Thursday, May 31, 2018

You can't get there from here?

Who would believe it could take almost 30 minutes to drive from Toys Are Us to my dentist on Ward Road? Its a true story. Maybe this is why on the customer survey, transportation ills are at the top of the list. Now I won't blame Garth Road entirely for this particular trip, as it was an unfortunate mixture of mishaps and traffic lights that caused it, besides, there is no direct route to our destination.

I've been an aggressive soul all my life and like I've mentioned many times, the fastest way to attract my unwanted attention is to do something in a car that is... well, stupid. I could say the offending driver is unintelligent, ignorant, dense, foolish, dull-witted, slow, simpleminded, vacuous, vapid, idiotic, imbecilic, obtuse, doltish... or just plain distracted. Incidentally, I have used every one of these words to describe said offenders at one time or another. I was forced to because I don't curse, swear, or use profanity, but believe me, my passionate description borders on those.

I even got very self-righteous when we were on a road trip with a semi-truck congested superhighway. I banged the steering wheel and yelled out to my bride, "They are using our roads for commerce!" I wanted all those trucks to get off the road so I could use it for vacation travel. Of course I wasn't serious... not completely. Have you ever noticed the amount of trucks on I-10? Its astounding and sometimes scary. I think the midday traffic is worse in this regard because the vehicles are usually moving faster.

The other morning we left for the gym and I swear we observed 3 different occurrences of stupid behavior before we got out of our subdivision. One car ran the stop sign. The next drove below the speed limit down E. Baker to Barkuloo Road on the wrong side of the road. The third tail-gated us the distance the car in front of us took to get from point A to B.

My bride appears to not notice these details and maybe that is why she has perfect blood pressure. Never mind, I am happy to expound on each and every one of them. I assure her, I do it for educational purposes only. Let me make it clear that I am not in rage and the one reason is I live a controlled life, but the real reason is I do not understand why people are driving so poorly. Are they simply distracted, or just sloppy in most other ways they live life? I have the same conclusion about litter bugs. Does the inside of their house reflect their trashy ways? I don't want to find out. I just want them to stop.

A real downside to living in Texas is almost all of it is private property. There is no place to take a relaxing drive. You can't just pull off on some dirt road and drive your ATV, side by side, 4-wheeler, dune buggy, or Jeep for fun, so the public roads become our playground. Modern Sunday drivers are everywhere either doing 80 mph, or tail-gaiting you at 35.

Now gas is creeping up and probably won't stop at the $3 mark. My solution is to not drive as much. I am boycotting the higher prices and we've collectively done this in the past until there is a glut in the market. I do predict that the cost of gas will have no effect on the distracted drivers and with my reduced driving, I won't see them as often.

My next question is how come there are so many people on the road during normal business hours? It seems like back in the day after the morning traffic ended, the roads were fairly open. When did that stop? I made an error in judgment when I drove down to Crystal Beach a couple of Sunday mornings ago to geocache and to look at some of the Jeeps that were attending the yearly top off event.

This was a mistake on my part because there must have been 10,000 vehicles trying to get across the Boliver ferry, or make their way back to SH-124. After finding the last geocache 22 miles down the peninsula, it took me 2.5 hours to get to the High Island metroplex. Other than being speed throttled, it was a peaceful 8 mph hour drive. Driverless cars are the only answer outside of a catastrophe of some sort. Its inevitable and my blood pressure will welcome them with open arms. If you can think of a viable solution to all of this craziness, I am all ears.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Weather, whether, wither, or whatever

Is there anything more consistently misrepresented than the weather? For ages it has been asserted that the weather person has the most secure job in the world. The reason being is they almost never get it totally right for where we are and yet, they remain employed. A 50% chance of rain could either mean it will be sunny all day, or bring a deluge worthy of Noah and his big wooden boat full of animal pairs.

In a grocery line the other day I was reminded that the weather has been unpredictable for as long as history has been recorded and also possibly predicted impending doom or even the end of the world. I wonder if the folks in Hawaii are thinking this very thing right now. Or how about the incredible fires that swept through California this past year?

