his teacher on the first day, “I am easily distracted, so I would like to be placed on the front row.”

I also explained that school can be a lot of fun if a student zips their mouth, opens their eyes and ears, and does their homework. All the actions and philosophy I described are repeated on a regular basis. On his first day of school he got a yellow mark for disrupting the class by talking. Now months into the school year, he battles with this same problem of talking or standing up or some such problem due mostly to his age and the fact that – gasp! He’s a boy and a hands-on child to boot. He likes to handle everything and this is not uncommon..

When he came in with the yellow mark after day one, I asked if he had explained to his teacher his issue of being distracted and he said he had. I asked what their reply was and he told me, “She said I was too tall and moved me to the back of the room.” Now months later he is still anywhere but where he asked to be seated and it is a 50-50 chance he will score below the acceptable green mark on behavior.

Now I am the oldest of 4 boys and there is nothing in his behavior that is outside of normality for a kid his age. He is active yes and will never be the kid that sits quietly for hours and does nothing to be noticed. The teacher did my grandson, herself, and every kid in the class a disservice by not listening to him on day one.

Now some may point out that a kid’s behavior is directly proportional to the teaching they get at home and years ago before experience taught me otherwise, I would agree with them. Ask any cop of preacher if their daughter or son is a bastion of righteous decisions and they’ll spew coffee, soda, or water all over you when they explode in laughter.

I’m not a doctor or therapist, but I think many of our boys are over-medicated to keep them from being boys and we refuse to think this child of ours needs help from pills. He has more energy than many and taking recess away from him because he won’t sit down in class is the direct opposite of what he needs.

Back in the day if a kid couldn’t sit still they would send them to the football coach and he would run the kid inside the gym for 10 minutes. The same went if fisticuffs broke out. The coach would have the boys put on boxing gloves and after that; they would become best of friends. These days the parents are fined a chunk of money and nothing is resolved. Its called zero tolerance and keeps liabilities at a minimum since no one is to blame for correcting the child.
When graduation from kindergarten finally arrives, my grandson will still be just 5 years old. Of course he will be 8 inches taller than the other kids when he begins 1st grade and it is my prayer that this teacher will listen to his request.

In the past I have made it clear that I am for empowering our educators and bringing back a certain amount of curriculum control aside from State and Federal dictates. I have not changed this one bit, but like the football coach of old, I would rather see these high activity kids do exercise than be herded like cats or some pat formula cover all students alike.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Is marijuana really the tool of the devil?

This letter appeared in the Baytown Sun, January 2019
I'm going to counter what this well-meaning fellow Charles Kelly submitted concerning marijuana being the tool of the devil.

(1) First off "after many years of medical research" is a serious deviation from the truth. There is ONE lab in the United States that gets a token (yeah, I know) amount of funds to give the appearance research is being conducted. One under-funded lab.

"Under the 1961 international Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the federal government is the single “agent” allowed to provide marijuana for research. As of now, the DEA has only authorized one grower, the University of Mississippi, which grows marijuana under contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). As part of this contract, UM holds a DEA Schedule-I Bulk Manufacturer registration to cultivate plants for this purpose."

They openly admit that the strict Schedule 1 drug classification hobbles them to do research by purchasing other strains of the weed, while illegal independent labs are miles ahead of them in research. The classification makes research almost impossible.

(2) He claims that marijuana has caused "accidents, deaths, and murders!" I would like to see data on that one. I would be willing to wager that cell phones cause 100X more accidents and deaths than pot usage and I would like to see sources quoted on the murder part. In other words, this is false or at the very least a gross exaggeration.

(3) Anytime anyone introduces "God" into an argument, they automatically invoke righteousness on their part. It appears the man believes it is sinful to even live next door to someone who uses medical marijuana and as bizarre as his argument is, visiting a state where it is legal also makes you guilty by association.

In summary, a person with an argument is not in the same league as someone with experience. My suggestion for this fellow is to get more education on the subject and leave his personal religious fervor out of it.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


Through my grandson I’ve met a 10 year old boy in my neighborhood. His name is, well let’s call him Jimmy. He is one of the politest kids I’ve met and I’m talking over a lifetime of children. Over the last so many months I’ve observed this polite child and how considerate he is in almost extraordinary ways. Today he basically watched over my grandson for hours as he and the other kids played on the street. He looked me in the eye and assured me he would make sure my grandson was safe. I took him for his word.

