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Showing posts from 2008

Discovering Baytown or How I learned to Love This City

My Dad is the consummate machinist, a Tool and Die Maker and for many years this profession caused him to uproot his family and move…and move we did. For us five kids, this usually equated to an adventure and we would hurriedly inform our friends that we were moving; sometimes with a one-day notice and then we were gone.

Just for your pleasure, I'll define what this skill entails. Tool and die makers make jigs, fixtures, dies, molds, machine tools, cutting tools (such as milling cutters and form tools), gauges, and other tools used in the manufacturing world. My Dad would routinely tender his résumé and off we would go.

These days Dad spends most of his "off" time working in wood in his home shop and at 80 years, he is still active with his machines. I say off time, because anytime we have a family function, he always remarks that he's "off" that day.

Anyway, all this traveling made us nomads of sorts, moving from California, Michigan, Utah, Georgia, Missouri …

Baytown's Best Kept Secret?

I've been itching to get out of my work/eat/sleep routine and git walkin' and what better time than the present? Over the years I've learned waiting for the perfect time to do something is nothing short of a case of excused procrastination and that perfect time will arrive when I am too busy to take advantage of it. I must make time work for me, not against me.

This past Thursday was wet and foggy – typical Baytown, Texas winter weather and if I was going to git walkin, I had to do it and do it now, so trusty camera in hand, I did.

Grabbing up my usual accouterments, I drug my hocks out the door (I always get sluggish when the sun is hidden from view) and plopped heavily down into the cockpit of my hoopty for a trip to Baytown's best kept secret – the Baytown Nature Center, or BNC for short.

The Baytown Nature Center is hidden away off of Bayway Drive and has taken the place of the Brownwood Subdivision, which was fatally flooded in 1983 by Hurricane Alicia. Driving fr…

Detroit Unions, CEO’s and Illinois Politics

Right off the bat, I want to go on record and admit I am not an accountant and I most certainly am not a lawyer, so I have no experience, training, management school book-learning or desire to run our government or be the CEO of a large company. To put it bluntly, I don’t know squat about highfalutin management of other peoples lives and I am amazed at how other people feel self-righteous enough to do just that and do it wrong. However, I do have common sense enough to know a stinker when I see one.

Greedy Union leaders, CEO’s and politicians not only do it wrong, but flaunt what they do and then expect the tax-paying and hard-working public to accept their actions and post bail when they get their tail in the wringer. Now if anyone is unsure what getting your appendage in a wringer is, or means, I’ll break it down for you with something from my own past.

When I was in about the fifth grade I made the decision to run a wet towel through my mother’s wringer washing machine. A wringe…

There's That Old Man Smell Again!

Sitting comfortably at my desk at work, contemplating my day's activities and minding my own business, I reach into a side drawer and pull out my trusty plastic container of Williams Lectric Shave, Electric Razor Pre-Shave with soothing Green Tea Complex…liquidy stuff.

With semi-sleepy eyes on my computer screen and still minding my own business, I might add, I casually unscrew the black plastic lid and dribble a small puddle of the pleasant smelling pre-shave into the palm of my left hand and then liberally rub it onto my chin and ample jowls and that my friends is when the action starts here in the prairie-dog cubicle office.

"There's that old man smell again!" chirps the witty youngish female Engineer/Intern from the obviously shallow depths of her inexperience in these matters. I blame her response on the fact that I have a small fan on the floor, which blows the pungent (and yes – youthful) aromatic green tea-smelling facial panacea over to her desk behind me. Thi…

The Six I Got Are Awesome!

Like literally millions of other Baytonians, I was at Wal-Mart this past Friday morning to get the deal of the century. It is our duty and right as good citizens to spend credit cards like there never will be a reckoning and spend we did. I have to tell you, it was a madhouse at the electronics counter and I came away bruised, but successful…and grinning. I only lost two teeth.

