Saturday, November 30, 2013

Are we raising a nation of wimps?


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Almost daily I hear about the sissifying of our children and it causes me to wonder if there will be a United States of America before I buy the farm and leave the proceeds to my bride.  Let me make my points and examples and then you decide if I am right, wrong, or just another blow-hard.
I’m a baby boomer, born during the Korean War to a World War II father and a mother who raised a daughter and four boys.  My dad was a tool and die maker and he would send his resume out and just like that, we would pack up and move.  Consequently, my brothers and I learned to stand up for ourselves.
Back in the 1960’s kids did two things for fun; they played baseball and army.  Every kid had a toy cowboy six-gun or toy rifle.  We idolized cowboys who would shoot the bad guys in the black hats and John Wayne’s six-gun (read hog leg), Winchester lever gun and his powerful fists.
My brothers and neighborhood boys would prowl the streets in the evening, jumping over fences and shooting at each other with our toy guns, which more times than not resembled a stick.  We had incredible imaginations.  We mostly fought Nazi’s, better known to us as heinous “Krauts” and I’m not bragging when I say my personal body count numbered close to a million – killed or wounded.
Make no mention that I myself was either killed or shot to pieces almost every day and sometimes I would put on a spectacular display of jerking and flipping as the Krauts would riddle me unmercifully.  No matter, as I would reanimate only to take them on anew the next night – after baseball.  We were the Sandlot kids.
Moving around the country, I had plenty of opportunities to defend my new kid status and often engaged in real life fisticuffs which only helped me define myself as a man and did me no real harm and that includes getting knocked out in the hall in the 9th grade by a football player 3 years older than me.
It was 1967 and I was a Yankee in North Georgia and the teacher could plainly see me lying on the floor in the hall when I came to.  I got up slowly, collected my books, and took my seat.   The classroom was silent and blood was pooling below me on my desktop.  I stood up and walked to the teacher’s desk and before I could really say much, she pushed a hall pass to me.  I went up front and called my mother twenty miles away and she drove those twisted Cherokee County roads to take me to the doctor.  Not once was I approached by a teacher as I sat and waited, even though the class bell rang and many students witnessed me sitting there waiting with a bloody face and shirt.
I was feeling pretty beaten when we got to the shotgun building of a doctor’s office and as we walked down the hall, I spied my antagonist and his face was swollen to the point his eyes were almost closed and his hand was broken.  The doctor told me I only had a bruised nose and by default fighting rules and the extent of his injuries versus my own, I learned the next day I was declared the winner.  You see, this fellow only got in two punches and the second one was a hay maker, whereas I must have struck him ten times before he clocked me.  I feared the guy, but once I realized a fight was inevitable, I fought like a cornered…defender.

I went on to enlist in the United States Air Force and serve my country honorably in South East Asia for two tours working 12 to 14 hours a day supporting F-4 Phantom and F-111 Aardvark fighter jets with the 366th Gunfighters and the 6280th Combat Support Group.
Kids today are scared of bugs, anything that crawls, mice, the dark, someone pointing their finger like it is a gun…  What?  Yes, a boy was suspended somewhere here in the good ol USA the other day for doing just that.
A fellow here at work told me today his son was suspended for three days because he told someone he read a recipe for making a bomb.  The son had a near perfect record heretofore and made decent grades, but the mere whisper to a classmate of his supposed knowledge, got him suspended.  It did not matter what my friend or the boy said to defend him.  He was guilty.
My son got a three day suspension for bringing a nail file, scissors, and toothpick in a red Swiss Army Knife configuration to Crockett Elementary – because it “looked like a knife” and “We have a zero tolerance policy against knives, Mr. Marshall.”  When I challenged the decision, they graciously removed 2 of the 3 day’s penalty.  I walked away wondering what in the world is becoming of our school policies.
On the other hand, we have deranged and criminal people doing violence in our schools and… oh my God; bullies, so what is the solution?  First, there is nothing we can do to stop a crazy person from doing crazy things, or bullies trolling for a target, but we sure as heck fire can teach our kids to stand up for themselves. 
Second, a criminal is a criminal, not because of the economy or society, but because they choose to commit crimes over working for what they get.  We need to teach our kids to defend themselves on all levels and when they are of an age where they can up the ante, tell them it’s okay to up it, either by learning fighting skills or getting a concealed handgun permit, or both.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Geocaching 101 at Second Baytown Church