My great friend and fellow Vietnam Veteran Ren Fitts gave me a VHS camera with all the accouterments and it was in my garage when Jimmy came up the driveway pushing his bike. I noted both tires were thread-bare and I commented on it. In the most adult manner, he politely explained to me that he “did indeed need new tires, but at this present time, my dad is not financially able to actually replace them… but, if you would just air up the tire, sir, it will be good for 3 days.” It’s important to note he is either an Academy Award nominee, or totally without guile.

In my heart I wanted to immediately replace those tubes and tires, well remembering how it was when I rode that iron horse and how many soda bottles I had to redeem to get the money for new rubber. Replacing a boy’s tires and tube in 2019 could be considered a pervert crime of some sorts and as bad as I want to help, I couldn’t. That’s his parent’s job… but I do have something I may can donate toward this young boys future. (Please excuse my Texan)

The day I met Jimmy he revealed that he had written a number of “stories” and did I want to read them? Of course I did and I explained that some regard me as a writer. He rode off on his bike only to return with an 8X11 binder with about 5 multi-sheet drawings with captions. It was his vision and he wanted to share it… with me. Heck yes I was interested. I gave him a very encouraging nerdish review of his work and he seemed pleased.

My first impression of the boy was he was so polite, he simply must be an abused child.

I was wrong.

It turns out he lost his mother 2 years ago and is damaged goods. He told me he still has nightmares but “has learned to handle it.”

“What is that Mr. Marshall?”

“It is out-dated technology, Jimmy, but is really cool. It’s a VHS camera and all the trappings. It’s yours if you want it…” The plastic box before him had a shoulder-mount large VHS Camera and I showed him how you mounted it up high by his head. His eyes were like saucers as his brain processed what was before him. With his interest in stories and writing, I felt like I was sowing a seed, much like handing a guitar to a 10 year old Jimi Hendrix.

Jimmy took possession of the camera and came back and asked permission to supervise my grandson on the next street over. They were going to stage a water-balloon fight and he promised me all would be okay. I gave him my blessing and the two boys rode off to do what kids on bikes do… much like my brothers and I did 50 years ago.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Is Border Security really all that?

I am not going to interpret their response to what the president said about Border Security, but to me it sounded as if they wrote their rebuttal without hearing what he said.

 I have an alarm system on my house. I also have 8 cameras plus a motion detector at my driveway that sends a signal when anything crosses the beam including squirrels and birds. I’ve became very well acquainted with a black and white long-haired cat because of this. Yesterday it caught and killed a baby squirrel and all of it caught on the edge of one of my camera views.

I have 4 sets of solar lights that are tripped by motion. I have a lock on my back gate. I have 2 very bright high pressure sodium lights that shine on the trail behind my house and illuminate my large back yard. At any given time I have access to a number of loaded weapons inside my house and regularly carry a firearm that shoots a heavy hollow-tipped bullet specifically designed to kill military targets. My perpetually loaded 12 gauge shotgun fires 9 triple-aught buckshot shells before I have to reload from my 50 shell bandoleer and yet, I do not live in fear of being attacked.

Why all this security which sounds overboard and unnecessary? Is there a caravan of ruffians on Massey Tompkins headed my way? Has karate training turned me into a paranoid schizoid gun-licking wannabe shooter who cleans his guns with saliva? No. I rarely even look at my weapons, which include a good number of fighting knives I’ve trained with

Here’s the crux of the matter. I have made all these precautions because I don’t want to worry. It’s the same reason that my house and vehicles stayed locked even when I am inside. If trouble arrives, my first action will be to call Baytown Police. If I am working on my computer and my alarm systems tells me a door or window has opened, I don’t panic. My heart does not raise a beat. I simply arm myself and take a look and I can assure you, I will respond in a defensive way if it is an intruder. I’ve spent a great deal of my life preparing for that moment and yet, if possible, I will still call 911. I live in peace with my environment, but in the event that everything hits the proverbial fan, I am well prepared to deal with it. It sure beats pretending it can’t or won’t happen and just maybe I will survive until my Blue brothers arrive.

I set all of this in motion for my own peace of mind and my family’s safety. Am I anti-social and unfriendly to strangers? No, I feel safe because I have made every attempt to be safe. When I am in public or driving around, I keep my eyes and mind on task and because of that, I have never had an accident I caused.

My home stays secure because my family is there and I am protective. There were no politics involved in my decision. Securing our border literally means creating a barrier. Can you imagine securing your house if you had no doors or windows? How about your car or truck that you have enslaved yourself financially to? Can you imagine how crazy that sounds? Let’s see what it looks like. “I believe in border security, but I want everyone to be able to waltz in at their leisure and everything will be okay.” Crazy and foolish.

