Thursday, June 28, 2018

Overcoming Our Biggest Obstacle

Life is indeed like a box of chocolates in that you never know what is on the horizon. You plan for the day when you do not have to go the office, or the company truck, or the commitment to work in a chemical plant on Christmas. Man, we have it all figured out, or at least we thought we did. I've always been told, "Do everything you want to do before you retire, because at that point, you will be physically limited. Bah humbug! Who listens to advice anyway.

Now I want to go on record and say after 15 months of a steady diet of VA visits and pills out the wahzoo, not to mention many visits to the acupuncturist and chiropractor... I was handed a clean bill of health. Not only that, but my cholesterol numbers are in the excellent category and there is no sign of colon cancer or diabetes. A full bank of blood tests reveal that I have everything in fine working order, so why my lamentation about activity?

The main obstacle I now face is you got it, the heat and humidity! Wow, where did this come from? We went from the 40's in April and early May straight into this hell? I wrote about this phenomenon about a month ago, but it needs repeating. The walkers behind my house in CV were having to get a number to walk when it was cool and now it has thinned out exponentially.

My friend Jose likes to get in his 6 miles every day and has had to resort to getting on the trail at the crack of dawn and then because the dew point is at 77, he is drenched before he crosses the first mile marker. We chatted the other day about the real villain concerning our weather and its not heat or humidity, per say. Its the danged dew point. Why don't our weather prognosticators tell us this number? Its because we are not real smart and we need the "real feel" number so we know how we are feeling.

"How you feeling fella" How on earth is being told a number tell anyone how they feel? I would rather they tell me the dew point and then I'll know exactly how I feel. Its a simple scale to be honest. If it is below 60, it feels comfortable outside even if the humidly is relatively high and the temp is in the lower 80's. Take this same temp and humidity and raise the dew point to 71 and it feels oppressive and uncomfortable outside. Remember in early May when it was 83 outside and we had a wind? Yup, you almost needed a light jacket and that is because the dew point was very low.

By the way, this morning the weather person is going to flash maps and wavy illusions on the screen and tell you it is 78 degrees outside, with a slight wind and 88% humidity. The humidity sounds a bit high, but the temp is below 80, so with the dab of wind, it should feel good, right? Wait a second, the real Feel temp is 87! This is because the danged dew point is 75 and that means it feels oppressive. Can it get worse?  Yes, raise the DP to 76+ and now it feels miserable.

So, what can a poor boy do except go to an air conditioned gym to sweat with the other retired people? You could say, "Well, I'll just wait to cut the grass at 6pm when it isn't as hot, but guess what? The DP is going to be right where it started and that means you are going to sweat like a proverbial stoolie.

So, I have the clean bill of health, so lets take off real quick like and do something entertaining, right? Well, this is where aging once again pulls tricks on you. Back in the day, you would simply walk out to your car and blast off. Now days leaving means grabbing your phone, wallet/purse, bathroom visit, bottle of vitamin water, making sure you have your meds, and the list goes on and on until you plop down in your comforter and order pizza.
While you are waiting for the grub to arrive, you decide to check the mail and by the time you get back into the house, you are drenched. I remember spending a week in Wyoming back in 1986. The month was September and up there it was often cold enough that you had to be careful. We flew back into Houston and our first impression was the smell of mildew and this was September. To new arrivals, Houston smells like spores and fungi and stuff that is disgusting.

"How do youse guys handle this heat?" One fellow from Pennsylvania asked? "Easy, we stay inside for 4 months." was my answer and it was pretty much the truth. Now don't take me wrong; I prefer heat over cold, but this combination of moist air and high temperature can really dampen the old adventure spirit. This is why come July, most of us who garden have pretty much given up trying to keep everything perfect. Now we are just trying to survive. "Well, the tamaters are gone! They died of heat exhaustion. There's always next year."

