Friday, December 30, 2016

The honeymoon is probably over



If you have been married for any real length of time, you have learned to live harmoniously for the most part, right? If you haven’t then, stop reading right now, as you have a lot to learn about long term relationships and this will not help you with that.

As a certified spouse, I probably would describe myself as handsome, fairly predictable, and not all that hard to live with and would get “that look” from my bride, especially if I rendered this buffoonish (baboonish?) depiction of myself in her favorite company, namely her BFF’s, known as her Yah yah’s.

They are a close knit group and once a quarter they meet for inspirational devotions and fellowship and to pray for their spouses and friends – her words, not mine.  I suspect their friends get a free pass (read Indulgences) and their mates the real scrutiny (again, I am simply speculating here).

I call it a surfeiting food fest with copious amounts of profoundly righteous gossip, but that I guess is open for interpretation (read downright objection). I reckon they tell their Yah yah’s everything about their husbands that needs correcting and after an intoxicating amount of fattening foods and homemade sweets; they get down to the serious business of interceding for their hell-bound spouse’s aberrant souls, especially me most likely. Now here’s the coup de grâce, they then exchange gifts, consisting of interesting junk none of them would personally buy. Like the kings visiting the baby Jesus, I presume, but I may be off on that aspect, like all my other observations of the married fairer sex.

Now I must assert that I have hundreds of good points, but usually am in the dog house over something and that may have happened three days ago or longer. Who knows? I surely don’t and that’s the truth. I generate fodder for the quarterly Sabbatical like a spewing wood chipper at the hands of the people who trim trees for the power company. The truth is it is because I am a man. There. I said it. Those of us that enter into a contract of blissful holy matrimony are doomed from that unspecified time following the honeymoon until death do us part or the wife finally has had enough and kicks us to the curb.

Thank the good Lord we may possibly be redeemed by our devote Yah yah’s through much caloric intersession and well-meaning scrutiny and exhaustive confession.

The intricate female brain’s upward spiral in matrimony starts shortly after the honeymoon with her barren wardrobe and it will never get truly stocked. The honey-do list is four leagues long and after each laborious task is checked off, two more are penciled in after it. This is not only one of the hidden and sacrosanct statutes buried in the sacred vows, but a heinous conundrum that after nearly 40 years of marriage, still perplexes me. Why is it women feel compelled to make lists of things for their husband to accomplish, but the husband never has a single item on their list for the wife? Not a single one.

The bathing area, tub, shower, and cabinets have forty-seven thousand little bottles of various solutions and scents and I have a bar of soap, a single container of shampoo and what us Southern boys call a warshrag. I can deal with it until my tiny space get buried by all that stuff she simply has to have! I was informed one day after making a mild and meek suggestion that there may just be a possibility that there could be a little bit too much there. “I am a woman and I need that stuff and besides, most of it was given to me by my Yah-yah’s and you wouldn’t understand!”

Blam! She threw down the Yah-yah trump card, which incidentally weighs close to an Armenian metric ton in reasoning and finality. Like I’ve said, I’ve been married long enough to know when to yell calf-rope and I backed away with both hands held high, but this brings us to the gist of this column. I also know (believe) when to draw the line and I’ll explain.

I always have insisted that I have a green toothbrush and she was free to explore the many colors of other teeth-cleaning color combinations, but what do I find when I open the drawer?  Two green toothbrushes and the second one is hers!  Blasphemy and by golly I threw up the red flag (not literally mind you).

I marched right into the living room and demanded an explanation.  I mean this is an open travesty of a written in stone rule that has been in place for almost 4 decades.  “Oh, I got that free at Doctor Platt’s office the other day, mine is in the other drawer.  Rats, out-foxed again. Oh Lord, is there still hope for us married men?



Friday, December 23, 2016

Brrrr to me is not Grrrreat!




When I came into existence we lived in what is now frigid Michigan and the nearest hospital was in northern Ohio, so the city of Toledo got to witness my entrance. It was the beginning of summer and sunny and to this day, that is how I prefer my weather.

In the past we have enjoyed two months of near-perfect weather; October and April. Our usual rain or high humidly has been negated by dry air from the north and facilitates outdoor activity unmatched the rest of the year. This year it didn’t play out like that and last year wasn’t much of a match either. This brings us around to the recent 38ish cool front and my intolerance for cold temperatures.

I have been cold a good number of times in my life and quite frankly, experienced life threatening plunges in my body temperature. Sounds melodramatic doesn’t it, but I’m not exaggerating. To those of us who have never experienced the inability to maintain our 98.6 degree body temperature, it is extremely painful and even worse when you try to warm back up. You will literally cry from the pain. This condition becomes life-threatening when your inner body goes below 95 degrees. On the other end of the scale, being hot is simply uncomfortable and like you, I have experienced my fair share of that.