I don't want to get into the whole hurricane flooding thing, as for many are still living in a cardboard box in our driveway, or a van down by the river. The weather really uckedsay this past year for many, if you will forgive my Pig Latin.

I hate hurricanes and tropical storms. I remember after Hurricane Ike, I drove west on I-10 and it wasn't until I got to Columbus 100 miles west that I didn't see evidence of its fury. I remarked that this would be a great place to live. Of course I would never move there as they simply do not need or want a Columbus Bert disturbing them. Besides, I love it here, whether I wither in the heat or whatever.

The weather predictors actually do a good job of predicting Houston's moist weather, but not ours. They cannot accurately predict the effect our 7 bays is going to do here, unless a storm is so big that it blankets the entire large area surrounding Houston. This has become a joke with my friends who drive to Baytown for a geocaching event. The weatherman predicts severe storms in the Houston area and they stay home. Meanwhile, those of us who assemble to hike in the woods or whatever, enjoy sunshine and little or no rain.

I tell them Baytown has a micro-climate due to the waterways around us. Storms come in out of the Gulf and hit Alvin and head west toward Sugar Land and abruptly turn north straight for Jersey Village. For some reason, it turns for Greenspoint and heads east passing north of us on I-10 before hitting Winnie in a boomerang movement. It has happened so many times that I don't understand why it hasn't been noted. This is how tropical storm Allison did H-Town. Some places on the west side got 36 inches of rain and here at the Orbiting Command Ship Central, we only got 9 inches.

Another issue I have with the way weather is predicted, or explained to us is RealFeel. "The RealFeel Temperature is an index that describes what the temperature really feels like. It is a unique composite of the effects of temperature, wind, humidity, sunshine intensity, cloudiness, precipitation and elevation on the human body--everything that affects how warm or cold a person feels". I reckon we are all too stupid to do the math that 95 degree heat and 90% humidity is going to really feel yucky.

When did we educated American people become too mentally slow that we need everything interpreted for us? It has reached the point that a lot of people believe we have 100% humidity all the time, which is simply not true. I would rather they gave us the real temperature and the humidity factor, or pushing the envelope, the dew point. While the way they arrive at the dew point is complicated, the scale is not.

If the dew point goes above 61, it starts to become sticky and by 66 it is going to be uncomfortable. 71-75 is our normal hot Summer mornings when the air feels oppressive, even though it is 75 degrees outside. 76+ DP is miserable. There. That's all it takes and if the weather people began pushing this scale, it would give us a better understanding than them trying tell us how we RealFeel. RealFeel is a poor attempt to explain how we will feel outside in my opinion. Anyway, the next time someone complains about the weather, just nod in agreement. How do they know how it makes you feel anyway?


Thursday, May 17, 2018

What is all the fuss about?

I am seriously scratching my head over the state of our country and the political warfare between not only the 2 parties, but among my fellow voters. Yes, I know discussing politics in public is taboo... or it was until the last decade, so please bare with me a bit.

I didn't vote for Bill either time or Barack, because I did not share their vision for America. I never cursed them while in office and don't intend to do so now. When they were elected, I accepted that as fact and continued my life as before, working to help my family prosper. I did not waste time or breath lambasting or plotting to derail them. I simply accepted them as our President and watched, hoped, and prayed that our country would get the leadership and direction we needed.

Even when things appeared to be changing in what I felt were the wrong direction, I continued to pray for the President and use every opportunity to help my family prosper, as any husband or wife should. I read the Baytown Sun letters to the editor and shake my head over the acerbic and vicious attacks on the mental health of voters who were stupid enough to vote for or against Trump. I truly wonder what inside information Robert De Niro and Stephen King have that they feel compelled to take a podium and spew blistering accusations.
Instead I wonder who is pulling Hollywood's puppet strings. I've read more than one account how Hollywood controls the livelihood of actors who don't take the blue pill. Conservative actors are ridiculed if they speak out against the liberal agenda and those who march to the One Ring are hateful toward Trump and all who disagree with them. However, there is something new on the center stage and it came out in this week's news on Monday.

