Friday, July 29, 2016

80,000 people and growing!

Holy all that is sacred! We now have over 80,000 warm bodies to bump into every time we swagger across town! That extra 15,000 from 1980 days sure makes a difference and if my predictions are correct, we are going to see a whole lot more people (and each one of them will try to be on Garth Road at the same time) in the next 4 years. It’s guestimated that at least 20,000 more cruise into the city during the day by undisclosed secret sources which I alone (and probably Jim Finlay) am privy to.

The good news is the City is planning to 6-lane Garth Road and then it will only be about as crowded as it is right now. I want to applaud the city planners in that they are really making a go of getting more roads and connecting parking lots so those of us who like to avoid all of that, can get around a bit better. Of course you have to factor in the parking lot missile cars.

By the time most of are reading this column, the SPAC (the Imagine Baytown People) will be huddled over a huge stack of surveys trying our level best to make a recommendation to the city of what we, the citizens want here in the next 5 years. Now this subject has came up numerous times in social media about it not meaning a danged thing and no one will listen and it confuses and yes, angers me a bit when I have to stress just the opposite.

This ain’t Washington DC honey where they ask for input and then do what they danged well please. This is small town big town Baytown and they, our city council want to know what the citizens want and have given everyone ample time to state those desires.

When Nick Woolery told me the Mayor wanted me on this committee, I made it clear that my biggest concern was family amenities and making Baytown a better place to raise kiddos and nothing has changed in that department. I care very little about new stores, motels, storage facilities, car washes, etc, etc. I want more places to take kids and get out doors and enjoy life here.

We need better and more unique Parks, like the one in the Heights called Donavan Park.  People drive miles to take their children there and it’s free. We don’t need more cookie cutter parks, which look the same as all the other ones in Anytown, USA. Geeze, let’s use our imagination on this. We have waterways that are not being developed and we have a lot of them. We need to push the wide sidewalk plans where cyclists can ride their bikes around the city and shed some of the fat that we get from the many new restaurants.

Captain Jerry Jones of the Cedar Bayou Friends is doing his part in planning the second annual Cedar Bayou Voyager event on October 15th and has enlisted the help of Southeast Texas Geocachers (under the expert assistance of Army Colonel (Ret.) Lee Ann Adams.  Of course I will be there representing the Texas Geocaching Association.  Jerry and I go all the way back to the Vietnam War when were both stationed on the same base.

Calypso Cove just about breaks even money wise (according to my other secret sources) and based on how many people use it, I think we need a second one on the north side of I-10 and no, not on Garth road! These water parks are awesome and if you haven’t taken your kiddos to one, try it and see.  I counted 4 lifeguards the last time I was there and all of them were taking their job seriously.

We need more businesses and clubs organizing quarterly Adopt a Site programs to give back to the community and help their members and employees bend over and remove litter. Hey, don a shirt with your business name on it and go down a street and see if that doesn’t advertise your business like no other way. Eleanor Albon will hug you until you are blue in the face, I promise. I enjoy her hugs every time I see her.

Kathy Nelson and her husband are putting Keep Baytown Beautiful on the map with their Beautiful Business of the Week award program and I salute the pair. That is a lot of work to scout out these places, take time for a photo Op, and then go back and retrieve the sign.

Litter abatement is a real problem here as everywhere and the reason for it is many people still believe throwing trash out the window of their car is a good way to keep the inside clean. I ran a test one week on Blue Heron Parkway and each day for one week at close to the same location, I picked up a Nature Valley Granola bar wrapper.  Now I don’t know how long it took that person to eat it after they left home, but they were very consistent in when it went out the window.

I can’t prove it, but I suspect this person has never participated in a single trash bash in their entire life.  Am I a trash bash expert?  No, but here it is nearly August and I have been in one every month this year.

Texas Avenue is coming along as is the Yepez Vineyard and Baytown is making strides to get a geocaching Geotour under the expert eye of Anna Enderli, so we are making progress.  Now, if we can only get the naysayers to see some sunshine and offer suggestions over criticisms, we will be well on our way to making Baytown a city on the move.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Is home cooking a dying art?

