Friday, July 30, 2010

Brawndo Series of Geocaches

Not too many days ago, I watched the totally stupid movie ‘Idiocracy’.  I thought it was stupid and idiotic and the more I thought about it, the funnier it became.  I especially loved the movie population’s infatuation with Brawndo (a futuristic version of Gatorade) and their devotion to its electrolyte properties.

Whenever the word Brawndo came up in a conversation, any and all would repeat the commercials by-phrase of “Brawndo’s got electrolytes!  It’s got what plants crave – it’s got electrolytes”.  Apparently in the future, people are so brainwashed by advertising that they believe any and everything.  If it comes across the TV, then it must be true!

Against all reason, my fellow geocachers are a lot like these future Brawndo worshipers in that when they could be sitting comfortably on their couches, they are instead wandering ankle deep in goopy mud, or having their arms and legged scratched to pieces by thorns so they look for something a stranger hid.  It’s totally crazy.
Each outing is the equivalent of a blood donation to the mini blood-sucking mosquito phlebotomists and then there is the ever-spreading poison ivy rain forest over-taking Baytown and surrounding area they deal with on a daily basis and all of this is beyond normal reason.  Then there are snakes.  Why?

Take today for instance.  For the last two weeks, I’ve been pouring over photographs of a wooded area in Baytown, which adjoins the Goose Creek Trail, using a ruler to figure out how in the world I can place 11 geocaches inside this area without violating the 528 foot rule between caches, required by  Yes, there are rules to this game.

My Bride is confused (she’s always generous towards me, as she well understands I do things like this as a form of self-abuse).  “Why do you continually put yourself in predicaments like this, Hon?”  “Because I must” I spout and we both know it’s a Bert thing and sacrosanct.  Move on, there’s nothing to see here.

My problem was indeed self-inflicted and early on, I confided in my friend Levi McAllister, known as Skathious in the geocaching circles, as I hashed out the logistics in my head.  In the long run, we agreed I would go solo and figure this entirely out and this would enable him to “find” the caches and ensure the secrecy of the cache locations.  The fewer people who know, the harder the hide and it’s that simple.

Over the last week, I created 11 unique containers to hide in the most difficult locations I could think of and I must admit, most all of them will be difficult for cachers to find.

This wooded area is a wet, snaky bottom land beside a small slough or bayou and today, it was snaky indeed.  City Manager Garry Brumback came driving by and stopped to ask me what in the devil I was doing when he saw me starring at the thick underbrush close to “The Loop”.  When I told him I was hiding geocaches to attract people to the Goose Creek Trail, he told me city employee Patti Jett was also a geocacher, so I gave him a couple of my Baytown Bert Wooden Nickel Geocoins to share.

Here I was, loaded down with containers, busting brush with fogged-up steamy glasses when in the back of my mind, something screamed DANGER!  I came to an abrupt halt, tried to find a dry place on my clothes (no luck) to wipe my eyeglasses, and there in my path was a short fat wiggly thing my brain told me was a cottonmouth rattle-moccasin.  It actually was a cottonmouth water moccasin this time, but it knew this was its territory and I wasn’t supposed to be there. 

Since this adventure is getting long-winded, I’ll continue it in part two.

Brawndo Series of Geocaches - Part 2

I backed up a bit and I kid you not, I was as soaked as a wet Billy goat (and just as gamey I imagine), as I dug around in one of my 2 shoulder bags for my water-proof camera.  I snapped a quick photo and then put the camera away.  Looking around my feet for the snake, I realized it was…what(?) – gone!  I back-tracked a bit kangaroo-style and made my way towards the direction I needed to go for my last cache…number eleven.

Number ten and eleven are both deep into the thick and overgrown terrain of the Texas Gulf Coast mixture of giant thorns and heavy underbrush.  Bear Gryll’s while hiking south of New Orleans commented that this was the worst swamp he has ever seen – even worse than Borneo. We have swamp like that here and heavy underbrush and this is what I was encountering.  Each step may or may not have a surprise and my fogged up glasses were not helping a bit.