Remember when Mel Gibson was figuratively shot to pieces when on a drunken rampage he claimed a certain group were controlling everything? “The (redacted) are responsible for all the wars in the world!” the Hollywood star spouted at the time, according to the 2006 arrest report. The reason this simple opinion was blown out of proportion is because in truth this particular group does indeed control a lot of the worlds commerce and media, along with funding, diamonds, and precious metals. Its fact and I have no problem with that at all. It does explain why things are changing.

On Monday, I read that the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem has the Israeli premier praising Donald Trump for keeping the promise no other president could and that was to support Jerusalem as a Jewish capital. A Jewish soccer team has even changed their name to Beitar Trump, " in honor of the US president’s recognition of Israel’s capital and moving his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv". "Today's historic event is attributed to the vision, the courage, and the moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and eternal debt of gratitude -- President Donald J. Trump," Friedman said to a standing ovation at the ceremony."

Now enter Trump caustic critic Jimmy Kimmel the very same day and he has a sudden revelation. " Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel says that the American people have had enough of the type of anti-Trump humor that he regularly spews and that it is now time for him to “make fun of ourselves.”

Roseanne Barr has a new hit show and it's pro-Trump. Imagine that. Saturday Night Live is back-sliding away from politics, as even the cast's own mothers are urging them to "do something besides political jokes". Gee, I wonder why the sudden change. Will Alec Baldwin become homeless? Who is next, Stephen Colbert? Will Hillary suddenly have an epiphany? Will Nancy Pelosi all of a sudden see the Trump train as a great ride? The lady politician can barely finish a sentence as it is. Let's wait and see.

Now I've always heard that whoever carries the purse, they are de facto in charge. Do the math with me. If I own you, you will do as I say and this goes all the way to the top. Over the next few months let's watch this political spectacle for a major change and I hope and pray it benefits the average American.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Information overload is working against us

The recent school bond proposal had a dismal turnout, wouldn't everyone agree? The projected cost of implementing it and the debt it would incur scared a lot of people. It appeared to me to have a lot of "wants" inside it, but the idea of boosting education and facilities (read amenities) seemed plausible enough to cause division also.

On my forum, the subject was dissected daily with a very negative view by some very bright people. The points brought out against it seemed very valid and the reluctance of the contributors was reinforced by not wanting to get us in major debt. I read with interest David Bloom and Bob Hoskin's support of the bond and both appeared to justify its passing, so why didn't more people vote? I can sum it up in one sentence.

No one knows who to believe anymore.

There are simply too many "expert" opinions available. Never mind that many of them are nothing more than talking heads, or athletes, or movie personalities. If Oprah or Steven Colbert are for or against something, many will follow suit and not bother to research anything. We all tend to watch or read the news sources we trust and you have the Huffington Post people over the Drudge Report folks and both groups only read the one they like.
The "news" channels are devoid of actual news and have become entertainment opinion venues with more commercials than actual live news content. Depending on these sources to set you straight on any hot issue is akin to trusting the weather report or thinking the roads are not going to clog up after you leave for work. Never mind that the traffic girl and the guy in the bow-tie said everything was peachy.

I've made the claim before that our ability to pull up any subject at any time on our Smartphone is not necessarily a good thing for our mental growth or stability. In fact, I've claimed the phones are making us stupid(er). And I'm a heavy user. The reason for this is using this device becomes a crutch and a bite-size info tool at that. Everything is served to us on a tiny screen and in short sentences. What could go wrong? Let me make a short example. Texting or talking while driving is stupid and we all know it, but we do it anyway because our usage is important and justified, even if yours is not.

Getting tiny bits of info on our phones makes us jack of all trades and master of none. We are like hummingbirds eating. For every byte that goes into our brain, an equal amount drops out the pooper because we no longer use anything more than short term memory. "What time is it? I don't know, let me check my phone." One minute later we can't remember the time.