You see, I was after the much coveted XBOX 360 Arcade Console with bonus Guitar Hero game and guitar for the droolingly low price of only $199.00. Knowing I was going to face another Black Friday shopping frenzy, I envisioned Johnny Weissmuller preparing for one of his famous Tarzan challenges; only my bride wouldn't let me attempt it in a loincloth, so I adapted. I knew I had the skills to easily beat everyone with the exception of another commando shopper. I must train.

Donning my urban camo hoodie, bright red Steve Zissou beanie, neon green Spandex XXXL cycling shorts and twenty-two dollar Payless bra…

A Husk of Grain

Simply put, the oft used word crap is defined as a husk of grain, chaff; something of poor quality; something that is rubbish; nonsense and in that context, I want to use the word to describe a post-election phenomenon that I find alarming, deeply disturbing and confess I did not expect from my cohorts and acquaintances. Call me a fool and blind.

Under the auspices of being strong Republicans, numerous friends and acquaintances have fallen into the crap cesspool, the vulgar version I don't want to use. On almost a daily basis my Inbox is receiving anti-Barack Obama letters from friends who think racist humor is, well, funny, or at the very least it is being passed off as pro-Republican thought. I hope it's not and it's not good for our country and it's not something I find amusing or agree with.

I've openly stated I wanted John McCain to gain the presidency and even Ron Paul before I voted Democratic, but if Barack Obama would have been the candidate proposing a cons…

Tree-Riding and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance

I'm a fifty-six year old soon to be geezer (or dirty old man if I can swing it) and I do not wish to return to my youth, although I rode it hard and put it up wet every chance I got. I still have my moments though, albeit in fantasy only.

My beautiful and entertaining mother used to occupy the five of us kids around Halloween by smiling with a pair of the then popular sweet-liquid filled paraffin teeth, reshaped to look like buck-teeth and she would drive us to town proudly grinning at passer-bys and we would howl like the Comanches we saw on TV.

I have a pair of Bubba teeth that I bought in Houston a number of years ago when they first became available. These are the real deal made by the ex-Dentist Jason Frankel and used in Hollywood movies and they are fantastically awful looking – and real cool and fit perfectly, as they came with a dental gel that allowed me to fit them to my personal teeth print. I need to find me a realistic looking mullet wig and start wearing this combinat…

Picking up the Pieces

I was perplexed to say the least, a bit angry and frankly disappointed last Wednesday morning when I arose for work at 2:45AM, checked my G-News web site and learned John McCain was not elected to the highest office this country offers.

I guess, as Stan Smith, a friend of mine explained when we brought up the election at work Wednesday morning "folks were just ready for change" and they felt John's politic was coarse and unsophisticated in comparison to Barack's velvet smooth delivery. For sure. I would hit my knees at the altar or buy an expensive car I didn't need at Barack's admonition, if I was the kind of person who is swayed by a smooth sales pitch, but I'm not.

I remember the first time I heard Barack Obama and it was on the Internet web site www.youtube.com. I thought to myself and expressed on our family mailing list that this was a dynamic and charismatic politician and I thought he would make an excellent VP for most likely Hillary Clinton. In c…

The Rosetta Stone for BB's Obama Presidency Predictions

1. People with jobs want to keep the money they make. The Democratic platform is wealth redistribution and this appeals to those who are on welfare.

2. The tongue-in-cheek reference to people committing suicide is in reference to one woman who voted for Obama because under his administration she "wouldn't have to pay rent or her grocery bill" once he is elected. This woman actually voted and shows how crazy some of his followers have became.

3. The Democrats always cut military budgets to balance the federal deficit. That and raise taxes. Under Bill Clinton, we lost our military superpower status.

4. It beats anything I can figure out why rich Hollywood and New York millionaires scream in delight to elect someone who is going to take from their wallet and give it to whom they please. This is the Democratic Party's stance.

5. The Black Panther “civilian Security Force” stood guard over a polling place in the city of brotherly love this election and my reference is t…

Obama Presidency Predictions

1. Even though they stayed up all night partying at the Obama celebration and will be too tired to get up and go to work today, they will still get a paycheck with the full amount, as welfare isn't dependent on actually working!

