Sunday, December 30, 2018

Get behind the mule, or sit down.

I feel no sympathy for the Republican's who did not get behind the president and were voted out. Their stand to keep politician's positions sacred has been exposed as a strategic ploy that has failed them and the country. What voters want is to stop all the partisan fighting and start representing what is actually good for the country and until they realize this, they can all get voted out for all I care. We voters are like abused children watching their parents fight.

Only anarchists revel is disharmony and any voter who is foaming at the mouth over this president, should stop for a second and ask themselves one question; what has Donald Trump done that has personally made your life worse? Your life, not what some Iraqi politician or a Honduran illegal immigrant thinks or experienced. What has the President done to you personally to make you hate him? Has he made you lose your job like Reagan did to so many of us during Reaganomics?

Has Trump’s wife taken elaborate and expensive vacations on your tax dollar, like Michelle Obama did with her 28 person entourage? Does it irk you to the point you want to drive to Washington DC and protest because he didn’t take a paycheck in 2 years? If not, can you praise him for that unselfish act? Most assuredly not, because Trump haters would hate him even if he gave away hundred dollar bills from his own larder.

Trump is systematically undoing all the neck-choking regulations that has turned our country into a place where there were no jobs and no hope of getting them. The people who voted for him are seeing a politician actually attempting to fulfill their campaign promises and an opposing party that has flip-flopped on everything they wanted and all because it is now Trump who is pushing it. Bush, Clinton, and Obama all wanted a wall and an overhaul in border security, so what changed? Trump wants it, that’s what. If he wants vanilla ice cream, they automatically want strawberry.

Make no mistake, voters aren’t buying all this Trump-hating nonsense and the swamp still needs to be drained. The target is any politician that puts their own agenda ahead of what is best for the country. Call them Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian, if they don’t want what is best for America, vote them out in 2020. Politicians, you have 2 years to get your act in alignment with the American people.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Stop the insanity over marijuana

Medical marijuana can bring relief to hundreds of thousands of people in pain.

 Please, please, please stop the insanity over marijuana. There is no reefer madness folks. No one is smoking pot and robbing liquor stores or raping victims because of pot alone. If they are perverts and criminals, they are going to do what they do regardless if they smoke pot or not.

There is not going to be an epidemic of zombie people because of weed. They already walk among us on cartel pot. In addition, we are already seeing this due to general cell phone usage.
The Democrats are using it as a tool to divide voters. Don't fall for it. Start with medical marijuana. Legalize, regulate, tax, and dispense to responsible buyers. Keep the tax rate low enough to avoid creating yet another vice-driven black market. Create an easy to use scale to reliably dictate the strength of the pot so buyers can safely use it, much like we do with alcohol proof and the heat scale of hot peppers.

First off, marijuana should not be a partisan political issue. Shame on the Democratic Party for pandering to voters over marijuana usage. How blatantly misleading and shallow! Instead of working with the Republican Party for medical marijuana decriminalization, they choose to divide the voters.
"Over the past couple years, more and more lawmakers, including people who’ll very likely run for president in 2020 like Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, have signed onto legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level. This is increasingly becoming a mainstream position for Democrats." Vox

In plain English, people will vote for or against marijuana reform because one party supports it over the other! This is by design and stupid in the extreme! I say stupid because of the obvious medical benefits if for no other reason. Why does marijuana continue to be in the same class as heroin and opiates? Why is a plant that has been safely used both medicinally and recreationally for thousands of years all across the planet, have such a stigma placed on it in the last hundred years?

