Friday, May 27, 2016

The problem is you

Over the years I’ve witnessed many people pointing fingers at individuals and explaining “that character right there is a real problem.” Heckfire, I’ve done it myself more times than I can count. Guilty! I’ve observed certain individuals and was sure they were the reason I felt like getting them out of the picture would make life much better for, well, everyone. The final solution!

Pondering this line of thought, I remember the venerated western writer Louis L’Amour’s words of wisdom in one of his many dime novels. Without digging through a stack of a hundred paperbacks, I will paraphrase it. “Many times thinking killing someone would solve your problems, you will find that a year down the road, they are not even in the picture.”

On top of that, it might just be… that they are not the problem at all. It might just be you. A good test of this is if you have a long list of aggravating people who need to vanish from your existence. What?  Is it possible that I need an attitude adjustment?  Maybe. After all, there are a steady supply of annoying people out there aren’t there? Pointing them out should be a prime objective as a community service!

Right here in Baytown we have a number of community activists who make it their mission to point out anything and everything that is wrong. They are so good at it that they never contribute anything other than negatives. They are the self-righteous pitbulls of holy community awareness and are quick to speak for the masses. Unfortunately, they are about the only people who see them as they see themselves.

Do they do well the majority of the time?  I imagine. Would it be better if they offered solutions? Definitely. Would they be perceived by their peers in a more positive light? Absolutely.

I have been self-righteously guilty of thinking my way was the only correct path anyone should choose and in my roundabout (read direct) way, I have forced this on anyone who would hesitate. I shake my head now realizing after the fact that I was often off by a mile. Fortunately for my sake, I am introverted enough to evaluate my behavior and make changes. I am not always right. In fact, I may just be breaking even.

Recently on a public forum I was slandered and called dishonest with a very negative reputation and a “crappy human being”. It was vicious and unwarranted and as far as I know, 99% untrue. To my credit, I did not retaliate and friends came to my defense. However, being attacked like that, however untrue it is, still hurts. I asked legitimate questions and in return was verbally abused by the very person tasked with answering them.

What?  Is it even possible I could be the real problem and not that nutjob?
The forum owner/moderator friend of mine was so distressed over the malicious words that they went to the emergency room with a stress attack. He then filed a formal complaint with the parent organization over this person who holds a position with them. The whole episode caused me to look at myself to see if I had acted inappropriately. Did I bait him a bit? Yes. Was I mean spirited? No. Do I hold a position in the organization that qualifies me to ask these questions? Yes. In retrospect, I simply wanted answers for his apparent inconsistencies concerning me and others.

The bottom line is this is one of those characters I began the column over. Is it me or is it them? It’s probably both of us. Red ants and black ants. We collide. Should I shoulder the blame even if he won’t? I will. I will because I want to take the low road and because I realize I may have built this hornet nest along the way. Relationships with our coworkers, acquaintances, and friends are something none of us should take for granted and I of all people should be more careful of the words and text I project.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Rock your body!

I’ve always been pretty active and just before I retired about 2 years ago, I joined 24 Hour Fitness on Garth Road in Baytown, Texas. I did the push/pull method for about 6 months and I did it in earnest; not fooling around. Then, I took my first Spin class. Holey moley, I all but died 15 minutes into the 1 hour class.

For the first 6 months, I failed at some point in the class and simply tried to finish it. Along the way, I picked up Les Mills Body Pump and a boot camp class usually making a total of 4-6 classes a week. The point I am trying to make is that all of these classes are very difficult, but with persistence, anyone can see major results by simply plowing through on a regular basis.

This morning I am going to Body Pump and about 10 minutes into it, I am going to be sweating and wondering why I am putting myself through this torture. Come join me. Take a free class. Use me as a reference. Classes are Wednesdays and Saturdays 0930 for Body Pump.

