Thursday, March 29, 2018

The anti-gun movement myth

 It appears to me the anti-gun violence protests are a total manipulation of logic by some group wanting to disarm America. The 2nd Amendment is to protect us from our own government, so why would anyone want to give up this liberty? Didn't Hitler and Stalin disarm their citizens before taking complete control? Does anyone believe North Korean's are allowed to own guns? In Cuba, only the state is armed. How has that worked out for them? Well, we know how it turned out for Germany and Russia.

Any possible legislation will have zero effect on mentally unstable individuals, anarchists, neo-Ludites, religious zealots, terrorists, and criminals. Law-abiding gun owners are not guilty of a danged thing. Protesters are registering to vote and one declared they would vote out anyone supporting the NRA. Let me see. How many NRA members have been guilty of shooting up a school? Please cipher that one for me. I'll dig it up for us. None. "Worthy of note is that the victims of mass shootings constitute less than one half of one percent of shooting deaths."

If laws stopped people from committing criminal acts, why are our roads littered with beer and alcohol containers? Think about it. Law-abiding people do not drink and drive. Should we pass more laws that say that you cannot have more than a 6-pack or a pint of adult beverage in your refrigerator? Will this stop criminals from drinking and driving?

"In Texas the "total costs of a DWI arrest and conviction range from $5,000 to $24,000 for a first-time offense. In the Austin area, offenders can pay $6,000 to $21,000 in fines, fees and other costs." I don't know about you, but I don't have that kind of stash setting around marked "disposable".

I have guns... a lot of guns and carry one most of the time and have for many years. I am not a threat. I am the opposite of a threat. I may just save your life. It wouldn't matter if I was carrying a bazooka or dressed like Arnold in Commando with an M-60 and grenades hanging off my chest and belt. Logic, folks. Criminals will be criminals and if a misguided zealot wants to kill people, no law is going to stop them. Only another law-abiding person with a gun can do it.

I am always reminded of a true story of a young couple who moved to Los Angeles from Boulder, Colorado. Both were very educated and had extremely strong anti-gun philosophies. One month after arrival after she was mugged and their apartment ransacked, they were both carrying guns and taking firearms training. Their philosophy did not protect them. It is all relevant. This story is true. Hunkering and cowering down in a corner will only get you killed.

Another thing I learned years ago in marital arts training is if a person wants to unexpectedly strike you, they can pretty much do it. If a misguided or deranged individual decides to target a school, or a group of people, they will do it, even if it is in a military installation and the victims are soldiers. The only thing that will stop them is a person with a gun.

I suspect many of the protestors in the anti-gun movement are in it to be part of something they feel is honorable and "cool". I also wonder what they will do when faced by someone with a weapon who intends to rob or do them or their family harm. I can pretty much tell you that being armed with a philosophy as your main weapon is going to be a rude wake up call. If you survive, I would also bet that more laws are the last thing you will want. You are going to want a gun, because laws don't stop the people who prey on society.

As a veteran, a black belt, and a graduate of the Baytown citizen's police academy I have never attacked anyone and I carry a large caliber, one shot, one kill gun. One officer summed it up very well. "If you have a permit to carry a firearm, by all means carry it. My life may depend on you being there for me." 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The trick is to get back on

 March 21, 2017 started out like every day before it. I was on a roll. In the last year I had instructed over 125 spin classes as a substitute instructor and was covering 12 gyms. Quite often in that time period, I would awaken about 4am, check my email and realize an instructor in Houston, or the Galleria had called in sick for the 5:30am class. I would log into the gym web site and "claim" the class and when 5:30am arrived, I would be 35 miles away and crank out a class. Sometimes I would be in Pasadena a few hours later and instruct another one. Or League City, or Webster. I was bullet-proof. Or so it seemed.

My sister and 3 brothers and I are all in our 60's and we share the common complaint of seniors, that stuff stops working like it did when we were younger. I appeared to be blessed in that I could hike down into the Grand Canyon and back out with nothing more than a bit of discomfort to my flat-lander's legs the next day. If I desired to ride a bike 30 miles, no big deal and the next day, it was business as usual. I got the message that I was doing everything right physically.