This is why I try my best to openly educate people on a subject many my age (66) are hush-hush over. Read. Think. Sift. Repeat. I know there are some of my readers who shake their head and think I am pushing things too far. In their mind it seems perplexing that a historically logical writer would think marijuana was safe and okay to use recreationally. It is okay. It is not the demon we were told it was and the special interest groups who would and are competing against pot want it to stay taboo.
“The sweeping Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, H.R. 2 (115), — better known as the Farm Bill, and signed into law by President Donald Trump on Thursday — legalizes hemp production and with it, potential sales of cannabidiol or CBD, a component of marijuana and hemp plants that has no psychoactive properties to get people high. It’s said to have anti-inflammatory and calming benefits, but questions about medical effectiveness remain.” Politico 12-25-18

Hemp and marijuana are genetically linked and the recent farm bill allowing the production of hemp is very important and amazingly overdue. Look at it this way. “One acre of hemp can produce as much paper as 4 to 10 acres of trees over a 20-year cycle, but hemp stalks only take four months to mature, whereas trees take 20 to 80 years. This information was known in 1916, according to a USDA report.” Wiki

The product list of superior products made from hemp is incredible and a downright threat to business as usual from the medical, lumber, and petrochemical industries and understanding this makes it easy to see why it is an illegal substance. The tobacco industry is heavily investing in the marijuana industry and that should have been a no-brainer to anyone watching. I wrote 5 years ago that they were a marriage made in heaven. Anything we can do to keep organized crime out of the pot industry is a win in my book.
So, to review, what must take place is a general loosening of State marijuana laws AFTER the federal government changes the classification of the plant from a schedule 1 drug. “Schedule 1 drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined by the federal government as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule 1 drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.” Wiki
Any rational person can see that marijuana does not fit as a schedule 1 drug.

Research by the government MUST loosen up the procurement laws for research facilities to actually conduct experiments. As it stands, private groups are miles ahead of the government and 99% of the reason is the tedious procurement and over-regulation between the DEA and the FDA. In their words, "A little-known research facility at the University of Mississippi is the only place in the country that is authorized to grow and test marijuana for medical research purposes. But this effort is stymied by a slow process for certifying scientists, a lack of funding and according to pot experts, an inferior product compared to what the booming cannabis sector has rolled out in recent years. “It’s brown, muddy garbage,” said Peter Grinspoon, a physician and board member of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, describing the Mississippi stock." Politico 12-25-18

Education remains the key element here and it is every voter’s responsibility to get a true understanding of what is involved. Ignorance is a poor excuse when standing up to facts and experience.


Monday, December 24, 2018

Time to archive inflationary geocache hides?

  A geocaching primer by BaytownBert (Bert Marshall)  12-24-18
This is an example of a tiny geocache being hidden in an evergreen bush in a subdivision. Neighbors will wonder what you are doing, as you look suspicious.
Since my first find in 2003, this game has exploded with a plethora of ingenious and yes… many poorly hidden containers. For every unique and well placed hide, there are 40 crappy micro/nano caches hidden in places no one wants to remember. The placement screams, “Why on earth would anyone hide a cache here?”

For instance, I recently found an LPC halfway up the drive-thru at a fast food restaurant. I parked in the lot and walked beside 2 cars waiting to get their order from the window. Did I feel stupid? No; I felt uncomfortable, but I lifted the skirt and signed the log anyway. Did I take care (as the instructions stated) to preserve the integrity of the hide from watchful muggle eyes?

No. I did not. In my opinion, this cache should never have been placed here. Placing a geocache in a high muggle area at one time was supposed to signify that it made it more difficult to get in and out undetected. These days you look like a terrorist drug dealer pedophile sneaking around and I simply will not do it. I don a safety vest and walk up like I own it. Of course I try to position myself to block the view of muggles, but frankly, I almost resent being put in this uncomfortable predicament. Was the lone smiley worth it? I say no. More and more often I drive up and seeing the placement, I shake my head and drive off with the intent of ignoring that cache in the future.

Seriously, how do you think you look scouring the back side of a Redbox DVD kiosk in front of a pharmacy? I’ll go ahead and tell you. You look suspicious and that is not something you should welcome or be subjected to. Many of these newbie hides go unmaintained and if it were not for generous geocachers helping to maintain them, they would be archived by a reviewer.

