Friday, July 31, 2015

It is so hot outside…

 “It's so hot; farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying hard-boiled eggs!”

I looked at the thermometer on my patio, which incidentally is in the shade, and it read 100 degrees. The thought hit me that if I were to light a fire, I might actually cool off.  That’s when I realized I was unbearably hot and not exactly thinking straight.

I love sunshine; I really do. In fact I thrive on it, but can’t we get it without the waffle iron? I remember an old Beetle Bailey cartoon where the colonel paid a visit to the mess hall and asked the cook (Cookie) why he wasn’t in full uniform. Cookie replied that it was too hot to wear all those clothes. The colonel in his wisdom had no choice but to order an investigation into the actual temperature.

The next frame showed the old sergeant cooking in the buff. That’s the way it is here. It is so hot; I can’t seem to get cool when I am outside. We thank the Lawd for air conditioning and curse the de-bil if we lose power. We are slaves to A/C and make no apology.

I’ve witnessed people out walking on the trail system behind my house wearing a plastic suit or a lot of clothing. They are operating in a pre-1980 mentality that they need to sweat to lose weight. Well, here is a PSA (public service announcement). Don’t do this! You will stress your heart to a ridiculous level.

Instead, carry a bottle of water and wear wicking material to allow your skin to breathe and get rid of moisture. When wearing “sweats” all you do is elevate your blood pressure and endanger yourself. You will gain back whatever you lost when you gulp down the water you will ultimately crave.

It was so hot that corn popped in the field and the mules saw it and thought it was snow. 14 dropped dead from hypothermia!”

Too much heat real or imagined is not good, but I’ll take it over freezing any day.  Two winters in Montana taught me that. Being hot is uncomfortable. Being cold is painful. I went straight from Great Falls, Montana to Southeast Asia in 1972. From freezing weather to tropic heat closer to the equator. One word can describe both extremes: brutal.

It was hot there, but not really any hotter than we are experiencing right now.  It is dangerously hot right now.  Just this week I rode my bike down Blue Heron Parkway and into Jenkins Park to do maintenance on the many geocaches I own there. Even on the bike, I was totally soaked by the time I return 2 hours later. I imagine I lost two pounds of water weight in that 2 hours and I was riding most of the time.

“It is so hot, the local fire hydrant was asking dogs for a visit.”

If you have an inground pool, the sun is sucking an inch of water out of it a day. There is no telling what it is doing to our skin. I imagine it is radiantly cooking us. The good news is we are almost into August and maybe 3 weeks away from when it doesn’t beat down on us so hard. It’s bizarre in that suddenly it won’t feel as oppressive. It’ll be the same sun, but it just won’t have that blow torch scorching feel.

By the time we make it into delightful October, we will experience one of the two times a year that we have wonderfully pleasant weather and that is right around the blessed corner.

“It is so hot; I put crimson charcoal briquettes in my ice tea to chill it down.”

Like it or not, we never get used to it and this question has been raised a million times by travelers visiting the area. That welcoming smell at the airport is indeed mildew – get used to it! I guess the answer to it all if you must venture outside is to hydrate and stay in the shade as much as possible. My sweaty visor cap is off to garbage collectors, roofers, lawn care folks, and the Parks department workers who labor in it all day.

Now, where’s my sweet tea?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Exercise is not just for athletes

 I hang out with a pretty tough crowd at the gym. What? Another column about exercising? Geeze, BB can’t you write about food, or maybe give us an update on that danged bacon-luring dog catcher again? We do have an animal control problem here fella! What is your obsession with exercise?

Believe it or not, almost on a daily basis I question not only my motives, and goals, but my own sanity. Here’s how I roll; I do a Boot camp on Monday, Spin class on Tuesday, and Body Pump on Wednesday. I try to convince myself to take Thursday’s off for rest and recuperation – and am partially successful. Friday’s are a run day and since the temp has jumped into the 80’s at daybreak, this has turned my 5K run into something quite embarrassing.

Let’s break this down further and if you are still reading, there is a direct correlation between working your body with boosting your mental health. A good solid push of your muscles equates to a positive state of mind. I love to ask other seniors if they “got your money’s worth” as the exit the gym and 100% report they did, often with a weary grin.

At the gym named after the clock, our Boot camp instructor is a young personal trainer named Chelsea. Last Monday, Chelsea with her sweet demeanor and semi-soft commands nearly “killed off” the entire class of hardcore trainees. I use that term to define a point where people walk out prematurely or collapse at the home-20 and take a good nap in a coma state. Boot camp is a series of exercises that vary week to week designed to challenge ordinary work-out routines.

