Friday, March 25, 2016

There’s Always A Bad Guy, Isn’t There?

Is it me, or is there always a bad guy out there waiting to get us? I was just a kid when I learned that there were ‘bad guys” besides the boogey man under my bed at night. The threat was “Krauts” and “Nips” and they were very real to my brothers and I as we daily sought them out in mortal combat. We didn’t bother with North Koreans, as no one really talked about those guys.

My brother and the neighborhood kids fought these WWII aggressors each and every day as they tried to infiltrate our neighborhoods and because my family moved quite often, I never found out if all this practice did them any good in Vietnam. I know it helped me to be a better “soldier” and that became apparent in boot camp on the obstacle course when others struggled, I excelled.

Then came the Commies and they were the perfect bad guy and in a way, I kind of miss them. At one time there were over 40 Communist countries and now there are just 5 – Laos, North Korea, Cuba, China, and Vietnam. The red scare was so real, people were building bomb shelters and we kids did drills at school to escape the future nuclear fallout. It was a very serious and real threat and no one made jokes about it.

Race Relations, assassinations, Vietnam, hurricanes, Arctic blasts, drug cartels, Ebola, Zika, Hepatitis, AIDS, Hillary, Global warming, criminals, radical Islam, shingles… Lord have mercy. Now it’s Donald Trump rolling across American politics like he’s the devil himself.

To a lot of us the current “bad guy” is not The Donald, its the US Government. Isn’t that sad? Many of us do not trust our government and suspect they are self-serving carpetbaggers on both sides of the fence. On top of that, some believe they are on the same side of the fence and all the voters are on the other side – the losing side. It does seem odd that whoever is in office, nothing changes.

One local curmudgeon thinks Hillary Clinton and John Kasich are "a great fair and civil race to the finish" and when I read that, I felt like giving Jack Kevorkian’s successor a call for his benefit. The man is clearly in need of an intervention. If either of these two politicians are elected, the rape of America will continue.

Both Parties blame the other, and then either continues the same policies, or declares they will change them… at a later date. They angrily posture, and then go eat lunch together and laugh at our expense. How is it even possible that the President of the United States can’t even clear up whether he is an American Citizen, when if I owe the IRS $50 and won’t pay, they simply garnish my wages?

How is it that giant accounting companies and investment bankers can scam billions of dollars off of investors and get away with it for years?  How can this country be overran with people illegally entering the country and yet the very people who point this out are labeled as racist? How can a top government official fail miserably at their job for years and not get fired? Worse yet, how is it possible they get reelected?

Why do we have Primaries, if a Party talking head can openly brag that the voters don’t pick the candidate – they do? If they can’t control a popular candidate, I guess they simply say they are not the right person and put someone else up on the ticket. “You stupid people don’t understand politics, so we will do your thinking for you!” The quote is my own, so don’t bother Googling it and yes, you can quote me.

Boogie men! Bad guys and gals abound and while some live outside the law and are obviously criminals, others write the laws and then violate them with impunity. Both are criminal parasites living off the working man and woman. They are akin to the charlatan preacher who does not practice what they preach and keep many small fires burning to distract their congregation from their own larger transgression.

In other words, the very people we elect to represent us, often do the opposite. I’m not sure where it starts, but by the time they finally arrive, they are no longer representing anything other than big government. So why is it a surprise that Donald Trump is shaking up this dynasty? He’s not being bribed or beholden to any big oil or pharmaceutical company, let alone the thousands of powerful lobbyists.

If elected, he won’t be beholden to place every million dollar contributor’s representative in office below him – like has been done by both parties for years. He’s upsetting the system in a way our country has never experienced! He’s already made it clear that he will appoint the brightest, smartest, and best people to these positions to get the country back on track.

Donald Trump is not just a threat to the GOP. He’s a threat to the entire system of “business as usual”, which is keeping the fat cats fat and we the people scared of bad guys. In the next few months expect world leaders (who are double dipping your tax dollars) to come out screaming. Both parties will spend your hard earned money to try and discredit Trump.

Make sure you understand why they are demonizing him as the ultimate bad guy.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Bigger They Are…

The bridge in the park in Carmine, Texas
It was lightly raining and I got out of my Jeep, global positioning receiver in hand.  Thursday morning in Carmine, Texas looks like Baytown… never.  It was totally devoid of activity and the tiny park around me was deserted.  I stood in the soft rain and looked at the rushing water fight against itself to get under the foot bridge down and away.

I wasn’t worried about my global positioning satellite receiver getting wet.  It’s a waterproof top of the line Garmin Oregon 650 and will pinpoint my location within 15 feet any place on earth.  I use it for geocaching; my hobby of choice. On the other side of the 40 foot wooden-planked bridge is a “cache” and I plan to find it and sign the logbook it holds. I was ready and felt strong.