In our wooded areas live a very large species of spiders.  Most people call them banana spiders, but they are actually a golden silk-orb-weaver spider.  They are usually about face-high and that is usually where they end up when you are bush whacking and results in face whacking.  Their webs are very hardy too.

Texas has many varieties of thorns also and some are dark brown and the size of your ring finger.  My arms look like I’ve been in a cat fight – and lost and I now have some sort of rash on my arm that’s not poison ivy.  I have bruises on my legs and my eyes itch.

I’m having the time of my life.

Anyway, to make a long journey shorter, I finally sloshed back onto the Goose Creek Trail close to the existing Rusty Hands cache, which requires the finder to creep along the outside of the bridge over the bayou.  Thus, the rusty hands and one that required me to make 5 long trips before I found the geocache.

I made my way back to my geocachemobile, drove home, shucked off my dripping clothes in the garage, showered, ate, and submitted the cache data to for approval and publication.  Maybe my efforts will draw people to Baytown.  I have a feeling this endurance series is going to be a real bonus for our restaurants.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Baytown Bert Wooden Nickel Geocoins!

About 3 months ago, I decided I wanted to create a signature item to place in the *geocaches I visit, instead of putting in a small toy, erasure, chip clip, or doodad, so I began looking around. What I found was custom printed wooden nickels.

The cost of these was a tad much in my opinion, until I came across a fellow in Wisconsin named Fred. Fred’s prices were good – real good. He was willing to take my design and text and print it on a 1 ½” wooden blank, with no set-up fee for roughly 1/3 lower than anyone else – so I placed an order for 500.

After 3 months, my first 500 are almost depleted and I have had a blast placing them in the various geocaches I visit. Here is the basic design, but on the real coin, one side is in red and the other in blue.

You can get your own wooden nickel Geocoin by following a link on to the Ads-Tuit Wooden Nickel Company, or by clicking this link.

Of course, you can call them at: 715-528-4352 Tell Fred I sent you and have fun with your own special and custom Geocoin Wooden Nickel!

I just ordered another 500 Baytown Bert Wooden Nickel Geocoins!

Note: Geocaching is an outdoor activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Toes Across The Floor

I was listening to "Toes across the floor" by Blind Melon and it, for some reason reminded me of my own countess hours of karate, Taekwondo and jui jitsu practice - and recreated a yearning for those days when I sweated and toiled to find a connection with my physical and mental extremities and my place in society.

Real Karate-Do, in any of its many forms, is a discipline not easily explained.  Most people relate martial arts practitioners to the Hollywood version, or mixed martial arts battles on one of the sports channels – and even though I’ve toiled for years in the discipline, I find very little in common with either stereotype.

Karate-Do is a way of life, not a sweaty, muscle-packed spectator sport on ESPN.  These fighters have massive skills which I can appreciate, don't take me wrong, however the image they project to the uneducated public (especially young men) is that of a gladiator or a bloodthirsty pitt bull dog out for the shear love of the kill and in my opinion scar the image of true traditional martial arts training.  There is no "Do".

Do in Japanese means “ a path, or way of life” and serious study of “the arts” is accompanied by a study of living a life of non-violence and peace with the surrounding environment and according to Gichin Funakoshi, that’s the way it is supposed to be for the warrior.

Master Gichin Funakoshi was this little Okinawan school teacher, philosopher, and poet and the founder of Shoto-kan karate and he led and taught a life of peace and self-discipline.  I do not see evidence of this teaching in the mixed martial arts spectacles on television.  It appears the only side of martial arts they have studied is how to fight and this is what is being projected. Two pitt bull dogs fighting is all it is and although I find it fascinating to watch (in the same vein as watching a train wreck or someone committing suicide) it's in reality, a horrific vulgar display and does terrible damage to the promotion of traditional martial arts practice.

Shotokan is the consummate model of almost all modern karate styles, regardless of historical claims by each individual art to the contrary.  Real traditional study takes place in small dojos, kwans, and dojangs (schools) tucked away out of sight and the serious student lives a life of non-violence and peace.

