Thursday, August 31, 2017

You don't have to live like a refugee.

 For many years those of us working in safety, maintenance and operations in the chemical plants were served up a hurricane season video as a monthly safety topic.  It was the 1969 Hurricane Camille emergency response/ civil defense film named "A lady called Camille". I know I personally saw it at least 20 times. The video is posted on YouTube and shows the devastation those folks experienced in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

The only difference between what happened there and here is we did not get the wind and all of us are thankful for that. However, for those folks whose houses, apartments, and trailers are underwater, the feeling of being a war-torn refugee is the same. How do we start over when everything is gone? Who is going to help us get back on our feet? Why, oh why did this happen to me? It feels hopeless and overwhelming. The good news is it starts first with friends and family.

Tom Petty said it best and I fudged it a bit to make it fit. "Somewhere, somehow, somebody must have kicked you around some. Who knows maybe you were kidnapped tied up, taken away and held for ransom. Honey, it don't make no difference to me. Everybody has to fight to get free, you see? You don't have to live like a refugee."

It's going to be an epic struggle; possibly the greatest hardship you've ever experienced. At first and maybe for quite a few days it's going to seem impossible and nothing anyone says makes it easier. All you've worked for; all those hours of overtime to get where you were; all the blood, sweat, and tears you devoted to accumulate the things for your precious family are gone, soaked, damaged, or ruined... or are they?

We all know life is temporal and have repeated it to others all our life. There is no promise of tomorrow on this terra firma, but this is real this time. This is me and my family we are talking about. Baytown is not some war-torn Third World country where every 3 years we lose the stuff we own and get in food lines and we are not used to having our schedules disrupted. So where does it all begin?

We are experiencing a statewide catastrophe of epic and unprecedented magnitude and it will take a bit of time for our emergency system to catch up to what has happened. Food, water, shelter will begin to arrive, but it will seem sluggishly slow. Volunteers will be needed due to sheer almost unmanageable logistics and people helping people will be the answer. Everyone will be called up to be patient and tempers geared way back for this to work. Instant gratification will become a luxury none of us can afford.

"Baby we ain't the first. I'm sure a lot of others been burned. Right now it seems too real to you, but it's one of those things you gotta feel to get through. You don't have to live like a refugee " Refugees don't have your network of friends and family to draw on. You are stronger than that.

We are in the greatest challenge many of us have ever experienced and business as usual will not resume until far into 2018. We are going to rebuild and we are going to not only survive, but we are going to thrive. Like the man in the Camille video said, "We have a lot of beautiful country here. We'll make it beautiful again." We have each other.

We have the opportunity to build on rock and we are going to be ready the next time - and there will be a next time. We are not going to live in self pity, but stand tall and shake our fists at the sky and declare we are stronger than what the clouds have to throw at us. We won't have to be by ourselves when we do this, because we have each other. When life threw us a lemon, we are not going to make lemonade. We are going to throw a banquet.

Volunteerism, compassion, and cooperation will create bonds that will last a lifetime. Our city of interlopers and nomads will stretch a web of love toward each other than beats anything we've ever experienced. Wait and see, down the road people will laugh and smile and declare they were here during Harvey and fought back. To all those who have already began the process of rescuing and comforting those who have evacuated, God bless you. Now it's time for the rest of us to join in and let's get these folks back on their feet.

YouTube hurricane Camille video:
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers: Refugee

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Who are we going to hate this week?

If you are like me, you sit back every day and scratch what little bit of hair you still have (on your head) trying to figure out what the press is telling us. It appears 70% of the country is mad about something enough to stage a demonstration and maybe turn over a statue or two. I'm trying to figure out how so many people can schedule vacation at the same time to get off work so they can join in on the passion.

I'm mad too Eddie!  I think! But am I mad enough to get maced?  Am I mad enough to get educated on what I am mad about? Does it matter if I know what I am demonstrating about, because it appears to me it doesn't. Using the new rules, all I have to do is think someone doesn't see things the way I do and that is grounds for me to knock their block off, or key their car.

