Friday, August 29, 2014

To Pump or Not To Pump?






This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas. August 29th, 2014 and this is Podcast 10

Sweat.  Grunting.  Hormones.  Spandex.  Muscles.  More sweat.  More grunting. 

I’m talking physical fitness here, not speed dating and I’m talking a lot of commitment too – again unlike speed dating.  Each repetition, each crunch, each set of dumbbells bringing me closer to that Arnoldesque physique I always envisioned I would someday have.

I had no idea when my bride coerced me into joining the local clock-sounding fitness club that I would regain the lost muscles in my shoulders, or that many seniors regularly work-out and when I say work-out, I mean work-out.  We usually arrive around 9am and leave about an hour to two later and the gym is probably fifty per cent people in their fifties and over.

Like most everyone in the gym, exercising is a solo activity and most of us keep their eyes averted and follow the routine they believe will bring back their vitality – but, I know in my heart each of us are “checking” everyone else out.  It’s a body makeover place and everyone there is trying to get someplace they either were or want to go.  It’s a place of sweat and people watching.

Talking is nearly impossible anyway, as many wear earbuds, or Beats headphones, even though the loud speakers are sending out a rhythm designed to motivate us to higher levels.  Then there are the 12 TV monitors on the ceiling so a person can watch the sports channels or find out what Rosie O’Donnell and the other clucking hens think about who knows what. 

Me?  I’m old school Rocky, working out in the basement gym.  No headphones for me.  I aggressively move from machine to machine, barely resting and my muscular friend Derik Hammes tells me this is why I am so sore.   I don’t care.  I am there to slam my body into shape.  I want to look like the 20-30 year olds with the cut physiques, tiny waists, and extra large biceps.  No pain, no gain.

I’m in my third month of 4-6 times a week and I found out quite early on that my weakest muscle group is my shoulders and on top of everything else, my left shoulder positively aches at times.  I have to set the shoulder press at a lower weight and do multiple sets to warm up before I move to the heavier stuff.

I would say that the balance of sexes is close to 50 percent too and that brings up the pump part.  The club has a number of organized classes, one of which is Body Pump where light weights are integrated into a cardio workout.  Would you believe it is mostly women in that class?  Where are all the behemoth testosteronees?  Then there is the Spin class where a very toned lady rides through a series of exhausting stationary bicycle up and down hills for an hour yelling encouragement like a buff drill sergeant.  Almost women exclusively here too and this brings us to big kahuna; the Zumba class.

I pretty much think this is a class for women only, as men’s hips just can’t replicate what the instructor is asking students to repeat.  To be truthful, I do not ever want to be witnessed doing these moves, or I will be forced to turn in my man card.  Don’t get me wrong now, none of it is vulgar, just feminine in nature and women’s anatomy facilitates the gyrating movements.  In fact, I don’t even want to envision another man doing them.

The Body Pump class is a different story – I think.  I want to try it.  I think I can do it.  I’m just wired in such a way that I don’t want to fail and especially in front of a bunch of fit womens.  Yes, I said womens and I know it is grammatically improper, but I have to maintain my masculinity by talking like a caveman.  I’m at the gym for crying out loud.

They had a Boot Camp starting in the gym the other day and at the last second; I rushed in and took my place by the wall at the end of the line.  The drill was wind sprints, something all b-ball players know all to well.  You run down, touch a line on the floor, then dart back and touch the starting line.  Then run out further, repeating the process until you’ve ran 4 times and finally return to the starting line.

I’m competitive to a fault.  I’m 62 and everyone there was much younger than me, but I beat them all… twice.  To my horror, it appeared they might do it again and my man card was suddenly in danger.  Claiming my knees might not survive a 3rd time, I waved, smiled and exited the court into the gym and it took me 3 minutes to catch my breath over where the small group couldn’t see me. 

Never mind.  Yea, I’m ready.  Bring on the Body Pump!

Friday, August 22, 2014

There’s never anything fun to do here or is there? 8-22-14




This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas August 22th, 2014 and this is Podcast 09.


How many times have you said or heard someone complain there isn’t anything to do around here?  Too many to count, right?  That’s right and wrong, because there is a lot to do right here in Baytown and with the help of a bunch of good people and the public relations group in Brenham, Texas, there is going to be even more.