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A couple of weeks ago, while teaching a geocaching 101 event with education booth at the Baytown Nurture Nature Festival, I met the children’s minister at Second Baytown Church, Ruth Charlson.
 She told me they were using a version of geocaching in her church to illustrate Biblical principles and wondered if I could come and explain the game.  I agreed and wouldn’t you know it, two geocaching friends, husband and wife team Joe and Jennifer Porter attend church there and showed up at both classes to explain their personal experiences.
 


My first group was a whole covey of eight and nine year kiddos and to my absolute amazement, they listened to everything I said.  I fully expected them to be fidgety and distracted, but when I held up my Gold doubloon geocoin and talked about pirate treasure and pieces of eight, you could have heard a pin drop.  You could see their brain-gears spinning as I talked about swag…  Swag is a term used by geocachers and what pirates would call booty.

 The golden rule of geocaching is, if you take something from the cache, you leave something of equal or greater value.  So, if after finding a geocache and signing the logbook, you may decide to leave a dollar bill, or a cool looking key chain, also valued at one dollar.  The next geocacher finds the cache, signs the log and wants the dollar bill, but all they have is a marble and a patriotic pin that cost two dollars.  Which do they leave?  The patriotic pin and then they may drop in the marble for fun.
My second class and I hope she forgives me as I cannot remember the class teachers name, were older kids and they were just as attentive.  I had a good time, as did my friends, Joe and Jennifer and hopefully the kiddos will join this fun game, get off the couch and the X-box and get outside in our parks and find some geocaches.

For more information on geocaching and a few tips and funny videos, go to my page located here and the official geocaching.com web site.
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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Baytown Bert's Mega Armadillo Eggs!

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2 lb. bulk sausage (regular)
20 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
5 c. Bisquick
1 can whole jalapenos cut in half 

1/2 lb. Cheddar Jack cheese, cut in chunks
4 beaten eggs

I pkg real bacon bits
1 pkg. Zatarains pork Bake Crisp


Mix sausage, cheese and Bisquick and set aside. Put cheese pieces on jalapeno halves. Make pancakes with bisquick mix. Place peppers with cheese in center. Fold over edges and seal tightly. Make into egg shape. Dip each one in eggs and roll in Zatarains. Bake at 300 to 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Can be frozen after cooking.
  Makes 12 giant eggs on two pans.



Saturday, November 23, 2013

And people call this fun?

Back a couple of months ago when it was hot and muggy… Yes, I’m being sarcastic. A number of my friends and acquaintances with the Houston Geocaching Society came up with a plan to hike eleven miles in the woods near Huntsville. The Four Notch Loop is part of the Lone Star Hiking Trail and is a fairly flat hike with numerous gully crossings and because of the distance, a real challenge for anyone not prepared to walk over 19,000 steps. And then there is the added element of hunters with high-powered rifles mistaking us for deer to bump up the adventure.

When we had the November 16th date decided, I organized an “event” and this would give each of us a point or what geocachers call a “smiley” to add to our total geocache statistics.  Each time you find a geocache or attend an event, it generates a little smiley face icon on the list page and your personal statistics to show you found it.

Juleed, GreenEyed, & BaytownBert
All week long we discussed the weather on our forum and at first, it looked like it was going to be very cold, but this turned to thunderstorm concerns with the added probability that ravine crossings would be difficult.  The day before the event, first one, then other probable attendee began to beg off and all for good reasons.  My geocaching mentor and friend Larry Houston (known to geocachers as HoustonControl), who knows the trail well, just wasn’t up to the long hike after his recent hospital stay and I am glad he chose prudence over possible misadventure.

The trail can be confusing, but I wasn’t much concerned as I drove the 98 miles and rolled into the campsite at 0730 where the trail begins.  We had a couple of seasoned and trail veteran hikers, namely Mudfrog, out of Beaumont, TexasWriter from Tomball, and Nov64, from Willis.