If I actually believe what passes as news reports these days, I am missing out on a happening.  Remember those?  I certainly don't want to miss out.  It appears it's now my civic duty to squash 1st amendment rights and get out there and make a difference because their opinion is so obviously wrong.  The end justifies the means has never been more relevant. Who gives a flip if you want to talk if my message is so righteous that only people like me deserve to be heard? On top of that, I have a literal axe to grind and your head is the target, you fascist, bigoted, misogynist, racist piggie!
Passionate violence is definitely allowed when the future of my vision of America is at stake. If a few heads have to roll to get the point across, so be it. Anything that offends my dogma, must be torn down and history be damned. We must cleanse our country of any and every vestige of what might possibly be offensive to even the smallest percentile of our population. To be truthful, we need to tear down just about every statue, carving, artwork, image, namesake, or memory that is racist and dang it, that encompasses the entire spectrum.  Tear it all down RIGHT NOW!

Whew!  I feel better and now I wonder what is left that isn't offensive. Wait a second, there has got to be more. I say we gather up a collective and begin to scour every book in every library and erase and discard (read burn) anything that falls into this heinous and offensive category. If we work really hard, we can do this in about 10 years. It's going to take a group effort and everyone will have to march stiff-legged in unison to wipe this disease from our society.

It will help if we can all wear the same brown shirts and conservatively... say 40% of us become watchdogs for the thought police to insure no one becomes subversive. That would be counter-productive to the movement and ultimately terroristic and racist. Racism will become the new word for terrorism and anything and everything bad will fall under it when it comes to pursuit by the law. Its only fitting, because there is nothing as horrible as believing your race is superior to another race - nothing. A person should be beaten for even thinking it. Its so disgusting to think that anyone would entertain any idea that isn't politically correct.

I envision a world free of anything offensive, where we all live in harmony and no one has individual thoughts that might offend someone. Wouldn't that be wonderful? We would be a one world government and a one world people, happily living in harmony. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Our current world rife with self-entitlement demands we get what we want, even if it destroys America as we know it and I am right there with that philosophy. I want what I want because I can't imagine a world where I can't get what I want. I have been spoon fed to this point and I am willing to go along with whatever the press says the state of affairs are. I don't have to think because the commentators explain everything to me. It's bliss multiplied. Who said pabulum tastes bad? I love the stuff! Can I have seconds?

If anyone questions why I believe what I hear, I've been supplied with stock answers and questions that reveal I am a party member and this is most comforting. If they come up with a devious question that circumvents my defense, all I have to do is scream racism! It's a wonderful and exciting time we are living in and I feel so much a part of the historic upheaval.

I can't even imagine that I am wrong, let alone listen to the opposite view.  Who will join me?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The older I get... No regrets please.

The older I get, the more I realize how much time I've wasted that could have been productive. Not for one second do I think I should have played more. As I've written before, the reason for this is a deep need in myself to prove my worth to my dad. He always set the work bar very high and no matter what I did, I never felt I measured up. Did he intentionally put this burden on me? I think not and probably went to his grave not understanding my plight.

The older I get, the more valuable my time has become and this is also a conundrum, as in my retirement years, I am actually trying to put the brakes on and attempt to create recreation. I'm not sure I know how to get off this merry go round. Almost every day I have to remind myself that I am not on a schedule and if I want to stand and talk to a stranger for 5 minutes, I can. So on one hand, I am trying to squeeze the most out of my minutes and on the other, waste some by enjoying not having to go, go, go.

The older I get, the more I realize how spending all those hours working alone have robbed me of the most important option in life; meeting and talking to people. I spent hundreds of hours with my camera documenting everything from mountains to spiders and looking back, I should have been photographing friends faces. What is more fun than people?

The older I get the more I understand that repeating a person's name when talking to them is the key to their soul. It is the most precious word spoken when we hear it. Dale Carnegie taught us this years ago, but few of us practice it. Hearing our name is to our ears as seeing money on the ground to our eyes.

I imagine most of us would finish the older I get with a regret. I don't want to. It would be easy to write a tome on regrets. Most of the things I could regret, I can still repair. I could say I wish I spoke another language, but if I really did, how come I am not actively pursuing it? Maybe its the effort that stops me? Old dogs - new tricks got me?

The older I get, the more I wish I would have learned to dance and kiss every pretty girl I could. Like most young guys, girls were as unapproachable as the Hope diamond. I always felt so awkward and just found it easier to try to pop a wheelie on my bike or make funny sounds with my mouth, thinking that would impress them. I had no idea that just being me, was probably good enough and they suffered from the same confusion I did.