Brenham?  What?  The ice cream and antique rose capital of Texas is going to do what for Baytown?
Baytown Bert visiting historic mansions as part of the Geotour.

Back in early 2013 the Brenham/Washington County Chamber set out to attract tourists to the county and Brenham specifically and tasked Website & Social Media Manager Jenny Mills with making it happen.  This delightful lady came to Houston and met with a number of us geocachers who were planning a strategy for our team to compete in Bastrop for the 2014 Texas Challenge and that is when we met her.

Geocaching.com had instituted a program called Geotours and Jenny wanted to bring Texas its first Geotour and use it to accelerate tourism in her county.  Geotours were so new, most of us veteran geocachers hadn’t heard much about it and this lady had all but had it up and running, which after spending 3 days this week in Washington county doing the tour, I realize is an amazing accomplishment.

Now before I go any further, let me once again explain what geocaching is.  For those of you yawning, please be patient, as it gets better and may just concern you.  In a nutshell, Geocaching is a nerdish game where people use a smartphone Ap of a GPSr receiver/device and look for hidden containers in parks, cemeteries, parking lots, wooded areas – and historic sites.

It is terrifically addictive and fun and on top of everything else – it is something to do.

When you find the container, you open it and sign your geocaching name and date on a logbook and then later record this online to your http://www.geocaching.com/ account and the number of finds and site locations are tracked for your personal statistics.  I have found over 4500 geocaches and am ranked 41st in South East Texas.  I am also the Southeast Texas Rep for the Texas Geocaching Association.

While on the Geotour in Washington County, my lovely bride and I traveled down beautiful country roads, saw old mansions, numerous wineries, a lavender farm, the little creamery in Brenham, the antique rose Emporium (spent $44 there), Los Cabos Mexican restaurant (had embarrassingly large portions of delicious Mexican food), many old cemeteries, and so many historic and interesting places that we plopped down in our motel room at the end of each night… happy and exhausted. 

Altogether we found about 75 caches on this trip.

The three day trip including food, lodging, gas, and shopping was well under $500 and I challenge anyone to see and do more on a mini-vacation for less.  We both feel like we “got away for a spell” and the drive to Brenham from Baytown is less than 2 hours and that includes stopping in Hempstead at the veggie stand to grab a melon or two. 

Now what in the world does this have to do with Baytown and your personal need to do something that will get the blood flowing and help all of us get off the couch you may ask?  Anna Enderli, our tourism director, along with Patti Jett, Baytown’s spokesperson, and our Mayor want to bring a Geotour to Baytown in 2015 and the local geocachers are going to help make it happen.

Now here is how it works, a person will go online, or go to the tourist kiosk at Bu-cees and obtain a Geotour Passport.  In and around Baytown will be a good number (20-30) of places the player will have to visit and find a geocache container.  Each container will also have a code letter or number in it and this will be recorded in the correct blank on the passport.  Each geocache will also be an official GC.com cache to be recorded to your personal account online.

There will most likely be 3 levels to satisfy for collectable and trackable geocaching prizes.  All participants will get extra points for dining inside a restaurant, sleeping in a motel over night, and making merchandise purchases of over $25 at one of our many stores.  If you find all of the Geotour caches, you will get an additional prize.

In the Baytown area, there are already close to 500 geocaches in place, so outsiders will flock to Baytown and not only learn about our history and do the tour, but to grab as many smileys (a geocache appears as a smiley on your account page after its found) as is possible while they are in the area, thus creating revenue for Baytown merchants and the city.

Bringing a Geotour to Baytown will cost something, as geocaching.com oversees it and the city will have to put it up for a vote on budget concerns, but Brenham has found out it is well worth the cost and our people are meeting with their people to get some numbers together.  In Mayor Don Carlos’ words though, “We are going to have the best Geotour in Texas with the best prizes,” and he said that to me after hearing about the program.

So, when you hear and see the word “Geotour” being tossed around in the future, nod your head that you are in the know and let’s bring people to beautiful Baytown for more than just work.

This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Baytown outlaws and the wild life




This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas and this is Podcast 08.

Right here in Chaparral Village, Baytown, Texas, we have nightly marauders sifting through our stuff and most of us honest and hard-working citizens have no clue they have came and taken up residence.  Yes occasionally we see evidence of their activities, but wrongfully believe it might be a teenager, or maybe a stray dog doing the damage.