“I can’t feel my legs, Forrest!” I yelled out at one point and my peeps giggled. You see, working out in a group is fun and sometimes the classes take on a near monkey cage cacophony of squeals and grunts – and laughter as we all go into muscle fail mode. Fail mode is the point where your muscles are strenuously objecting to what your mind has told them they must do.

Our Spin instructor is a lithe cycling gynoid named Page and I swear she is a literal sadist at times. Her sweet smile belies the fact that she routinely tries to break everyone in the class. My friend Elaine came to her first Spin class Monday and I warned her to try and make it through the class by NOT doing what the rest of us do and I watched her grin the entire class as she peddled slowly behind us. In her mind I am sure she thought we were all nuts. The driving music in these classes helps us to get through and I often close my eyes and just peddle like a lunatic. I won’t lie and say it’s easy.

I’ve had a lot of instructors over the years, both in exercise and karate and our Body Pump instructor is the most incredible trainer I’ve ever had the pleasure of training with. Her name is Clarissa and she is indeed an apex instructor and a totally delightful person. Body Pump is a very organized and engineered weight lifting program designed to fatigue every major muscle group in sets of threes or more. Just when your muscles scream for relief, you change to something else. At the end of the class, you are exhausted and for some strange reason, there is a lot of water on the floor around you.

Clarissa knows and sees all and misses nothing. Her commands are as exact as her movements and you immediately are aware that she really cares not only about your safety, but your development. On top of everything else, she will remember your name after the first class. Her instruction is mixed with philosophy, positivity, and encouragement. I am truly impressed by this instructor as you can tell.

The crowd I train with are tough. They have endurance and stamina and take their training seriously. I cannot hang with their schedule though. They often meet at 6am and run for an hour, or come to the gym 2 hours early to lift weights and then take one or more classes. Most are in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s too – like me, but I just can’t hang like that.

Those dang women are something else!

Friday, July 17, 2015

The secret to a happy marriage - Part two

I got such great response to last week’s column (high five to GS for her corrections to my obvious misunderstand of the facts) that I simply must further expound on this important subject. I owe it to every man out there that desires to make their marriage work. I cannot and will not attempt to council a single woman, so if you are of the gentler persuasion, put down the paper and work on your honey-do list.  By the way, I’m not proficient at cat-herding either.

Men, pay attention to what I write next.  Contrary to popular myth, we really do want to be the ideal husband and be that imaginary knight in shining armor. We just fail because we bulldoze our way through life. We are men and frankly, I personally am not disposed to apologizing because I am.

Our idea of what is expected in a marriage is pretty much what we’ve learned watching our parents, neighbors, and the television. On all counts a lot of it is wrong. Add in two or three step parents and the infighting that goes on with ex’s, and you pretty much enter marriage with all the wrong info and as soon as the gushiness wears off, the flaws in your thinking are pointed out.

The real secret here is finding a woman who wants you to be this awesome guy and is willing to hang with you while they help you develop. This can take the patience of Job by the way. You see, what she sees in marriage is nothing more than a prototype (full-scale working model of something built for study, testing or display); a block of malleable clay soft enough to mold into that perfect shape of a husband.  Most – no all men believe the girl/woman they wed is the woman of their dreams. They fully expect her to be what they married ten years down the road.

Surprise! Women have endurance and can be exceedingly difficult to read. They rarely are honest when it comes to revealing what they really expect and fully expect you to clairvoyantly see this. Tomes have been written on this phenomenon and I won’t repeat it.

“She attracts him like a bee to a flower and her allure is in her affection and sole commitment to him as her everything,” one fellow opined. Oh my goodness is he in for a major surprise. This is true of course; she is all of that, but the total package is elusive and must be earned again and again at her discretion. If he can endure, as she is surely worth it, he will get rewarded, albeit in carefully scripted measure.

It is a fact written in stone that wives meter out affection as a reward for jobs well done and this is one thing that can be a major contention in marriage. The sooner the husband understands that this is simply the way it is, the quicker he can begin playing the game for the prize. Any other way in, makes him as a burglar and a bumbler and doomed to be a thug or a joke.