2. 53% of the US Population commits suicide! I'm thinking I will read this headline in about a year, when a large number of voters realize they will have to give up their newly purchased Lincoln Navigators and Cadillac Escalades and lose their freshly purchased houses because the new "change for prosperity for all" government wont make their monthly notes.

3. Within one year total US troop strength in the Middle East is heavily reduced, military budget is severely slashed and we return to Bill Clinton's idea of a Superpower without defense. The void left by our absence will be filled by Chinese advisers in Iraq. Europe's economy tanks due to no R&R's taken by US troops and the unemployment rates skyrocket as soldier's are…

Egads, I've Been Hoodwinked!

I guess I'm not very observant…and I've always prided myself on the fact that I am. I was hoodwinked in broad daylight and walked out of the store, over-charged and didn't realize it until the next day. I was at the Payless Shoe Store on Garth Road and seeing that my favorite pair of down-at-the-heel tennies are beginning to look like something Forrest Gump wore in the opening scene of said movie, I decided to get another pair of twenty-two dollar Payless sneakers.

Now in my defense, I had just left the San Jacinto Hospital after a serious scare by someone dear to me and was just a tad distracted, to put it mildly. In fact, this is why I stopped to peruse the shoe options. I needed a distraction and this was the perfect excuse and opportunity. Instead of going for the ever popular old dude with the Michael Jordon look, I opted to purchase a pair of soft leather lace-up hiking/work boots, as I have been thinking my off-the-path trekking might benefit from something sturdier …

Which Candidate is Best? You Decide!

I have an easy and logical method for determining which Presidential candidate is best for the future of the United States of America. I simply watch the news sources and see whom Hollywood endorses and which candidate our enemies are rooting for and I vote for the other campaigner. I find it curiously peculiar that many wealthy Hollywood actors, third world despots and economically competing governments often want the same candidate to win the election.

It's tried and true, uncannily accurate and history does indeed repeat itself, so I use this formula each presidential election to make sure I am helping to secure our future well-being as a superpower, which incidentally is something I feel is vitally important.

According to Reuters – "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, renowned for colorful insults of world leaders, called U.S. vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin a confused "beauty queen" on Friday after she said he was a dictator. Chavez, a leftist who often moc…

Bringing Out the Good…With Purpose

I’ve got a game plan and frankly, I’m pumped. Pumped up mentally and physically because I’ve planned out this weekend and by the time this is read, I’ll be halfway through the weekend and call me butter again, cause I’m still on a roll.

Let me back up a bit and “splain” this past week which has led up to this point. The books I ordered off of www.amazon.com all arrived and I have them setting on one of my vintage stereo 1974 Sansui SF-2 speakers. Since I just came off shift at the Plant, I haven’t had time to put one of my homemade address stickers inside each one and place them in my selected reading order. These books are a big deal to me and boost my feel good levels big time.

Next, I designed an award for the annual Byrd Sanctuary Chili Festiva competition at my sister and brother-in-law Connie and Kelly Byrd’s compound in Dayton this weekend – and it arrived. It’s outrageous, ugly and after showing it to my sister and mother, they both replied “that’s awful – don’t bring it”. …

Packs of robots will hunt down uncooperative humans

Short Sharp Science (NewScientist blog) Oct. 22, 2008

The latest request from the Pentagon jars the senses. At least, it did mine. They are looking for contractors to provide a "Multi-Robot Pursuit System" that will let packs of robots "search for and detect a non-cooperative human".

One thing that really bugs defence chiefs is having their troops diverted from other duties to control robots. So having a pack of them controlled by one person makes logistical sense. But I'm concerned about where this technology will end up.

