Thursday, September 27, 2018

There goes another summer!

Like many, I have a pretty good memory of our weather patterns and one of the best jokes is there are only 2 seasons on the Gulf Coast - summer and winter. Well, guess what? Summer basically ended September 1st, after a scorching Amazon rain forest August, the likes of which I can't remember. It actually feels like Fall weather.

Granted the weather has historically been unpredictable, but for the sake of argument, we usually have a drought in July that kills our grass. Mowing season normally begins in March and is played out by Independence Day. Not this year and yes, we had a minor drought a couple of times. What we did have was a very wet summer in Baytown. When the growing season begins in March, I may mow my yard every 3 days (because I like the way it looks).

I know I am going to cut my grass a bunch of times over the next 3-4 months and then July will get here and I will have raised my mower deck up at least twice and can slow way down on cutting. Not this year. I raised it once by June and then lowered it again to March levels where it is now. I mowed 4 days ago and it needs mowing again. From a lawn maintenance stand point, this is great - if someone is paying you. I mow close to an acre each time I cut and no one is paying me.

I haven't had to add water to my pool but once and this is a blessing, as the lowered water bill can attest. My Master Gardener bride hasn't ran our water bill up but once this year and that's also a blessing. The squirrels have went absolutely nuts (imagine that) and water birds aplenty have enjoyed the frequent showers. Now here is the downside... mosquitoes.

For reasons I cannot exactly understand, they see me as a blood donor and my bride as landscape, They love me and ignore her. It hasn't mattered how much spray I apply, or how many insect cones I burn, I will get hit by these monsters repeatedly. Now in a very unscientific way, I am going to explain how I categorize the 4 basic mosquito types we have here. Great big ones that bounce off me and are easy to feel and kill. Big ones you can hear and usually feel their landing also.

Normal mosquitoes that sip and leave a pretty good itch behind and I may or may not sense their presence in time to kill them. Then there are these tiny near invisible devils that ninja in and you never even see them until you have a huge whelp that itches and burns for 30 minutes. I hate these to the point that for the last week or so in August, I didn't want to sit in the back yard and chat with my bride while she swings. I tried wearing long pants and long sleeves and they still bit through it to my absolute itching discomfort. On top of that our dew point has stayed above 75 for what feels like a furnace.

I was grateful the city sprayed a few times recently, but then the rains returned and returned. I heard one fellow complain about the city not spraying at all until the skeeters were out of control, but I do not believe this to be the case. My real problem is the tiny marsh mosquitoes, the likes of which I do not remember experiencing in the 26 years I've lived in Chaparral Village. Why do they pack a bigger punch than the other varieties? Their sting actually hurts and persists.

This past Sunday we had our first breeze of the season with a cool front. I am hoping and praying there will be a change in their infestation, as I want to go back outside without being slathered in some insecticidal protection. October is a big month for being outdoors for many hobbyists, like us geocachers and hunters. I love summer, but I am ready for a break. How about you?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Capitalism yes, Socialism no

I am not an expert on political systems or governments, but I like my freedom to choose by voting. I wish I would have paid closer attention in government class. My real school memories were the 1960's and as has been pointed out before, this was a time in our country of great change and strife. In the 60's, Communism & Socialism spread across the planet with many feeling the USA should join the giddy melee to convert.

I enlisted in the military to fight to stop the spread of this ill-conceived attempt to replace Capitalism. As proof it failed, only a few countries now exist as Communist and truthfully they are not much more than thinly-veiled hybridized Capitalists. The governments of this type of structure had to come to grips with the work/reward system of Capitalism. It works and their form of strict Socialistic guidance... doesn't. It doesn't, so why oh why are these newcomers to our political arena think it will?

Are they just visionaries or are they significantly in denial, wishing for a Socialistic system where everything is rosy? To be honest, I think they are ignorant of history. Wow. Really? Its actually the only sound explanation for their insistence that our country move in this direction. Sure, on paper, Socialism and Communism look great, so why hasn't it worked the many times various countries have adopted it?

The basic goal of Socialism sounds great: " Socialism is a movement of both the worker and middle-class, all for a common democratic goal." This would work if the system rewarded incentive and hard work, both a foundation to Capitalism. What it would amount to eventually and I'm sure detractors and political system experts will scream foul, is that it is the equivalent of everyone being on welfare. It encourages the loss of freedom with the promise of more security.

I guess you remember the debacle where the US government stepped in and took over a cat house in Nevada and within a short amount of time, it folded. It had been very successful before the government got its hand wet. As a Cold Warrior with a certificate of recognition on my wall, I find the push in this direction to be both astounding and repugnant.

I also want to tie in that many university students who rally against (fill in the blank), ultimately embrace the "injustice" later in life because they want to "make a lot of bucks" and pay for the nice house they've borrowed against. The next wave of university activists will attack them as the evil bourgeois base establishment, regardless of what they do or say. I find it ironic in the extreme that the filthy rich are some of the advocates for Socialism. Are they really this brain dead concerning history and the redistribution of their own wealth?