Border security with a physical barrier ultimately says there will be a price to pay if you try to sneak in with or without drugs and children and women for sale. The price someone pays for breaking and entering my house (the last time I checked) could well mean the criminal trespasser(s) eat big lead. My family and I decide who enters our homestead, not anyone else. I have legal right to physically stop this person from entering and if it means I kill them, then so be it. Why are our borders any different? If they want what we have earned, then by all means enter legally and I have no sympathy for man, woman, or child that comes across unwanted and uninvited.

Examine why you believe what you do about securing our borders and if you think it is unnecessary, then I humbly ask you to unlock everything you own from this day forward and toss away your keys.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Get behind the mule, or sit down.

I feel no sympathy for the Republican's who did not get behind the president and were voted out. Their stand to keep politician's positions sacred has been exposed as a strategic ploy that has failed them and the country. What voters want is to stop all the partisan fighting and start representing what is actually good for the country and until they realize this, they can all get voted out for all I care. We voters are like abused children watching their parents fight.

Only anarchists revel is disharmony and any voter who is foaming at the mouth over this president, should stop for a second and ask themselves one question; what has Donald Trump done that has personally made your life worse? Your life, not what some Iraqi politician or a Honduran illegal immigrant thinks or experienced. What has the President done to you personally to make you hate him? Has he made you lose your job like Reagan did to so many of us during Reaganomics?

Has Trump’s wife taken elaborate and expensive vacations on your tax dollar, like Michelle Obama did with her 28 person entourage? Does it irk you to the point you want to drive to Washington DC and protest because he didn’t take a paycheck in 2 years? If not, can you praise him for that unselfish act? Most assuredly not, because Trump haters would hate him even if he gave away hundred dollar bills from his own larder.

Trump is systematically undoing all the neck-choking regulations that has turned our country into a place where there were no jobs and no hope of getting them. The people who voted for him are seeing a politician actually attempting to fulfill their campaign promises and an opposing party that has flip-flopped on everything they wanted and all because it is now Trump who is pushing it. Bush, Clinton, and Obama all wanted a wall and an overhaul in border security, so what changed? Trump wants it, that’s what. If he wants vanilla ice cream, they automatically want strawberry.

Make no mistake, voters aren’t buying all this Trump-hating nonsense and the swamp still needs to be drained. The target is any politician that puts their own agenda ahead of what is best for the country. Call them Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian, if they don’t want what is best for America, vote them out in 2020. Politicians, you have 2 years to get your act in alignment with the American people.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Stop the insanity over marijuana

Medical marijuana can bring relief to hundreds of thousands of people in pain.

 Please, please, please stop the insanity over marijuana. There is no reefer madness folks. No one is smoking pot and robbing liquor stores or raping victims because of pot alone. If they are perverts and criminals, they are going to do what they do regardless if they smoke pot or not.

There is not going to be an epidemic of zombie people because of weed. They already walk among us on cartel pot. In addition, we are already seeing this due to general cell phone usage.
The Democrats are using it as a tool to divide voters. Don't fall for it. Start with medical marijuana. Legalize, regulate, tax, and dispense to responsible buyers. Keep the tax rate low enough to avoid creating yet another vice-driven black market. Create an easy to use scale to reliably dictate the strength of the pot so buyers can safely use it, much like we do with alcohol proof and the heat scale of hot peppers.

First off, marijuana should not be a partisan political issue. Shame on the Democratic Party for pandering to voters over marijuana usage. How blatantly misleading and shallow! Instead of working with the Republican Party for medical marijuana decriminalization, they choose to divide the voters.
"Over the past couple years, more and more lawmakers, including people who’ll very likely run for president in 2020 like Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, have signed onto legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level. This is increasingly becoming a mainstream position for Democrats." Vox

In plain English, people will vote for or against marijuana reform because one party supports it over the other! This is by design and stupid in the extreme! I say stupid because of the obvious medical benefits if for no other reason. Why does marijuana continue to be in the same class as heroin and opiates? Why is a plant that has been safely used both medicinally and recreationally for thousands of years all across the planet, have such a stigma placed on it in the last hundred years?