Given that iRobot last year struck a deal with Taser International to mount stun weapons on its military robots, how long before we see packs of droids hunting down pesky demonstrators with paralysing weapons? Or could the packs even be lethally armed? I asked two experts on automated weapons what they thought. Both were concerned that packs of robots would be entrusted with tasks - and weapons - they were not up to handling without making wrong…

We Are What We Consume

I have no idea who originally coined a version of that saying, but the older I become; the more I see the wisdom in that simple sentence. Whatever it is we choose to digest is what we become, whether it goes into our mouth or through our eyes.

Yesterday many Baytonians gathered for the Pilot Club’s annual Memory Walk to raise money for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. It’s no secret there is a direct correlation between keeping our minds active through reading and our bodies stimulated through exercise and our well-being and health in our golden years.

Twenty years ago, while preparing to leave Sterling Library I observed a coworker pull his old beat-up work truck into the parking lot. I looked down at my watch and realized it was shift change at the Plant. I smiled as this particular friend, work clothes and all, went straight from work into the library. Glancing up in the direction of Someburger I saw another coworker, coming straight from the Plant, park his shiny new truck and …

Bird enthusiasts taking note of new sightings

By Tara Sullivan
The Baytown Sun

Published October 7, 2008

Bird watchers across the Texas Gulf Coast are taking note of Hurricane Ike evacuees of the winged variety. September and October are peak months for the annual spring bird migration, so while it is not an unusual time for non-native birds to pass through the region, some odd varieties have found their way to Baytown. Many of these might never before have set foot - or feather - on Baytonian soil.

Baytown resident and avid nature watcher Bert Marshall said new birds began cropping up near his home almost immediately after the storm had passed. He even recalls several birds that were noticeably wet, tired and flustered, including a rare leucistic hummingbird who stole a moment to fluff his weather-beaten feathers.

Since few nature enthusiasts go birding during inclement weather, it's not entirely understood how our feathered friends make it through. Some speculate that when there is a change in air pressure, birds fly low unti…

Baytown Bert’s Top Ten List for Global Change

Boy howdy, if I am put in charge I will make a few changes. I am assigning a real cool sounding name to this sweeping referendum: “Baytown Bert’s Top Ten List for Global (read Baytown) Change” and make it so. I don’t even know who is in charge of making these kinds of decisions, but give me the go ahead and I will jump in feet first. I will be tough as Ted Poe, Chuck Norris and that Maricopa County Sheriff rolled into one.

Here goes: If someone is caught red-handed shoplifting or convicted in a court of law, I will make sure their photograph is printed on a billboard beside the store they stole from, printed in the local newspaper and their name and image broadcast on our local TV channel for one year. I will set up a national database and register them as thieves along with putting a mark on their driver’s license to remind officers and shopkeepers that they steal. As much as fifteen percent of the cost of items we purchase is to pay for security and shop-lifters greedy fingers. …

Spam is Crazy Tasty

Spam is Crazy Tasty. It says so right on the front panel of the uniquely designed easy-open can and I wholeheartedly agree. It’s also salty. Real salty and tastes delectable.
Spam is made by hard-working American canned meat folks in Spam Town USA - Austin (I like that), Minnesota and is actually good for you too. It must be. People in places like Korea, the Philippines and Hawaii love the stuff so much; they’ve made gift-giving cans of Spam a friendly sign of future prosperity and blessing. I can see why. The stuff is literally a gift from above. Literally.

The ingeniously designed aluminum can is easy to open also and this only bolsters my already expansive appreciation of the swine-meat product. Turning the container over after I opened the can and dumping the blob of taste bud-tempting gelatin-covered meat onto a cutting board, I read on the back panel all about using Spam to make a sumptuous Egg ‘N Cheese Muffin. Yum!

Muffin: English, toasted. Cheese: American (I like t…

Enough With the Bad News Already

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With all the bad news, destruction, power-loss and traffic congestion, I could not stomach subjecting my fellow Baytonians (and my own sanity) to one more bad and horrifying story line, so taking your pardon, I'm writing about nothing relating to misery this week.

We deserve a break from this reality in all its ugliness, so without further ado, here goes.