The older I get, the more I struggle with cynicism and this is something I really need to work on. Many things I once believed to be solid are crumbling around me and those vested to represent me, often are found to be fallible or untrustworthy. When I was a child I never thought I would live in a time when people in cars could be as rude as they are today. I remember people waving at each other as they passed. Maybe driverless cars with remedy this? If so, I say the quicker the better. My cynical side says it will simply further alienate us, as people will hunker down inside the coach with the electronic distractions and not even bother to look out the window.

The older I get, the more I enjoy personal customer service. It is rare, but I see it reemerging and when it does, it brings a warmth with it that is so nice, it is worth sharing. This is one area social networking is a positive force. People talk and when a company or a friend does you a "big", we tell everyone. It can literally make or break a business, so my question is this - if you own a business, why not put the most cheerful and helpful person out front?

I have been to the new hardware store on Business 146 three times and each time when I walk in, the first person I've seen has looked like they are attending a funeral. Not really inviting, although the store is well stocked. In my opinion, that person ought to be the happiest person I've met that day. Walking around one of our larger home improvement stores, every sales person  is doing their best to appear they are on a anti-collision mission and flee like foxes before I can ask a question. I guess this isn't taught in their sales motivation meetings.

The older I get, the more I want to be content and enjoy the world around me. I want quality food, quality friends, and the stuff in my house to keep working so I don't have to fix them. I want to go to bed at night and know the woman I married nearly 40 years ago is beside me. The older I get, the more I realize it is the little things that really matter.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Right or wrong, Loki's law is real.

Have you ever noticed that if you drop the cap off a water bottle, it will inevitably roll under the refrigerator? Or if you absentmindedly set your car keys down after coming inside, the next time you look for them, they have moved? How about filling the gas tank on your mower, leaf blower, or string trimmer? Yup, no matter how careful you are, it will overflow a bit.

Some folks will automatically and quite smuggishly announce this is Murphy's law at work. I'm not convinced it is. It is a mystery, kind of like the word smuggishly. It's there because it has to be to fulfill a purpose. What that purpose is, is sometimes unclear.

How many times in a lifetime have we stubbed our toe on an invisible projection, or shut a finger in a door? While barefoot I couldn't count the times, I've stepped on a hard dog food pellet and it had the same effect as stepping on a pointy rock. What mysterious Lokian force was at work there to guide me to place the exact center of my heel on that agonizing and pain-inflicting protein-rich pellet?

There is some sort of... can I say deviltry at work in our daily doings. Can I say daily doings without grinning? One fellow remarked after finding a 1/2 drive shiny socket that he lost while working on his car, "I found it in the last place I looked!" It was on top of the air filter the whole time and he looked for 10 minutes. Now tell me there isn't some heinous trickster at work there because I also find stuff in the last place I look!

I was eating a delectable morsel the other day and bit my lip and I mean I chomped down on it to the point I was bleeding. Why? Why me? Why then? I mean, I have been chewing since the day I discovered food and here all of a sudden... CHOMP! It's that hidden prankster of the universe that deliberately alters our path so we can experience new and sometimes painful things. That is the only logical conclusion and I invoked Ockham's Razor for that one. You know it, right? If there is more than one explanation for something, the simple one is usually the correct answer.

Sometimes this law works in our favor, like the time we had a flat tire in the middle of nowhere and I got out and there was folding money on the ground. Or the other day when in a crowded restaurant, I reached for something and almost knocked over a glass of a sugary beverage. Like a striking cobra, I righted the vessel and then looked around expecting a 4 foot tall trophy. The Force was strong in me that day, but alas - no trophy was forth coming.

Two days later while walking my dogs around the Blue Heron Parkway trail, I spied my first double rainbow and again, this unwritten law put me in the exact right place to experience this visual rarity. Sure, I prefer the benefits of this mischievous law, but I am more than often, it's victim. I've noticed that if I open up a wound on any part of my head, hand, foot, elbow, or knee, somehow this law will direct me to bump into something to compound the pain and it will happened repeatedly until it finally heals. Then I cease to bump into anything. The Loki law ran its course, closing the loop and I am safe once again.