I was filling in for an instructor at the NASA gym location at 8am and drove over and instructed the class with my usual amount of vigor and enthusiasm and I really enjoy pushing a difficult, high-resistance hill-climbing class. Most spin class instructors are go-go-go with an abundance of very fast lower resistance peddling. Its called sprinting and they add a lot of upper body movements to keep people from being bored. I don't. In fact, I try to stay pure to the exercise and don't do anything on a spin bike that I wouldn't do on a road or mountain bike. To be clear, a spin bike is a stationary bicycle with a resistance knob. I like to push a class where the rider motivates themselves to get the best work-out possible. I am not a "driver". I'm a motivator.

I remember that morning I awoke with a stiff neck, like I had slept on it wrong or something, but by the time that class was over, my stiff neck went from mild discomfort to straight through the roof excruciating, eye-watering pain. I could hardly drive back to Baytown. My right arm was becoming so numb I simply laid it in my lap on the drive home. I was panicking and wondering if I was having a stroke.

To make a long story shorter here I am one year later - better, but unable to resume instructing. I'm not in pain and I can function fairly normally. What happened is called cervical spinal stenosis and what my VA doctor describes as "nasty neck" and affects the top 7 vertebra. To sum it up, the vertebra are impinging on the nerves causing the pain and numbness and headaches, bad headaches.

The Veterans Administration's treatment was massive amounts of steroids and shots and pills, lots of pills and I went 5-6 months this route with little success and lots of discomfort. My blood pressure had escalated and the VA's treatment was simply more meds until I was on a total of 13. Then I got gout. No one in my family has gout. One of my meds specifically claimed to increase the chances of getting the horrible malady. The VA's answer was yet more drugs. I again voluntarily stopped all of them except 2 blood pressure meds and sat it out cold turkey for two weeks. My next visit to the VA appeared that everything had returned to normal except my blood pressure which to this day has stayed dangerously high.

My big break - no pun intended - came when I asked for alternative treatment and began a twice a week acupuncture treatment at Fusion Acupuncture & Holistic Healthcare in Houston. I got immediate relief after the first visit and it was at this point that I began to scrutinize my medicine. I evolved into chiropractic and after 3 months of this, I am fairly back to normal physically.

I have 5 more appointments at the VA between now and June so they can aggressively solve this BP problem and until they do, I cannot push myself at the gym or instruct the class that I love. So, I've fallen off the horse and this horse requires a lot more than simply sitting. It took me over 2 years of constant riding to get in shape to instruct a class on the level members deserve. Can I get back on? I guess its up to me, but hasn't it always been?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The more we learn, the less we know

If I have seen it once, I have seen it repeatedly. A Ford F-250 was used to crash through the front of a business to steal an ATM. I can't recall seeing any other truck used, but I am sure there are other brands and weight class trucks and cars used for this crime. It is so frequent and deliberate, that even our top cop had his truck stolen from his driveway. I asked one of our police lieutenants why they steal Ford trucks and if I remember correctly, they learn how to grab this specific truck in prison school. I say school, because that is where criminals learn their tricks. By the way, our prisons are full of guilty criminals, contrary to what some would like the general population to believe.

"What should I do if I own one of these Ford F-250 ton trucks?" I asked. "Sell it," was his immediate answer. The truth is almost no vehicle is exempt from being stolen if the criminal has done their homework and is devious enough to take on the task. However, for arguments sake, let's play with this a bit. What if the media stirred up the public over 3/4 ton Ford trucks, but took it a step further and demonized all 3/4 ton trucks and the companies that build accessories for them. They push it to the point that if you own one, you are part of the problem. never mind that the only crime you have on record is slow-rolling through a stop sign.

It goes without saying that Ford and possibly Toyota, Nissan, GMC, and Chrysler would have their lobbyists in full combat mode to fight any legislation and anti-rhetoric the media (and Alec Baldwin, Jimmy Kimmel, and the entire gaggle of The View honkers) righteously bellowed. FOMOCO (body by Fisher) would organize incentives to get more people into their high dollar pick-em-up trucks and happy Ford owners would be depicted as flag-waving skinhead rednecks on the youtube channels. Most likely they would also be homophobes and racist too.

There would be a flurry of marches by the various liberal groups demanding justice and somehow somewhere one of these trucks would run into a playground or school and kill some innocent chirren. It would not be noted by any news source that the driver of the truck was a criminal fleeing from law officers. The cops would be portrayed as racist and heavy club wielding incompetents and more fuel would be thrown on the fire.