Thursday, June 21, 2018

This tariff business ain't going away

I read Steve Showalter's opinion piece in Wednesday's Sun and I posted a comment in response. If you recall he is qualified as a government professor at Lee College. Seeing that I have a 9th grade education, I quickly ciphered he does not work as a government agent, but actually instructs on how our government works, right? I mean you can't jump to conclusions anymore; that's racist, or misogynist, or something. Oh I'm being intentionally silly, but for a reason and my apologies to Professor Showalter for including him in that nonsense.

He made some astute and accurate assertions and I appreciate that. Tariff's are a sticky wicket, as the Brits say and as old as the ancient trade routes. International rules of trade are almost sacred in some respects and way beyond my understanding for the most part. He cited the negative  impact of raising the tariff on aluminum and steel with Canada and Europe and how prices will rise. I didn't see any comparison on the negative impact Europe and Canada places on the USA when it comes to our dairy and other products. Tariff on milk products coming from the US to Canada is over 250%. To be sure, we have a major trade deficit no matter how it is interpreted by the reader.                             

And speaking of steel, didn't US Steel have a giant facility here until they could no longer compete with foreign steel? You suppose it had something to do with egregious tariff policies? The metal for the Fred Hartman bridge didn't come out of Beach city folks, but if I remember correctly, it was shipped all the way here from Apartheid South Africa after a deal with a Mexican company fell through.

I suggested in my letter to the Prof that all countries drop all tariffs and start over. This of course isn't going to happen and the reason is everything is interconnected and changing one tariff level would cripple other deals and some of them are very old. Remember the delicate balance of trade between India, China, and Japan a couple of hundred years ago? It was all about silver, opium, and tea.

"The structure of the Western trade with China was based on silver and colonial products from India and the Malay archipelago, like silver, cotton, pepper, lead. These commodities were exchanged for Chinese tea, silk and porcelain by the mediation of the so-called Hong trades. As long as the trade structure was kept in balance the Westerners were able to make large profits and commercial relations remained the same. When the trade structure fell out of balance through, for instance, a shortage of silver or the prohibition of opium smuggling, the Western powers resorted to force."

Tariffs can and have led to embargoes and hostilities. It's the old sticky wicket again and sure, adjusting them to favor the USA is going to ruffle international feathers and dip into our wallets. I get it. I am also willing to sweat it out as prices rise and eventually fall back to a safe place. Its going to happen and its going to be uncomfortable for a spell, but if it means a balance in our trade deficit, then I think most Americans would rather eat from the tree every year, than watch the fruit disappear because we gave it all away.

The fat cats that call the global shots and finance wars do not care anything about country borders. They don't give a flip that you have a home in Baytown or that you hold certain ideals sacred. They give you the same amount of consideration as the African bushman or the indigenous people of the Amazon. Their goal is global everything, so a little stirring of the pot is fine with them. Rest assured, world movement of goods will continue. The global economy will survive just like it did when wars, disease, and natural disasters disrupted it. Our world planners are master shape-shifters with a very long range agenda.

I can't help but believe that if the economy would be like it is right now under Obama, the very people who are vehemently screaming foul would be waving his banner and back-slapping each other with rabid abandonment. This is why in my opening paragraph, I joked about Mr. Showalter's government status and his final paragraph that "The real problem facing the American worker is lack of education and training." He adds that tariff's won't fix this very real problem. He is 100% correct on this in my opinion.

Over the last 20 years we have outsourced everything including our knowledge of how to perform certain tasks. Legitimate Mexican immigrants have so many skills Americans lack and unfortunately, we are incarcerating the very people who know how to do things we've forgotten, but that is another subject, isn't it? The answer is trade schools and hands on training for Americans.

This current administration has vowed to make America great again, but it is not going to be handed to us on a silver platter. It sure isn't going to help when the opposition spends a great deal of its time and energy on derailing it. How about we join forces and actually work together to make America great again? There's room for both of us at the table.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

2,000 Immigrant Children Have Been Separated From Parents?

BB's take:  Watching numerous TV news channels this morning, I noticed that they are dropping one word from their reporting which would change the national perception of the separation of family issue. That word is "illegal or illegally".