Well, I get a text from Mudfrog.  His son TxTadpole is sick and they’ve been up all night.  He won’t be there.  Okay, alright.  Not to worry.  It’s about 60 degrees outside and humid enough to sip the air.  I wisely wore shorts and a bright orange t-shirt, figuring if it was cold, the strenuous walk and the 20 pound day pack would warm me up.

Using my Android phone, I check the forum and sure enough, TexasWriter has bowed out over a scheduling conflict.  Well, we’ve still got Nov64 to lead us.  As I am standing there pondering all of this, another Jeep arrives and out hops Dennis, or as he’s known - RatherGoHiking.  He tells me he showed up for the event, but has a bum foot due to surgery and won’t be going.  Okay.  This is looking a bit weak in the numbers category.

I see a red Smartcar rolling down the road and it’s my two geocaching 101 friends, Juleed, and Greeneyed - Julee Denton from Seabrook, and Jennifer Schaudt from League City and right behind them are Backwards Charlie From Austin, and Nov64 – Patty Pritzen.  Patty owns the geocache – all one of them, we are going after.

The four cache loop, as it is know is actually a multi-cache with 4 containers, but geocachers only get one smiley for finding the last one.  Nov64 is wearing flip-flops – not a good sign.  Backwards Charlie is about 75 years old and "ain’t walking that far for one smiley when he can find more in the area, driving."  That leaves Juleed, GreenEyed, and me.  Ugh!  Time to make lemonade with these lemons, right?

Juleed did the hike before in cold weather and we started out, with good ol goose-stepping BaytownBert banging his feet at what turned out to be an intense pace and just about did in Juleed.  I tried to hand off the lead a couple of times and even slow it down a bit, but my natural gait kept the pace high.  When we finally stopped to eat a bite, Juleed informed me “it took us 5 hours to get here the last time”.  Two hours and fifty minutes had passed under our feet, including quite a few steep ravine crossings.

Greeneyed ate a peanut butter sandwich and green grapes, I had a turkey and cheese sandwich, and Juleed produced a sour green dill pickle as her soul fare.  I offered her a granola bar for carbs, but she refused it.  All three of us had hiking sticks and this is where Juleed walked off without hers.  She was beginning to get leg cramps and the temperature climbed to 84 degrees according to my thermometer on my back pack.
 
We came to what appeared to be a logging road and discussed taking a shortcut, as the trail wandered way away and then cut back in the same direction as the road and it was decided this might be a good idea.  It wasn’t and resulted in an extremely muddy and treacherous ravine crossing, which basically brought Juleed to a halt.  She’s a fighter and like all of us do, pushed herself too fast and too far before admitting that she was in a bit of trouble.  It was my fault.

I kept looking at my GPSr unit and the trail and distant road markings and set out double time for my Jeep three miles away.  I came to a road, took it for a bit and then plunged back into the forest, making pretty good time considering everything.  Three miles is a long way with the heat and terrain and I finally made it to my Jeep at the campgrounds, cranked it up, and took off.  I was following the outer perimeter road and called my mates.  They had gained the road and were walking slowly in my direction, but were still about a mile away when I came upon a locked gate.

Well, I am all for abiding by the laws of the land, but medical emergencies negate some things and my Jeep was made for situations like this one.  It took a bit of 4X4 savvy to leave no destructive footprint – I am a firm believer in leaving nothing behind but a shadow and I rolled right up to them.  Everything ended well, but next time I think we will go when it is cooler and with more friends.  I like adventure that ends well.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Heroes Walk Among Us



Baytown Bert and Ren Fitts

Imagine being a nine year old boy in tatters, standing on the streets of Cairo, Egypt.  The date is August 8th 1945, two months after Germany surrendered stopping World War II in Europe.  You are starving, as the Red Cross packages haven’t trickled down to the urchins.  The American’s have helped win the terrible war, but so far, all you’ve seen is the blistering sun and empty shelves, when all of a sudden four sailors come riding down the street on big motorcycles and they are throwing handfuls of bronze cupro-nickel one millieme coins to the kids… and you catch enough to feed yourself for four days!
 
Gil Marshall USNavy
My dad was one of the four and to that little boy, a hero.  Those of us who have served our country in the Armed Services in wartime all have similar stories and for the most part, it is buried where no one will ever see it.  There are memories of long brutal hours, terrifying nights watching, horrifying casualties, buddies lost, continuing nightmares, and unsung moments of sacrifice and bravery in our past.

