Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dreams, Fact or Fiction?

I must admit, I don't put a lot of credence in dreams, but occasionally; I have one that sticks with me and makes me wonder if there was more to it than a nighttime matinee.

Last week I had a curious dream that seemed very real. In it, I was hiking along with my 2 dogs (I only have one dog) when a medium sized brown dog attacked me. It came straight for me, with ears pulled back, teeth bared and the hair standing up on its back. It happened so fast, my 2 dogs did not respond.

I realized immediately it planned to viciously injure me, so reaching down, I grabbed a handful of the fluffy soil I was standing in and threw it straight into the eyes of the attacking dog. I remember doing it twice in rapid succession. This had a straightaway effect, by stopping the dog in its tracks.

I immediately felt satisfaction, having bested the dog using superior strategy and technique, but my victory was short-lived when I looked at the defeated dog and saw it in a helpless state.
Its ears were hanging down and its eyes and muzzle were packed with dirt. It was thoroughly defeated and humbled. My elation turned to guilt and sympathy as I recognized the poor dog was defeated and without my help, destined to fall prey and die.

The last thing I remember in this dream was looking around for a source of water to wash the dirt from the poor things eyes and taking it on as another friend.

What do you think of this dream and do you also have dreams that appear to be out of the ordinary?

I asked this pair of questions on a number of mailing lists and forums and a fellow Baytonian suggested the website www.dreammoods.com . On this site, I read: "To dream that you are being attacked by an animal is a warning to be careful with those around you. Take notice on who you know in your waking life that shares and exhibit the same qualities of the animal that attacked you in your dream."

Other interpretations, suggestions and comments from friends follow.

· I think it says a lot about you as a person. You do what you have to do in order to protect yourself. But, it doesn't mean you are proud of hurting others and still feel compassion for all life. One could draw a connection from this to Joe Horn. (Not that it's what it means to you).

· It sounds like a parable to me. The medium brown dog represents the immigrant element and you are torn between neutralizing the problem with a legal approach and the hurt it might cause those illegal aliens who are just trying to make a living and don't really understand the law of the US. I believe that Jesus uses parables because they reflect the parable nature of our dream life thereby communicating with both the conscious and the unconscious. Just a theory I came up with years ago when I noticed that dreams have a fable like symbolism. Perhaps it is representative of a conflict in your mind period. What it shows is that you are going to solve a problem and then deal with painful fallout later.

· Your two dogs are two people close to you. An outsider threatened your safety. Going into survival mode, you used something to neutralize the threat and attack their weakest area, but you are not sure if the threat is/was real. Now, in hopes of gaining another friend, you feel the need to mend a possible wrong doing on your part.

· Interesting dream, I often have dreams that come true. There have been many instances in my life where I have dreamed about certain events regarding family, or my life and they have come to pass. Some of them are warnings and some of them are good things about the future. I don't believe every dream I dream is a message but I have learned to distinguish the difference. Usually dreams that stick with you and you can't seem to shake it off are usually ones that are significant.

In summation, I have no idea what this dream has to do with reality, if anything, but it was interesting and not the run of the mill "bean" dream, so I thought I would pass it along.


Happy New Year to all in 2008! This year is almost history.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Examining personal beliefs

Last week, in response to my sister's question, "Tell me what you don't believe", I pounded out a rather lengthy list. Here we are, a couple of days before Christmas and if there is one time in the year that I should put a positive foot forward, it's the Christmas season.

I believe that anyone who causes me to examine my beliefs is doing me a favor. Too many times in the past I allowed myself to be swayed by an "expert", only to find out down the line that by doing this, I put my own judgment in neutral.

I believe the average person of any country does not want their government interfering in their lives any more than is absolutely necessary, but want to be free to pursue a happy and meaningful existence, unhindered by over-regulation.

I believe a personal experience with Jesus Christ is something only those who have experienced can fathom. Folks who spend a great deal of energy trying to disprove the existence of God, will most likely come to a place in their life where they call out to him for mercy.

I believe men and women can only enjoy a monogamous relationship if both work at it daily. When both do their part, marriage is heaven on earth. It is a partnership of the most intimate kind and requires daily maintenance and a copious amount of patience.

I believe we as the decision making older generation, need to push for less general education in our schools and more technical vocational options. With three High schools, one of them should turn out students with practical money making trade skills, allowing them to move directly into the work force, or go on to college.

I believe if I were given a chance to go back in time and relive or change something in my past, I would decline the offer. I try to live each day as a learning experience and do my best to not repeat mistakes and wrong choices. I've made a lot of mistakes, but what has happened has happened.

I believe one of the wildest things I've ever heard of was my friend Kester Coleman being tricked into thinking he had won millions of dollars in the Texas Lottery. He was so convinced that he was on his way out of the Plant, when my coworkers finally had to tell him. KC is amongst the chosen few, who know what it feels like to win the lottery.