Last Sunday morning, my bride and I headed out for church in the morning and there on East Baker Street, we saw two of them – in broad daylight!  They made no attempt to hide their identities, other than their signature Zorro-type eye-bands. 

Two fat raccoons ran across the street and began climbing a tree to get a good days rest.  They’ll need it for Monday morning when the trash is set out.  Did you know raccoons like to sleep high up in trees?  They sure do.  Back in the day when I killed animals, I am now ashamed to say I shot a number of raccoons while they rested.  I have also dined on them, if that makes a difference to you, the discerning reader.

My youngest brother once rode his bicycle from Rockport to Deer Park and had the revelation that the number one killer of wildlife in this country is the automobile.  He observed, via his nose that every hundred yards he passed a dead animal killed by a car.  With the loss of habitat, the animals have no choice but to adapt and that means crossing roads and living in subdivisions.

Back a number of years ago, I spent a few days out in Camp Wood, Texas and traveled back and forth from Uvalde.  I was amazed and shocked how many new dead deer were along the highway each and every day and this is just one stretch of highway.  Judge Jimmy Johnson taught me hunter education and later on I became an instructor.  Gene Norton was such a prolific teacher in the area that I moved on to other adventures but in the time that I taught it, I learned a ton about wildlife, hunting, and the carrying capacity of the land concerning animals, fish, and birds.

Animals need a lot of habitat to flourish, but can surprisingly survive in a lot less.  I have a game camera set up on the new stretch of cement hike and bike trail running through the woods of Blue Heron Parkway and to date I’ve picked up a number of deer, coyotes, and rabbits traversing it at night.

Now this might sound a little indelicate, but I can usually identify wild animals by their scat and I see evidence of opossum, coyote, and possibly a bobcat use the new sidewalk.  Opossum love persimmons, but can’t digest the seeds.  Coyote and bobcat scat often has bones and fur in it.  Raccoons love to eat near water due the fact they “douse” their food to remove unwanted portions.   Like pigs, they will eat almost anything.  Their scat also contains bits of bone, scales, seeds, and vegetable matter.

Over the years while camping, I learned the hard way that a “rat-coon” can pert-near open anything.  You can’t close an ice chest and expect to find it unplundered in the morning.  They are master burglars and that dog or cat that keeps knocking over your garbage can is probably a coon.  A raccoon makes a happy noise when it finds food that sounds like an alien from outer space and if you are camping and have never heard this sound, it might just make you scream, “Mommy!” and pull the covers over your head.

We heard a screech owl after dark one night right in our back yard.  Now that’s a sound to get your heart racing.  Another night as a big storm blew in, a great horned owl landed on the power line behind my house.  Wow.  An apex predator and I imagine everything it feeds up upon was hunkering down trying to be invisible.

Rabbits, boy do we have rabbits now.  Walking the Blue Heron Parkway trail, there are both swamp rabbits and a few cottontails in abundance.  One time here at the home-20, I heard a chain link shaking noise and a fully grown tomcat was attached to the back of an even larger swamp rabbit and it was bounding down the length of the fence taking the cat with it.  The cat was screaming and the rabbit was gittin’ it right on out of sight.

One fellow not too long ago, warned me as I walked my two little dogs.  “Watch out for them rabbits!  They’ll get your dogs!”  I thanked him and got a good laugh after he walked off a ways.  He was looking left and right – I guess they were the dreaded danger bunnies.  I hope he wasn’t serious. 

The only thing I’ve heard lately that was funnier was the guy at the auto parts store asking me what velocity motor oil I needed.  I looked at him straight faced and asked, “What velocity does the computer say it takes?  His answer?  5W30.

Friday, August 08, 2014

It’s a Jungle out there folks


This is Baytown Bert in Baytown Texas August 8th, 2014 and this is Podcast 07



If the jungle of Borneo has a doppelganger, it’s the Old River/Winfree thickets off of FM1409.  I say this even though I’ve never been to Borneo.  I imagine I am not too far off though and for arguments sake, let’s just say it is.  If I am wrong, I imagine some of my more enlightened Borneo experts will inform me, as a couple of them are pretty much experts on everything it seems.

I am in awe of their ability to sit on the couch and correct everything everyone else produces.  It’s like they have amazing powers or something.  Maybe they drink that special coffee from Borneo produced by the civet cat?  Obviously I need some of that.  I’ve heard that coffee makes you real smart.  I wish I knew.