Sitting on my patio the day after the big disturbance, I saw what I thought was an exotic and mysterious bird, heretofore undiscovered in these parts. It was definitely a hummingbird, just not one of the varieties native to our area. It was white with flecks of brown in it. Researching hummers on the Internet, I realized I was indeed seeing a rare bird.

It was an uncommon leucistic hummingbird on our patio September 12. This was the day Hurricane Ike came and went. The poor critter was fluffed up, wet and very tired. It rested in our crape myrtle for about 20 minutes. I wrote the staff from Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural H…

And a Hard Rain Fell

It’s hard to believe that one week and a day have passed since Hurricane Ike rudely elbowed his way into our lives. I hated that storm as much as I thought I would, but we dug down deep and revived the Texas pioneer spirit that lay deep within our being to simply…endure. And endure we did, sleeping uncomfortably in the night heat, dragging and cutting tree limbs and attempting to recover from the stupor and shock caused by H-IKE. We are not used to this abuse and as tough as we would like to see ourselves, in many ways we failed miserably.

Most were very fortunate damage-wise, but we are also very spoiled in our modern ways, so any change in the way we normally do things, is an inconvenience and a lot of hard work to boot, especially when you consider cleaning up the tree damage. Here it is a week after the trees fell and my fingers are almost too sore to type and there is still work to do.

Frankly, we are sick of all this destruction and drama and want to forget it and move on, but …

I’m mad too Eddie!

I drove down to the POD on Baker road in Baytown this morning at 0730 as KHOU TV said the POD was open and I wanted to see one in action. I personally am not in need of MRE’s, ice or water, but for knowledge sake, I went down to see one in action.

What a total bureaucratic mess. There must have been 25 uniformed government employees meandering around the parking lot, moving cones, etc., but the POD doesn't open until 10am. I am told this POD is run by Commissioner Garcia.

Cars were pouring in only to be ignored with no directional signs or human direction and when I asked a parked Constable at the far end of the road what was going on, he told me it was open. He didn’t appear to have an inclination to do more than sit there.

I told him the entrance was coned off and he said "No, it’s not". I drove back the two hundred yards to the entrance and observed the steady row of cones across both entrances, exited my vehicle, walked across the parking lot to the six armed guards…

Hurricane blues before the big blow

I am remiss to even think about how inaccurate and tiresome this article will appear when folks read it after Hurricane Ike blows through. Here it is Friday morning, the twelfth of September; we are expecting the wind to pick up in about five hours and the feeling of controlled panic/resolve and gut-grit are wafting through the city.

Anyone can readily see that this storm is going to be Alicia all over again and for those of us who were subjected to her fury; this won’t be a picnic or a near miss like Rita, Eduard, or any other storm since 1983. This one feels serious. Everyone knows it. Some are vocalizing it to ease their dread, some are warning to do all we can to prevent loss of life and damage to property, but no one is joking about how tough they are or how this storm is nothing to worry about. We don’t even want to think this will be Carla again.

All other hurricanes are forgettable to me since Alicia. I sometimes get Katrina and Rita confused with which was which and that …

"It's a Beautiful Day, Men"!

I start off my workday each and every time I walk through the Plant gate with these words "Morning men, it's a beautiful day". "Morning Bert" is usually what I hear chorused from my two favorite guards, Charles and Bob. Charles and Bob are both well read and never miss an opportunity to entertain me. It's like they've been waiting for me to come in and we look forward to the verbal jousts. "Where you been, Bert? About time you got here." says Bob. I look at my watch. I'm fifteen minutes early. Charles grins.

Charles usually has a nugget of trivia (read: hardcore statistics or difficult to come by knowledge he has personally ferreted out) he feels I should know, or a very, very good book recommendation and Bob - well, Bob is named Bob for a good reason. Bob's peculiar, but in a good way.

It's been my experience that anyone named Bob is probably going to be worth investigating as a friend. Bob's have curiously strong personalities …