This is why I try my best to openly educate people on a subject many my age (66) are hush-hush over. Read. Think. Sift. Repeat. I know there are some of my readers who shake their head and think I am pushing things too far. In their mind it seems perplexing that a historically logical writer would think marijuana was safe and okay to use recreationally. It is okay. It is not the demon we were told it was and the special interest groups who would and are competing against pot want it to stay taboo.
“The sweeping Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, H.R. 2 (115), — better known as the Farm Bill, and signed into law by President Donald Trump on Thursday — legalizes hemp production and with it, potential sales of cannabidiol or CBD, a component of marijuana and hemp plants that has no psychoactive properties to get people high. It’s said to have anti-inflammatory and calming benefits, but questions about medical effectiveness remain.” Politico 12-25-18

Hemp and marijuana are genetically linked and the recent farm bill allowing the production of hemp is very important and amazingly overdue. Look at it this way. “One acre of hemp can produce as much paper as 4 to 10 acres of trees over a 20-year cycle, but hemp stalks only take four months to mature, whereas trees take 20 to 80 years. This information was known in 1916, according to a USDA report.” Wiki

The product list of superior products made from hemp is incredible and a downright threat to business as usual from the medical, lumber, and petrochemical industries and understanding this makes it easy to see why it is an illegal substance. The tobacco industry is heavily investing in the marijuana industry and that should have been a no-brainer to anyone watching. I wrote 5 years ago that they were a marriage made in heaven. Anything we can do to keep organized crime out of the pot industry is a win in my book.
So, to review, what must take place is a general loosening of State marijuana laws AFTER the federal government changes the classification of the plant from a schedule 1 drug. “Schedule 1 drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined by the federal government as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule 1 drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.” Wiki
Any rational person can see that marijuana does not fit as a schedule 1 drug.

Research by the government MUST loosen up the procurement laws for research facilities to actually conduct experiments. As it stands, private groups are miles ahead of the government and 99% of the reason is the tedious procurement and over-regulation between the DEA and the FDA. In their words, "A little-known research facility at the University of Mississippi is the only place in the country that is authorized to grow and test marijuana for medical research purposes. But this effort is stymied by a slow process for certifying scientists, a lack of funding and according to pot experts, an inferior product compared to what the booming cannabis sector has rolled out in recent years. “It’s brown, muddy garbage,” said Peter Grinspoon, a physician and board member of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, describing the Mississippi stock." Politico 12-25-18

Education remains the key element here and it is every voter’s responsibility to get a true understanding of what is involved. Ignorance is a poor excuse when standing up to facts and experience.


Monday, December 24, 2018

Time to archive inflationary geocache hides?

  A geocaching primer by BaytownBert (Bert Marshall)  12-24-18
This is an example of a tiny geocache being hidden in an evergreen bush in a subdivision. Neighbors will wonder what you are doing, as you look suspicious.
Since my first find in 2003, this game has exploded with a plethora of ingenious and yes… many poorly hidden containers. For every unique and well placed hide, there are 40 crappy micro/nano caches hidden in places no one wants to remember. The placement screams, “Why on earth would anyone hide a cache here?”

For instance, I recently found an LPC halfway up the drive-thru at a fast food restaurant. I parked in the lot and walked beside 2 cars waiting to get their order from the window. Did I feel stupid? No; I felt uncomfortable, but I lifted the skirt and signed the log anyway. Did I take care (as the instructions stated) to preserve the integrity of the hide from watchful muggle eyes?

No. I did not. In my opinion, this cache should never have been placed here. Placing a geocache in a high muggle area at one time was supposed to signify that it made it more difficult to get in and out undetected. These days you look like a terrorist drug dealer pedophile sneaking around and I simply will not do it. I don a safety vest and walk up like I own it. Of course I try to position myself to block the view of muggles, but frankly, I almost resent being put in this uncomfortable predicament. Was the lone smiley worth it? I say no. More and more often I drive up and seeing the placement, I shake my head and drive off with the intent of ignoring that cache in the future.

Seriously, how do you think you look scouring the back side of a Redbox DVD kiosk in front of a pharmacy? I’ll go ahead and tell you. You look suspicious and that is not something you should welcome or be subjected to. Many of these newbie hides go unmaintained and if it were not for generous geocachers helping to maintain them, they would be archived by a reviewer.

A veteran cacher placed
a container here.
The introduction of Smartphones and free Apps has caused many interloping newbie geocachers to sprinkle thousands of weak hides similar to the one I found at JIB. When you look at the geocaches in your area, there are so many that are totally forgettable. Many are placed in the corner of a parking lot either under a light skirt or 8 feet into the woods among the ton of litter on the ground. So much for CITO’ing the area because there is simply too much trash. After a day of geocaching, my 30 gallon plastic trash can in my Jeep is over-flowing. This literally happens every time I go out to find caches.