As usual, I am by myself and in a remote location.  I know a lot about the right and wrongs of being in places of compromise and not having the proper resources, but this is a city park, right? It is a sad confession, but very often bad things happen in the most unexpected places and this day was one of those unfortunate days.

I see the geocache is approximately 450 feet away and crossing the bridge is the path I must take, so off I go. I pride myself on the hiking boots I wear. They are made by Timberline and this is my 3rd pair. With them I can walk on ice and have been to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back with total confidence in their ability to stabilize my feet and balance.

Up I walked, actually enjoying the soft rain hitting me. No apparent evidence of a slippery slope and I crossed over the top enjoying the torrent of water running under me.  I stopped and looked at it. Wow! What a flood!  I had a few more caches to find before I needed to head back to Brenham for the Texas Geocaching Association’s yearly competition in the next few days, so I started down and that’s when it got ugly.

Who knew tree pollen is slippery? Gravity accelerates you at 9.8 meters per second per second. After one second, you're falling 9.8 m/s. After two seconds, you're falling 19.6 m/s, and so on.  I am less than 2 meters tall…

I remember everything going into slow motion and seeing both feet as high up in the air as my face. I hit flat on my back so hard it all but knocked the wind from me. Now mind you, I am pretty much classified as an expert in taking a fall, being a black belt and studying jui-jitsu, hapkido and chayonryu – but I had no time to break my fall properly.

I landed just like everyone else would – real hard. I do not believe a person can hit the ground any harder than I did unless you fell off a building or cliff. To put it mildly, I was stunned.

I laid there on my back in the rain all by my lonesome for what seemed like a long time, but was probably about 10 seconds. You’ve heard the saying knee jerk reaction, right? Well, that is exactly what I did and I did it so hard, I pulled my left hip flexor to the fainting point. Involuntary reactions to falling a lot of times are worse than the fall and this is how people break their arms – or necks when they fall.

I stood slowly, experiencing excruciating pain in my left front pocket area. I blew air out through my teeth not believing this had just happened to me and slowly descended, wondering if I was hurt worse than I thought. Maybe I could walk it out. I limped toward the geocache and as fate would have it, it was up the bank and behind a bush about a hundred feet away. Very carefully I located it and signed the log book, shaking my head in disbelief at my accident.

5 minutes later I arrived at the base of the bridge I had to cross and grabbing both rails I slowly began the ascent. I had no other choice and I did not hesitate. I was sweating and I knew beyond any doubt that if I fell again, I would have no control over the involuntary reaction. I did know that I could not sustain that pain twice or I would lie there until someone found me. I’m no stranger to getting hurt, either in the dojang or the woods, but this was not even remotely funny.

Getting up in my “lifted” Jeep was the next obstacle and after getting one leg in and pulling myself into the driver’s seat, I literally could not lift my injured leg up without using my hands. I sat there for 5 minutes sweating in the 58 degree weather and breathing heavily before I shut the door.
Actual conditions before I fell.  I stopped and photographed the bridge and running water.
Last night I told my bride my honest appraisal of the situation and I can say it with conviction. That fall back there in that little park in Carmine, Texas would have been the end of a lot of people. Thanks to persistent conditioning and constant attention to physical training, 5 days later, I sat in an indoor cycling class as the instructor and pushed myself and a number of other gym rats for a solid hour of rigorous cycling. Most of all though and I make no apology, I thank the Lord Jesus Christ for helping me get back up, to walk and play another day.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The K-cup Coffee Phenomenon

Like most everyone I know, I have a Keurig single server coffee maker on my kitchen counter top.  It’s a must have status symbol and if you have one of those old low tech Mr. Coffee makers, well… you are behind the times and frankly, need to bump up your game.

The Keurig can make a cup of coffee in less than a minute, providing you leave it on all the time. I’m not sure how much electricity it uses setting there on the counter 23 hours and 59 minutes while it waits for you to zip by and place a 70 cent “pod” in it’s mouth and press a button or two, but how much can it be? Maybe 30 cents worth and that makes that one little cup about a buck.

Well, I kept my Mr. Coffee pot for about 2 years and enjoyed 3-4 cups a day of my peculiar brew of Joe. For reasons that I complied with, but did not thoroughly understand, my bride found the apparatus as unnecessary and “taking up too much space.” It started in subtle “suggestions” to remove it, to a rock in my shoe. After about 50 times, I dropped the machine in the recycle bin and gave myself over to the dazzling one cup phenomenon that took its place.

