Friday, June 27, 2014

The great wide open world of words

Jumping Jehoshaphat, it is exciting times living in and around Baytown, Texas!  I have to confess, I can’t recall ever writing that old phrase, but in the almost total absence of colorful expressions in our present speech, its purpose is to make a point.  Oh, we have colorful expressions all right, but most of them can’t be uttered in the presence of children and refined folks.  Jumping Jehoshaphat surely can and if you, like me are bombarded daily with expletive-laced conversation, any expression absent of vulgar rhetoric is a refreshing change.

Each and every day we make the decision on what comes out of our mouth.  Not only what words we will use, but what information we pass to another person.  Some of us are very guarded while others “let er (bleeping) rip” and recklessly babble on like a used car salesman eager to make a sale and saying whatever unfiltered nonsense that comes to mind.

We know wonderful people who open their mouth and enlighten others with their opinions and personal experiences abounding with interesting topics, while other friends, work mates, and acquaintances are as an open septic tank, spewing verbal waste like a sewer pipe.  We tolerate them because they are our friends and coworkers, but are they someone we want our kids to listen to and imitate their speech habits?  Most likely not.
The television will supply all the negative speech they can soak up and if that’s not enough, the music industry will lend a hand.  As parents, the only tools we have to teach our children a higher form of speech are what we teach them and our personal example.  If you are a member of a religious assembly, there is a strong third source.

If you are the kind of person who guards their speech, you find it perplexing when people curse, swear, or use profanity with unguarded emphatic zeal.  It’s F-this and F-that from the time they open their mouth until you are far enough away from them that you can’t hear it.  I hardened myself to it a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean I like it.  I will arrive at my place of employment and within 5 minutes, I’ve heard enough cursing to last the whole day – more than I will hear in the 4 days I am off work.

What I hear in just a few minutes after arriving are friends who have long ago lost their ability to insert colorful and descriptive adverbs and adjectives in their speech.  The more expletives they use, the easier it is to substitute a (bleep) for an actual adjective.  Before long one of their sentences, minus the curse words, wouldn’t even make sense and there is no apparent desire by them to cease speaking in this manner.  I’ve often thought I should record one of these conversations and then play it back to them, bleeping out all the trash words.

I do believe they would say, "(Bleeeeeep!) I had no idea; I (bleeeeping) talked like that".  What would be more amazing is if they said, “Holey Macarena!”  I’m not going to hold my breath on that though.  Now let me back up and say that a colorful curse word does have a certain place at just the right time, although to be honest, I do not indulge, but sometimes it is downright funny when certain people blurt one out by accident.

A certain lady saw a mouse and before she could stop herself, out came, “Bleep!”  That was certainly fitting and indeed hilarious – and most unexpected.  One time I heard a preacher get so fired up about a witch that he accidently dropped the W and substituted a B.  It was stunned silence in the congregation until he said, “Well, she was!”  I can’t recall laughing any harder than I did that day.

If I remember correctly, the comedian Jerry Seinfeld said that any comedian, who uses a lot of profanity in their skit, simply doesn’t have enough good material, or something along those lines.  This isn’t always true mind you, but I agree with it.  Cursing has lost its shock value, which incidentally used to make people feel uncomfortable and hence, they laughed.  They laughed because they were embarrassed or uncomfortable in mixed company.  It’s no longer true and some “ladies” now curse way more than the historically vulgar-talking men around them.

The Daily Show’s host Jon Stewart regularly uses the F word in his show and his audience thinks it’s just fine.  His show is cutting edge with top notch writers and exposes a plethora of political wrongs, but I don’t watch it period.  It’s too much cursing for my palate.  Drop the GD and F-laden humor all you want John, but give me the humor and satire without it please or I will not watch.

I’m not a holier than thou Johnny do-good guy - or a Miss Priss; I just prefer to not hear it, so I don’t use it even when I am angry or distressed.  That’s right; I do not. People know I am angry when out of my mouth come words which describe what I am angry about and I can be very descriptive.

