I’ve never been the type of person to be overly patriotic.  I’m too cynical and sarcastic to wave too many flags, or tear up at displays of blind patriotism.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my country, my state, my city.  I am sometimes even cynical about he overall actions of humanity.  These personal traits tend to cover up my deep seeded belief in the goodness of humanity.  It is there, I just have a hard time expressing it, but the events of the last few days have compelled me to express my beliefs a little more honestly.

I have been absolutely incapable of a decent night of sleep.  Not because of fear, anger, or concern.  I just keep thinking about the people who rushed in to help the victims of the bombing in Boston.  The National Guardsmen who jumped into helping the victims, doing their duty automatically, with no regard to themselves.  Sure, they are trained, but this was not a war zone, they are not on duty (ok, maybe they always are).  To me, that is a sense of immense pride.  To see how the national guard, actually went to work guarding the innocents in Boston, that is a reminder of all the good that still exists in our military.

My thoughts are also focused on people like Carlos Arredondo, who lost both his sons due to war or depression.  This is not a man trained for combat, he was a grieving father, that has dedicated his life to bringing focus on the issues regarding PTSD, depression etc.  He pushes for peace, and caring of others.  In the middle of this carnage, Arredondo jumps in to help, no regard given to his safety. Arredondo rushes to help and just holds an artery shut for a man who has lost his leg, saving his life. Arredondo is an immigrant, and that is significant to point out because this is a country of immigrants. People whose families have come from different places and cultures.  This is the crossroads of humanity, and the actions of the all of the bystanders in Boston prove that humanity will jump in and help when faced with adversity. People will do this in spite of the malevolent actions of another.  To see love and caring win out over anger and hate is a wonderful thing.

I am immensely proud of the people in my life, despite disagreements on trivial, or even major, issues.  In the face of the horrible things that have happened, they have stood together on wanting justice to be done.  Perhaps this sense of justice and caring isn’t just and American ideal.  Americans are not unique in their pursuit of justice, or in their capacity to care. They are human traits, that may be easier to express in a nation such as the US, but they are traits that will always come to the surface. The actions of the “Helpers” remind me of a quote:

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee

The human spirit is “like water”, always changing to adjust new challenges, but remaining the same.

Trip to Big Thickett

As some of you know I’m taking courses for my masters in History.  One of my courses is the History of Environmental Thought.  This is a quick synopsis of a trip I had to write about for that course.

One of my greatest joys is a quick trip to Big Thicket for an overnight camping excursion.  I don’t get to do this very often, but I find that it is always worth the effort.  Big Thicket is large enough to allow an escape from the noise and influence of civilization, however it is close enough for me to make a quick trip to it on a weekend.    Perhaps it’s just my perspective, but leaving Houston, and driving past Beaumont and into Big Thicket always puts me in the mindset to appreciate nature.  Passing the smoke stacks and refineries on I-10 always leaves me feeling a little sad for the cost of modern life.  Leaving that scene, and entering a forested area serves as a reminder that it is possible to keep nature in tact, despite the sprawl of “civilization”.

My trip to Big Thicket was in early March, I decided to head out early so that I could walk to winding Kirby trail, and setup a campsite while it was still light out.  Big Thicket is about 30 miles north of Beaumont, and consists of about 105,000 acres of preserve.  It is full of large pine trees, and stands at a kind of natural crossroads between the Piney Woods of Texas and the gradual swamp environment of Louisiana.  I took the time, during this trip to, visit the visitor center and to browse their information regarding the history of Big Thicket.

The original area of Big Thicket was surveyed in 1936 and consisted of over a million acres of land.  No formal protection was afforded the area until 1976, when it became the first National Preserve.  The problem with this is that the land compromising the National Preserve is not contiguous, and the greenbelts connecting to them may belong to the timber industry or other economic interests.  The proximity to Beaumont and Houston, as well as the legal drilling for oil add to the threats that Big Thicket face.  Economic and urban development threatens the peace and sanctity, as well as the stability of the park.