On more than one occasion, including this past Saturday, my geocaching friends and I clawed, crawled, and slung machete blades through 5 hours of thorns, brambles, and vines.  It was real world sweating, grunting, and bleeding.  I can’t remember one single sarcastic remark along the hike, as we were all in the fray and all of us were putting forth honest, hard labor to back up our individual tales of adventure.

For the sake of this column, if I were to go to Borneo, I might ask around for the most vocal guide I could find.  You know the kind of character I mean, right?  They are the self-righteous person who always has a loud take on everything, but are rarely seen actually doing anything to contribute other than to dole out their enlightened opinion.  Thus we have the famed crazy man from Borneo.

They never generate anything original, but feed off of what others contribute and proceed to pick it apart, skewing fact after fact; never mind the misquotes and wild sidebar speculation.  If anything, their tangents are so far off the mark, it becomes humorous to behold, but difficult to comprehend how they arrived where they did.  And on top of everything, they feel like their contributions are ultimately the righteous hand of God.

Yes, yes, I know.  You are asking me why I would want a crazy man as a guide and I’ll come right out and say it.  Even the jungle of Borneo or the thickets of Old River/Winfree need comic relief.  This sounds like fun, right?  I wish it were.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be fun at all and here is why.  These characters only have fodder that is created by others and our guide would be reduced to the talking head they truly are, prattling along with drivel from past observations and that my friend, come to think about it, is pretty danged unfunny.  They wouldn’t lead us anywhere.  They can only operate after someone else suggests a trail or direction.

The amusing part is they would be the target of their own sarcasms for a change and that would make up for their lack direction!  On third thought, it would indeed be funny.  Add in that no amount of criticism will stop their condescending diatribe and you have a reverse peanut gallery in full swing - and taking the very same liberties our guide uses, we can skew their offerings any way we want to make our point smack home.

We will not only get to listen to someone who may have no more experience or knowledge than we have, but for sheer entertainment value, sit back in the comfort of our digs and throw wooly-boogers at them to bump up our own egos and gain the open admiration of our fellow trail travelers.

Hold on a second.  Am I losing my grip on reality here or what?  Why would I want to do any of these stupid things?  They’re idiotic and non-productive.  I want to experience the thickets and jungle trails, not walk behind a loud-mouth know it all and be baffled by their smoke screen of how it all should have went down yesterday.  If anything, I want a visionary of how things should be on our future travels.

I think it would be far better to assemble as many people as we can who have done their homework, studied the treacherous road ahead, and have a feel for moving forward in the safest and most productive manner.  Yes.  If anyone in the group feels like they have a real handle on our future, I’m going to ask them to step forward and lead, but the first time we venture down the trail and I hear that crazy Borneo guy yelling non-productive second-guessing sarcastic remarks about how stupid everyone is; I’m going call them out again and again. 

It amazes me how some outspoken people will look at the trail and disparagingly announce seeing something totally different than the rest of us, misidentifying almost every plant and tree along the way and then accusing the group of being uneducated buffoons.  If they didn’t show up every time I turned around, I could dismiss their contribution as an occasional aberration, but seeing they won’t learn, I just have to see it for what it is – comic relief.

The Baytown area has many trails yet untraveled and with our growing population, we need answers and wise extrapolation, not destructive and pessimistic afterthought to move down the future trail safely.  Our city needs people who want to move foreword with vision and the wild men of Borneo needs to get onboard.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Trying to be positive isn’t always easy


This is Baytown Bert in Baytown Texas August 1st, 2014 and this is Podcast 06


I want to write something beautiful, something inspiring, something eye-opening – then I read the news.  I read the local, state, federal, and world news and I am jerked back to reality.  No, I don’t get my updates from Fox news; I just happen to be a conservative and believe that some change in necessary and long overdue.  I do not believe throwing tax money at everything is the answer either.

Indulge me a moment while I get my thoughts in order.

Right here in Baytown we experienced big crime when my friend’s business was partially destroyed by human trash in a smash and grab stolen truck demolition of their building.  Magnum Firearms, a mom and pop business owned by my friends John and Becky Johnson suffered terrific damage and loss of inventory to the dregs of society and the 19 weapons stolen will probably be used for more crime.
These are good people who do not have the income to spare to casually rebuild.  I’ve purchased a number of guns and ammo from them and will do it again very soon to show support.  As for the perpetrators of this crime, I sincerely hope they get a Darwin’s award in the worst kind of way.  Some folks call it instant karma. I call it justice mixed with extreme prejudice.   