I believe I saw a little girl looking at Santa Claus at the company Christmas Party and her eyes said it all – there is Santa – right…THERE! By the look of wonder on her face, I was able to return to my own days of innocence.

I believe my sister and brothers are all successful because my strict mother made us pay room and board when we got jobs as teenagers – one third of our bring home pay and this contributed to the welfare of the family. All of us learned a strong work ethic and to this day are gainfully employed or retired. Thanks, Mom! I didn't understand it then, but you were right.

I believe that every person in a position of authority should spend a day as often as necessary, using a shovel in the hot sun. This is to help them remember what real work feels like and what the person on the bottom experiences. Attending countless meetings and calling that "work", makes for a mighty thin soup and I base this observation on personal experience.

I believe that for every policeman, schoolteacher, Boy Scout leader and preacher who does wrong and violates the honor of their profession, there are hundreds of good ones toiling silently and without recognition. It's time we recognized the good ones and restore trust in these fine professional endeavors.

I believe inside every person is the desire to do the right thing. A kind word of encouragement, a favor or a boost, a pat on the back or a helping hand is our gift to them and does more for a person than simply throwing money their way. However, I also believe anything worth having is worth working for.

I believe our community is and will be only as good as we make it. This next year is our chance to make a difference. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to one and all!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sorry, but I don’t believe that.

My wife tells me I am the kind of person who doesn’t go out of their way to make people feel comfortable. I thought I was simply stating what I believe to be logic, but she knows me better than almost anyone else, including moi. At the recent Texas Avenue Christmas parade, the lady in front of me saw our new city manager and commented to a friend that he she heard he wasn’t well liked. I butted in with my 2 cents and stated I liked him because he was a strong leader and Baytown needs a leader with backbone.

She turned and asked who exactly I was and I told her I was Baytown Bert. She said "Oh" and then went on to say she only said what she did because she had read about the city manager on the online forum Baytown Talk and some folks weren’t happy about the police thing and the way the new city manager handled it. My alarmed and shy bride was once again subjected to my aggressive public behavior and this justified her observation.

However, it all ended peacefully and after chatting with her husband, who turned out to be an old friend from my ARCO Chemical days, we turned our attention to the parade. I would like to say his name is Bob Hoskins, but I wouldn’t want to embarrass his beautiful and kind wife.

A couple days ago, my sister Connie, who is an engineer on the Motiva refinery expansion in Port Arthur challenged me to list a few things I don’t believe in, on or about. I responded in my typical fashion of pounding the keyboard until my inspiration dries up, so without further ado, here it is.

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I don't believe the Virgin Mary will ever appear on the side of a building. Or in a sandwich, or anywhere and if someone tells me she has, I’ll forever put a question mark on them.

I don't believe in Capitalism without a conscience. I love to sell stuff and give folks a good deal to boot, but I also give a lot of stuff away, especially if I think the person needs a boost. Whenever I find I have more than I can use of anything, I start figuring out ways to give some of it away.

I don't believe in following the crowd, unless it is my decision. I guess I am simply a rebel and I have an innate distrust of almost everything initially. I have found that I am very good company when I go alone.

I don't believe in neglecting pets. I love dogs and I’ll pet cats, if they behave. I talk to dogs and they understand me. They can sense that I am a dog lover. Dogs are pack animals and don’t understand being left alone for long periods of time.

I don't believe in obsessing over sports. Call me unpatriotic and Un-American, but I have better things to do than memorize sports numbers, stats and player history. The whole industry is over-blown and out of control in my opinion.

I don't believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. If I want something, I do the required educational research BEFORE I jump into it and get what I want the first time. I don’t window shop period, so I avoid unnecessary temptation.

I don't believe in being mean to women because they are women. I tend to see all women as ladies until they act otherwise. I do believe in being equally mean to men, women and children when they violate my personal space. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt until they prove their true nature.

I don't believe there is any food that beats bacon for intrinsic flavor. Bacon is the food of the gods and just about enhances anything it touches. I’m wondering when they will make Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla with chocolate-dipped bacon bits.

I don't believe marijuana is the devil drug it’s made out to be. I sincerely think the crackdown on pot has done nothing but facilitate the importation of easier to conceal drugs like cocaine and heroin and the theft of pharmaceuticals, increased violence and inflated street prices. Plus it has filled our prisons and court dockets to the point where violent criminals are released.

I don't believe Hollywood entertainment can beat God's handiwork for personal gratification. The television is a blight that needs to be self-regulated into small doses, if not turned off altogether. Aside from the poor selection of quality programs, the constant bombardment of advertisement for items we don’t need, but have come to desire makes the television a poor substitute for almost anything found in the great outdoors.