Shrimp tacos using avocado, shredded cabbage, black beans, and cole slaw dressing
I like to cook. I guess there are many men my age who feel the same way. I can’t say I love to cook, or I would do it more often. I usually take some recipe and modify it a bit and then in a most humble way, post it on social media along with a tasty photograph and make humble claims that it is my own concoction.

What I have found is people love to talk about food and for good reason. Food, for the most part, is entertaining and a great subject. It tastes good. It has variety. Even when it’s not up to par, it is a subject that can be discussed and even cussed. There is rarely a dull moment when food is involved. Not to attempt to quote Bubba, but food can be prepared in a great number of ways, making each dish a new adventure.

I remember years ago a returning missionary from Africa hit 3 fast food restaurants in one day and exclaimed, “It is hard to beat quality junk food!” Fast food is usually quite satisfying, albeit not the best choice for proper nutrition. In fact, for many, “eating out” has replaced eating at home, or shall I say, “preparing a meal on the stove”?

It is convenient for sure and the variety is endless. You can hardly build a salad with the great many items for the price they charge, so why not simply buy it pre-made? If you need 27 items in your salad to make it palatable, then that is a valid argument, but let’s take a look at the cost of this logic.
Pork loin and fresh veggies
Drive through any breakfast place and eat normally and it is anywhere between 5 bucks to as much as $12 for a big boy hunter’s special. If you are a tipper add a couple of bucks to each meal. Lunch is as much as double that and supper, well, you can drop a 50 dollar bill for one person in one day. Or more.

I’m no tree surgeon, but that adds up to a whole bunch of money over a months time. The upside is we got a large variety of foods over the month and probably loved the convenience of it all. When we were done, we either wadded up the bag and tossed it (hopefully in a trash can) or simply walked away and let some minimum wage worker clean up after us.

The downside was it was expensive and get this – our food was prepared by a total stranger who may or may not have personal hygiene as a priority. Yuk! We do this all the time and never consider who is actually touching our food. Now, I am not a particularly skeptical person over this and I certainly eat out, but it is a thought.

I remember hearing a single mother pose a question on the radio where she wondered how she could feed her family on minimum wage. What she cited specifically was the cost of “fancy sliced turkey” and at 7 bucks a pound, it was a travesty. The host reminded her that bologna was a better option based on her income and the lady was incensed to say the least. I happened to agree with the host as there are plenty of cheaper and healthy options.

Chicken quarters costing $2.39
As of late I’ve been trying to eat more protein and less carbs and what I’ve found very satisfying and ridiculously cheap is baking chicken at home. I can buy 3 chicken leg quarters at my local grocery for under $2.50 and toss in a can of black beans or Fordhook lima’s and I have 3 tasty and nutritious meals for a measly $1.25 per meal. Each serving is more than I can eat at one sitting. Now notice this is not organic chicken breasts and fresh asparagus which would probably run that solo meal up to around $8.
The same goes for a large pork loin which is often under 5 dollars. It is a lot of meat. Toss in 2 veggies, a couple of taters and some brown gravy and your meal per person is about 2 bucks, maybe 3.  Rotel makes a product named “Chili fixins”. Follow the directions on the can and you can whip up a very tasty pot of chili in about 20 minutes and eat on it for a few days way cheaper than eating out and even with cheese and Fritos, it is still a bargain meal.

Cooking is fun, but it doesn’t have to be a lost art or time consuming and the financial benefit makes it something we should all consider.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Am I as considerate as I think I am?

Each and every day I marvel at what life is and what I expect out of it. I walk through life – or drive my Jeep on our roads and see the vast skies and the many wonder-filled things around me and I inhale it in a way that is truly an adventure.

I see people around me absorbed in their own sphere and wonder if they “see it” too.  Being the cynic that I am, I find that I prejudge my fellow human, automatically demoting them and this is probably in error. Many appear bored and robotic. I have to remind myself that many are suffering pain, or hardships.