After all the times I failed to go 100% in Spin class, through persistence, I am now a certified indoor cycle instructor.  So, you see?  Persistence has paid off.  The photo above is from May 3, 2016 after one of Page Morton's excellent Spin classes.  She's the cutey pie in front with the white hat, chunkin' the deuce.

We have Spin, Zumba, Aqua, Strength, and cardio dance class to offer.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Social change has nothing on crime

The Hippie Revolution was going to ruin America as we know it.
In a moment of clarity the other night, I came to a startling realization. In our current society, what really bothers me is not immorality, commercials on TV, political gouging, or so-called progressive social adjustments. What bothers me is the criminal strata that festers in our world. I was thinking about what I read and see in the news and our country’s current fascination with transgender bathrooms when I made this connection.

Before I go further, let me define what I mean by crime. This term to me takes in every sort of illegal behavior from international swindling to petty theft and everything in between. It’s the 17 year old kid going through your car’s glove compartment to the accountant bilking cents on the dollar from clients.

It’s the unscrupulous car salesman to the serial rapist. It’s that immoral preacher who preys on their congregation to the person who makes me keep my doors and windows locked on my vehicle and house.

Recently I watched a video someone made of a beggar sitting alongside the road in a 3rd world country. A motorcyclist stopped and the man pulled out his wallet to give an offering. A second motorbike drove by and a man snatched the wallet from his hand. The bike driver leaped off the bike and gave chase on foot. The beggar threw off his ragged cover, hopped on the vacant bike and sped off.

The now bike-less driver ran back and pulling out his cell phone, tried to call the police, only to lose his phone to yet another motorcyclist speeding behind him. It was organized crime for sure and the Good Samaritan was left without anything he had when he arrived but his clothing. Do you think this guy was wondering about transgender bathrooms at this instant? His dilemma was far more pressing and that is my point.

In so many ways I think we as Americans get manipulated and steered into getting upset over things that really don’t matter. As a prime example, we are told Bud-Lite is the beer to drink and we buy it, or Miller, Coors, etc., even though it is recognizably an inferior product. People actually get in fights over this very thing. However, their advertising dollars are so shrewdly spent that by golly, Budweiser can rebrand as “America” for the summer and it becomes patriotic to drink the stuff. Never mind that good old Bud is owned by a foreign country.

We get in a major tiff over Bruce Jenner having a sex change and which bathroom transgender people may use and totally ignore the fact that no one looks at each other in our bathrooms and cross-dressers and transgender people go into a stall, close the door, do their business, and leave just like they always have and nothing has or will change in that regard. Yet now it’s a major issue of perversion and people are all slap your face upset over it? Really?

I can’t remember the last time I made eye contact with another human in a bathroom and as far as I know, none of them have open stalls. They are private areas where we take care of a bodily function and leave. Heck, I don’t talk to other people in the bathroom either. My only concern when I enter a public bathroom is if someone is going to rob me and the sign on the door will not change whether this happens or not.

I hate crime. I hate perverts. I hate the way drugs have come into this country by invitation and I really hate how there are so many people trying to get what I worked for - for free.  The often bogus phone calls I get where someone is attempting to access my bank account “for charity” makes me wish I could push a button and permanently mark the person on the other end as a thief. One guy told me he was an IT professional and I told him “No you are not, I am.” He proceeded to use the most profane and foul language directed at me and my mother and slammed the phone down. All I got out of it was the satisfaction of calling him out.

It is time to quit being told what we think is bad and do a little sorting on our own. What really matters? What is truly important in our lives? Is it transgender bathrooms? Not to me. I lived in a 3rd World country where men and women freely use the same bathroom and I saw nothing and surely didn’t get a sexual thrill out of it. I did my business and left, just like everyone else. Why is it in this country that if it even remotely involves the genitals, it is vulgar and forbidden and yet we feast on violence like it is dessert? I think we have it backwards.

If this country became as polarized against criminals and less worried about stupid distractive social change, we could make a young criminal think 3 times before they headed down that path. Somehow, we have demonized using the bathroom and made it a perversion and all around the world, people simply take care of business and everyone ignores them.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Better safe than sorry

Is this your worst nightmare? If so, you better be prepared.