No one memorizes anything anymore because we can simply use a search engine to grab a snippet and that is what we do. Now looking back at the bond that failed, I believe the reason many didn't vote is not because they want innocent baby Johnny or Jenny to have a substandard education. The reason was they didn't know what to believe or who to trust.

No one knows who to believe anymore.

In the past, voting on most political issues has been easy. You vote Republican or Democrat and let the chips fall where they may, but now even that is becoming cloudy. We, as American voters are now realizing the real collusion in the news is not Trump with Russia; its career politicians on both sides of the fence ganging up to stay in power. Conclusion by most voters? They are all corrupt and in bed with each other. We cannot trust them to represent us. One fellow even suggested this was true of the school board.

Ex-chief of police, Charles Schaffer once told me that everyone seeking something big or some change has personal profit as a motive, regardless of how they present themselves. I am not quoting him here, but it is a good representation of what he said. By the time a person gets high enough in politics in this country, they are most likely no longer serving those who voted for them. Our city council has openly been accused of this on my forum.

An equal number of people on both sides of any issue will swear they are giving the public "the facts", so what do we get? Confusion or blind faith. I'm a bibliophile and spend as much as 6 hours a day reading and I don't know who to trust or what to believe. The sad future is not that this will remedy itself, but get worse. I'm afraid we are setting ourselves up for a great leader to rescue us. I hope not even though it is a prophesy in the Bible.

No one knows who to believe anymore.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

What's the big deal with tariffs?

Tariffs are used to restrict imports by increasing the price of goods and services purchased from overseas and making them less attractive to consumers. A specific tariff is levied as a fixed fee based on the type of item, for example, $1,000 on any car.

Concerning raising tariffs on China and the trade deficit, we are about to see some changes in how far our money will go and a lot of us are going to be very mad, but let me tell you why it is a good thing.  The historic imbalance the US has over importing much more than we export, is changing right now and what it will mean, at least for a few years, is the rising cost of goods, especially those manufactured by new American companies. When the pendulum swings back and healthy Capitalistic market place competition finally arrives, the price of goods will once again be driven down.

Remember years ago when hamburgers were roughly the same price as they are now? Its because of competition. If this town of (who knows how many are here every day) many people only had one burger joint, the business could get whatever people are willing to pay.

Look for a lot of griping and finger-pointing as the cost of correcting the trade deficit consumes our funds. If the Republicans are still in the majority, they will be demonized by the Democrats and if the Democrats are now in power, they will blame Trump. Any thing but the truth will be offered to explain why it is happening. If eye-gouging were legal, our politicians would all be wearing full-face helmets.

It is vital to understand why prices are historically low, but if you consider the near pass our government has made to other countries via generous tarrif, then you can see why raising the tariff, will retard the profits of a distant enterprise. At the same time, it gives a US venture the time and profitably to start that identical business here, whereby putting people to work, and those people paying taxes. Who will pay for these new ventures? We will, by paying higher prices. The Chinese and other countries will be forced to also raise prices to remain profitable.

Think about this when you see the American version of a Chinese offering on the store shelves. Initially it will cost twice as much for nearly the same thing. I say nearly because Chinese knockoffs on many products are inferior in design and materials. Americans in 2018 are very cognizant not to offer or purchase junk. Its no longer profitable for a company to get bad feedback. The American version will most likely be more expensive, but better quality. As "cheap" Chinese goods disappear off the shelves, the new American made item will be there to replace it. This will take a few years and in the meantime the finger pointing will escalate.

"I have sat in the airport in Anchorage, AK many times and watched one gigantic Chinese jet full of goods land - one right after another, all day, every day. It is astounding and disturbing. No jets leaving going from AK to China that I ever saw." My Air Force veteran sister wrote me this concerning her numerous years working there. I agree with the decision to try to balance the trade deficit and I don't care which party is in control (it doesn't appear to make a difference).