I don't believe that I could find a better mate than my wife. My lady compliments my life in every way. When I am harsh, she is gentle. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about how good she is for me.

I don't believe in living each day at work, wishing I was somewhere else. Long ago I accepted the simple fact that "work" was not play and I was going to spend a large part of my life at work, so I learned to enjoy myself at work and when it is quitting time, I simply shift gears.

I don't believe we Americans really understand how to live a quality life. Here in America, it is all about money, the accumulation of money and all the stuff a person can buy. The accumulation of vast amounts of worldly possessions supposedly equals happiness and quality of living. We are fed a steady diet of commercials to keep us wanting more until we truly believe the H2 Hummer or the winning of the lottery equals Nirvana. I don’t believe it.

I don't believe looking at dead people in caskets is the best way to remember them. When I do go to a funeral, I do not look at the person in the casket. I don’t want to remember them that way and I’ve asked to be cremated, so folks won’t see the shell I used to live in.

I don't believe the present times compare to the turbulent 60's. I was a teenager beginning in mid-1965 and this country was at war, on the verge of civil collapse, the shooting of political leaders and peace activists, the Communist Red scare and the open embracement of the drug culture. Nope, the 60’s were something I do not believe I want to repeat.

I don't believe a young man can be lonelier than a G.I. stationed far from home at Christmas time. I spent four Christmas’ away from home as an Airman and I can say from experience, it is a sad, sad time.

I don't believe a person can do more to prepare for their future than read books. Books! Give me a book and I will travel back in time, or into the future. I will survive long years as a POW, or be marooned on a desert island. I will tour the world with a rock band, or explore a hidden jungle. And in doing so, I will excite the part of my brain that will help me live a richer life.

I don't believe there is a higher calling than a combat medic. My longtime friend Don Trumps, the son of a Pentecostal Preacher and a man of faith himself, went to Vietnam as a C.O. (Conscientious Objector) combat medic and served his country without carrying a weapon. His stories of personal sacrifice, danger and saving lives in the jungles of Nam under the harshest of circumstances make my trials and tribulations seem silly and self-pitying in comparison.

I don't believe in compromising my income through gambling. For every honest person with a dollar, there appears to be three people scheming to take it away. Is there any rational person who thinks Las Vegas is ran by anyone other than organized crime? I work for every cent I make and have no visions of getting something the easy way.

And last, I don't believe in running over animals on the road if I can safely avoid them. I get no satisfaction by killing a living animal while driving my car. One time I saw four dead raccoons in the road. A mom and 3 babies – all were dead. It saddened me.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Jury Duty – Panel 13 – Part Deux!

As you may recall, last week I answered the honorable request of my host county (Harris) and was assembled with other dignified citizens for a panel of prospective jurors. I humbly submit the conclusion.

"Panel 13 – to your feet"! The flat-topped-coifed Marine-looking bailiff bellowed! I found this quite impressive, especially since the woman was only about five feet tall. I know I was the first to jump to my feet. She assembled us in formation and I am happy to say that I was obviously the only one of panel 13 with military experience. While the others beboppered along - out of step I might add, I marched ramrod straight, hitting the heel down hard and in step with Sgt. Flattop. It was a proud moment for me and I did not allow myself to be distracted. I was marching for justice! An old boot camp cadence slipped into my conscience and I occupied myself with the comforting words "hup toop treep fo, hup toop treep fo"!

Down, down and down we went into the mildewy Houston tunnel system where we passed thousands of less important people. I was this close to yelling "Out of our way! Potential jurors coming through!" but once again my military training took over and I held my tongue. It was a truly righteous act of self-control and dignified to the "enth degree". The righteous feeling returned and I felt my face redden, as I counted... "hup toop treep fo".

We were escorted into the courtroom and I couldn't help but notice the awe which the court reporter, bailiff and a covey of lawyers exhibited at our grand entrance. "It's the potential jurors!" I heard some nobody whisper. Once again I was humbled and yes, I broke into a grin. It was "our moment" and I could not imagine a better place on earth.

Abruptly we were introduced to the lawyer teams and something called "Voir dire". In American speak, this is the process by which prospective jurors are questioned about their backgrounds and potential biases before being invited to sit on a jury.

One of the attorneys looked at our summons cards and addressed my fellow potential juror – the Professor. "Mr. Johnson, how are you this morning"? "Huh? – fine I guess". "Mr. Johnson, what exactly do you do for a living"? "Uh, I drive a port-a-can vacuum truck". ("What tha?" I thought!). "This case also involves a truck driver, Mr. Johnson. Do you think you can be a fair, unbiased and impartial juror"? "Uh, like you mean I can – do what"? "Can you as a juror, give this man a fair trial, even though you also drive a truck"? "Uh, like, uh, yea, I guess". "Thank you – I like this one Judge".