On a serious note, do I really believe there is an invisible imp sitting on my shoulder waiting to cause me discomfort or possibly let me peek into the sublime? No.  I do not, but then again it is an easy way out and lifts the embarrassment of admitting that self-infliction is the logical solution. "My fault?  Seriously?  No way!" I can't find my keys because I put them down anywhere that's handy and the reason my injured finger doesn't hurt after it heals is because it's no longer injured. The reason a bottle cap will roll under the refrigerator is because its round and rolls until it stops.

Dang that Ockham's Razor!  It's more fun to think an imp named Loki is causing it, but the truth is life and gravity are two things we cannot completely control and sometimes it gives us stubbed toes and other times, double rainbows.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Hiding an evil geocache!

Hiding an evil geocache primer
By Bert Marshall (BaytownBert)
Past Southeast Texas Representative Texas Geocaching Association

I've heard this term thrown around over the years like it is a common occurrence. Sure, the first light pole cache I found was evil, but guess what, it took me exactly ONE before I didn't fall for it again. But let me say the first time I stumbled upon an LPC or skirt-lifter, I thought it was danged amazing. I didn't know about phoning a friend, or reaching out to social networking or even what that was 10 years ago. I actually lifted the skirt and it was like a rainbow came across the sky.  I looked around feeling extremely gratified and waited for a marching band to come across the Baytown Blood Donor parking lot right here in my hometown.
As of today, I've hidden or hosted 463 geocaches or events, so I think I can speak on this subject with some clarity. When I hear the word 'evil" in relation to a cache, I am cynical enough to automatically believe it is a "mean" cache or better explained as a "needle in a haystack" hide.  I have unwittingly been guilty of these very hides in the past and currently own a few, but not because I hid them that way.

It is nature's fault.  Here on the Gulf Coast of Texas it is quite possible to hide something in winter where it can be spotted by Blind Melon Chittlin' from 200 meters away and by spring time, Tarzan couldn't find it with one of those fancy magnifying glasses for the lush foliage.  This is not what I am talking about.

For instance, in some climates where they have white cold stuff fall out of the sky 6 months of the year, a cache could be buried under 6 feet of the crystalline H2O, so that's not an evil hide either. Okay, now hold up here.  I'm going to break it down and using the (KISS) keep it simple stupid rule, I am going to define an evil cache.

When you hide a geocache in plain view and people don't recognize it, dismissing it as "not it", then you have hid an evil cache.  Anything else is most likely a mean hide. Now realize, I am exempting tricky hides, which fall into a separate category and depending on the generosity of the finder, may get a favorite point. There are also "cool" hides, but that is not what this primer is about.
Placing a nano on a wall with 7000 look alike bolt heads is not evil; it's mean.  Double bump it if it's in a conspicuous place that makes the cacher uneasy. How many times have you looked through the shrubbery just outside the tinted window of an office or restaurant for a "micro" that turns out to be the smallest bison tube ever made?  Evil?  I say it's mean and I do not want to hide caches that put people in that position.

Here's another scenario.  You arrive at a stand of bamboo because no one can find it and that's is when you realize it is a micro and only a miracle will help you stumble upon one of the million places it could be. I'll be honest and tell anyone who asks, that I immediately call anyone I know who found it and chances are, they did the same thing. Evil?  Nope.
 Now, let's look at a true evil hide.  IF you find it, you probably won't tell anyone because you want to save the integrity of the hide and to keep it truly evil.  You will feel like the cache owner (CO) deserves that for their awesome effort.  THAT is the difference. Evil hides are amazing hides that no one wants to give away without making the person looking for it - LOOK FOR IT.  There is a cache (GC36NF3) in Highlands, Texas that probably had a thousand hours put into finding it.  It has a 5 difficulty and a 1.5 terrain and two days after it published, it looked like a herd of buffalo had descended on the area, but still no find. The catch was hidden by my friend, thacatfish.

Go read the logs and then ask yourself how many real evil hides have you looked for? My name is there, whining and crying and it was right there in front of me and others the whole time. After 4 days, of which I spent in excess of 30 hours looking, Muddy Bones alone found it; a Force Recon US Marine, who just wouldn't take no for an answer. He arrived at sunrise, alone, and after 2 hours, discovered this heinous cache. It wasn't his first time here.