Anyone who has studied any form of the hard-karate style of martial arts, owes a deep gratitude to this master, myself included.  One of my brothers (TJ Bustem) is a black belt in this style and no one to truck with, however I can’t remember the last time he raised a fist in anger.  All three of my brothers are schooled in the fighting arts, but again I can’t remember the last time any of them were violent.

Most traditional martial artists spend untold countless hours with toes across the floor, toiling in silent practice, learning to understand their physical and spiritual relationship with the earth around them and that my friend is the whole purpose of studying the fighting arts.  Self-awareness and peace, developing both the hard and soft side of your being - not learning to kick someones rear end or make a vulgar display of your ability to do the same.

The study of the fighting arts according to Master Funakoshi was for personal development, not necessarily for violence.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Red Light Cameras Get The Green Light!

I’ve been following the debate over the red light cameras with great interest and the most recent column by The Suns new managing editor Doyle Barlow, titled Red light tickets should be up to BPD, compelled me to speak my peace.

Back a couple years ago when I stood with the Baytown Concerned Citizens at El Toro’s restaurant and asked the city to “do something about the traffic violators’ in this town”, it seemed everyone was of the same opinion – by hook or crook, stop people from violating traffic laws and in the process, catch criminals with warrants.

I’m not implying red light cameras are catching and locking up crooks, but if you do not pay the fine, you will get a warrant issued for your arrest (*see updated note below).  However, any driver with a driver’s license should have the minimum reading skills to interpret the signs and each camera has numerous signs to warn drivers there are cameras present.

Now my hat is still off to the Baytown police department for the fine job(s) they are doing, but how many officers do we have dedicated to cruising at any one time?  Not that many per capita and there is a good reason – it’s a big town with as many as 120,000 people moving around at peak hours.

It would be an impossible task to watch every busy intersection, let alone the thousands of stop signs and minor red lights, so in my opinion, the red light cameras are a plus for traffic violations.  Besides, I challenge anyone reading this to take a drive through this town and make a note every time you see a traffic violation on just one trip.  It might be a real eye-opener.

A case in point is here - yesterday, I made a trip to Food Town on North Main and pulled out of the parking lot onto Rollingbrook St.  It was about noon time and I was in the right lane and heading east towards Massey Tompkins Rd.  The left turn arrow turned green and the car to my left, which incidentally was in the middle lane, took off straight through the oncoming turning cars and kept going on east on Massey Tompkins.  I shook my head in amazement.

Directly behind it, another car took its place and just as the green left turn arrow turned yellow; it too crossed over into the intersection and took a left – from the middle lane!  Either of these demonstrations of poor judgment could have resulted in a car wreck or possible fatality and this all happened inside 20 seconds by 2 different Baytown drivers.

As to the argument that red light camera strobe lights causes more rear-end collisions, I have an observation to make about that also.  The reason the second car runs into the stopping car, is because they have every intention of flying through the light also.

We have way too many distracted people driving cars in this and every town in this country.  Loud music, cell phones, eating food, alcohol, looking out the window when they should be looking ahead and dope – yes dope all contribute to people driving without actually paying attention.

Saturday morning I drove out Garth Road to go geocaching at 6:30am and stopped at the I-10 red light to wait my turn to go.  Behind me I spied a Honda Accord with 4 young people inside.  The front passenger and the 2 back seat travelers all had their heads laid back as if very tired.  Then, to my surprise, the driver slouched down, laid his head over and closed his eyes.

I was watching all of this when one of the backseat riders noticed me watching.  He nudged his buddy and as they both looked at my reflection in the mirror, the driver fell asleep and his car came rolling up to mine.  I was right at the collision point when their yells caused him to slam on the brakes.  Needless to say, as the light turned green, I drove off as fast as the law allowed.

No, we are not in a place where we can give up the extra help red light cameras do to penalize red-light runners and right turn violators yet, if anything, we need more.

*This is inaccurate.  See comments below.

Elvis has left the room

I want to set something on the table and anyone who bothers to read anything I write, please take a good hard look. We are living in a...