I remember when the Watergate/White House tapes were made public, way back in the Stoned Age of peace, love, and dope.  No one could believe that the President of the United States had such a filthy mouth.  Richard Nixon cursed like a sailor – as the old expression goes.  Normal conversation would include “Wow!” and “Far out, man!”   These days, many feel the need to bump it up a couple of expletive notches to get the same effect.

What does all of this mean and why am I writing it?  Each and every day we make the decision on what comes out of our mouth and what we listen to.  Every sentence and utterance we offer is our choice alone.  Dwell on that and ruminate.  Chew the cud a bit.  Is it bitter or sweet?  Rediscover adjectives and adverbs and you will discover a great wide open world of words you now have available.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Achieving true happiness

Do you consider yourself to basically be a happy person or do you feel that there is a giant invisible hand holding you back where you cannot truly enjoy life? In the deep recesses of your mind, do you believe that winning the lotto, hiking the Rockies, or getting that dream all expense paid vacation will unlock the shackles that deprive you of inner peace? You are not alone, I assure you, but sadly, none of these illusive desires will give you what you want for more than a few days.  
The money will be spent, the hike will conclude, and the voyage on the seas will come to an end and you will find yourself back at work and in the doldrums. Then the old problems will resurface and once again you will wish for relief.
I have a good friend who in a very frustrated state and on a daily basis will explain to me why he is no longer happy at work. “It’s not the job, it’s” – and he has a long list of complaints. “I won’t ever be happy here,” he angrily vocalizes and I sit and listen and know in y heart he is sadly lacking a revelation that I can’t give him.’
He will have to see it for himself.  He needs an epiphany, an awakening of sorts and other than the possibility of a divine intervention, it is up to him.
He truly believes he will get a job somewhere that the current issues simply do not exist. I try to explain to him that he is living a fantasy, because the identical issues that bug him here are at every job site, everywhere, but he is so caught up in believing that his happiness is dependent on finding another place to work, that my words fall on deaf ears.
Now mind you, when I talk about our workplace, I am not talking about a hostile environment and if that describes where you work, then maybe in your case, leaving is a good option – but not here. Here happens to be a good work atmosphere for the most part. I know. I’ve toiled at this place of employment a long time. People are people and people have a myriad of personalities. There is no getting around that unless you work completely solo and those jobs are rare, so managing your interaction with those around you is essential to peace on the job, but honestly, has little to do with your personal happiness.
Our personal happiness is almost one hundred percent our responsibility and in our control. Whether you are a believer of the Christian Bible or not, no one could argue with the Apostle Paul’s statement found in Philippians 4:11 and I paraphrase, that I learned to be happy, no matter the circumstances.
Inner peace can be achieved regardless of who bugs you at work and is our responsibility to develop and nurture. We simply cannot depend on circumstances, or the lack thereof or the people around us to dictate our state of mind and the sooner we take command of our own well being, the sooner we can achieve what appears to be elusive to so many.
My Dad was a hard-working family provider.  He was always at work.  He was not a particularly gregarious man and had a very low tolerance for what he termed “idiots”.  He spent many years in industry as a tool and die maker and in his later years told me he hated every minute of it.  This surprised me very much as I do not recall hearing him complain about work.  His real pleasure was to go off fishing in his boat and be gone for hours.  As he aged, the trips grew more frequent and the largest percentage of the time, he went by himself.
One day I asked him why he went alone and he told me, “I enjoy my own company.”  His simple answer has never left me and over the years I have developed the same sentiment with one exception.  When I can, I want my bride with me.  If she can’t go, or has other plans, I simply happily go by myself.
Working in the chemical industry for almost 40 years I have thousands and thousands of hours in my wake of being someplace I’d rather not have been, but do I hate it; am I unhappy; or have I numbly became hardened to the task?  Has all of this work made me an unhappy person?
The answer is no; I am not unhappy and for the most part, I am not only content, but enjoy myself a great deal of the time, even at work.  Seeing I have to be there, I simply make the best of it.  You see, I learned a long time ago that no one can dictate whether I am happy or not – only me.  So, I simply choose to be happy and content and enjoy my own company.