I love my Bride. I married her when she was 17 and me?  25. I was a worldly man with experience – or so I thought. I give her my all; my soul, my heart and after all these years, she still guards her inner sanctum. I tell her she is my soul mate and she won’t commit. It took a long time for me to figure out this intricate puzzle to a reasonable conclusion.

Vulnerability. In my clumsy man-ways, I have no problem exposing my underbelly to her. She’s worth it to me to expose my weaknesses. She plays her cards closer to her heart. There’s a bit of her she reserves for herself and maybe Jesus, but even after all these years, I am still held at half length.

That’s women for you. I understand and that is one of the secrets of a happy marriage. As a man, you can’t give 50, 60, or even 80% to her. You have to give all. What you get in return is what she will is willing to give you. Now I’m not talking about being walked on; not even a little bit. I am talking about two people in a committed relationship who are faithful to each other and actually love each other.

My commitment to my Bride has always been one of a provider of security.  This goes far further than having a shiny car, or cool walk. I have provided a safe avenue for my Bride to raise our children and not worry about where the next meal will come from. I have been there for her during times of stress and worry. I have enjoyed her company more than being with my friends. She is my best friend and that my friends, is the real secret to a happy marriage.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The secret to a happy marriage

 In 2015, marriage is as disposable a commodity as that HP bargain desktop computer you got at Best Buy. When the warranty runs out after two years, it goes in the trash can, or recycle place if you are green to the bone (God bless you Al Gore – you saint of a man!).

Let’s start where the man hangs his head… the home. The house belongs to the woman. You get half the garage, one closet, and your night stand. The rest belongs to her. That is written in stone. The sooner you connect the dots, the quicker you can begin trying to stop the invasion of your 3 spaces. Don’t bother to suggest color schemes, furniture replacement, or anything other than kitchen stuff you personally will use. It is perfectly okay to take over all cooking chores, just clean it all up afterward.

Shopping to the female side of your marriage is like hunting or fishing to the male side. Understand this compulsion to shop and honor it and she will reward you by saving you tons of money on the incredibly clever deals she made. Always marvel and compliment her amazing shopping skills. Avoid shopping with her, as you don’t know a good deal from a bad one and the experience is negative for her and you on at least 5 levels.

A common conversation will go something like this, “Honey, guess how much I paid for this?” She will hold up a garment of some sort and frankly I have no idea what it is or what it costs. However, because I am a man who knows his limits, I will automatically say something inflated, like: “110 dollars?”

“No!” She says this with as much melodrama as an Academy Award nominee. “The label was for $129 and you know how much I paid for it (and subsequently saved me money)?

“$89?” I wisely say, raising my shoulders in question to show I am deeply involved in solving this masterful example of shrewd horse trading.

“NO!  I paid just $37.12 and I got two of them!” Blam! Now comes the kicker and I am well trained. “You realize how much money I saved you?” My grin at her exuberance could only be larger if I was intoxicated.

The female side of your relationship needs constant affirmation of commitment and fidelity, but will adamantly deny this. Tell her you love her often and prove it by doing all the stuff she dreams up for you to do. Do not expect to collect on this, even though all women swear they award their husbands lavishly after they do home improvement. Play the lotto instead for rewards, as your odds are often better.

This has always puzzled me; this bizarre phenomenon of tasks in the queue. I never, ever have something lined up for my Bride to do, but there is a never ending list of things I am supposed to accomplish to make her world more perfect.  Here is an example of such goings on: “Lowe’s has bark mulch on right now 10 bags for $10.”

Translation? Go to Lowe’s as many times as is needed and each time come home with 10 bags.  The sooner the better or you will hear this until the sale is off and then it will be, “We should have bought that bark mulch while it was on sale.”  Never mind that the trunk of her vehicle will hold 10 bags.

Our yard is a National Wildlife and Texas State Wildscape and has been since applying for it 20 years ago.  We have a lot of stuff growing in our yard and this provides copious fodder for trimming I need to do.  I usually put it off until I’ve heard about it at least 5 times. This means I only have to do major shrub trimming 3 times a year instead of 4 or more.

The Texas Wildscape sign was made of plastic and it was so badly warped, I broke it up and put it in the recycle bin, but left behind 4 screws which were promptly pointed out to me. Now I could live with those 4 screws just fine and if they bothered my Bride that much, she could get the cordless screwdriver and remove them, but then again how could she pass up an opportunity to have something for me to do if she did it herself?