I'm not talking Robin Hood stealing from the rich; I'm talking the government stealing everything and doing it legally. Do you believe for a second that countries who embrace this form of government actually all live at the same economic level? No. They don't. The chasm between the lower/middle and upper class is just as wide as it is under our form of government.

I am voting against any attempt to expand government or give them more power over my life than they already have. As I've said before, I will obey the laws and pay my taxes and the only time I want to see the government in my business is when we have a crisis. I would rather have a 2 party constantly arguing circus, than a hammer and sickle Politburo locking me into a role where I have no incentive to produce.

Our local curmudgeons can have a field day explaining away the wonderful economy while they feverishly try to figure out how to give the last president credit. Poor characters lick their wounds and wish for a day when the government tucks them in at night. I pity them for their blindness and poor memory, but I applaud their First Amendment right to spew their version of two minutes hate. After all, I can be civil, as I believe in freedom of speech and don't care if they are politically correct or not.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Living in amazing Baytown Texas!

 FLASH/CRACK/BANG! My bride and I both stood in shock realizing the bolt of lightning hit way too close for comfort. We were in our living room and I cautiously walked over and looked through my front door window. I was sure I would see destructive evidence of the bolt of electricity, but no. Nothing. No fire, no confusion... no confirmation, or so I thought.

Back about 25 years or so ago, I transplanted 5 Kenefick area loblolly pine trees in my yard and anywhere else I could put a tree. Back then Chaparral Village had an rental exodus, as homes here sold and the street I live on had a lot of foliage-free lots and many vacancies. I began offering trees to anyone who would plant one. Some I dug up in the forest around Livingston and others I got from the city's free tree give away program. Needless to say, I planted close to 30 trees here in Chaparral Village.

Imagine my surprise when talking to my neighbor Jerry LeCompte, when he pointed at his loblolly and there is a great lightning bolt groove down the trunk of the tree almost 2 inches wide. He explained he was just opening the door on his Jeep when the instantaneous blast of electricity went through the tree next to him. If I remember right, the power intrusion knocked out some stuff in his house and maybe his Jeep. It goes without saying that Jerry came very close to being incinerated. What a memory he has to pass along.

I recently rescued an Eastern box turtle while participating in the memorial walk for Sam Wingate. It was in the middle of El Chaco Drive and I don't think for one second a resident there would harm it, but someone not paying attention could run over it, so I intervened. I took it about a mile and turned it over to the local turtle whisperer. Yes, he now has 4 in his spacious backyard and as amazing as it sounds, he calls to them with breakfast and they all come to the patio to feed.

This all began a few years ago when his pet dog died and his bride asked that it be their last dog. I can't imagine life without dogs, but he did the next best thing when a lone box turtle crawled under his fence. Well, since this day, 2 more have came along and he had a wooden fence installed. Some would claim this was cruel, but these turtles are living in relative safety and security and each have been named. I asked what he would call it and he said his granddaughter would get the honor. I'll have to get back to you on what she chose.

Walking the Blue Heron Park trail has became a staple for many and isn't without the sharing of information and the gradual mitigation of constant litter and the group slowly catches on that picking up trash not only gives you ab work, but makes the trail and street look nicer. Baytown Parks Super Dustin Schubert has agreed we need a trash can at Barkuloo and Blue Heron Parkway and it will probably be installed at the end of the trail coming behind Chaparral Village. Stick-carrying Mike Williams not only paid a couple of grand to have 2 benches installed, but he is out and about like clockwork each morning at an estimated pace of 4 miles per hour. We exchange information about litter and the current number of walkers and move on.

Jose is a colorful Hispanic man of about 70 who jogs from Baker Road to JC Holloway Park and back nearly every day and is a walking/talking/jogging machine who always shares an interesting tidbit or two. We shared information on the American persimmon tree on the sidewalk close to N. Main Street. Persimmons are like seed-filled candy when ripe and if you pull lightly on the fruit and it drops into your hand, it is ready to eat. Better hurry though, as they are ripe. Each fruit has 6 seeds and they can be planted, but understand it will be 5-6 years before you have fruit.

I bet your neighborhood has similar characters out and about and the only way to meet them is to get outside. What better place to be than right in your neighborhood getting exercise and talking to neighbors? Grab an empty grocery sack and hit the trail. It'll benefit your abs and you might just meet one of the most interesting people of your life.

Monday, September 10, 2018

What would happen if I wrote a meaningful log?

BaytownBert, NavyStud, & Muddywatergirl

Help! I have fallen and can't seem to get up, or is that something I can work on?

I had fallen into the TFTC SNTFTC LOL KCCO logger group without even realizing it. Using various Apps, macros, or chicanery I had removed the human element from my once very personal logging experience. I was simply the longer version of SLTFTC. or "more later" on occasion, telling myself I would come back and finish it.  How did this happen? I am retired for gol-dern's sake. It's not like my time is constantly drained or something, right?

No. We find time for what is important to us. Fact. If we write short abbreviated anonymous logs we are making a statement that the log is nothing more than a requirement. The cache owner doesn't mean a thing, nor the container. "Found it. STFTC!" Never mind that the C/O is a newbie screaming out for recognition, or worse, not caring what they read, just give me my smiley. Mentor? Me? You? What? What tha heck?