I say it is time veteran cachers dump these types of caches from their personal hide inventory and clean up their respective areas for new, higher quality hides. Newbies will continue to litter the landscape with weak hides and nothing can be done to stop that short of Groundspeak putting a find quota on when you can place a hide.

In the Houston/Beaumont area of Texas, there are thousands of poorly planned hides, sprinkled almost in a random fashion. I still own some of them that I plan to archive. It’s as if there was no forethought went into the hide. Sure its fun to log 10 quick hides, but the truth is nothing was gained other than 10 smilies were added to your total. Easy caches placed for travelers can be excused from my rant. I believe in accommodating travelers as a safety issue. Get them in and out of their cars and back on the road.

Plan your caches. Do the homework.
I currently have 187 active geocaches even though I recently archived 125 to make room for new hides, or just to flush the toilet on uninteresting hides. I am putting my money where my mouth is. No one seemed to notice and the reason for this is there are many thousands of caches available and the bulk of them are weak in placement. It’s true. The descriptions and hints are either absent or vague and it appears the planning stage was absent also. As an example, one forum user wrote they intended to put out a power trail of 50 LPC’s. My eyeballs almost popped out in disbelief over that post.

Another example of what I am saying is I archived 29 caches in a series to make them more suitable to children. I could have simply rehid each cache with a new container, but I wanted to start over. The original series took folks down a seemingly haunted country road and each container was well hid. The new series are all (small or larger) black and have a red lid to help kiddos find them. I want them to find them, so each cache also has a good hint. The series for veterans will be easy peasy and a quick 29 caches, but for newbie’s it will be a training ground for further adventures.

Hopefully their success will excite and educate them enough to tackle the harder geocaches. The outcome could be that they will continue to play the game for more than 2 weeks and hold off hiding one until they learn more about the game. The landscape is constantly littered with inflationary and meaningless caches regardless of how much scrutiny the reviewers use. World’s of information is currently available on cache placement and seeing that veterans can eliminate their own low quality hides, the game could be invigorated again. It surely needs a shot of adrenaline, IMO.
Is it time for a moratorium on LPC's?

The same is happening with events and I’ve written about this before in another primer. Make events more than just a meet and eat. At one time years ago, there were maybe 6 events planned for the Houston area over the next 2 months. Currently in this same area there are 20-40 events scheduled at any given time. There are so many events that attendance is usually under 10 people. Like the low quality hides, events are meaningless other than to eat or to talk to the same 6 people and no one bothers to post photos. It has become so pervasive that I’ve all but stopped hosting events. Now if you live in an area of few caches, then forgive me for this suggestion, but it may still apply. Don’t fret archiving them to place better caches. Build it and they will come.

Hide a variety of caches for all skill levels, but a “power trail” of cricket micros in evergreen bushes might need to be reconsidered. Plan it in such a way that geocachers will give your hides favorite points and you will know you are doing it right.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Chasing Geotour Coins and Swag

 Back a few years ago, my mentor HoustonControl and I set forth to help launch the Baytown Texas Geotour GT7A. Our city has a very friendly tourism department and we are basically a tri-city area that consolidated years ago around the Goose Creek oil field. Our city has a lot of history the Geotour could exploit and the two of us archived our own caches in many cases to accommodate the history and the Geotour.

We were very excited about getting a Geotour and to this day, still support it. Often while the tourism department is away from the city, I maintain and repair the caches needing maintenance and/or restock the containers with city donated swag. In short, the Geotour is a wonderful addition to the +/-500 available caches in this town and surrounding area. We take pride on keeping our caches well maintained.

All of this was stated to bring to light an effect I did not see coming.

Experienced cachers only come to Baytown to do the Geotour, or lately a series of Lab caches whereby they get more swag. This has become so apparent in the last year that my 200+ active caches are almost completely ignored. Very close to one of the Geotour caches parking lot (400 feet) is a large container, letterbox hybrid, and Travel Bug hotel with (at the moment) 14 trackables - BB's HoustonControl Tribute Cache!  GC7Q27B. Very few make the short trek to log it.

The closest geotour cache has been logged 60+ times in 2018 and the TB motel 14 and 4 of those were Baytownians. Here is the crux of the biscuit, as Frank Zappa would say; are we becoming so obsessed with getting a geocoin that we rush past geocaches to earn one? If that is the case, think on this a bit. Where is our geocoin and trackable inventory stored? Mine is in a zippered bag in my closet and weighs about 10 pounds. Lately I’ve been thinking of dropping every single one of them in geocaches, as they have long lost their importance to me.