My bride upbraids me regularly for this skepticism and I automatically play it down as humor on my part. The truth is, it isn’t humor. I admit my fellow humans regularly erode my belief that we are upwardly evolving. On a daily basis, what I see is what was depicted in the comedic movie “Idiocracy” and this is wrong of me.

In this futuristic piece, humanity has bred itself mentally backwards to the point that stupidity is the norm. A social retardation is so prevalent that no one seems to notice, and they constantly ridicule each other for being stupider than they are. To quote the synopsis on Wikipedia: “The film tells the story of two people who take part in a top-secret military hibernation experiment, only to awaken 500 years later in a dystopian society wherein advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism have run rampant and dysgenic pressure has resulted in a uniformly unthinking society devoid of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights.”

I am a people watcher and according to my bride, someone who reads too much into the casual behavior of those around me. “You think too much, honey!” I watch people and occasionally am guilty of baiting a subject line to see how they will react. I resent the implication that I am a troll or a devil’s advocate, but readily acknowledge that I “seed” the forums and Facebook for opinions.

I want to know what people think, or believe they believe and then often will challenge them to explain what and why they believe. Is that wrong? I’ve always contended that anyone who challenges you to define what you believe is your friend and I still believe this.

We are all floating on the river of life, me included.  I need to rediscover that balance where instead of seeing distracted and complacent masses, I once again discover how incredible people can be. I’ve become a glass half-empty dude and that needs to change.

I have to see the humor around me and be less critical. Now to be honest and I’ve made this pretty clear in the past; I base a lot of my negatives on what people do when they drive their cars and trucks.  And to be frank, I think the behavior specialists will be on my side when I say this is a very good indicator of what a person is made of. Rude and selfish drivers shouldn’t consider themselves kind and caring people. They are not. If you tail-gait and dangerously zip all over the danged place, you are the opposite of considerate. If everyone would keep their distance and do the speed limit, there wouldn’t be a traffic jam.

If a person swerves in and around cars on the freeway, barely missing rear-end collisions and then walk into their job smiling and greeting everyone, they are fooling themselves as to what kind of person they are. They fall into this group, “unthinking society devoid of social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights”.

I would like to sit down with these reckless drivers and have a casual conversation about what kind of person they believe themselves to be and then show them videos of their driving “skills”. I imagine that would be quite a conversation piece. I do not want to imply that I am a perfect example of a driver, but when you are behind the wheel of a lifted Jeep with over-sized tires, it’s kind of a good idea to always imagine you are driving on ice and make deliberate signaled lane changes.

On my way back from Houston the other day, I was rolling in the middle lane on I-10 doing exactly 68 mph on cruise control when out of the corner of my left eye I saw what can only be described as a black missile coming up behind me. The bespectacled middle age man crossed 3 lanes and my brain registered that he was going to clip the back driver’s side of my truck. Now jerking the wheel on a lifted Jeep at near 70 mph is down-right dangerous, but it was my only option or get quartered.

I jinked and he missed by a whisper and shot off ahead of me, zigging and zagging until he was no longer visible with brake lights signaling his departure. Because of my distress, I’m glad fellow gearhead Dandy Don wasn’t with me and although I didn’t curse, I wanted my justifiable pound of flesh. I took a couple deep breaths and thanked God I wasn’t lying in a twisted wreck. I have no idea what this fellow’s hurry was, but I imagine he was simply driving like he always does.

I think I am a considerate person for the most part. I try to be. If you come to my house, I will offer you a cold or hot beverage and usually pretty quickly. I’ll offer you a seat and try not to dominate the conversation and if you follow me while I’m driving, I stop at red lights and stop signs 100% of the time and always signal my intentions of a lane change. I like to run on cruise control either doing a minimum of the speed limit or with the flow of traffic.

However, I am probably a miserable failure in other considerate behavior and may need to hire on as an extra in Idiocracy II, if they make it. I’ll have to ask my bride. She is truly a considerate person quite observant when I am hypocritical of other drivers.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Is it time to cut the cord?