Are US Troops and Vets going to Hell?

 According to this "revelatory preacher" in Baytown, Texas, they are for the most part and so are you for supporting the troops, both living and fallen.

Rick Crotts is the spiritual leader of Sjolander Fellowship.  Anything he writes or submits to the newspaper is full of wild speculation and condemnation of orthodox Christians and imply we/they have their head so deep in the sand that they/we are simply blind.  According to HIS theology, God pretty much wrapped everything up a couple of thousand years ago and admission to heaven is wonderfully open for all. 

Here is another example of his constant attack on anything that doesn't share his revelation.  He implies that Christian support for Veterans and military that died as a result of combat will all burn in hell.  I guess Rick Crotts is a pacifist also and believes the bad guys can take everything he has including the lives of his family and then sit down on the right hand of God (right next to Rick, by the way).

In today's letter to the editor, he asks a question about the average member of a orthodox church and again suggests they are mentally retarded.

No Mr. Crotts, it's not everyone else who is wrong.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

RV resort special-use permit disagreeement

The Baytown Sun
Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 12:00 am
Bert Marshall Baytown

Well, thank the good Lord district 5 has a councilman who actually wants to honor his district’s concerns over the almighty dollar bottom line. Highway 146 is becoming a madhouse of traffic, so when Rev. Raymond Van Buskirk threw out valid concerns about the RV Park’s impact, who in the world is Mercedes Renteria to tell Bob Hoskins that he shouldn’t investigate the Reverend’s concerns? Chris Presley thought it was common sense. Mr. Renteria is quoted as saying, “When somebody comes in our city and wants to spend their money and develop, then who are we as council to tell them they can’t develop?”

I’ll answer that for Bob. The council we citizens elect to listen to our concerns; that’s who. Of all the councilmen I’ve had over the last 20 years living in District 5, Bob is the only one who has repeatedly asked my opinion or answered my questions.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Single Houston Dating site now online!
Now that summer is here it's time to get out and meet new people. But what do you do if you work a lot of hours or have children that keep you tied up all day? Many people are looking online for that special someone and now people around Houston have their very own site: is only for people around Houston that want to meet other local singles. Unlike most dating sites Single Houston limits their members to a 75 mile radius of the city. That way your mail box isn't getting bombarded with messages from people from Boston or Tampa who you really won't be able to meet up with and connect. With this feature dating men or women around town just got a lot easier.

June is the perfect time to meet someone and an Astros game is always a great idea for a first date. So what are you waiting for? Someone around Houston is looking for someone like you.

This post is sponsored by our newest partner, Single Houston. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Oh dirt road, where have you gone?

Getting off work at 4pm this past Tuesday, I made my way onto Independence Parkway, which will forever be known as Battleground Road, but renamed on a grand scheme to announce our historical past and increase visitors to the San Jacinto Monument, I was told.  I can’t say with any certainty that it changed a danged thing, except to confuse people.  This is the beginning of the rush hour going home traffic.

The wise Loves people up in Oklahoma City decided SH225 and Independence Parkway would be the perfect place to build a giant truck stop.  This is where G’s Icehouse was at one time and along with the truck terminal back on the bend across the road from Akzo Nobel, they’ve effectively created a traffic nightmare of 18-wheelers dragging long trailers across the path of thousands of shift workers and tourists either going or coming.

Crossing over SH-225, I nervously enter the violent fray of NASCAR wannabes, except I am in a lifted Jeep Wrangler and determined to stay within the speed limit of 65 miles per hour.  This causes a terrific amount of stress on my drive home, as no less than a half dozen near rear end collisions will be encountered before the flyovers to SH-146 going north and south.

Therein lies the problem.  In order to gain any and all lane advantages, the wannabe racers (read lifted pick-up trucks, motorcycles, and everything in between) will use any and all lanes prior to the flyovers and then cut across in front of anyone in their path to make their exit.  Now add about 15 miles per hour above the other 75 mile per hour vehicles to the equation and you have what one woman we know describes as a mi-ra-tion. 