I spent 3 days in Brenham recently (Birthplace of Texas GeoTour (GT2F) )and concentrated on every geocache I encountered. Many were on the list of the geotour, but guess what? I still need a good number to get the coin. Maybe next year? Maybe not. I had fun and spent time with a number of the local cachers (SockMonkey69 & BlueStarsForever). I wanted to smell the roses in Washington County, not run myself into a Geocoin frenzy.

Am I trying to throw cold water on Geotours, lab caches, and trackable murals? No, I am not. What I am saying is maybe we are playing the game too fast. Maybe running a macro in GSAK to bypass everything to get to point A and B in the most efficient manner is a boo-boo. Should we pursue the Geotour? Yes, but is the coin really all that important to us? It’s not to me. I have a stack of unactivated trackables to give away at my events, but seeing there are so many events now in the Houston area (+/-30) a travel bug will hardly tempt anyone to attend an event 30 miles east of Houston.

I also understand that this appeal is less giggly happy of the usual fare for FTF Geocacher magazine and more food for thought than anything. If those of us who have played this game for many years stop and stare at why we are playing and remember how exciting it was in the beginning, I do believe we would be all be in agreement that chasing a geocoin doesn’t make all that much sense. Most of us when arriving at Geotour #1 are thinking only about #2, #3, #4 (etc) and not how cool the historic location is. Zipping through them like a chainsaw and getting the heck out of Dodge before the sun sets is our driving force. Our oft-published logs are evidence we thought the cache was quite unremarkable.

Am I right or am I wrong? In my city, the Geotour has almost stopped outsiders from hunting the local caches. Now with that said, I have changed tactics on my own cache hides. Right off the bat, I archived over 80 of my geocaches leaving me with 180+ active caches. I redid one series of 10 and another of 29 to kindle interest GC7ZM4V & GC2HQV6 – hopefully. One by one I need to figure out a way to lure people off the “hell bent for leather” attack on the Geotour and get them to look for one of mine or others while here in Baytown, Texas.

I’ve found that if I hide a cache like this one GC7KRVQ - BB's Zombie Head Trip cache! (truly unique and “evil”) – nobody will look for it. If I hide an easy multi, I get the same response. So, what I have to do is make my caches more accessible to newbie’s with low D/T ratings so they can see them with the free App and hope I will light a fire under them to step up. Once this happens, I can send them a note to look over my geocaching primer page:

Am I saying I am going to place a slew of low quality LPC-type caches? Nope. I’ll hide them as best as possible, but I will include enough cryptic hints to spark excitement with new and old alike. Just like we did in the old days. No one has to look at the hint if they don’t want to, right?

If everything goes right, they just might become a geocaching powerhouse and I will have contributed to the game big time. Imagine the enjoyment both of us will experience!

Why are you hiding geocaches?

If you hide it, make sure people can actually find it, right?

Let’s face it; the urge to hide a geocache is as strong as the Force, but knowing how to control and direct it can be just as touchy. On the surface the only real task is getting good coordinates, a container that will stand up to setting in the woods for a couple of years and still be good, and a really good hide… that no one can find, right?

Well, the first two points are good, but let’s take a look at the “real hard to find” part. There is a reason for the difficulty/terrain grid and it is often very misleading. The most common occurrence is when a newbie hides a cache under a light skirt and publishes it as a 4.5 difficulty. We’ve all seen evidence of this, but what about the veteran cacher who does the opposite, making their cache as misleading as the newbie?

I can deal with the newbie’s submission, as quite often their inexperience causes unorthodoxy and confusion – never mind the cords being off 78 feet. Where I find the most frustration is when I look for a geocache placed by a veteran and the D/T grid is very low, the container is a micro or smaller, no hint is posted, and the container placement could disguise 500 caches.

In the words of my mentor friend Kirbydox (36,000+ finds), “Do you want people to find your caches or not, Bert?”

She told me this a few years ago when a group of us were discussing this very real phenomenon. My answer was “I do indeed,” and all of us nodded in agreement. She then went on to say that this is the reason she posts a hint on her hides (100+). “It’s their business whether they look at the hint or not.” I adopted this philosophy immediately and over time have been revising my older caches as I do maintenance on them to facilitate seekers.

Now let’s look at who we are targeting when we place a cache. Seeing there is a large deviation between people in wheelchairs, or health problems that restrict their physical movements and the tri-athletes who play this game, it is only realistic that we decide who we are trying to target. The answer should be obvious in that we tune the hide and description, along with the hint to target each demographic. This area is in deep need of attention by those of us who fancy ourselves as hiders.