"A sign of the huge trade imbalance for global commodities: 45% of ships travel empty. Furniture, toys and footwear were the top three items transported by container last year to the United States from China, according to Piers, a U.S.-based research company. In the other direction, waste paper and other paper products were by far the largest commodity shipped from the United States to China, followed by scrap metal and raw cotton. In other words, the United States received millions of new manufactured goods and sent back tons of trash and raw materials." According to

Navy veteran Joseph Dykehouse told me, "I made the same argument with some people last week. Let capitalistic competition right here in the US do what it is supposed to do and everyone will benefit. This whole globalization concept has raised everyone else's standard of living and lowered ours. We shouldn't have a trade deficit with every country in the world, especially when we feed, educate, and take in the rest of the world."

Most Americans already have 2 of everything and we are accumulating more everyday in our pursuit of the Capitalistic dream. Evidence of this is when you try to give stuff away and have no takers. Take a peek in your neighbor's garage for a good example. Personally I want to see quality replace cheapness and the first step is to raise tariffs and bring back American ingenuity in available products.


Wednesday, May 02, 2018

What does my geocaching hobby say about me?

Geocachers come in every size, color, nationality, gender, and education level which in itself is not peculiar for a hobby. What is peculiar is we all have a strong sense of curiosity mixed with adventure. How else can you explain a 55 year old grandmother in rubber boots and dress wading across a muddy ditch to find a small box in the woods behind a superstore? That is odd behavior considering she's a court reporter or dentist, or professor. What could possibly motivate this normally prim person to step over blown debris, broken glass, through thorns and poison ivy to possibly wander around "back there" for 20 minutes swatting mosquitoes by the hundreds?

Normal hobbyists do not put themselves through this much abuse for so little return. In fact, this woman's husband, who is an avid golfer, sits in the air conditioned car in the back of the parking lot and watches a YouTube golf match while his obsessed wife side-steps a snake 80 feet away. Normal husbands would be worried for her safety. He's just glad she didn't ask him to join her.

When this normally well-coifed lady kicks off her rubber boots and slips back into her heels, she rattles on enthusiastically describing in great detail the container, location, degree of difficulty, and the many hazards she experienced. He looks at her smile and the sticks in her hair and nods. He doesn't see the allure and fascination of the game, but if it makes her happy and he can stay in the car and out of the woods, he is more than happy to go with her.

My observation as to what common traits we appear to have is elusive at best and I pride myself on paying attention to detail. Wait, that is another item we tend to share. We are detail people. I've often wondered why the police departments don't ask geocachers to a crime scene to find out what they see. We not only look, but we see, if that makes sense and the sooner you develop this observation skill, the quicker you will find the containers or boxes.

Here in the Houston area, it appears to be an equal number of men and women who play the game, which I think qualifies as being peculiar. On top of that, most married people play the game sans their mate. That is also odd for a hobby. Geocachers tend to be more outdoorsy than most other hobbyists. Geocachers are the new outdoorsmen, as we spend more time in the woods and out of the way places than hunters. We are more likely to be in some remote place than any other mainstream hobbyists also.

Geocachers appear to have a nerd gene despite all appearances to the opposite. They also tend to talk to themselves when on the hunt. They say stuff like, "The hint says small rock," or "I see you Mr. poison ivy!" They purchase all kinds of stuff and accouterments to aid them caching and then forget to bring it or leave it in the car. Why is this so and why do I still do it knowing it is stupid? There is an unwritten law which states we must forget one important item when we go out caching.

For the most part, geocachers are friendly and like to eat. They are also generous and will share anything at any time. Cachers are opportunists with the hobby always lurking in the background. Otherwise how do you explain our curious tendency to find a cache in the cemetery after a funeral? I clearly remember the first time I did that.

Geocachers have photographic memories of where a cache is located, but can't remember what they ate for lunch yesterday. They point at various locations whenever they travel about town with their muggle mate and announce, "There is a geocache right there," and always get the same silent response. We will jump through hoops to add a souvenir badge to our profile, or dash like a lunatic to get a FTF on a cache. Never mind that it looks idiotic to everyone who doesn't play. "What? You went where at 3:30am to do what?"

I'm omitting a number of the traits that make us a peculiar bunch, but I think its safe to say there is a very common thread that unites us happy adventurists. Maybe you can write me to add them to this list.

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