My three brothers and I ice skated with our backs to the wind up the Little Raisin river in the early 60’s until we were miles from home. We skated so far that we ran out of river and when we tried to turn back, the wind was too fierce. We were frozen and disoriented and crying. We finally abandoned the sliver of iced-over river and got up on the farm road where a passing motorist loaded the four of us and drove for about 30 minutes to get us home.

My mom, having no idea where we got off too, was too relieved to be angry, but wisely ran a tub of tepid water and began the process of thawing us out. Now before you judge her, understand that back in those days, farm kids played outdoors all day unsupervised and only came home to eat. The water felt scalding hot and we suffered through the process of getting our body temperatures back to normal.

Roll forward a few years and this was repeated when we lived in Morgan, Utah and the temp dropped below zero while we went off owl hunting with a neighbor boy. I vividly remember screaming in pain and crying as I thawed out. I also remember how angry my mom was at that neighbor boy. Another thing to note is that any kid growing up in snow country can tell their own horror stories about being cold.

Moving back to Ohio, the 4 of us skated far out on the frozen Ottawa River and once again the wind blew us so far away that my third brother just gave up and lay down on the ice to die. Again this sounds melodramatic, but I assure you under those conditions of hypothermia, you do not think straight. My other brothers and I struggled with him to get to shore and then walked in our skates the 5 blocks to our street with our skates on.  We were too cold to change into our shoes and the painful warming up process was repeated.

While serving in the US Air Force in Great Falls, Montana I was subjected to 5 twelve-hour nights of shoveling snow around the missile silos under the night sky, only to repeat it one day after returning. Understand that there are no trees to stop the constant wind on the Great Plains. We were under blizzard conditions and the fear of a sudden thaw meant water could drain down around the hundreds of Intercontinental Missiles and possibly flood them.  The decision was made to load up airmen and give them snow shovels and remove the snow that had drifted around the giant cement pads that covered each and every missile silo. Each pad covered 1 missile and each pad was miles from the next.

Now I had seen the map on the commanding General’s office wall and there were about 1500 Minuteman missiles under his command and by golly, I think we got every one of them. Initially we flew out in the middle of the night in helicopters and were dropped off on the Great Plains and it was so cold, we all thought we would die before morning. We would dig one out and low and behold, a stake bed deuce and a half truck would roll up and load us like cattle to drive to another silo. We were shoulder to shoulder in the back of that freezing open air truck bed only to dismount and dig out another.

My geocaching/kayaking friends make fun of me when I don’t want to go out on the water if the temp drops below 70 degrees, but I simply do not like being cold.  I have been elk hunting and fallen asleep in my mummy bag, only to awaken and the entire sleeping bag would be under an inch of snow. The goose down inside the bag kept me fairly warm, but that is one sight I don’t care to see again.

The word is that this Christmas, our temperature will be around 70 degrees and most likely sunny and I couldn’t be happier.  I think it was right after Christmas in 1976 that 2 of my 3 brothers and I worked a shutdown in Pasadena and it was 14 degrees. I would have burned a Yule log for warmth if I could have. Merry Christmas my friends, remember the reason for the season, and stay toasty and comfy.
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Friday, December 16, 2016

I ain’t giving you a dollar



 At least once a week I am reminded by a news story or online video about a subject that has become a daily occurrence in every city, school, or neighborhood in the US of A. It’s one that parents fear, kids hate, and no one seems to be able to get a grip on what exactly we need to do to stop it. Yup, its violent coercion and we simplify it by calling it bullying.

The cruelty of harassment has been around since the Garden of Eden and it would be a fantasy to believe it will ever stop. Intimidation is a deviant art form that is developed by trial and error and finally success until the perpetrator has it down pat. Like the professional football player, by the time they come into their twenties, they’ve been playing this game for many years. There is only one action that can put an abrupt kink it its development and it is a most effective tool. Resistance.

“Sorry I ain’t got no money.
I’m not trying to be funny, but I left it all at home today.
You can call me what you wanna I ain’t giving you a dollar.
This time I ain’t gonna run away.”

According to the King James Bible, it even works on Lucifer. “…Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” I’ve written on this subject before, but please bear with me, as this is a subject that screams to be repeated and the intended audience is every person reading this column. Bullying goes on in every country and every stratum of the social world; from powerful politicians and world leaders to the street urchins living in the sewers of a Third World country.

Children learn at a very young age to force their will upon others and most of us learn along the way, that there might just be a better method of getting what we want – some don’t. They continue to hone their compulsive skills throughout adolescence and enter adulthood seasoned veterans of maltreatment of those they believe are weak. Often they carry this philosophy into the workplace and through deceit and subtlety, arrive in prime positions to practice their skill. You know exactly what I am talking about and know many instances of people just like this.