Baytown has such a man and I count it a privilege to call him my friend.  Like the Dauber, he is a true hero in my eyes, even though he is self-effacing and truly humble.  Last Saturday, I was very pleased to ride shotgun in his 1948 Willy’s war Jeep in the Crosby Veterans Day parade and like my father before me, we threw candy to the many children lining the streets.  His name is Warren “Ren” Fitts and this is his story:

My Mom and Dad come from farm and ranch folks and why I guess I like this life also.   I was shoveling out manure when I was a young buck, bailing hay, and learning what hard work meant at a young age.  My Daddy was a WW ll Army Air Corps Bomber Pilot who never spoke to us 6 kids about his time in the military but when my uncles were around and we were out camping and they had a couple of beers we would over-hear the stories of my Heroes.

My Dad went to night school even with having young boys and became an Electrical Engineer for GE and he was given a job with AERO SPACE Team at Red Stone Arsenal in Huntsville Alabama.  I remember in early 60's meeting military people when my Dad took us to open house; later I found out they were Special Forces.  My Dad worked hard and taught us about trade skills and always said if you had a trade you will always have a job.   He also told us to respect those who serve our country because freedom is not free.


My older brother enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam War in 67.  My Dad was on edge and told me I was going to be a "mechanical engineer and do not think of going in the military like your brother".  I respected my brother coming home in uniform, well dressed and confidant.

A few years later, my brother came to me and said, “If you get drafted you will be a bush bunny and with your low lottery number you are gone, so please go in military for a school and maybe you will be OK.   I went to all the branches and the Army offered me the best deal, so I enlisted.
 
Ren on top of the prop during an extraction.
I was trained in special leadership and Air Assault Helicopter training, preparing me for the extraction teams.  I finished school with high grades and deployed to Southeast Asia where I entered many countries and was with an AIR CAV Infantry Unit.  Many of our missions were recovery operations or forward support missions.  With my clearance I was told to never discuss anything of our training or where I’ve have been... So my secrets remain secrets.
 
Ren's the tall drink of water
I am a Disabled Vietnam veteran from a helicopter crash etc.   I am proud to have served with America’s elite forces.  I feel honored to have served my country in the US Army.  My training was the best the world has to offer and made me a better man when I became a civilian in the work force, because the word “quit” never entered my mind anytime under any condition. Am I a hero?  No.  I did my job like my brothers in arms and so proud to call them my family.
 
Ren is on the left.
Ren is a VFW Life member, Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, member of AMVETS, American Legion and also a Associate member of Texas Game Wardens Associations, 100 Club all these organization who help others especially many in our community
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Saturday, November 09, 2013

Bullying Can Be Stopped By Anyone


When I was a kid and I complained to my Dad that another kid was bullying me, he gave me a piece of advice that I took to heart.  "Pick up a stick and knock his lights out."  He was not using a metaphor either.  The sooner a child learns to resist a bully, the more prepared they will be for the aggressive workplace, social circles, or practice field.  Bullies only mess with the weak or sometimes those who appear to be a target.

Even a tiny wasp can put a grown man to flight and any resistance from someone a bully has targeted gets very old, very quickly to the bully.  Now, you may have to take a licking, but you can get in a few wasp stings of your own if you are mentally prepared to resist.

Another strategy that I actually saw work, but don't recommend is to go on the offensive against a bully and seek them out to "sting" them.  I saw this in the 10th grade and the third time the bullying victim sought out and openly provoked the bully who had attacked him two days before, the bully called a truce.  It got old very quickly and he rightly surmised the victim would continue to confront him in front of everyone.

I never picked up a stick.  I learned to defend myself and along the way, moving from city to city, as my Dad was what was called a job shopper, I got in a fight every single time I was singled out as the new kid.  The very instant someone tried to bully me, I fought back.  In 1972 I took my first karate lesson and never got in another fight, but I sure as h#ll know how to back down a bully and have many times since - but the bottom line is I am darned prepared to back it up.