I didn’t buy into the pod action right away though, because I had about 2 pounds of French Market coffee with chicory that I refused to toss in the trash. My answer to the high price of the pods was to use the little plastic pod and hand load my own grounds. This produced a mediocre cup of coffee with some overflow coffee grounds in my cup and the next two cups made after that – and I heard about this too.

I tried regrinding the store bought coffee grounds in the store to make them finer and this seemed to work better, but something was clearly not the same. I finally gave in and just started using the pods. 3 to 4 cups a day and one for my bride now ran the coffee bill up to somewhere around the price of a pound of coffee a day.

Now, it’s not like I can’t afford this, I can, but the idea of this in my way of thinking is just wasteful and wrong. I’m the kind of person who only runs a water faucet as long or short as I can. I know what its like to have to walk to a well or a canvas bag 2 blocks away to get potable water. I don’t like to waste our resources either and every time I use a pod, it goes in a landfill somewhere, versus sending the coffee grounds down the garbage disposal.

For a company that started in 1998, they have turned the coffee pot industry on its ear. A month or so ago, they sold out to an investor group for 14 billion dollars. How in the world did they invade every kitchen in just a little over 18 years? We are on our second machine and there’s no telling how many we’ll have before we hang up our cups.

What I am about to write may just shock you. Recently, I experienced a phenomenon which caused me to forsake the Keurig. My coffee consumption had dropped to just one cup a day and I am a firm believer in the necessity of drinking 3-4 cups a day to get the anti-oxidants my colon craves. I do not believe anything that claims coffee is bad for me; I’ve seen just the opposite and I am verifiably healthy according to my blood tests. Coffee just didn’t taste like I remember it and that is why I wasn’t drinking as much of it

I have a Comet-brand aluminum percolator that I take camping and I got it out. I stoked it with 4 scoops of my hybrid coffee grounds, placed the basket inside with the cover on top, and popped on the lid. Adjusting the flame to high and reaching over to the oven, I set the timer for 22 minutes.

22 minutes? Are you crazy? No. I’m retired, but there’s more to this than meets the eye and I proved this morning. After it makes the pot of Joe, you remove the basket and the coffee stays good for 24 hours. You can refrigerate it if you like and pop a cup in the nuke machine and it tastes great. It passed the test this morning when my bride drank a cup of yesterday’s coffee and said it was “good”.

Now coffee once again tastes good; I’m saving about 4 bucks a day, and once again I am getting my daily dose of anti-oxidants. Life is good and although the Keurig will continue to grace our counter top, I will only use it when time is of the essence or to show people that visit that I don’t still wear bell bottom pants and listen to my music on an 8-track player.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Baytown, my home of choice

I moved to Baytown straight out of the Air Force in 1974.  I had never even heard of Baytown when I came here, but my parents were living in the new apartments on Ward Road along with one of my 3 brothers. The whole family with the exception of my mother was working for Brown & Root at Mobay.  Mobay became Bayer and is now Covestro.

Brown & Root was THE construction company and the job here was going to be at least another year long. In retrospect, I should have used my G.I. bill benefits and went to Lee College, but youth has a way of justifying procrastination. Instead, I became a Pipe Fitters helper earning an amazing $4.25 per hour – which coming straight out of the military, was a lot of money.

A couple years passed and I still hadn’t enrolled in college when I was hired on at Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) on Sheldon Road as a process operator. I worked in that hell hole of personnel abuse for 5 years before Reaganomics caused a lay-off and I transferred to ARCO Polymers on Battleground road in 1982. The leadership attitude there was a vast improvement. I spent the next 31 years making polypropylene plastic pellets and other than a few college courses here and there, I never got that elusive degree. I also never left Baytown, even though all of my large family eventually did.

I’ve always been fascinated by computers and somewhere around 1984; I bought a Tandy TRS-80, which was the first home personal computer. Now 31 years later I am still fascinated and sweep virus’ off them to help friends keep on computing. Somewhere around 2001, I realized Baytown had an extensive history and it was rapidly slipping away from the public eye. One huge problem was we had a transient population. I had been experimenting with web design and decided to register and try and build a web site to bring some of this information to the public.

It’s been up 15 years now and it is still running strong with a lot of content. I have a sister web-based forum where issues and history are discussed also. It turns out it is an excellent source to watch how our city is changing and listen as Baytownians react to what is happening here.

For those who may not know, my nickname is Baytown Bert and for a good reason. I care about what happens here and the quality of life. My interest is not in new restaurants, even though I like to eat. My passion is in having a safe city to live with amenities, namely parks, hike/bike trails, and nature opportunities. Pirates Bay is a big draw to the city and the many spray parks are wonderful and I applaud the city for their foresight.
I have a good relationship with our city’s leaders and the police department and recently was asked to join the Strategic Planning Advisory Committee to plan the future of the city. I feel highly honored and accepted rather quickly with the stipulation that “I am all about hike/bike, sidewalks, and city parks”. Director of Strategic Initiatives Nick Woolery told me our new city manager Rick Davis shares this same vision.