All across the country, high school and college students would stage mass protests over the use and ownership of not just Ford F-250 trucks, but all 3/4 ton trucks and being easily persuaded and inexperienced, they would feel a sort of liberation and this would give them hope. First and foremost, they would demand softer bumpers and trucks with less carrying capacity. Second, they would want a bill passed that forced current owners to remove the ability of these trucks to carry a 3/4 ton load. "Who needs a truck that can carry 1500 pounds? That is ridiculous! Trucks kill"

One 31 year old bussed-in "college senior" screams at the camera and shouts, "Do you even realize that during an average ATM heist, the truck and damage estimate is almost $150,000 and you idiots can't see that the Ford truck is to blame?" There is an immediate loud chorus of cheers and one student throws a rock and busts out the window of a police cruiser. The angry crowd has signs condemning violence, but is seriously getting rowdier by the moment.

Two months into this media frenzy, counter claims begin to surface on youtube where Ford owners talk about never using their truck to crash into buildings or to steal ATM's. Sadly, the media has saturated the collective consciousness of the country and everyone is sick of hearing about it. But the damage has already been done to many easily impressed people. Their conclusion is that all 3/4 ton trucks are the real bad guys, not the criminals that used them. Happy truck owners never bought into the negativity, so nothing changed there. Six months later another Ford 3/4 ton truck used to steal yet another ATM, overshoots a corner and plows over tiny babies at a day care center and the whole outrage starts again. The message here is all 3/4 ton trucks kill people, not just Ford's.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Our incorrigible hamsters

Coco - Bella - Nunchuck

Like you, we grew up having pets and most likely, also like you, they were more like family with extra privileges, than animals simply living in our house. We had an English sheepdog named Annie that was the wonderful child pet, but she met her demise chasing cars and one day, she simply got a little too close. That was my first recollection of losing something precious. We buried her on the farm near where she was killed on that Michigan country road. But this is not a sad tale. Its about how these furry babies take over our lives and end up owning us.

We have 2 dogs and a good number of days, we also have our kids 2 dogs. Combined, they weigh a total of 40 pounds. All 4 are females and properly spoiled. Coco is a purebred small Shi-tzu weighing 8 pounds. She is 100% Shi-tzu, but as anyone can attest who owns one of these lap dogs, she is part rabbit, cat, dog, and monkey. She's strong-willed to the point that if she is sniffing something interesting on one of our walks, she becomes totally deaf. Neither my bride or I own this dog. She owns us.

Bella is larger, weighing about double and is black and white and resembles a Border collie mixed with a fox. We know her mother is a Blue Merle Pomeranian and Dr. Cynthia Lipps identifies her other portion as a Papillon. She's a barker and sits around the house objecting to every noise and smell, seen, or imagined. In the yard, she is a non-stop noise maker. I love this dog and she is mine and tries very hard to please me. She occasionally has seizures and I hold her in my arms on the floor and talk to her until she comes out the other side.

I cater to both dogs almost exclusively, feeding them and give them medicines. I give them treats as a reward for everything. My bride bathes them. I have a unique nonsense of baby dog talk I invented when addressing them. I refer to them as hamsters to their face. "Good morning hamsters!" I have no explanation as to why I do this and when asked what kind of dogs they are by folks we pass on Blue Heron Trail, I may say they are Weimaraners, or Belgian waffle retrievers. "Oh really? I've never heard of a Colombian biscuit pincer and why do they look so different?"

"They had different fathers." We both laugh and then, because some people are dog lovers like I am, I explain what they really are while Coco let's herself be petted and Bella stands and barks at them. When we walk around the pond, Coco has to smell everything. Bella leaves the yard coming back and as soon as we make the far corner, she is all about returning to the yard so she can bark at people walking around the pond.

My daughter's 2 doggies at Dragon, a 6 pound Yorkie that is totally energized and psycho. She has an intensity about her that only disappears when she is exhausted and has exhausted everyone around her. This usually takes 18 hours. She is by far, the smartest of the 4. This dog has more energy than is humanly possible and if you look at her for more than 2 seconds, she will stare at you and bark non-stop. All 4 dogs are around 9 years old and incorrigible. Cesar Millan couldn't do anything with them. Being raised as sisters, they each are totally different in personalities. For instance, both the Yorkie and Shi-tzu are terrified of thunder. The other 2 not at all. Dragon and Nunchuck suck up food like they are starving. Bella is soft-mouth and carefully will remove a treat from my hand like she is performing surgery. Coco has an under-bite and if the treat is really delicious, she will get your finger by unhinging her jaw and snapping at the food.