When people do honest work and make every attempt to earn their way through life, their reward should not be what happened to these two people.  On top of that, when grand theft auto and massive damage to a business results in brazenly stealing other peoples property, the thieves should be incarcerated until they are old and feeble and then beaten with rubber hoses and thrown in a dark pit.  There, I went ahead and said it anyway.

The big news around town is the school board and Dr. Salvador Cavazos and his apparent solo decisions to make wholesale changes in leadership positions and the renewal of contracts. On one hand, I applaud the Baytown Sun’s current position to keep this in the forefront and on the other the Salem Witch Trials keeps popping into the back of my mind.  I sincerely doubt Dr. Cavazos with keep his job and if he doesn’t, I surely hope it is justified.  I h Poe
ate bandwagons; always have, but it is what it is and everyone who picks up a stone, better danged well make sure it is justified.

One thing is obvious to me.  No one will throw their hat in the ring for a future school board position without really thinking about it, unless that person has the fortitude of Jenice Coffey.  According to what I read, this lady has a pretty good take on where things should be and her call for Cavazos resignation will most likely seal his fate – well her and the many people at the meeting who were not allowed to speak.

Ted Poe has been down on the border looking things over.  He is one congressman I believe hasn’t lost sight of why he is in office.  I hope he remains true.  Folks are drawing a line in the sand and some are extending open arms to pull folks across it, while others are openly taking up arms to stop the flow of “children”.  Dang it; it’s a complicated issue and I don’t have the answer.  I see both sides, but if we cannot stop a 10 year old kid from crossing into the country, how in the world are we going to stop a ton of narcotics, or a terrorist from coming in?

There’s been a giant bust of marijuana plants in Polk County, thanks to a deer hunter who discovered it.  The news stations are all over it citing the possibility that the drug cartels are authoring it.  Now all the people who smoke doobies and eat Cheetos will be buying meth or cocaine instead of the devil herb.  That is my experience.  When pot is unavailable, dopers are prone to seek out what is available; with a myriad of side consequences and the money is funneled to the drug cartels anyway. 

Now instead of smoking dope and lying on the couch with orange Cheetos fingers, these same folks may resort to robbing Walgreens, gunshops, and beauty supply stores to get stuff to sell so they can buy more hard drugs.  No, that is reserved for real criminals.  The dope smokers will simply drink more alcohol until the pot flows again.  I say Texas should legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana and let’s move forward.
What, you say marijuana is a gateway drug and legalizing it will cause folks to go buck wild and freak out from reefer madness?  I say they are already smoking it and the money is indeed being funneled to organized crime.  What about all the homeless people Colorado is experiencing now that they legalized it?  What about that Mr. Marshall, huh?

Do you honestly believe these are Colorado citizens who are suddenly homeless?  Heck no, they are young people and students visiting Colorado and grabbing a free bed and meal at the shelters before they return to their respective states who punish reefer users.  They may be mile high, but they know a good deal when they see it.  Why spend $500 a month on Obamacare when you can blow it on high quality weed and eat and sleep for free and get a Colorado vacation on top of everything else?

Recently on Facebook and baytowntalks.net the subject of omitting certain facts in reporting the news was deemed the same thing as lying and I agree.  Why do so many of us distrust what we see, hear, or read concerning the network news?  How do we know when to believe it?  I guess the simplest answer is to do your homework and weigh everything against what you know as fact and just cipher it out, but that in itself is complicated and work, so many either ignore everything they see, hear or read, or wholesale buy it all.

I woke up this morning feeling optimistic about the future despite what the networks reported today.  Violence, war, the spreading of Ebola, and the Walgreens, Radio Shack, Florist shop, and Magnum Firearms smash and grabs right here in the Houston area and decided I would not let it affect my daily routine one bit.  So I stuck my Glock Model 30 .45 ACP in my waist band after making sure it contained 11 rounds of jacketed hollow-point ammunition and stepped out on the street with a smile.  Good morning world!

I'm not distracted, I just can't remember.

Our country has been clobbered with a pandemic and it's not caused by mosquitoes, terrorists, or a childish Asian communist with ...