Thursday, April 26, 2018

April Showers bring...what?

Cedar Waxwing birds migrating north

Holy Toledo, have you ever experienced an April with these temperatures? I've been living in Texas since 1970 and I can't recall it being this cool. I've almost broke out my long handles. In a confession to my advanced age, I have actually owned long handled underwear with the flap in the back. I am not old enough to have wore the red wool variety though. I had a couple pair as a kid living in Michigan. Looking at the weather in the north, I imagine a lot of folks there are wishing they had a pair.

Even though we are having much cooler temperatures than we normally experience, seeing the snow still falling in Colorado, the Dakotas, and Montana makes me appreciate living on the Gulf Coast all the more. One reason I love our current cool days is because for the most part, we are experiencing humidity below 50%. On top of that, who can remember temperatures in the 40's in April? Where are the April showers that bring May flowers?

Don't get me wrong, I am loving this weather - much of the time. I feel like a caged animal if I am stuck inside and for the most part, unless I'm working on one of my many projects, I am outside on the patio or working in the yard. Our yard is showing how much it enjoys these better temperatures also. Seeing everything is growing very fast, my chipper/shredding machine has already paid for itself. Everything I trim goes through it, cutting and chipping the green and brown refuse to look like oatmeal.

I put it right back in my beds and hit it with a liberal amount of 10-10-10 fertilizer. Of course I would like Mother Nature to lend a helping hand so I don't have to use drinking water to wash it all into the ground. Question: does it bother anyone else to use precious potable water to feed our shrubs and lawn? When a large population of earth have little or no drinking water and we throw it on the ground and simply pay extra, it seems terribly wasteful.

My neighbor collects all of his A/C condensate in a large tub and uses it to water his many container plants. I'm thinking of doing the same. All you have to do is plug the drain hole in the A/C pan and let it overflow out the side of the soffit. He extended the drain pipe with PVC to direct it into a 50 gallon poly tub. It makes me wonder how many other little projects we could do that will recycle waste. Maybe we just have to let younger generations handle it, right? Scratch it off the list as a old dogs, new tricks, kind of thing. Anyway, its just a thought and probably a paradigm shift we all should make.

I like to keep the house cool and it stays on 69 degrees most of the time. In winter, we let the house temp fall to the low 60's or even the high 50's before we fire up the furnace. Now, I'm trying to wean us off the 69 by raising the thermostat to 71. I know. Its hard and a true sacrifice. After all, we are Americans. We want what we want and that is that. Come take my guns, just leave my thermostat alone! Yes, that is an unrealistic compromise, but just as passion-filled.

All too soon, these perfect temperature days will give way to high humidity and a sun that will bleach our bones. Then we will be back in hurricane season and torrential downpours and these days will be forgotten. However, they are not gone yet and if you love being outside as much as I do, please take advantage by eating outside and just sitting on your patio and basking in our great outdoors.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

I am old school

 I remember 78 RPM records. We had an "ice box" and at my grandfather house in Dundee, Michigan you could get a bottle of Coca-cola for a nickel at the granary. I remember walking to the dairy in Morgan, Utah and the man asking me if I wanted "Butta, Chackalate, or sweet milk. I wore Redball jets over PF Flyers and they were black high-tops that stunk like a pig sty.

Gina Lollobrigida was the most beautiful woman I had ever imagined and a new sling shot was the closest thing to heaven I had ever experienced. My 3 brothers and I skinny-dipped in what would now be considered lewd behavior. Geewillikers, we were just having fun. I shot marbles in what was considered MMA fighting back in the day. I snuck a cig from my parents pack! Maybe I snuck one more times than once?

I thought Roy Orbison, Lou Christie, and Jimmy Dean were incredibly talented. I collected baseball cards and listened to games on a tiny transistor radio. I discovered the fairer sex at 13 and it opened up a mystical and magical world that sill confuses, pleases, and amuses me. I learned to pop a wheelie. I mowed a lot of grass with a push mower. I went to church camp and swam in the lake trying to impress the girls.