“You might knock me down, you might knock me down.
But I will get back up again.
You can call it how you wanna, I ain’t giving you a dollar.
This time I ain’t gonna run away, run away, run away.”

This perception of weakness draws them out like a vulture to carrion. It is as irresistible to them as a delicious treat to a child. They lust and feed on it and this is the same behavior criminals feed on when they rob a clerk or an unsuspecting person at an ATM or a parking lot. When a person appears unaware or timid, it sparks this deviant fire inside them and they compulsively attack to feed.

When a shopper returns to their car with their keys in their hand and are visually scanning the parking lot, the bully dismisses them for wont of an easier target. The same goes in the school hall when they butt up against someone and that person straightens their back and loudly confronts them. The difference here is the school bully hasn’t developed their skill enough to know when to stop and this is why you may just take a beating when you resist – the first time. If you continue to resist, they will find someone who they believe won’t and leave you alone and that is the gist of the song I am quoting.

Resistance to bullying is the only answer and compliance to their wishes more times than not will only result in something negative for you. Am I saying if a person sticks a gun in your face you should fight them? No, I am not, but try and put yourself in a position where this scenario doesn’t happen. Don’t be caught unaware due to your cell phone, or blindly putting yourself at risk. Remember, the school bully philosophy is the same as the gun-toting criminal; it has just violently evolved to this level.

“This time, this time.
This time, this time I ain’t gonna run, run, run, run, run.
Not this time, not this time.
Not this time.
Not this time.”

With the Christmas season upon us, be a smart shopper and if at any time you feel like you have been targeted, turn around and go back to your car or into the store and call for assistance. Educate your children, as they are more distracted than at any time in our history. Don’t be a target and if you are, by all means resist.

Lyrics No money - Galantis
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Friday, December 09, 2016

Buying American will not be an easy path



 American consumers have both poor memories and the ability to quickly adapt to inferior “improved” products. We express our displeasure to each other, but continue to purchase the less than improved items and before long, they become the new standard. We adapt and move on. A good example is the plastic bag inside a box of cereal. At one time it was easy open wax paper or a plastic product that came apart with an ease a 5 year old could accomplish.

Try to open one of these bags now without a pair of scissors and you will need a broom and dustpan. A personal trainer friend of mine recently posted on Facebook a perfect example of this phenomenon. “Evidently my muscles are only good for lifting weights, as I cannot get the wrapper open on my protein bar.”

Aside from a boycott, competition is the best way to keep any one company or country from making too much money. The biggest richest company in the world right now is the Communist government of China. They finance, oversee, control, subsidize, and back everything made in China.  Like Disneyworld in Orlando, all roads lead to their coffers. They dump their goods on the USA while taking very little back except maybe our cigarettes. We do have the best tobacco and they haven’t yet learned how devastating smoking is to their health. Another truth is a lot of the products brought here do not translate well from their perspective to ours.

Here is what I think will happen if Donald Trump effectively levels the trade playing field with foreign countries and forces American companies to build American only and be warned, it will get very ugly. I say ugly not because I think it is the wrong thing to do, but because our country lives on instant gratification and perceived deals. I’ve already pointed out that quality can be compromised, as it interferes with our gluttonous need for instant gratification. “We want what we want and we want it now”, said Jim Morrison and he couldn’t have been more right.

Initially we will see a sharp rise in prices on imported goods, which will generate a lot of negative feelings with the press and the consumer. The replacement American produced products will cost more for basically the same stuff as we were getting from China and other mass-producing countries as American companies scrabble to meet the customer demands.  There may be quality issues involved, which will be eliminated when competitors enter the fray. There will be 3-4 year period of time where almost anything we bought from these countries costs more. As we agonizingly adjust, Trump’s policies will be hammered ad nauseum, but there is a silver lining awaiting us.

The first business to collapse will be the dollar stores. Wal-Mart, the once all American store will take a giant hit, as will other import-heavy businesses.

Competing American companies will be the logical answer to prices dropping and this could take every bit of 4-5 years. In the meantime, we will see a more balanced distribution of monies to the workers and company profits will peak, and then level out as the world market adjusts. It goes without saying that countries like China will scream foul as the elephant riding the bicycle can no longer keep moving forward. Heck, they’ve already started crying foul. They may even threaten to go to war with us.

American entrepeneurialship and creativity will result in innovative products we long forgot were even available, like an actual vent on a gas can, so it doesn't burp out all over the place when fueling the lawn mower. Instead of cheap junk that only adds to the other substandard stuff we accept as quality, we will see pioneered and competitive products offered and if they can’t live up to expectations, another company will build a better one.