Now, let's take a look at his log:  "I will honor the CO request and not give out any hints." Eight more DNF's followed his log and then, 8 days after it published a group of 4 descended upon the area determined to look again. I am Air Force and Rambetta is a retired US Army Colonel and we simply could not let the Marines have this one unchallenged.

GeoGeex, our puzzle-solving guy suddenly started laughing and we had it. After all the time we had been here, this day took 2 more hours and honestly, there is not much to see at the location. Months later, there was a whole string of finds, which pretty much tells you social media was working, because everyone before them gave it favorite points... Evil hides?  Please give us more of them.  Mean hides, no thank you.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Robotics and Socialism - Welcome to the future

My bride and I were sitting in the back yard the other evening enjoying the lower humidity, a slight breeze, and waving at the steady stream of people hiking and biking the Blue Heron trail. She was in her swing and I, a chair and the subject of robotics and the future came up. I'm sure this is something you and yours have mulled over ad nauseam, but hear me out.

Now before I go any further, let me answer your first question. Why were we not out hiking and biking instead of sitting on our thinking caps like a pair of contributors to America's obesity epidemic? Because we are morning exercisers and had already did our daily quota. With that out of the way, what about those robots?

She was pondering the idea of possibly marketing a product that was unique and would suddenly become popular enough to mass-market. "It might just make us rich!" she exclaimed. Now seeing that I lived in a Third-World country for 2 years, I already know the majority of Americans are rich already and I felt compelled to bring up what some would call a "Debbie Downer" statement, but I believe is our future.

"If you have an idea that will suddenly become popular enough to mass market, companies like Amazon with their robotic warehouses will put you out of business. There is no way you can economically compete with machines that run 24 hours a day, without a break, benefits, or any sort of human interaction," was along the lines of what I just quoted.

"Using the same advanced technology, they can manufacture an improved variation with more efficiently and probably cheaper." Her reply was that if machines will be doing everything, "What will people do?" This is a conclusion that every human should consider and make plans, if it isn't already too late. The truth is we will be given tasks by our government in exchange for credits. For nostalgia's sake, we will call it our job. It will be a bumped up welfare system that nearly everyone will be required to partake of, or starve. Of course, the elite will be excluded, as in all past systems including our current one.

It could be a called a tax credit, or a food credit. One way or the other, the long term vision of our government will be the management and well being of the population. Along with this comes total control of us. As in George Orwell's book, "1984" the government's job will be to keep us occupied. The easiest way to do that is create "make work". Make work is defined as "an activity that serves mainly to keep someone busy and is of little value in itself." Kind of like using a fidget spinner, except for 8 hours a day and calling it your job.

Anyway, our true preoccupation and one the government will endorse is recreation. The more "work" credits you earn, the more recreation time you can enjoy. There will be weekly lottos held to reward a certain percentage with more extreme recreation. Everything good and fun we now take for granted will be served as recreational credits and regardless of your current station in life, you will be herded into this system. It will be a brave new world dictated by automation and an all powerful, but nearly invisible one world government and like the matrix, there won't be any option to opt out.

Now wait a second there, Bubba.  What if we don't want to be a part of it? No worries here (notice I didn't say no problem) your children's children will openly embrace a life of ease without the nasty hassles of having to earn an education and get out there and go toe to toe for a slim to non-existent job market. This inevitable and unstoppable change will come into play by invitation, not by invasion. What you now see as freedom of choice, the future generations will see as chains and shackles and giggly embrace their government caretaker.

There will be no need for anyone to invent anything as artificial intelligence will be dictating our course "for the good of the people" and the entire human population will be regulated. Birth rates, ecology, environment, law and order, economics, health care, and recreation facilities will all be dictated to and for us and compliance will be mandatory and strictly enforced. "Remember the Smith's in C sector? Yea, they disappeared yesterday.  I knew they were heading for trouble when they started complaining about the credit system."

"Why fight and grapple for your place in the workforce when all you have to do is earn credits and then you can play?" I concluded and suddenly looked up at my bride there in the swing. "Too much information?" She told me it wasn't and said she hopes to never see that day. I agreed with her, but that is the direction we are heading. I am sure of it.

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