The last of the 4 is the one with the sweetest personality. Nunchuck is a rat terrier that weighs maybe 9 pounds. She's diabetic and sadly, we do not know how many more moons she has with us. The poor thing is almost blind and is no trouble at all. She's quiet the majority of time, except when Dragon and Bella decide that something deserves setting off the bark alarm and then she will join them. It takes a lot to get Coco to investigate anything. The 3 dogs will be running all over our back yard yapping and barking and Coco will almost bark, raising up off the patio table (on a towel we set for her comfort) and maybe... maybe growl a little bit. When she does take off running and barking, I call this "Shi-tzu rage", but she won't go far. Its too much effort.

Bella and Coco on guard duty
Each of us could write a book on our pets and if you are a pet lover, you will sit and chat with other owners and enjoy the conversation. If the dog will allow it, you will eagerly pet and talk to it and compliment the owner on its appearance. In closing, I want to comment on my Shi-tzu's dining preferences. It has to be what she likes, or she will simply not eat. She will break us, before she gives in. We have a ritual whereby I announce what I have for her. She will run over and sniff it and if it passes, she will rabbit bounce up and down. If not, well, I'll find something else. 
Like I said, they own us, not the other way around and don't even get me started on cats.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Putting winter behind us

I have a miniature Chinese holly tree (I bought at Gibson's 27 years ago) in my yard. When we moved to our current location 25 years ago, I brought it with us. Its now 20 plus feet tall. So much for accuracy in labeling, right? We also have a Japanese blueberry tree that we bought at Maas nursery that was supposed to top out at 12 feet. Its more like 18 feet tall and still growing. Today, the cedar waxwing birds have arrived to start harvesting the berries on the holly tree and this is how I know we have put winter behind us - well, and the trees are blooming. Pollen is in my eyes and nose too.

The birds land in my loblolly pines and the neighbor's Shumard red oak by the hundreds and in 2-3 days, they will have picked the tree clean. Evidence of their feasting will be berry stains on my driveway. I don't mind.

Valentine Day's rose trimming and the arrival of the cutesy birds signals my time to begin extensive shrub pruning and although I took on this task at least 3 times last year, the heavy rain days we're having mean we are going to have a rabid growing season, just like we had a cold winter. Wasn't winter amazing this year? I say amazing, for lack of a better description. Three snowfalls and at least one sleet storm and I can't remember seeing that here before.

Each year when my bride trims the roses, I feel I must issue a warning about those thorny devil stems being dropped and we've already made peace on it this year. I like the flowers but I hate the thorns, especially when I discover one stuck in me 2 months later.

The number of gray and depressing days have made this past couple of months depressing to many of us. I didn't sign on for Seattle or London, okay? I want sunny Houston weather. I asked my gardening bride how much gardening she is planning this next season, as I need to know how much work is ahead for me. We have a half acre and I mow the pipeline behind our place and a lot of it is landscaped. What I used to take care of in one day, now takes me 3-4 strategery attacks to complete. "Some," was her reply.

The head is willing - the body not so much. I now have to be "in the mood". A few years ago I wrenched my back and it was about this time, so I contracted a lawn service to do this chore. $500 later, they didn't even cut the lawn. I vowed that I will buy equipment over paying for minimum wage labor at journeyman's pay scale. It took 2 slow-moving workers 2 days to do what I know I used to do in about 6 hours.

So, this year I spent $800 and bought a powerful chipper/shredder and I will mulch everything I can to put back in my flower and shrub beds. I will also bag my yard and pour the cuttings and pine needles into it. Like one guy told me, "Buy tools, not labor," and he is right. Am I going to pay a lawn service a ridiculous amount of money 2-3 times a year to do what I can still do, given the right tools? I think not. Sure, loping those shrubs is labor intensive, as is feeding the branches into the shredder, but guess what? I like it. I will hear money going into my piggy bank every time I operate it.

Real happiness and satisfaction doesn't come by having more free time. It comes from fulfilling our duties. I'll say that again. Real happiness is earned. How many times have you paid a "professional" to do something and you look back at their work and realize you could have done a cleaner, better job? I change my own oil. I want it done right and I know the guy who is doing the work on my expensive rides.

My nomadic little birds are binge-eating as I write this and I don't want to disturb them. They have a long way to fly yet. I'm just happy I dug up that tree and brought it here for them. Like I said last week, its the little things that make us happy. Now, if I can just get the sun to shine through those gray clouds.

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