What is not being reported is mention that the parents have entered the country illegally and this makes the US Government look like the bad guy separating innocent children from their parents. As word spreads people will stop breaking our immigration laws because they will realize they will be treated as a criminal. This especially applies to those who are brought in by coyotes, by crossing a fence, swimming a river, or using a tunnel.

Sorry moms, but this is not really about the children. It is about illegal entry into this country. You do it, you are a criminal and criminals are not allowed to bring their children to jail with them.

Solution? Stop coming into this country illegally.

More misleading news: "2,000 children separated from parents in six weeks under Trump policy"  

The truth?  "To be clear, there is no official Trump policy stating that every family entering the US without papers has to be separated. What there is is a policy that all adults caught crossing into the US illegally are supposed to be criminally prosecuted — and when that happens to a parent, separation is inevitable."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Contributing to our city is a group effort

This is a modern day perception of Baytown in general.
Gene Schdrader's letter to the editor is an eye-opener about perception. It is an example of how one Baytown citizen sees our image and how our city stewards spend our tax dollars. "Two hundred and seventy thousand dollars is a lot of money for Baytown to spend on a sign saying “Welcome to Baytown.” I know the state gave us the money but where did the state get the money? That’s right - us taxpayers."

It is indeed a lot of money. I had the same thought and then this one: "Maybe I could have bid $260,000!" However, I believe there is more in play here than a quarter million tax dollars. It's called tourism and our city is working very hard to fulfill the wishes of the Strategic Planning Advisory Committee in that we beautify our city through park improvements, landscaping, adding new roads and widening others, not to mention litter abatement. In many ways I feel like my tax dollars are being well represented. I say this because I ask the right people a lot of questions and move about the city and observe.

Old Baytown Sign from the 1940's.
Mr. Schdrader then goes on with what appears to be unqualified speculation about ownership of certain properties, which if I read it right are in Chambers County and not in the city limits and suggests "some important person" has thrown a stick in the spokes to keep it just as trashy and environmentally unlawful as Mr. Schdrader suggests. "Sounds to me like a safety hazard and an environmental hazard, where does all the polluted water go when it rains – in Cedar Bayou."

We have a good number of dilapidated buildings (like every other city) that would enhance peoples image of Baytown if they were gone. Myself, I contribute daily by picking up trash everywhere I go. Its a start and maybe if each of us spent more time working on what could improve our city, then we would have less time to gripe about what is wrong.

Notice all the trees Texas DOT is planting in the entire Houston area? They are attempting to give visitors a better view than Chemical  Plants, auxiliary services, and tire shops along the highways. It is working in other states also and that is why Texas as a whole is trying to improve our image as more than an oil producing city/state. What our city needs more than angry-sounding letters accusing people of making bad financial decisions and wild speculation about graft, are suggestions for improvement.

Years ago in the chemical industry I embraced, I would identify a problem area and then before I started pointing fingers, I tried to find a plausible solution. I am still doing this with our city government. If you want action on come city problem, create a paper trail. Write email messages to your council person so you can prove you are trying to help. " You can catch more flies with honey..." honey! Be nice. Make suggestions and follow up on them via your paper trail. I ask direct questions at times when dealing with people in charge, but I make sure to write it. They know I will quote them exactly (not interpret what they said and then write that).

It takes a village to run a village. The last thing we need is doubting Thomas' who only sees the negatives. My suggestion to Mr. Schdrader is to photograph said property and do a little research to see if it can be cleaned up. Then and only then will this specific eyesore be remediated. Maybe 10 years ago I published North Main's Dirty Dozen on and it was picked up by the Houston Chronicle. I cited code violations on businesses with descriptions and photos and all involved sign and landscaping violations. Needless to say it got immediate attention and was remedied in every instance.

Let me be clear that I am not criticizing Mr. Schdrader; I am offering a solution to his frustration, which I fully understand. We can baby-step our way into a truly Beautiful Baytown if we work together to solve its many problems or we can angrily question why no one is doing anything right. Its simply going to be a group effort to be successful.

Council response: 

Good Morning Bert,

Thank you for your editorial today.  It was good. 