My oft reply to her list of honey-do’s goes something like this, “When I was taking specialty classes on how to install (insert whatever here), they didn’t cover that aspect.”  In other words, I have no education on said task, so why am I being singled out for a project she is just as capable of participating in and accomplishing?

“The toilet is running again. The electrical wall socket in the bathroom is all wiggly. The bulb is burned out in my closet.” All require the attention of someone else and the sooner he gets it, the smoother his life will be.  Resistance is futile, as all it does is cause a rerun of the same strategy.  I want to qualify my assertions here. I will soon be married for 38 years and everything I’ve written is the truth and the sooner the male side of the partnership plugs in, the better the chances are of staying happily married.

Friday, July 03, 2015

What does freedom mean to you?

Is this your idea of what freedom should be like in America?

A friend once told me “you would rather disagree with something or someone, than just go along. Can’t you just be agreeable for a change?” Uh, probably not, as I disagreed with his assessment. First off, I guard my tongue and a high percentage of the time I say exactly what I mean.  In other words, I am not prone to saying things I haven’t thought through. If I do, I usually have had an experience to shape an opinion instead of just “shooting off at the mouth.”

When the subject of freedom comes up especially concerning our government, I have a very simple take on it. I will obey the many laws and in exchange, I do not want the government interfering in my life. I fully expect the government to protect me from despots, criminals, and terrorists. I expect them to provide an environment stable enough that I can accomplish life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In a time of contagion, or extreme weather event, or some other catastrophe, I fully expect my government to reestablish law and order and provide aid if I need it. They simply must or looters and criminals will prey on us law-abiding citizens. I also believe that stealing or attacking my family is an extremely risky offering if I can prevent it. I call that freedom the second amendment.

Remember when George W. Bush (who I fully supported along with everyone else including Hillary and John Kerry) posed the heartfelt question about the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan, “who wouldn’t want freedom?” What about this was inherently wrong? It sounds, well, sound. Sound in logic yes, but it wasn’t then and it isn’t now and I will explain.  When I heard it, the alarm bells went off in my head due to my witnessing the Vietnam War up close and personal.

On the surface the question is easy to answer. Everyone wants freedom. Everyone. However, when you talk about replacing a regime and turning it into our idea of freedom, it never works. Never – ever. By tearing down thousands of years of tradition and ideology and building an American version in its place, you destroy a culture and bastardize it. What is left in the wake of this “freedom” is alienation and that always leads to discord.

Didn’t we learn this when the Shah was deposed from Iran in 1979? He became so progressive in his thinking that he caused his country to take a leap backwards into extremism. Getting rid of Saddam Hussein fomented something even more diabolical and freedom restricting than his tyranny.  In some ways, many believe our country is heading towards this same end.  Too many broad changes too fast and the Internet bloggers are all screaming it.

The many new freedoms our lawmakers are pumping out are alienating a large part of our population even as I write this. Almost no one is happy about the state of affairs in our free country both here and abroad. I swear to God, it feels like the tumultuous 1960’s and anyone who remembers that, remembers how scary those last 7 years were of that decade.

Recently on Face book, I took my handsome face, removed all color from it and pasted a faint American flag across it, then made it my profile photo. It has been quite popular and I’ve had the honor to help others do it. My point is by removing my skin color and draping the American flag across it is to show that I am first an American. Skin color should not matter – creed should. 

After I did that, I copy and pasted the Pledge of Allegiance below my portrait. I don’t care who comes to this country if they do it the right way and embrace what this flag stands for. It makes us stronger. I take exception for Americans who ignorantly try to erase our history by marking themselves as dash-Americans and constantly stirring up trouble.

I am not gay and don’t understand it entirely, but if it doesn’t violate the law, then have at it.  I have enough of my own accountability to worry about.  I’ve never had a gay person try to “convert” me anyway and know a number of good folks who are gay.  On the Confederate flag issue, I figure the rest of the country can fist-fight over it.   I’m an American flag guy and a Texas flag second and like Davy Crockett told those folks, “ may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.”

I may not want to do a lot of culturally based things, like paint my house hot pink, or run 24 inch wheels on my slammed SUV, but I support a citizens right to do it and if it doesn’t violate the law or some HOA rule, have at it.  Just give me my space, be considerate of your neighbors, love this country above others, and we can get along just fine – oh!  If an emergency happens, I will be the first to come to your aid.  Isn’t that what we freedom loving Americans do?

Batteries are the future

BB's take: Batteries. We as a country should focus on developing incredible batteries instead of worrying about all kinds of other stuf...