The word does not officially exist in any dictionary, but a miration it is and a very stressful and dangerous miration to boot.

The flyover heading north off of SH225 is posted at 45 mph.  I can take it at 65 on cruise if I pay close attention and because I drive it often.  At 65 I will have a vehicle so close to my back window that all I can see is their windshield.  At the bottom of the flyover, the speed limit drops to 60 mph, but Lord help anyone who would dare to go that slow!  The long unbroken white line on your left side no longer is heeded and the speeding vehicles boil out from behind me, crossing the line like Petty and Foyt.

The race is on!  I try to make my way to the third lane from the right because I am not going to go down business 146 which is at the bottom of the Fred Hartman Bridge and the racing trucks and cars are weaving in and around me like rockets, causing brake lights to flash their warning and deadly potential.  I’m still on cruise doing 65 – I dare not go slower, as I am often ten miles per hour slower than everyone else even though I am breaking the law doing 5 over.

Why don’t I simply join them in exhilarating and reckless abandon you may wonder?  Because no matter how fast I go, it won’t be fast enough.  I simply do not want to get “runned over”.  Okay, as I come down the bridge, it may appear that the race is over, but noooo!  Now it gets into a mad rush to get to the Spur 330 flyover and the inconsiderate and rude jet-propelled wannabees use the two left lanes to pass as many vehicles as they can so they can dangerously rip across the lanes and fly op the raised road to Veterans Highway.

The 4pm crowd is  only the beginning of the rush and by 5pm, it is much worse as more and more rabidly foamy-mouthed drivers elbow their way through the fast-moving traffic so they can get home and sit on the couch.  At one time I complained that certain cops parking on the bridge were actually creating a problem, but no more.  I’ve reversed my stance on that one for sure.

We have evolved into an arrogant and rudely distracted society where dark-tinted windows have empowered many obnoxious drivers.  They obviously feel they can do whatever they dang well please without accountability.  If you don’t like it, tough noogies.  Now get out of my way!
I finally begin my exit onto the North Main feeder road only to have a car whip in front of me and guess what, Smartphone in hand, they immediately slow to 35 mph.  To my right are 3 rapidly approaching cars wanting to get on SH-146 and a quick assessment tells me we are all going to arrive at the exit/entrance at the same time.  The Smartphone driver is so distracted, they slow to 25 mph by the time they get to the feeder and a white Honda Accord shoots the small gap between my Jeep and the black sedan.  All I can do is blow my horn in protest.

I punch the accelerator to get past the near miss and the black car’s driver is now down to about 15 mph and cruises over to the right lane never taking their eyes off their phone.  Shaking my head in disgust, I stop at North Main’s red light.  A quick survey to the four cars around me reveals 3 out of the 4 are already texting.  The light turns green and I make a hard left and glancing at my mirror shows all the cars, except the ones behind me are still at the light.  The drivers don’t know the light has changed.

I make it all the way to Bob Smith Road before another light stops me.  As I roll up beside the cars to my left, I note the first and third car’s driver’s are texting.  I catch the Massey Tompkins light green and enjoy the last mile or two before I am home distraction free.  It was the only part of the 16 mile commute that resembled a peaceful drive on a dirt road.  Mercy.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Ahoy there, Mr. Castaway?

 I have 12 working days until retirement.  12 working days.  12-12’s as they say.  4 on, 4 off, 4 on, 4 off, 4 on, and then 4 off...  Off.  Finally off from work since I started at the ripe age of 14, sacking groceries in Woodstock, Georgia.  14 and sacking groceries for five dollars a day and .40 cents total tips for the day.  Often less.

Sunday morning, I will sit up on the side of my bed about 0315 - before my alarm clock sounds the dreaded “cherry picker backing up sound”. I detest it, but faithfully set it each night and to be honest, rarely does it actually get to blast its obnoxious siren.  You see, I have the curious affliction my fellow process operators suffer from, the one where the fear of oversleeping causes us to wake up before the alarm sounds and begin the “look at the clock routine 5 times and finally shut it off before it alarms” syndrome.  Daylights get a bad rap for 99% of shift workers for this reason.  We just don’t get enough sleep.