“Take the risk and… go for it!” Boy, how many times have we heard a well-meaning person say that? If you buy into the current philosophy, it seems that only something extreme will give us an anti-dote for our mundane existence.

Back in my childhood, about the most adventure-based show was Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins and his faithful sidekick Jim. Each week we got a vicarious risky venture that freed us from our boring lives and helped salve over our monotonous existence of school, work and doing chores. We didn’t know we were supposed to bust out. We simply lived our lives and in many ways, well, we were content.

“Don't be a slacker; cut the cord!” Jacques Cousteau brought the world’s exotic fishes and mysterious oceans right into our homes via the expansive 14 inch tube color television and we got our fix up close and personal and boy, it was really something! The next day we went to school or work, happy to live our lives more enriched than ever.

There were no American Ninja or X-Games to expose how pitiful our weak existence is and thank goodness most of us have enough sense to understand that doing stunts like those are not for us. Unfortunately, unless we expose ourselves to something as trivial as jumping out of a plane, we are simply not living – or are we? Every commercial, every movie, and every adventure depicted anywhere says we are missing out and on top of that, a failure in life’s grand game. We are average in every way and should remain as fat spectators. Case closed.

If you didn’t go to Europe or Asia for 2 weeks, cycle the Alps or walk the Great Wall, you didn’t have a vacation. Of course you had to swim with the Dalai Lama or dine on tarantulas and don’t forget hand-feeding the Komodo dragons in the Galapagos Islands.

Phooey on all that, I say.  I do not need 50cc’s of adrenaline coursing through my veins to have a good time. I think breaking out of a routine is a good idea and healthy, but seriously? Going over Niagara Falls in a barrel is for idiots. Becoming a Navy SEAL is for very peculiar people and 99.9% of us will never ever be one, so stop kidding yourself. You don’t need to jog to the top of an erupting volcano dragging a kayak behind you to break out of your rut.

As kids, a simple game of sandlot baseball or a heated board game of Risk would keep us living life to the fullest for hours on end. We played Army or stood on a big log and sailed the 7 Seas and the things we witnessed in our imaginations made these competitions look pretty lame. Wait a second. Do kids still play outside like that?

“Hey, Bubba!  Watch this!” is still quit popular, especially with teens, tweens and 30-weens and if there is alcohol involved… Boom! The entertainment factor is exponentially increased and can only be interrupted by the siren on an ambulance. This last group are the ones who attempt to do the near impossible and I applaud their strenuous efforts, albeit incredibly stupid and reckless behavior is obvious to almost everyone present.

One such fellow came to work one day with a huge knot on the top of his head. When quizzed about the walnut-shaped protrusion, he candidly admitted to attempting a back flip in the middle of the street at night while standing on the curb. Of course he was drinking beer and I stood slack-jawed when he said these remarkable words, “Something told me I could do it.”

I suspect most of us do not need large venues with superstars, or action-packed thrill seeking distractions to enjoy a break from our routines. A campfire with a black cup of coffee at sunrise, or an Astros game on the radio while we fish Trinity Bay may be just the ticket. The absence of adrenaline may be ten times more stimulating than what we are led to believe.

A walk in the woods sans music-blasting headphones may just provide more music as the forest sounds filter into our battered brain. I love technology, but sometimes we need to shut it all off and listen to… nothing. Talk about a deviation from the norm! What does nothing sound like? Most of us can’t recall. We are too busy chasing the elusive golden ring that we will never catch. It’s akin to the state of being “cool”. You will never ever actually become cool, but you can be different.

You can break away and do those simple things that will truly make you happy and no, you don’t have to kiss a King cobra. Doable adventure is not necessarily sliding downward out of control and watching the bushes and trees slap you in the face before you plunge over the precipice. Attainable adventure is a state of mind and can be conquered in your living room. I’ve read books for this very escape since I was a child and it takes no special equipment… and it works every time.

Henry David Thoreau sat outside his cabin all day, from dusk to dawn. He did not get up to eat or use the toilet. He watched everything without disturbance and guess what? He claimed it was the most production and rewarding day of his life. How is that possible?