"The weather was rapidly disintegrating as I hovered over the delicate dry log and scribbled my strong font-based BB on the papyrus we all hold in such high regard. I mean the stuff is the stuff of life to a geocacher! We simply MUST sign the log. It's like the Icon of Icons! I salute you log and I put my ink upon you! Thank you. See relevant amateur photo. Have you ever seen such a wonderful face? I haven't." GC7RX1P

When I instruct geocaching classes to newbies and veterans alike, I urge them to "write logs you would like to read". Of course an LPC placed by a Vet to help us get through 31 days of August literally deserves a TFTC and a hi-5. I'm afraid the loss of the original intent of a log has devolved into nothing more than a way to record a smiley.

In other words, the numbers have became more important than the experience.

Is it really this quiet, or am I experiencing an auditory issue?

"I wanted to bump up the adventure on this one and it was really hot, sweaty and lots of mossies were flying around my face. I stripped down to my skivvies and crawled 385 meters through the wet grass to make the find. I was so excited, I ran all the way back to Tha Choppa with people cheering me the whole way. Now that's what I call a geocache, or was that obvious? See the photo!" GC7T2VF

Is it true, we ask ourselves. Are the numbers truly ruling us? Sure, justification is just that. We can excuse away almost anything, but our logs reveal something we may not want to admit. Let that sink in. Are we writing meaningful logs, or are we simply doing the minimum for the score? Food for thought, right?

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Just say NO to artificial sweeteners!

About 20 years ago, my brother Gordon told me, "Diet sodas will make you fat."   I couldn't see it and only the last 5 years or so have I stopped drinking them. I'll have an occasional one, yes, but will usually opt for a drink with real sugar in it. REAL SUGAR! Charge!  Yes, real sugar and although not related, I switched back to real butter too.

For a number of years I've noted the alarming number of kids with mental disorders and I remember growing up and not seeing this phenomenon. I lived in Toledo, Ohio in the 6-8th grade and there was one fellow of maybe 25 on the corner everyone said was "retarded". He smiled a lot and was never really outside his house and we would wave at him as we pedaled past on our wheeled iron horses. He was harmless and to us kiddos, a novel mystery. His name was Jim.

Jim is the only kid I can remember who was "retarded". All the other kids were "normal", meaning it ran the spectrum from tame to wild and honest to criminal. Some were over-achievers, others were very studious, but as a whole, most boys were rowdy to a degree. No one ever thought any of the boys had accelerated attention problems. They were boys for gosh darn sake. They acted like what they were and that is the way it was.

List of health problems associated with Asparteme

Something has happened in the last 50 years to create this massive and unexplained plethora of mental deviations. It seems everyone you know either has a kid on anxiety drugs, or is accused of a mental departure from what is labeled as normal. Back in the day people didn't drink Tab or Fresca because they were leery of sodium cyclamates (sweetener code 952) and on top of that, they tasted terrible... but they were diet drinks, so many endured the after taste.

To my personal knowledge and experience, this was my first artificial sweeter experience. Cyclamates are banned for human consumption in the US, but 130 other countries allow it. I don't care, I won't knowingly allow the substance in my food or drink. I will not consume any product with high fructose corn syrup or aspartame. Give me real sugar from honey, beets, or cane. I will curb the amount I use. Better yet, I will mix my 100% fruit juice with filtered water for my "soda" fix.

Its what's in my gym water bottle and works fine without a boost from artificial ingredients like Red Bull and Monster drinks. Speaking of those type of drinks, they are liquid Drano with enough citric acid to dissolve rusty metal. I say no to "energy" drinks or supplements. I've witnessed how much energy these drinks give people and 10 minutes after chugging one, they can hardly keep their eyes open. Its a typical big rush followed by a huge crash. The answer is always to drink more.

If one of these USDA approved sweeteners is present (saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet'N Low), acesulfame (Sunett, Sweet One), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure), neotame (NutraSweet variety), and sucralose (Splenda), I will not consume them. I'm going to avoid Stevia for the time being also, but it may be a very viable alternative.

Pretty much if the product is advertised as "diet or low this or low that" I am going to avoid it and go as natural as possible. I have to start somewhere and this is the line in the dust. I'm not going to make a big issue out of it and I will have to exercise portion control, but gosh, aren't we all accountable for what goes into our mouths anyway?

There is a study that suggests that your brain not only sees the artificial stuff as real, but it responds just like it would with sugar, so why oh why are we being duped into believing it is a diet drink? Aspartame has over 90 documented adverse reactions including mental retardation, Alzheimer's, fibromyalgia, birth defects and the list goes on.

Why is it that country people who grow old eating the pigs they butcher and the garden they grow, ate bacon, eggs, sweet tea, biscuits and gravy and are still healthy into their 80's and 90's or older and we are dying in our 40's? Join me and remove this possibly dangerous substance from your diet. Just say no to artificial sweeteners.

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