A veteran cacher placed
a container here.
The introduction of Smartphones and free Apps has caused many interloping newbie geocachers to sprinkle thousands of weak hides similar to the one I found at JIB. When you look at the geocaches in your area, there are so many that are totally forgettable. Many are placed in the corner of a parking lot either under a light skirt or 8 feet into the woods among the ton of litter on the ground. So much for CITO’ing the area because there is simply too much trash. After a day of geocaching, my 30 gallon plastic trash can in my Jeep is over-flowing. This literally happens every time I go out to find caches.

I say it is time veteran cachers dump these types of caches from their personal hide inventory and clean up their respective areas for new, higher quality hides. Newbies will continue to litter the landscape with weak hides and nothing can be done to stop that short of Groundspeak putting a find quota on when you can place a hide.

In the Houston/Beaumont area of Texas, there are thousands of poorly planned hides, sprinkled almost in a random fashion. I still own some of them that I plan to archive. It’s as if there was no forethought went into the hide. Sure its fun to log 10 quick hides, but the truth is nothing was gained other than 10 smilies were added to your total. Easy caches placed for travelers can be excused from my rant. I believe in accommodating travelers as a safety issue. Get them in and out of their cars and back on the road.

Plan your caches. Do the homework.
I currently have 187 active geocaches even though I recently archived 125 to make room for new hides, or just to flush the toilet on uninteresting hides. I am putting my money where my mouth is. No one seemed to notice and the reason for this is there are many thousands of caches available and the bulk of them are weak in placement. It’s true. The descriptions and hints are either absent or vague and it appears the planning stage was absent also. As an example, one forum user wrote they intended to put out a power trail of 50 LPC’s. My eyeballs almost popped out in disbelief over that post.

Another example of what I am saying is I archived 29 caches in a series to make them more suitable to children. I could have simply rehid each cache with a new container, but I wanted to start over. The original series took folks down a seemingly haunted country road and each container was well hid. The new series are all (small or larger) black and have a red lid to help kiddos find them. I want them to find them, so each cache also has a good hint. The series for veterans will be easy peasy and a quick 29 caches, but for newbie’s it will be a training ground for further adventures.

Hopefully their success will excite and educate them enough to tackle the harder geocaches. The outcome could be that they will continue to play the game for more than 2 weeks and hold off hiding one until they learn more about the game. The landscape is constantly littered with inflationary and meaningless caches regardless of how much scrutiny the reviewers use. World’s of information is currently available on cache placement and seeing that veterans can eliminate their own low quality hides, the game could be invigorated again. It surely needs a shot of adrenaline, IMO.
Is it time for a moratorium on LPC's?

The same is happening with events and I’ve written about this before in another primer. Make events more than just a meet and eat. At one time years ago, there were maybe 6 events planned for the Houston area over the next 2 months. Currently in this same area there are 20-40 events scheduled at any given time. There are so many events that attendance is usually under 10 people. Like the low quality hides, events are meaningless other than to eat or to talk to the same 6 people and no one bothers to post photos. It has become so pervasive that I’ve all but stopped hosting events. Now if you live in an area of few caches, then forgive me for this suggestion, but it may still apply. Don’t fret archiving them to place better caches. Build it and they will come.

Hide a variety of caches for all skill levels, but a “power trail” of cricket micros in evergreen bushes might need to be reconsidered. Plan it in such a way that geocachers will give your hides favorite points and you will know you are doing it right.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Chasing Geotour Coins and Swag

 Back a few years ago, my mentor HoustonControl and I set forth to help launch the Baytown Texas Geotour GT7A. Our city has a very friendly tourism department and we are basically a tri-city area that consolidated years ago around the Goose Creek oil field. Our city has a lot of history the Geotour could exploit and the two of us archived our own caches in many cases to accommodate the history and the Geotour.

We were very excited about getting a Geotour and to this day, still support it. Often while the tourism department is away from the city, I maintain and repair the caches needing maintenance and/or restock the containers with city donated swag. In short, the Geotour is a wonderful addition to the +/-500 available caches in this town and surrounding area. We take pride on keeping our caches well maintained.

All of this was stated to bring to light an effect I did not see coming.