Join a gym and do things you never thought possible and by challenging yourself to do what you thought was unattainable, you will experience the adventure you so seek. It is in each of us to succeed, but only we can take that first step into uncharted territory. So, what are you waiting for?

Friday, July 01, 2016

Do Hillary Supporters Endorse SHARIA LAW in AMERICA?

I guess a person would have to be part Dodo bird and part ostrich to not realize things are really heating up in world politics. This week alone Great Britain has decided by vote to leave the European Union of nations and the Republicans are releasing a long-awaited report on the Benghazi terror attacks that killed four Americans.

The sad truth is, if Mark Dice were to stand almost anywhere in Baytown Texas and film people answering questions about these two subjects, it would be embarrassing. Recently, he explained to passerby’s that one of Hillary Clinton’s campaign promises is to expand Sharia Law in the United States. He does it as a matter of fact and people are quick to give him their 2 cents worth.

His interviewees are Millennials and mostly Caucasians. One person after another agreed with Hillary, although the premise is preposterous and totally untrue.

Mark Dice is doing with politics, what Jay Leno has done for years with history. He interviews people on the street and asks questions and like Leno, it simply proves that people have no clue what is or has happened in the past. They make no attempt to think or reason.

Dice, speaking to an Anglo female says, “One of Hillary’s primary platforms is to spread Sharia Law through the minority communities. Do you think that is the right thing to do in the New World Order?”  Now note, the woman doesn’t want to appear to be racist, so her only viable option is to reply, “Yea, I think so. Yea.” Video after video gets the same response from those fortunate enough to step up to the Mic and be heard. Now note, these people are voters.

In San Diego, California, he again asks a young white man of maybe 25, “What country famously broke away from England to start their own country in the late 1700’s?”  His answer is astounding or should be.  “I have no idea. I don’t know man.”

Another group of people could not explain what the D.C. stood for in Washington DC. One woman ventured, “Dominican Republic?”

“What is your reaction to President Kennedy dying this morning in a car wreck and his I have a dream speech?” The young Anglo man with the headphones grins and admits he didn’t see any of it.  “I’m not even playing with you. But honestly, it is so sad to hear that a President is dying…”

Dice explains to a young Afro-American woman pushing a stroller that we nuked China last week for currency manipulation. She had a very level head and felt like we should have talked it out instead of dropping nuclear weapons on them. A Hispanic male of about 30 felt like China should have talked to Russia before nuking them. “The whole nukes and things just pollute stuff.” Good reason to not nuke another country.

And probably, the most preposterous of all and I am not making this up, is this one. “Do you think if we would have had stricter gun control in the 1300’s, Lee Harvey Oswald wouldn’t have been able to kill Jesus?” The young white Millennial male didn’t hesitate. “No, he would have still used a gun. Criminals will always find a way to get around gun control.” Good point, right?

Most people seemed to believe Jesus died in the 1300’s. I watched Mark Dice get people to sign a petition that read “I AM A MORON!” across the top while he explained anything and every thing from illiteracy to nonsense. Free kosher hamburgers at the Holocaust restaurant sounded appetizing to almost everyone. “It made Schindler’s List as the best hamburg joint!”

Please, please, please. Do not take my word for this. See for yourself and then using your left hand, lift your lower jaw back up and close your mouth. Now raise your right hand and promise yourself you will not be one of these people.

I routinely ask trivia questions on Facebook to the people who follow my threads and some of their answers both sadden me or make me laugh. The reason I say this is because very often, I can see that they simply are not reading what I wrote. If I give them a multiple choice, often I will get answers that are not options. Try that one in the 6th grade and see how successful you are. It is not occasional either, but too often.

Other times, the answer isn’t even close to being on subject. It makes me wonder what is going on in this country that we can’t comprehend the simplest of instructions or remember anything other than sports scores and movies quotes. If people can’t do a quick web search, they are clueless most of the time and mutter “I don’t know.” They make no attempt to think on their own. Mark Dice proves this again and again.

So what is the remedy? You tell me. As a writer of sorts, I don’t have a clue.

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 ...