If it is indeed a truly evil hide, then of course no hint is in order, but if it is a 2.0 difficulty and is the size of a DNA tube in a stand of bamboo and no hint, what you have just placed is nothing more than a mean hide – nothing evil here at all. You are going to stall a geocacher looking for a needle in a haystack and frankly, there are too many of these crummy hides as it is, IMO.
A few years back I placed a series of about 10 caches alongside the feeder road on Interstate 10 (I-10) with the intention of luring travelers to get out of their car and take a break. It was called the “Keep on Trucking series”. It did not attract any that I could see, so after much thought, I archived them and set out new containers - BB's (1) I-10 Take a break series! GC7ZM4V and there are ten of them. Each container is one of my Berty Tubes painted black with a candy apple red top. The intention here is for travelers to make a quick find on ten caches. The D/T rating on all ten is 1.5/1.5 and I give directions as to how to ingress and egress all caches from either direction. It’s new, so let’s see if it works. I see it as a public service and a safety issue.

All of us have swerved off the main road to grab an easy cache only to spend 10 minutes looking and finally give up. Sure we got out of our car/truck and yes, it was a good thing, but without a smiley, it wasn’t worth stopping. In fact, it can make a cacher angry. YMMV.

I have another series I placed about 8 years ago that I archived recently and placed 29 new caches, leaving #1 with 64 favorite points: BB's (1) "Curse of the Goatman" Series GC2HQV6. Initially I placed it as a fun series for families with kids. Each one was clueless and difficult to find and all were black. It had a very good run, but guess what? 8 years ago there weren’t a bazillion caches for people to find like there are now and people these days appear to be obsessed with power trails they can almost grab from their car window. No one these days wants to spend 30 minutes looking for a low D/T rated cache and I don’t either.

With the advent of the Smartphone and non-premium members attempting this game, folks are making more caches premium to avoid muggles, added maintenance, and some admit not wanting non-premium members access to the game. Really, it’s true. I on the other hand see it in a different light. I want the newbies with phones and Apps to look for my caches and maybe, just maybe, they will get the bug and be the next Kirbydox, Team Troglodyte, HoustonControl, or ParkerPlus. This is just one reason I teach classes and write Geocaching 101 primers.

With the proliferation of almost inflationary geocaches popping up everywhere, it might just be time for us veterans to look at our hides and make some adjustments.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

I might be Speedy Gonzales

 I guess I need to define that title for clarity and levity. “Speedy Gonzales is an animated cartoon character in the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies series of cartoons. He is portrayed as The Fastest Mouse in all Mexico with his major traits being the ability to run extremely fast, speaking with an exaggerated Mexican accent and also speaking Spanish.”

I might just be the fastest mouse in Baytown. I guess I should be apologetic for stating this, but shaking my haid, I simply can’t. If I were to be asked why I appear to be so confidant, I would have to admit, “Because it is reinforced on a daily basis by the slower and sluggish masses.”

At the behest of my youthful Bride, I have tried to reign in my status as “Speedy Gonzales”, but “No va a pasar.” For some bizarre reason, she claims “You are just high-strung, honey!”, but we both know it is not me, but everyone around me... except her, of course. We both understand that my Bride of 41 years is skating along in my wave of speedy activity and sometimes objects to my special abilities.

I do my best to relay the simple fact that everyone around me is moving and thinking slower than me, but she is not really onboard. My observations when in traffic fail to bring her over to my way of thinking… for some inexplicable reason.

On the surface, it appears I am jumpy when it comes to a traffic light turning green, but the truth of the matter is, I am simply watching the light and when it turns green… I go. I also habitually come to a complete stop before turning right on red, which slaps me directly in the minority. No rolling stops for me. I habitually use my blinker also and usually put it on far in advance to my actual turn.

Yes, maybe I do jack rabbit from the line and often will get up the speed limit (where I stay) only to open a gap of an eighth mile between me and the cars behind me. Now here’s the weird thing. By the time I get to a quarter mile from the light, the cars that were with me at the light will all blow past me. Now who then is jack rabbiting? They were lento to go when the light turned green (cell phone alert), but after they get going, they usually blow past me 10 miles an hour over the speed limit.

If you are a driver who actually is applying the rules we were taught when we sought getting a drivers license, then you know exactly what I experience. If you fall into the sluggish group, you most likely don’t know I am talking about you. I tell folks we are living out the Walking Dead when it comes to a good number of our driving society.