If you are one of the hundreds – maybe thousands of workers who work a rotating shift schedule in this old oil town listen to me on this.  The secret to getting up in the dead of the night… is to go to bed early.  Get out your pad of paper and pencil and write this down.  Go to bed.  Don’t cheat yourself.  You will lose my friend.  Trust me on this.

37 plus years of this rotating vortex of shift work is now almost in my wake.  Add in 200 to 500 hours overtime each year and I’ve somehow crammed anywhere from 13 and a half months to almost 16 months of labor inside of 365 days.  Wait!  Am I saying what I’ve done is unique amongst shift workers? Not at all.  My experience is typical in so many ways of the wear and tear shift workers routinely endure.  God bless their sleep-deprived souls.

I feel so alive, but at the same time a bit of trepidation perched on the bow of my boat as I row for the final work berth.  Will I be a castaway at journeys end?  Some, like many of my peers, will be thrown or fall off the boat for whatever reason.  I choose to be the one who dives off and swims with strong strokes and my fellow travelers watch and say, “Now that’s how its done”! 

I hope so and to be honest, that’s pretty much how it’s going.

Lord, what a compliment from my peers!  To think I could actually spend all those long shifts and walk out of there feeling good about myself and the many coworkers I know endorse me and the work I’ve done and retain a feeling of accomplishment to boot?  Wow.  Simply wow and that is how I choose to believe it, see it and accomplish it. 

Once ashore though, will I be a castaway, a person who has been shipwrecked and stranded in an isolated place because I now have no work detail or purpose?  I know guys who won’t retire for this very reason.  They won’t come out and say it, but in the secret locker of their heart, they feel they will no longer be needed.  I guess the answer to this is up to me, right? 

Well, over the years I’ve watched my peers retire and all too often, it’s been ugly and I have to be honest and say I am going out kicking and on my own terms.  In the manner of my USMC buds, I am going to do a beach landing on retirement, semper fidelis.  In other words, I’m going out, like Chuck Norris would ready to kick butt and take names later.  I’m jumping overboard and swishing my arms through the warm Gulf waters, Forrest Gump style.  “That’s my boat”. 

Most go out totally rung out, or hospital out of the job.  They limp to the gate looking like their head wore out 3 bodies.  It’s true; why say otherwise?  They look old and tired and are most likely mad about something or someone.  Shoot; I can still run 5 miles if need be and dang it, I might just do it on my last day to stuff it down the throat of the man to prove it.  I came in kicking and I’ll go out the same way and on my own terms.  By the, the man is this mysterious entity that can be blamed for most anything we dislike about a job.

“Mighty big talk for a one-eyed fat man.”  Yea, maybe.  Maybe.  However, there’s still a lot of the crusty salt left in this old Nomex uniform.  I like to think there is anyway and that’s good for something.  Maybe a blueberry cake donut at the Doughnut Wheel at the corner of Garth and Rollingbrook.  I’ll ask my friend there and find out if it is. 

I have a co-worker who is about 30 who has been studying Jujitsu for about 5 years.  He told me he would like to spar me – he calls it rolling.  I told him he would lose either way.  “What?  How is that,” he asked.  He is 30 years my junior and full of vinegar.

“If you beat me, you can tell everyone you beat up a 62 year old man.  If you lose….”

Come July 1st, I’ll begin my first full month of retirement.  I’ll be hiking, biking, geocaching, or at the gym.  Look me up.  I’ll be the one with a look on my face that my life is just now beginning.


Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Gimme Shelter

The Rolling Stones iconic classic, Gimme Shelter has been played so many times,, its beyond counting and yet I listen to it completely every time its played. A lesser known cover of the song by Grand funk is just as pleasing to me and after searching youtube, I found a couple more that are incredible... but which one is the best? You vote and it will be settled, but before you do, all I ask is you give each version a listen.

Please vote in the comments section and leave a reason why one is better than the other.

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...