Another thing is bullying in the workplace, at the gym, in organized sports, social circles, etc. goes on and will go on all your life.   Some of it is subtle, some is outright physical, so prepare yourself and your children to deal with it.  The sooner, the better.
Bert Marshall 1993 Flying Dragon Song Moo Kwan

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Sun Rises Every Day



This past Saturday, I arrived at the Baytown Nature Center right at 7am just minutes before the sun peeked over the horizon and after chatting with the bubbly attendant, drove my Jeep down to the raised pavilion in back.  It is one of the few places you can go here on the flat Texas Gulf Coast and get a wonderful panoramic view.  I was excited and anxious to see another heavenly sunrise and this one promised to be a beauty.
The invigorating effect of the clean air and cool temperature washing over me was multiplied by a 20 mile per hour north wind and I was glad I had my Nomex hoodie with me.  I came to teach a geocaching 101 class along with two friends Larry Houston and Julie Denton, but Larry was laid up in San Jacinto Methodist awaiting a treatment for a sudden ailment. 
As I pulled up on the west side of the pavilion, I took this breath-taking beautiful photo to share and although modern digital cameras are a marvel, they are no match for what all of us see with the naked eye, or what I facetiously like to say, as the naked observer.  I am the kind of person that likes to be early to everything.  I am also the kind of person who likes to be first.  On this day, I was both and unloading my teaching paraphernalia, I carried it up to the top of this amazing wheel-chair accessible teaching location.
On my way there, I stopped at the Donut Wheel on Garth Road and bought donuts – 18 to be exact, as others were sure to bring much more and did.  While there, the Vietnamese fellow who runs the place and I had an amicable chat about obesity, diabetes, and cholesterol, of all things and being a man who has lived in South East Asia, I like to pick the brains of Asians every chance I get.  He told me his homeland is suffering from the same health problems concerning diet as we Texans, in that air-conditioning and modern conveniences are replacing hard work, so diseases like diabetes are becoming common.
We settled on a dozen mixed and 6 cake donuts, as everyone knows the cake donuts are the only safe choice.  I ate two after arriving along with a hot coal-black cuppa Joe. 
Setting up my props in the pavilion, I stopped to watch the sun fully appear over the heavily industrialized horizon and being a denizen of the concrete and steel jungle for close to 40 years, I found it exceedingly beautiful.  I’ve learned to see it that way, as years ago I made up my mind to enjoy my life regardless of where I was.  When a person averages 15 to 16 months of work in a year’s time for most of their adult life, they better learn how to do this, or they will spend 90% of their waking hours wishing they were somewhere else.

Ruminate on that last statement.

I want to live in the moment and yes, I know this cliché is over-used.  However, it is a lesson most of us haven’t learned and that is the crux of this column.  Have you ever stood alone and looked at something and wished there were someone there to witness or share the wonder you are observing?  Whether you realize it or not, you are living in the moment.
Last week before the heavy rain came, I was at work and I stepped out of the back of the control room and there in the clouds was a very faint rainbow.  It was in an odd place and not where I would expect to see such a phenomenon.  I enjoyed it for all of a minute and it faded.  Questioning folks throughout the day, evidentially no one saw it but me. 
One by one students and seasoned geocachers began to arrive at the pavilion and before long there was a very large group of us eating donuts, laughing, sharing stories about challenging geocaches, and sharing trackable items.  Geocachers have these items called pathtags, Geocoins, and travelbugs and they have trackable numbers on them, so when one of these items moves from one “cache” to another, the miles are calculated.  At this class there were 4 geocachers with trackable numbers tattooed on their bodies.  Incredible.  They are human trackable items and I photographed their tats so I could log the numbers when I got home.  We were in the moment.  I knew it, but I wonder how many of us knew?
After the class, which lasted 2 fun hours, we loaded up everything and moved down to the Nurture Nature Festival and set up our booth under a tent.  I was joined by two other geocachers whose monikers are Juleed and Greeneyed and we sat, ate, and passed out donuts, stamped passports, and offered geocaching tips and information to the many people who visited out station.  The wind was something else, but you know?  We had a great time.  We were in the moment.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Observations and thoughts about violent crime




Robbery in The Woodlands caught on camera
Daily I watch the news to see masked men with guns robbing banks, armored cars, fast food restaurants, and even a Jiffy Lube.  A Jiffy Lube!  We are living in a boom economy with more jobs than we have qualified people to fill and yet, according to a coworker, these armed criminals are victims of our society and are being forced to steal a truck and ram in into a 7-11 and steal an ATM machine in order to feed their families. 