Add in the other bizarre things zombie drivers do and it’s a wonder more people aren’t killed or injured on our streets. No too many moons ago I was about 50 yards behind a car when they suddenly stopped. I mean they put on the brakes and stopped in the lane. I hit my brakes and went past them at maybe 20 mph. Guess what they were doing. You guessed it; they were staring at their phone. I shook my head in confusion and muttered something along the lines of, “Que estúpido idiota.

Like my padre before me, I have never caused or been the reason someone wrecked an automobile or truck. Maybe its because when we drove, we actually paid attention to the road in front and back of us and not everything else. Call me Speedy Gonzales if you like and I won’t be offended, but if you don’t get going at a red light and are in front of me… You’re going to get the horn.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

America needs a benevolent government

Over my 10 years of columns/blogs I have made it very clear I believe the real purpose of our government is to protect American citizens. What is happening in California with the numerous fires is a perfect blackboard. Federal, State, county, and city officials need to come to their rescue. The same goes for Florida and hurricane Michael. Whatever it takes to get those citizens back on their feet is what our government should do.

Forget mid-term election results. If I were a politician who was defeated in California and Florida, the first thing I would do is hustle down to these disaster sites and help in any way possible. What I am trying to say is actually do something besides playing politics and point fingers.

I’ve been watching the “news” and I see Nancy Pelosi mounting a giant effort to be elected as speaker of the house. I may have missed the many briefings she made to help the Camp Fire victims. Maybe the fake wing news “just ain’t reportin’ it”, I don’t know, but what I do know is the partisan politics we saw in the Judge Kavanaugh monkey trial made me violently ill. It made me hate politics, especially the Democrat’s partisan attack on the man.

Major weather events like fires, earthquakes, floods, mud-slides, volcanoes, tornados, hurricanes, and blizzards are when our government can shine, but they can’t do it if they are fighting over every little partisan issue. Listen to me politicians. America is sick of watching our government fight over everything. Do something “for the people” that proves your devotion to the voters. Use our tax money for more than hand-outs to countries that hate us.

When we have whole cities incinerated and hundreds of citizens dead or missing, we need help! Forget all this politicin’ and show you care by getting FEMA to these disaster sites and get people off the ground. Modular housing with centrally located showers for starters. Food, water, and a direct line for prescription drugs for another. Bring in the Navy Seabee’s and the Army Corps of Engineers and have them clear the area. Make medical care free until they can file or not.

After WWII, this was called the Marshall Plan. “The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was an American initiative to aid Western Europe, in which the United States gave over $12 billion (nearly $100 billion in 2016 US dollars) in economic assistance to help rebuild Western European economies after the end of World War II.” Our leaders determined that walking away from Europe after WWI was a huge mistake and allowed Adolf Hitler to rise to power.

By rebuilding the country (and Japan) we brought them lemonade from smashed lemons. This will work here also. Put those troops to work here and let the leaders of other countries stop stuffing their own pockets with American aid money. Americans won’t try to kill our troops with IED’s either and will most likely work right along beside them.

I appreciate the President visiting California and saying we will get it done. I just hope it is more than bottled water and MRE’s. Here we are over a year after Hurricane Harvey and folks are still not back to normal.

It is high time Americans demand, yes demand accountability in times of anarchy, contagion, weather disasters, and even caravans of people attempting to breach our borders illegally. We do have to put our interests above theirs. I am always reminded of the venerated Mahatma Gandhi. Yes, he did a lot of wonderful things, but did you know that according to Biblical scripture, he was worse than an infidel? Why, you may ask?

The reason I say he is worse than an infidel is because he did not take care of his own family. He gave almost everything he earned to the poor, making his own family poorer. He would not let his many children get an education. I learned this by reading his autobiography. His wife pleaded and begged him to no avail. He took care of everyone else, but left his own family starving and ignorant. Sound familiar?

It should. It’s how our politicians view the Global scene. Feed them first! Hockey, I say! Forget the global scene if we Americans have drastic needs. I’m not saying we should break ties, I’m saying we should take care of our “family” first.

Pay your taxes, obey the laws and tell the government to only step in when we have a disaster. But when major trouble rears its ugly head, step in with both feet and do it immediately. Use government funds to rebuild and then witness the amazing recovery and voter confidence in our government return.

Why does Reefer madness still exist?

BB's take: Doesn't anyone else find it odd that so many seniors who smoked pot by the bushels in the 60's and 70's are no...