Experienced cachers only come to Baytown to do the Geotour, or lately a series of Lab caches whereby they get more swag. This has become so apparent in the last year that my 200+ active caches are almost completely ignored. Very close to one of the Geotour caches parking lot (400 feet) is a large container, letterbox hybrid, and Travel Bug hotel with (at the moment) 14 trackables - BB's HoustonControl Tribute Cache!  GC7Q27B. Very few make the short trek to log it.

The closest geotour cache has been logged 60+ times in 2018 and the TB motel 14 and 4 of those were Baytownians. Here is the crux of the biscuit, as Frank Zappa would say; are we becoming so obsessed with getting a geocoin that we rush past geocaches to earn one? If that is the case, think on this a bit. Where is our geocoin and trackable inventory stored? Mine is in a zippered bag in my closet and weighs about 10 pounds. Lately I’ve been thinking of dropping every single one of them in geocaches, as they have long lost their importance to me.

I spent 3 days in Brenham recently (Birthplace of Texas GeoTour (GT2F) )and concentrated on every geocache I encountered. Many were on the list of the geotour, but guess what? I still need a good number to get the coin. Maybe next year? Maybe not. I had fun and spent time with a number of the local cachers (SockMonkey69 & BlueStarsForever). I wanted to smell the roses in Washington County, not run myself into a Geocoin frenzy.

Am I trying to throw cold water on Geotours, lab caches, and trackable murals? No, I am not. What I am saying is maybe we are playing the game too fast. Maybe running a macro in GSAK to bypass everything to get to point A and B in the most efficient manner is a boo-boo. Should we pursue the Geotour? Yes, but is the coin really all that important to us? It’s not to me. I have a stack of unactivated trackables to give away at my events, but seeing there are so many events now in the Houston area (+/-30) a travel bug will hardly tempt anyone to attend an event 30 miles east of Houston.

I also understand that this appeal is less giggly happy of the usual fare for FTF Geocacher magazine and more food for thought than anything. If those of us who have played this game for many years stop and stare at why we are playing and remember how exciting it was in the beginning, I do believe we would be all be in agreement that chasing a geocoin doesn’t make all that much sense. Most of us when arriving at Geotour #1 are thinking only about #2, #3, #4 (etc) and not how cool the historic location is. Zipping through them like a chainsaw and getting the heck out of Dodge before the sun sets is our driving force. Our oft-published logs are evidence we thought the cache was quite unremarkable.

Am I right or am I wrong? In my city, the Geotour has almost stopped outsiders from hunting the local caches. Now with that said, I have changed tactics on my own cache hides. Right off the bat, I archived over 80 of my geocaches leaving me with 180+ active caches. I redid one series of 10 and another of 29 to kindle interest GC7ZM4V & GC2HQV6 – hopefully. One by one I need to figure out a way to lure people off the “hell bent for leather” attack on the Geotour and get them to look for one of mine or others while here in Baytown, Texas.

I’ve found that if I hide a cache like this one GC7KRVQ - BB's Zombie Head Trip cache! (truly unique and “evil”) – nobody will look for it. If I hide an easy multi, I get the same response. So, what I have to do is make my caches more accessible to newbie’s with low D/T ratings so they can see them with the free App and hope I will light a fire under them to step up. Once this happens, I can send them a note to look over my geocaching primer page:

Am I saying I am going to place a slew of low quality LPC-type caches? Nope. I’ll hide them as best as possible, but I will include enough cryptic hints to spark excitement with new and old alike. Just like we did in the old days. No one has to look at the hint if they don’t want to, right?

If everything goes right, they just might become a geocaching powerhouse and I will have contributed to the game big time. Imagine the enjoyment both of us will experience!

Why are you hiding geocaches?

If you hide it, make sure people can actually find it, right?

Let’s face it; the urge to hide a geocache is as strong as the Force, but knowing how to control and direct it can be just as touchy. On the surface the only real task is getting good coordinates, a container that will stand up to setting in the woods for a couple of years and still be good, and a really good hide… that no one can find, right?