I was asleep and then suddenly… awake. My brain was foggy and the clock read 2:14am. There it is again – the sound of broken glass! Grabbing my pistol from the nightstand it dawned on me that I had neglected to set the alarm. My wife was sleeping soundly and I made my way to the bedroom door and stepped out into the hallway at the top of the stairs.

No one is supposed to be in my house but my wife and I and there at the bottom of the stairway is a man. His hand flashes and I fire and fire again and watch as he falls backwards. The sound is tremendous in the quiet house and I realize I just shot a home intruder.

This is one of the scenarios of the simulator training I underwent at the College of the Mainland last week. The instructor is Baytownian Daniel Blackford. He teaches deadly force training to a wide range of students and law-officers in a modern facility at the college. His expertise and credentials are as long as my arm and I have jokingly told him more than once, that if I win a large lottery, he will be my bodyguard for life.

I spent two hours with him in a one-on-one training session where we exchanged ideas about the difference in my way of handling bad guys when it is only one and they are not armed and the police way of doing the same thing. They differed considerably. On the scenarios where I was a policeman, I responded sluggishly; often hesitating or totally confused on how to handle anything from a domestic dispute to a suicide bridge jumper.

When the bad guy showed he possessed a weapon, I pretty much got the draw on him and shot him first. The simulator shows bullet placement and believe it or not, blood. It is very accurate. Another time I approached the back door of a warehouse and a man armed with an AK-47 stepped out and I fired 7 rounds, hitting his body armor a couple of times and missing him with the rest. I would have lost that confrontation and I could have sworn I was aiming true.

As a law officer, I arrived at a motel to answer a domestic dispute and could hear yelling coming from the second floor. A woman stepped out screaming and I drew my firearm. As a side note, Daniel told me sometimes police academy students have to practice drawing their firearm for 45 minutes before he is satisfied, but I think I passed that one quickly. At one time years ago, I worked a fast draw rig to the point that I wore out the six-shooter and it had to be repaired.

The woman lunged out of the open door with a knife stuck in her chest! Immediately a very angry man came out holding a swaddled baby! I’ll be honest, he kept screaming at me to shut-up and possibly tossing or hurtling the baby to the ground. It confused me. The woman was most likely bleeding out and screaming and I did the only thing I knew to do and that was holster the firearm. This continued for at least 2 minutes before the man laid the baby down and was distraught and surrendered. I felt overwhelmed.

Daniel Blackford is qualified
Daniel told me this was a no win situation, but all too common and it didn’t take me long to realize being a cop is putting yourself in danger and under a microscope for everyone to second guess your actions. He told me I did the right thing.

A couple more scenarios came up that after I reacted and yes, shot more bad people before they got me, we would discuss the situation. Being a martial artist and trained in self-awareness, I would point out that I wouldn’t allow myself to be put in the situation depicted. He understood this, being a man who can handle himself. My bride is always telling me I think too much, but it has kept me out of harms way more than a few times.

I’ve touched on the psychology of defending yourself in the past and if you remember, I stressed that no matter how much training you receive, the innate nature to stand and resist cannot really be taught. You either have it, or don’t and when that time comes, only the situation will determine your response. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train, it means just the opposite and the simulation exposure offered at the college puts you in a real life situational environment.

Friendly professional training
I am a firm believer in going through life never having to point and shoot my firearm at anyone. I don’t sit around and imagine what it would be like either. I can pretty much tell you it would be a nightmare and something I do not want to relive countless times as I wonder if I made the right decision. On the other hand, I don’t want to be a victim, so I will continue to be vigilant when out and about and take precautions as needed.

If you are licensed to carry, I strongly suggest you take a course such as this, whether in Texas City or somewhere else.

For more information on this realistic training call 409-933-8485 and ask for Daniel Blackford.

Friday, May 06, 2016

To Preserve or Plunder?