I once again go back to the current Chinese-made gas can. The spout is not built to pour. It is a flexible piece of tubing that degrades in about a year and spills gas all over everything when pouring. The crux of the matter is, this is all that is available, because all of them come from China. American companies don’t even try to compete, because you can just go buy another cheaply made one.

Now mind you, this American innovative change will not happen overnight and there will be a lot of perceived pain, suffering, and sacrifice as we adjust to not getting our cheaply-made baubles when we want them. In some areas we will see a price reduction as we become less dependent on foreign products, namely fossil fuel derivatives. Possibly agricultural products will also see a reduction in prices as farmer’s markets will compete with grocery stores. We have made other countries and governments rich beyond all reason by purchasing or outsourcing so many products and I do believe Donald Trump is on the right track. I may have to cinch up my belt a notch or two while it all comes about, but I understand the need for it.

Lop-sided trade deals that favor every country but ours, needs to stop and the sooner we renegotiate these contracts the better. To sum up one logical person, “This ain’t no way to run a business.”
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Friday, December 02, 2016

The Wild Wild West



My Bride and I were on our way to the gym the other day and had stopped behind a car in the center lane at North Main and Massey Tompkins. The car in the right lane was evidently going to go straight and when the green arrow came on signaling opposing lanes could turn, the car in front of us blasted off and turned right in front of the stopped car beside it.

Now mind you, a car was making the turn from the opposing lane and they nearly collided. My Bride and I both made loud exclamations of disbelief, not having seen such reckless driving in recent times. The very next day, I am on the opposite side of the road, wanting to drive north and get a sub sandwich. I had missed the green arrow and came to halt as the cars beside me crossed North Main and moved onto Massey Tompkins.

The light turned yellow, then red and about 5 seconds later, a small blue car blew through the intersection at about 40 miles per hour, stopping the flow of traffic from both directions. In the Chemical Plant vernacular, this would be cited as a “near miss” incident. The reality of both acts of careless driving is at the very least there would have been a terrific accident with major vehicle damage.

I’ve written about the obvious distracted driver issue before, but both of these incidents involved impatience and most likely really crappy driving decisions some idiots are making. I could use better words than crappy and idiots here, but they cover both sentiments quite well. On my way back from teaching a 0530 Spin class in Meyerland the other morning, I witnessed a wreck on the 610 Loop.

The road was heavily congested heading into town and I was in the free-flowing east bound side, when a car tapped their brakes on the west bound side. This started a chain-reaction, as all of the cars were tail-gating each other, until one slammed into the back of the one in front of it.  They were out in front of me a bit and I watched in amazement as the whole west bound side began to come to a stop and I am talking about every lane. Of course we all slowed down, because people have to rubber neck, but before we got back up to full speed the amount of stopped cars began to expand.

This careless act of tail-gaiting most likely stopped or slowed traffic for over an hour. Months ago, I did quite a bit of research on this phenomenon and posted 2 videos on my web page: www.baytownbert.us with the hopes that drivers would watch them and learn how they can help stop this aberrant and dangerous behavior. Back in the day when pushing the brake peddle may or may not stop you, drivers didn’t rely so heavily on them and I often think that people don’t connect the dots on the fact that they are hurtling down the road in a 2 ton missile.

One of my brothers asked me if I had changed out my brake pads, as he planned to repair his own Jeep Wrangler’s brakes. I told him I had no need, “as I don’t use my brakes very often”. I coast a lot, keep my distance, and allow the Jeep’s drive train to auto-slow me down. I am also old school enough to actually watch the road a quarter of a mile ahead as I drive. Am I perfect?  Nope, but I’ve never caused a wreck in 49 years of driving. To take this one step further, I watched another video, which is also on my website, about how one driver can decongest a traffic jam on the freeway.

I was skeptical at first, but low and behold, it actually works. I made it part of my driving strategy and I no longer feel the angst that is common in these situations. I maintain my distance between me and the vehicle in front of me. If someone wants in, I let them in and adjust my distance. It doesn’t sound like it works, but it does. People wait until the last second to get over to their turn-off and no one will let them in and this starts the chain reaction of braking. I let them in and there are no brake lights flashing.

The simplest way to describe the solution is for people to follow the basic rules of the road. If everyone kept their proper distance, actually paid attention, and kept the speed limit, there would be few traffic accidents and road congestion. The whole speed up and stop scenario we see on Garth Road and our freeways would all but disappear. The need to constantly change lanes to move up one car mentality would be gone also.

Stay safe out there folks. I have a feeling it is only going to get worse. People just won’t take time to do a little research and then there is the me, me, me mentality that would prevent them from changing anyway. Oh!  One more thing.  That green light doesn’t mean that you don’t need to look both ways.
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We don't know our left from our right.

I got my first real lesson on what being out of step means when I in was in Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, in ...