I got my arm caught in a washing machine roller. I ate a lot of fruit cake the rest of the family disliked. I played Army in post-WWII and Korea with my 3 brothers. We showed the Huns no mercy. I played baseball like they did in the movie "Sand lot". I hate hotdogs, not hamburgers. I drank soft drinks with "cyclamates" and drank water off of water hoses.

I witnessed women becoming blonds over night and the introduction of the Corvair, Pinto, and Vega. I watched the muscle cars of the 1960's pop wheelies and do massive burn-outs. Twiggy, the Vietnam war, civil rights, assassinations, Laugh-in, the beginning of the drug revolution, protests, and the Planned parenthood movement of eliminating us as a species evolve.

Christmas evolved into opening presents day early because no one had the patience to wait. We raked and burned leaves. Everyone did. I cuffed my blue jeans, but wasn't allowed to wear them to school.  Tennis shoes were for gym class only. Teachers paddled us when they decided we needed correction... and our parents backed them up. Playing outdoors was serious business and we always felt deprived when we had to come inside.

Mom cooked and we ate it. We got paddled and more times than not it was mom who administered it, because dad was at work. We had chores and got allowances. We got grounded. We fought sleep and had trouble waking. We did bicycle maintenance and learned about over population. We practiced against nuclear fall-out. We have the scar from the measles inoculation.

We've lived and witnessed many outhouses, rotary phones, hand pump wells, houses without electricity, no A/C, taking my 12 gauge shotgun on my first squirrel hunt by myself and I was 14.  Rampaging everywhere we went as 4 brothers and no one thinking we needed to be on corrective drugs.

Knowing all our neighbors by first names, recognizing every make, model, and year of all the cars on the road, The Twist and Limbo. Maynard G. Krebs and Dobie. "Work!" Sputnik. Bay of Pigs and much later, Baby Jessica. The JFK Assassination. Desoto and Packard. Melmac. Plastic-wrapped furniture.

Climbing huge trees, eating sardines and thinking it was camping out, Hollywood candy bars, blowing in a Milk Dud box at the theater to make noise, banana bike seats and high handle bars, Chef Boyardee pizzas, 3 on the tree, fist fights, Hai Karate cologne, Beatle Mania, and saying the pledge of allegiance in school before class started.

Yea, I am old school and I do not apologize.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Its always sunny in Baytown

Nurture Nature Festival 2017 by Larry Houston

 Did you know that Baytown has a micro-climate? It does. Our 7 bays wrap around our town and keep a lot of bad weather away. If you have ever drove over the Fred Hartman bridge and noticed that it is a different temperature on this side of the bridge, then you are getting the message. Very often the Houston weather doesn't apply to us. For a long time I've observed a storm blowing in from the Gulf toward us, only to go into League City. It then makes its way toward Sugar Land and then turns north for Jersey Village pounding them with torrents of rain.

At this time, the storm will turn east and head for the north side of I-10 eventually dropping copious amounts of water on Winnie before it heads toward Beaumont. It has happened so many times, I fully expect it each time a storm comes in. The only variation is when the storm is so big that nothing can stop it. So, if its been raining a lot here, everyone else is getting it too. Quite often I stage geocaching events here in Baytown for various reasons. A standard event is to simply meet and eat and trade idea, etc. I like to have my event coincide with actually doing something... outside.

We may hike to find geocaches, or have a workshop to learn various stuff about the game. I've been involved in geocaching since 2003, teach classes on it, and yet, it seems I learn something I didn't know. The point of this is my events prove my theory that Baytown has a micro-climate. It can be a 90% chance of rain in the Houston area and folks will arrive for my class with the sun shining over their shoulder. I'm accused of "having a rapport with the big guy" but truthfully, not anymore than anyone else.   