Well, the first two points are good, but let’s take a look at the “real hard to find” part. There is a reason for the difficulty/terrain grid and it is often very misleading. The most common occurrence is when a newbie hides a cache under a light skirt and publishes it as a 4.5 difficulty. We’ve all seen evidence of this, but what about the veteran cacher who does the opposite, making their cache as misleading as the newbie?

I can deal with the newbie’s submission, as quite often their inexperience causes unorthodoxy and confusion – never mind the cords being off 78 feet. Where I find the most frustration is when I look for a geocache placed by a veteran and the D/T grid is very low, the container is a micro or smaller, no hint is posted, and the container placement could disguise 500 caches.

In the words of my mentor friend Kirbydox (36,000+ finds), “Do you want people to find your caches or not, Bert?”

She told me this a few years ago when a group of us were discussing this very real phenomenon. My answer was “I do indeed,” and all of us nodded in agreement. She then went on to say that this is the reason she posts a hint on her hides (100+). “It’s their business whether they look at the hint or not.” I adopted this philosophy immediately and over time have been revising my older caches as I do maintenance on them to facilitate seekers.

Now let’s look at who we are targeting when we place a cache. Seeing there is a large deviation between people in wheelchairs, or health problems that restrict their physical movements and the tri-athletes who play this game, it is only realistic that we decide who we are trying to target. The answer should be obvious in that we tune the hide and description, along with the hint to target each demographic. This area is in deep need of attention by those of us who fancy ourselves as hiders.

If it is indeed a truly evil hide, then of course no hint is in order, but if it is a 2.0 difficulty and is the size of a DNA tube in a stand of bamboo and no hint, what you have just placed is nothing more than a mean hide – nothing evil here at all. You are going to stall a geocacher looking for a needle in a haystack and frankly, there are too many of these crummy hides as it is, IMO.
A few years back I placed a series of about 10 caches alongside the feeder road on Interstate 10 (I-10) with the intention of luring travelers to get out of their car and take a break. It was called the “Keep on Trucking series”. It did not attract any that I could see, so after much thought, I archived them and set out new containers - BB's (1) I-10 Take a break series! GC7ZM4V and there are ten of them. Each container is one of my Berty Tubes painted black with a candy apple red top. The intention here is for travelers to make a quick find on ten caches. The D/T rating on all ten is 1.5/1.5 and I give directions as to how to ingress and egress all caches from either direction. It’s new, so let’s see if it works. I see it as a public service and a safety issue.

All of us have swerved off the main road to grab an easy cache only to spend 10 minutes looking and finally give up. Sure we got out of our car/truck and yes, it was a good thing, but without a smiley, it wasn’t worth stopping. In fact, it can make a cacher angry. YMMV.

I have another series I placed about 8 years ago that I archived recently and placed 29 new caches, leaving #1 with 64 favorite points: BB's (1) "Curse of the Goatman" Series GC2HQV6. Initially I placed it as a fun series for families with kids. Each one was clueless and difficult to find and all were black. It had a very good run, but guess what? 8 years ago there weren’t a bazillion caches for people to find like there are now and people these days appear to be obsessed with power trails they can almost grab from their car window. No one these days wants to spend 30 minutes looking for a low D/T rated cache and I don’t either.

With the advent of the Smartphone and non-premium members attempting this game, folks are making more caches premium to avoid muggles, added maintenance, and some admit not wanting non-premium members access to the game. Really, it’s true. I on the other hand see it in a different light. I want the newbies with phones and Apps to look for my caches and maybe, just maybe, they will get the bug and be the next Kirbydox, Team Troglodyte, HoustonControl, or ParkerPlus. This is just one reason I teach classes and write Geocaching 101 primers.

With the proliferation of almost inflationary geocaches popping up everywhere, it might just be time for us veterans to look at our hides and make some adjustments.

The real poop on the Ukraine

Mitt Romney’s top adviser, Joseph Cofer Black, joined the board of the Ukraine energy firm, Burisma, while Hunter Biden was also serving on ...