After reading up on the park history, and making note of the possibility of running into Black Bears, I started down the Kirby trail.  The park itself doesn’t have any set camping sites. You are allowed to camp in the reserve for free, but you have to be about 200 feet from the trails.  I’ve camped here about 3 time previously, so I walked about 2 miles down the trail and took a hard left into the forest where I knew to find a relatively clear, and hopefully bear free, area.  This will be a quick trip for me, a day to hike the trails and a night away from the noise pollution of the city.  I found my usual campsite, and I setup my tent and unload the bulk of my pre-processed, “just add water” supplies.

After setting up my site, I begin my hike up the Kirby trail.  The Kirby trail loops around several areas, and it is from here that I can head towards my goal, the Sandhill Loop, which gives me a good view of the diversity of the area.  Thus far, the hike around my campsite, and into the park was full of large pine trees and full of the sounds of birds.   What I love about the Kirby trail is how it leads to parts of the reserve that are drastically different.  You can hike the five miles of the Sandhill Loop and see Cypress trees and boggy areas that contain pitcher plants, and other things that I would associate with a swamp.  I particularly love the Cypress trees and the boggy areas.

It was too early in the year to see many flowers on my hike, and that was a disappointment, however the bigger disappointment was the occasional sound of what I assume was machinery in the distance.  It’s not something that you would notice while in the middle of Houston, but it seemed eerily out of place while at Big Thicket.

Before it got too close to sunset, I headed back to my campsite, trusting that nobody would have disturbed my tent.  Thankfully it was a quiet day, and I came back to an undisturbed campsite.  I decided that water and jerky would be a good enough meal for a chilly March evening and I settled in.  The only drawback to camping in Big Thicket is that the trees obscure your view of the night sky, but that was well worth it for the illusion of isolation.

I did hear something walking around in the middle of the night; I assumed that it was too early for bears to be lurking around, so I ignored the sound.  In the morning I found tracks around my tent that probably belonged to a small fox.  I had observed some opossums before going to bed in the distance, and I know that there were more snakes near me than I cared to consider.

Overall, Big Thicket never ceases to amaze me, and I do plan on making an extended trip soon, so that I can see the other trails that I usually don’t have time to visit.  Talking to the Park Ranger, I realize that even 100000 acres of Reserve land can still be at the mercy of industrial development and contamination from the city.  It is important to push for further funding so that this beautiful park can continue to be preserved and cherished.


My home-made pizza recipe. 🙂


  • Dough
  • 10 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups flour
  • Sauce
  • 4 Roma tomatoes diced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1clove of garlic, minced
  • 1tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons course black pepper
  • 1tbsp oregano (dried)
  • 1tbsp rosemary
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 1 can (8oz) tomato sauce
  • Toppings:
  • 1/2 pound Mozzarella, torn
  • 1/4 pound shredded Parmesan.
  • Pepperoni, Browned Italian sausage, or whatever topping you wish.


  1. Dough:
  2. Wish yeast into the water until dissolved. Stir in the honey, olive oil and salt. Add in the flour and work it with your hands until the dough forms. Add more water by the tablespoon if necessary. Place the dough in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap until it doubles in size, about 1-2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to the highest temperature
  4. Sauce
  5. Place onions, garlic and olive oil in a sauce pan. Fry and stir until the onions start to become transparent. Add in the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer on medium for about half an hour.
  6. Once the dough had doubled, place on a floured surface and hand toss or roll out. Place the dough on a pizza pan (12inch). Spread the sauce evenly, and cover with the shredded Mozzarella and grated parmesan. Place the desired toppings and bake for about 10-15 minutes.


Brave? Nah….

Rachel Maddow is my platonic crush.  I would gladly sit in a room and listen to her spew awesome all day.  Recently she called out Senator Rand Paul for being a liar.

The Republicans are in the middle of their “minority outreach” program.  The thought that it takes a concerted effort for them to reach out to minorities should be enough of a sign that they will probably fail at it.  Why do they have to strategize on how to appeal to minorities? Maybe they should re-evaluate their “moral compass”.  I think it’s stuck on “asshole”.

In any event, Maddow calls out Senator Paul in typical awesome fashion.