Next, attention was turned to the lady who I had pegged for a NASA astronaut. "Good morning – oops – Good afternoon Ms. Koliganowskioffoven! Did I say that right? What do you do for a living Ma'am"? "Hee hee hee – I am telemarketing instructor for the Billy Mays Television Commercial Institute". "Very good! Ms. Koliganowskioffoven, this case involves a telephone and a possible misuse of said communication device and do you think you can be a fair, unbiased and impartial juror"? "He hee heeeee! Wha"? "Can you, as a juror, give this man a fair trial, even though he might have used a phone for the wrong purposes"? "He hee heeeee! Wha"? "I'll take this one, Judge".

"Mr. Marshall is it? Good morning"! "Good morning counselor, it's a beautiful day". "Mr. Marshall – can I call you Baytown Bert"? I nodded. "Tell us a little about yourself sir"? "I've been a Process Operator for a large Petrochemical Company here on the Gulf Coast for the last 30 years. I also write a weekly column for the Baytown Sun and operate 6 mailing lists and 22 websites. I'm a Vietnam Veteran who was honorably discharged after serving his country. I have been married to the same woman for 30 years and have 2 children who support themselves".

Imagine my confusion as I walked the 14 blocks back to my car.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Harris County Jury Duty – Panel 13!

A few years ago I was invited to be part of the Harris County Court system on Congress Avenue in Houston, as a possible juror candidate! I was obviously (or evidentially) selected for my noticeable integrity, past evidence of sound judgment and proved logic. I still savor the spike of adrenaline (accompanied by a metallic taste in my mouth) I received when I saw the official envelope. Jury duty? Me? Wow! Cool beans!

"They've evidentially heard of me", I shouted to my bride. "I'm among the distinguished," I boasted. I picked up the phone and called my near as the real thing-lawyer brother Bruno. "Well, I've been summoned," I told him "and I'm going to serve – if they will let me"! He coughed a bit and begged off saying he was in the middle of something (much to my chagrin and need for self-important confirmation), but I know how it is and as I hung up I could hear the Simpson's playing in the background.

I felt pretty smug driving into Houston that great and event-filled day and even as I drove up and down close to a hundred different (maybe) streets, looking for the jury building, the feeling of superiority only grew stronger. I didn't mind parking 14 blocks from my destination and cramming a fiver into the money slot of the unattended parking lot – I was on a mission from God, by golly! I was a juror candidate and I felt invincible. I just knew the various bums, hobos, vagabonds and street urchins recognized it too - for I had "the look".

No one was going to mess with me in this big bayou city and I sallied forth from the lot to the jury building with a swagger reminiscent of the old west (or the oil field of Goose Creek and Pelly).

Upon arrival, I was a little bit taken aback by the other characters who filed into the Juror selection room, but my confidence level was hitting triple digits by this time and being an extremely patient man, I hunkered down to await the call to separate myself from this motley bunch of rabble-rousers. The thought crossed my mind (as I settled into a chair with my back to the wall) that it was as if a pirate ship had unloaded in front of the building and if I wasn't a bit of a world traveler and a past scalawag myself, I might have been a tad alarmed in this dubious company. Not to worry though, my time here was fleeting. I was sure of that.

A policeman came in and called us all to attention (I was this close to saluting, but held off, being a man of control and all). In came the judge, all "robed-up", as someone correctly observed) and we took our seats. We were given an official "juror's handbook", which was a one-page sheet of paper with a lot of "if you do this, we will Taser you" wording on in and I chortled with a loud snort (which didn't even get a second look from my neighboring riffraff), because I figured correctly that the sheeple needed a stern warning. "It's how they control them", I thought.

The judge, a portly looking lady of maybe 25 years of age and evidentially a bastion of judicial knowledge, explained in simple language how honored we all were (what tha?) to have answered the summons and we would now be reseated in order, according to our selection number (I have to be honest with you now and say I was a little perturbed at this new development, but being the solid citizen that I am, I obediently stood against the wall to await my new place in the chute).

I bounded into my new temporary seating place with the others of my group and danged if I didn't notice that the 30 or so of us, weren't the cream of the crop after all! Well, let me tell you, I was back in the game! My faith in the system was restored and I looked around and squirmed like a toddler in a toy aisle. "We must be onto something important"! "Let's see", I thought, "doctor, lawyer, chemist, philosopher, professor – she's a NASA astronaut! I'm in sound company"! The bailiff called us panel thirteen – a highly auspicious number and I could feel the open admiration of our fellow pirate-filled panels as they gave us the once over.

"Panel 13 – to your feet"!

(to be continued)

Customer service is not what it used to be

I was called by a local business today to pay for a maintenance service on my in-ground pool. My debit card on file had expired. ...