Really?

Taemarr Walker's brother caught in Texas in Saturday homicide

I was raised to believe if I couldn’t pay my bills or care for my family, I took a second or even third part time job to make ends meet.  Boy, times must have changed while I was working fifty to seventy hours a week for the last forty odd years.  Where have I been?

The above conversation is real and went like this, “The reason these men are robbing stores is they can’t get good jobs because of the economy.”

“The reason they can’t get good jobs is because they are convicted felons.”

“Exactly.  They are convicted felons and society has made it where they can’t get good jobs, so they are forced to get it any way they can.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yea, they are victims of society.”

Reckless McDonald's robbery in The Woodlands
Recently I watched the news and a well known people’s advocate was complaining about the armed robberies, home invasions, crash and grabs, purse snatchings, and other violent crime in inter-city Houston.  He said business and home owners are scared.  I appreciate this natty-dressed fellow using the violent crime problem to get his image before the people on this subject, because normally, the only time I see him is when he is crying foul when one of these violent criminals gets “abused” by the police department.

I remember when Islamic extremists were in the news daily killing Americans and the outrage by the general American public over the silence of peaceful Muslims in this country.  The average person when questioned told me they felt there should be a distancing and denouncing of terror by peaceful Muslims and they were basically silent on the subject.

'Wigged-out bandit' and accomplices rob credit union
I’m thinking this same people’s advocate needs to stir up the hard-working law-abiding people he represents to rise up and separate themselves from the criminals who are destroying the general public’s perception that this crime wave is inherent, because the 6 O’clock news sure is reinforcing that view.  Either that, or the media is seriously biased against this particular ethnicity.

Back to my conversation with an Operations supervisor I know, he continued, “If these convicted felons could get better jobs, they wouldn’t be stealing.”

“They steal because they are dishonest and criminal.  It has nothing to do with the economy.”

“No, it’s the economy.”

Armed bank robber in bright orange vest gets away with cash from Houston bank
“Um, is that why they attempt to rob an armored car with guns, knowing full well the guards are heavily armed and will shoot it out?”

Come on folks, reason this out.  Do the Somali pirates hijack a ship because of the economy?  Do people break into a home, or steal a truck and crash it into a storefront repeatedly and steal an ATM machine because they can’t get a good job?  Do people ease up to a car and while the occupant is pumping gas, steal their purse because they weren’t handed a job making forty dollars an hour when they finished high school?

Bank robbers on the loose after Pasadena hold up
As a concealed handgun permit citizen, I routinely have my firearm with me, as do hundreds of other law-abiding citizens and on a few occasions recently, these same unfortunate victims of society have pulled a gun on the wrong people.  I don’t wish harm on anyone, but that is wearing thin.  I don’t entertain fantasies of “blowing someone away”, but being a martial artist; I’ve had to come to grips with envisioning how it all may go down.

Now, back to the armored car robbers – let’s focus on these for starters.  The social victims are almost 100% sure they are going to shoot and be shot at and the same goes with entering a bank with a mask and gun.  Who in their right mind would do something like this in 2013 when businesses are crying for qualified help?  Criminals.  Criminals would and do, because they are not victims, but criminals who prey of society.

Search continues for second teen suspect in deadly shooting
So let’s cut through the socially and politically correct bologna right now and call these fellows what they are.  Dangerous and violent criminals and if they enter a home, bank, business, gas station, or Jack in the Box with a gun with the intention of robbing and shooting the people inside, they should be terminated with extreme prejudice and if you think this is harsh, put the shoe on the other foot. 

Imagine one of your loved ones being gunned down by one of these heinous creeps and then see if you can find a benevolent place in your heart for this poor unfortunate victim of society, because I sure can’t.  I’m sick of looking over my shoulder when sitting in a Subway, wondering if a couple of men in masks and hoodies are going to come through the door with guns so they can rob the place for a couple of hundred dollars.

Robbery suspect seen on camera accused of multiple cell phone store robberies.

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

I had an appointment this week at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center to have an echocardiogram, which by the way is an EKG ti...