I was watching the fascinating series by Ken Burns on PBS about the development of our US National Parks.  It is narrated by Peter Coyote and I could listen to him read the back of a cereal box and enjoy it. The documentary offers a lengthy discourse of how Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks were created and shows how John Muir became their staunch defender.

Teddy Roosevelt was also instrumental in the education and awaking to protect our natural resources. The big difference in the two men’s philosophy was that Muir wanted us to leave everything alone and Roosevelt took more of a management line. In my opinion, the management route is the better choice.

I found it sad and in other ways, totally amazing how ignorant the general population was a hundred years ago about preservation and in some ways how little we have learned. Some attitudes a century ago are still with us, albeit subtly different. Mr. Coyote explained how people would come to Yellowstone Park and using a tool, engrave their name in the stones of deposits and it was almost an obsession and difficult to stop.

There were no laws in place to restrict such destruction and finally the US Army was called in to try and police the parks. People just didn’t get it, leaving huge piles of debris wherever they camped and evidence of their passage. There were no Tread Lightly creeds in place and animal life was seen as something to use and destroy at will.

Everything was perceived as inexhaustible and for the pleasure of the individual at that moment. The idea of sustainability wasn’t even in the remotest corner of the average visitor’s mind.  Just to rehash, sustainability is the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance. The near extinction of the American wolf interrupted this natural balance to the point that Yellowstone National Park was dying. It wasn’t until biologists convinced the world that they were essential and after reintroduction, the Park began to grow again.

Who would have thought reducing one species would have this destructive power over an entire area?

Now.  What in the world does all of this have to do with us, right here in mega-Baytown? A whole lot. The reason I say a whole lot is because this same destructive behavior and short-sightedness persists right here in our voting population. Some of us are habitual trash throwers. Everywhere we go, we dump evidence of our passing. I pick up debris and litter like it is a full time job. In April alone, I attended 5 trash bash events including the Adopt a site on Blue Heron Parkway that the SETX Geocachers have adopted. 
With Total Petrochemicals, we picked up enough debris by the Lynchburg Ferry to fill an entire industrial scrap pan and this is done every year. Every year. There are enough alcohol bottles and cans on the side of roads to prove that for every person caught drinking and driving there are probably 25 times that number who are getting away with it. For obvious reasons, they throw it out the window of their vehicles for people like me to pick up. I wish I had a touch-DNA kit and I would turn the evidence over to the cops.

When the subject comes up about creating more sustainable parks and walkways, there are old-world thinkers who gripe and complain that we don’t need them and then turn right around and wonder why so many people are in poor health or overweight. They can’t see the forest because there are no trees in their life. They drive their cars and trucks to point A and back to B and then point out that if they want a nice place to go, they’ll simply drive out of town. This philosophy was presented to me this week.

In so many words it was explained that no matter what we do here, we will always just be a redneck oil town. My immediate thought was “Yup, as long as people like you are here, it surely will be.” We live the life of electricity and gasoline. Remove either and you are on foot. You suddenly get an up close and personal look at the Nature you have conveniently ignored. On top of that you get to meet the people who have resided next to you for the last 10 years.

I don’t want to live in a 1984-ish industrial complex, a slum, ghetto, or a place with cookie cutter tiny unimaginative parks. I also want the option to travel on foot and get a little shoe time instead of always thinking my vehicle is my only way to get around. Our waterways need the same consideration, where fish are edible, beach and coastline is recreational, and families can launch their canoes and kayaks on the creek or bayou and explore nature.
Ray Tallant fishing on the ship channel.
That old philosophy that every berry out there is to be eaten immediately needs to go with the wind. We as citizens have the responsibly to make life here better and we can’t do it without adjusting our way of seeing the possibilities.

The real poop on the Ukraine

Mitt Romney’s top adviser, Joseph Cofer Black, joined the board of the Ukraine energy firm, Burisma, while Hunter Biden was also serving on ...