Our tourism department with Anna, Sheree, and Sabrina have been very active in getting activities going in Baytown. The old whine that "there's nothing to do in Baytown" just ain't true anymore. Market square on Texas Avenue if you haven't noticed is roiling with activities. There is so much happening that I can't even keep up with it. This next Saturday is the annual Nurture Nature Festival at the Baytown Nature Center at 6213 Bayway Dr. It is KID FRIENDLY, so grab the kiddos and some cash for vendors and come on out. Say hey to Christina Butcher and Tracey Protho while you are out there for extra sunshiny mojo.

There is plenty of parking the park staff is everywhere with Snake Bracelets, Crab Marsh, Seed Cups, TX Geocaching Society, Watering Hole Golf, Angler education, Backyard bass, archery to name just a few of the booths. The festival is set up to educate kids and adults on the great outdoors, but in a very festive environment. If you want them chiren to get off the couch and do something besides exercise their thumbs, then make sure you facilitate getting them there. Oh, you will find me in Tent 4 next to Baytown Tourism doing my geocaching thing!

Thursday, April 05, 2018

The War on Drugs 101

Drugs come to this country by invitation

 We lost the drug war just a few years after we became aggressive to stop drugs from coming into this country. I'm talking 1975, when a bag of marijuana went from $10 an ounce to $30 and that was just the beginning. By cracking down on bulky and smelly pot, the prices jumped and when the prices got high enough, pushers found it more profitable to bring in heroin and cocaine than the easily recognizable marijuana.

About this time is when we in the Houston area began to hear about people carrying guns and robbing or shooting each other over marijuana. The reason was simple. Now there was a lot of money involved, not just 10 bucks.

Young people who were used to using grass for entertainment purposes, used what was available instead and this included LSD, PCP - or angel dust, Quaaludes, uppers/speed/meth and heroin and cocaine. I'm skimming the surface of what was available in the absence of marijuana. All of this was available for a price and that price didn't come with any guarantee of quality either. On top of that, the prices just kept going higher. Remember when they raised the tax on cigarettes to the point that smash and grab crimes involved grabbing cartons of cigs?

Now, bump forward 43 years later and we have the identical system in place with the identical dismal track record. Of the many heinous concoctions to come down the dope trail is this myriad of chemicals and blends called synthetic marijuana. In Illinois alone, it has recently killed 2 and severely hospitalized 54 patients who after ingesting this substance have began to bleed from various parts of their anatomy. If that isn't scary, please clue me in on what is.

Regulating vice due to our Puritanical teachings has done nothing to stop the flow of drugs into this country. Nothing. If anything, it has created a bigger monster of criminal black markets and dangerous unregulated pills, powders, liquids, and leafy substances that is like playing Russian roulette to the end user. Now if I was with the righteous far right on this matter, I would say it was good medicine, but I am not and they wouldn't be either if it was their 14 year old son or daughter on that gurney at the emergency room.

I would much rather she was guilty of sneaking a bit of Jack Daniel's or sliding a Winston cigarette from the pack than buying god knows what from a stranger. Now mind you, that is an example and kids will do what they are told not to, more times than not. The point I'm making is if they are going to experiment, I would much rather they got their hands on something that is regulated as to type and strength and for what its worth, accidentally over-dosing on anything including alcohol is not a pleasant experience.

Our country gets all up in a frenzy any time a nut job with a gun shoots inside a school and rightly so. However it doesn't make sense to me when kids are using these home-brewed or cartel drugs with unknown characteristics and mass-storming emergency rooms why our government refuses to decriminalize marijuana.