As an added thought on the gateway, we want to put this there so people entering our city will know where and what community they are coming into.  We have one of these on the west side, south side and now will have one on the east side of town.  In addition, there are a lot of people referring to this corner as being in Mont Belvieu.  Its not Mont Belvieu and Walmart used to announce "Welcome to the Mont Belvieu Walmart", that is until I talked to the Manager to correct him on where he was and who was involved with getting this Walmart location on the ground (it wasn't Mont Belvieu).  So we will now have a nice attractive gateway to welcome people into Baytown.  And by the way, the city limit is the farthest north curb at the intersection on the north side of I-10 feeder road side.  In fact, all of the feeder road on the north side of I-10 is in the City of Baytown (it goes east past the intersection about 100 ft. I believe).

Oh, one other thing.  The BMX did not make the cut for year 2018 list but is still on my list and will propose again in this budget session.

Thank you,
Robert C. Hoskins
Baytown City Council - Distr. 5

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Vacation done good Texas style!

The Gristmill Restaurant in Gruene, Texas! (Pronounced Green)

I recently spent 4 days with my family relaxing near the Hill country. Its a different world and a welcome change from our fast-paced lives. Is Canyon Lake considered the Hill Country? There are hills there. After nearly 50 years of living on the flat, a hill of 20 feet is a challenge to my old legs.

We arrived in Luling on a Sunday and grabbed some authentic Texas grub at Luling BBQ and it was excellent. When we realized City Market was closed, we were going to detour up to Lockhart to Blacks, but stopped in town and we were not disappointed. I like BBQ, but I do not have a discretionary palate, so good tender BBQ tastes like great BBQ to me. This was explained to me years ago by a foodie friend named BBQBob. Only a select few can truly rate top tier food and I am not one of them. Luling BBQ to me was a top tier food stop.

As an example of tastes, I eat my fried chicken from Hartz over Popeye's because it tastes better to me. If it is actually better is a personal choice, but I question if Hartz would be on a foodies list of the best tasting chicken in Baytown. Speaking of amazing tasting food, we ate twice at a Mexican restaurant in Canyon Lake named Las Barcus Tex-Mex Grill and yes, it was delicious. I think my dearly departed foodie friend BBQBob would agree.
Deer were everywhere and we spent hours watching them feed. This activity kept the attention of my 4 year old grandson to the point that he and I sat of the back porch of our rented house for over an hour and neither of us spoke a word. It was dead quiet as they ate the corn we provided and when the central A/C unit kicked on below us, it caused us both to jump. We laughed for 5 minutes over our unexpected scare and we continued our silent vigil. It was a magic moment of bonding. A 65 year old man and a tiny child of 4 laughing over a shared malady is truly a magical memory. Incidentally, my 49 inch tall 4 year old turned 5 while we were there. I'll be 66 in about a week or so.

I've never drove a jet ski until this trip and at first, I had to unlearn how to drive a motorcycle in order to be successful. A jet ski steers by turning the handlebars – a real no-no on a motorcycle. I kept trying to lean the machine like you do on a motor bike. Nope, it doesn't work. By the time I figured it out, I was going airborne at 40 miles per hour in the middle of the lake. What a hoot!

The Guadalupe River was at a very low flow rate, but we still floated the Horseshoe Loop and it took 2 hours, for those who have done it in less than an hour. It was wonderfully peaceful and the temperature of the water wasn't as brutal. The giant bald cypress trees above us were magical. Just incredible feathery foliage towering above us for our viewing pleasure.

My grandson and I even found time to locate a few geocaches in Gruene! He turned 5 while we were there and we kept it a secret so we can give him a big party back in Baytown!

Back at our rental house, we continued to deer watch and believe it or not, in 3 days, we fed them over 100 pounds of corn. Some may think this is not a good idea, but it is a common practice here. All we knew was they gave us endless hours of entertainment. It is a good thing to kick back and relax in a different environment. Hopefully it is just one of many adventures in store for us this weekend and all of them will be in Texas.

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