Our goal is simple it appears, but will take a village for input.  “Over the next 9 months, our goal is to listen to as many Baytown residents as possible to learn the direction they'd like the city to head in the next five years.  Your leadership will be critical in this process.  First, you will help us determine the best ways to reach as many residents as possible.  Second, you will be the chief cheerleaders for this project.  Third, you will be our eyes and ears during the process.  Finally, you will be the chief architects of the ultimate final product, Baytown's five-year strategic plan.  This plan will guide the city as we make future budgetary decisions, policy decisions, etc.  As we continue this time of unprecedented growth in Baytown, I can't imagine a better time to involve our residents in charting the future of our community.”

Now I want to go on record and say that I am one of those rare people who clear information from my inbox with the speed of Montezuma’s Revenge. I detest procrastination when it comes to making a decision, so if you send me a suggestion, I’ll answer it and I’ll answer it quickly.

Your input is critical, so I set up a sub-forum on under the heading Baytown in General to log your suggestions. To join the forum, you have to register and provide a valid email address, and then I can add you. This keeps trolls and spammers off the forum. I cannot see your password, and the site is secure.

Let’s make a collective effort for Baytown’s 5 year future. I know most of us want a good clean city that is safe for our families and this is a prime opportunity.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

What is Caching Mojo?

What is Caching Mojo?
By Bert Marshall (BaytownBert)
Southeast Texas Representative Texas Geocaching Association

Caching mojo, to put it simply is how well-rounded you are as a geocacher concerning finding versus hiding geocaches.  For instance, say you have found 2243 caches and have hidden 115.  Simple math concludes that for every 20 caches you’ve found, you’ve hidden 1 for other people to find.   You have a lot of mojo!  A well-rounded geocacher has more than just a large amount of finds.

Note:  This may not be the most pleasant of primers concerning geocaching, but I think if you keep an open mind, you will see the logic here.

Sure, I know everyone who looks for geocaches doesn’t have time to hide them and keep them maintained – or is this simply an excuse? You look at your numbers, crunch them to heck and back in GSAK, endlessly running filters and macros until your digits are numb and then look at your finds and grin like a possum eating persimmons.

You are a rock star!  Right?

Recently, someone posed the question of where they could find the statistics for a world scale ranking of how many caches have been found by a geocacher.  Of course I had to look at “Texas” and I found my name somewhere in the 150’s.  So, I am “ranked” as the 150-something geocacher in the great big state of Texas, USA as to how many geocaches I’ve found.  Cool beans – I guess.  I’m going to throw that number at the guy behind the donut shop counter and see if I can get a free cup of Joe.

Now, how to work that tidbit into a conversation, right?  “Hey, did you know I am the blah, blah, blah?”  The reaction would probably be met with less than enthusiasm, but the truth is, if a person has found 5000+ caches and hasn’t hidden but a handful, then what would happen if everyone took this path?

At some point, shouldn’t you be contributing to the game instead of letting everyone else do the work?  “Gee, BB, that is insensitive!  You’re a creep and a self-appointed idiot, dude!”

Harsh words are never accepted as pleasant, but imagine where geocaching would be right now, if nobody hid caches.  Do you suppose you would have all those finds if this was the case?  A hard truth is some people hide a lot of caches for other cachers pleasure and some hide a few or none at all.  I place this second group in the low caching mojo category (and to me); this clouds how successful they are as a cacher.

Yea, I’m a caching snob.  It’s okay to say that and label me as such.  I can take it, but in the meantime, I’ll keep hiding caches, hosting events, buying trackables and sending them out to be probably become lost.

“So, BB, you faux-humble servant of the geocaching community, what is the solution, Mr. Wise guy, know it all?  Let’s say I don’t want to have bad caching mojo.  What do I do to change my status and get some?”

For starters, divide your total cache find number by 100.  That’s your goal.  Now, go hide that many caches.  This will raise your caching mojo considerably and guess what?  Everyone will notice!  “Wow, did you see that WartHogBillNasty8 hid a cache?  I mean he started hiding them like nobody’s business!”

“Wow, he’s a legend!  I thought he only found them.  Want to team up and go look for them?  I’d be willing to bet his cords are dead-on!”

Want more mojo?  Divide your find number by 50.  You will feel good about yourself and so will everyone you know.  Remember geocaching is a game and not everyone gets to whack a home run every inning.  Sometimes you have to be a spectator.

A good place to start is by going here:  Now suck it up and go out and get yourself some mojo and remember to have a good time! Or you can write me and tell me what a spoil sport I am.

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...