When Concealed Carry first became law, there were many who believed there would be mass shootings, or maybe we don't remember that because it didn't pan out like that. But remember recently when Open Carry was allowed? Again some folks swore it would be the OK corral.  Didn't happen, did it? Legalizing and regulating marijuana will cause a certain segment of the population to try it and those who wish to continue using it can get a known strength product, much like alcohol. It will continue to be illegal to drive or appear in public intoxicated and cops can arrest anyone they suspect of PI at any time, so nothing will change there.
Synthetic marijuana is Russian roulette
What will happen is a number of good things. First, kids will stop using crap like rat poison laced fake pot. Second, the very cartels we've made rich will have to find other animals to suck blood from. Third, people who simply wanted pot for medicinal or recreational purposes will no longer be considered criminal. Fourth, the thousands of products that can be made from hemp plants will suddenly open up a number of business opportunities. Last, there will be a mass educational effort to help people understand the safe usage of pot, as some of it is very strong.

Its time folks. The war on drugs is a miserable failure that has only created a bigger problem. The only responsible thing to do is vote to legalize and regulate it and the government simply cannot be allowed to levy a hefty tax on it. Why? Because it will create another black market.
Black markets exist when restricting laws are enacted or taxes are unduly raised.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

San Jacinto Mall to be Resurrected!

The Mall in all its glory.

Well rumors have been flying for years, but I was finally able to sit down with the planning committee and get the real 411 on our mall. The Mall has secretly traded hands to a large development design firm in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Yes the Mall of America people. AFJ, OKE Architects, Inc. has successfully turned around Malls all across the country by bringing their vision of the 21st century to a 20th century mindset.

As part of the Strategic Planning committee, I was invited, along with city planners and staff members to "be schooled" on what they are going to do. Now mind you, it was blatantly obvious since it was their property now and their money, they were going to do exactly as they plan and of course comply to all city codes, or so we thought.

Our first surprise was they are forcing a de-annexation of the property to lower their taxes to almost nothing, citing the chemical Plants privileges of supply jobs. There was quite a bit of objections, but the spokesperson (who declared she had better remain unnamed) skillfully declared it was a "non-issue". I was simply amazed at her aggressive behavior and how quickly she skillfully backed down objections. Impressive is the right word and I figured if they can get the Mall back in good graces, then this was probably beneficial to the city.

The real shocker though is the plan to "retro" the mall and make it exactly to its original design and a return of what they called a "Flagship" store, Montgomery Wards. I mumbled something along the lines that "Monkey Wards" was the first business to fail and the unnamed spokesperson cut me off declaring "It was because they were 50 years ahead of their time in this backward township. Honestly, sir, you do not know this area as well as you think you do," she said and then described a new/old look alike Mervyn's and list of the original stores followed.

"Baytown does not need to be brought into the 21st century," she forcefully declared by smacking the table hard enough to knock over the paper cups of water they furnished for the meeting. "They need to revisit the 20th century... remedial fashion!" Well, I thought the mayor was going to have a coronary. I know my blood pressure lifted a relief valve.

"The city will be pleased to know the wasted parking space behind the mall will be converted to a 1970's retro trailer park and this will be within city limits for tax purposes." Well, you would have thought she threw a gold brick at us, but we were stunned into silence when she candidly confessed, "You southerners and especially Texans are slow thinkers. You wouldn't last 15 minutes up in Hoboken. Now come on people, see the vision. A brand new mall that no slow thinking Baytonian will have to learn the layout. Its a win win and will make more money for us than you can imagine.

We have stopped all demolition and will rebuild exactly like it was.  A little paint and some caulking and we plan to be back up and running wide open by September 18.  Questions?" As she finished speaking, she was packing up her stuff and turning on her heel, she exited the building with what looked like 6 secret service agents following her. I guess the fact that most "slow-thinking" Texans carry guns alarmed her. Now I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I think a call to the city is in order. The mayor stumbled toward the door shortly after she left, as it appeared her plan had upset him too. Let your voice be heard. Vote no to refurbishing the mall. We need modernization and I resented the statement that we were behind times in Baytown.

Batteries are the future

BB's take: Batteries. We as a country should focus on developing incredible batteries instead of worrying about all kinds of other stuf...