Dogtoothed Dogfight

In this corner, Mona "Don't Mess With My Teeth" Lisa

In this corner, Mona “Don’t Mess With My Smile” Lisa

And in this corner, Peone "The Alpha Hygienist"

And in this corner, Peone “The Alpha Hygienist”

Yesterday two of our wiener dogs, Mona Lisa and Peone, got into a fight. Mona Lisa is a 13-year-old cranky Tasmanian Devil. Peone is a 5-year-old hyperactive ball of energy, and the alpha female of the house. Although she’s small and the youngest, her unsuppressible energy makes her the leader of our pack of four dogs.

Peone loves to clean Mona Lisa’s dirty, stinking, rotting teeth. Usually Mona Lisa tolerates this intrusive activity, much as we humans tolerate the dental hygienist who picks, scrapes and grinds away at our ivories, every six months, as we dig our fingernails into the naugahyde arms of the chair.

But yesterday Mona Lisa had enough, and she bit Peone’s tongue. The fight was on. My wife broke it up and gave Peone a severe scolding.

Was my wife in the wrong? After all, Mona Lisa’s old teeth truly are rotting out of her head, and perhaps it’s for her own good to have her teeth cleaned regularly by her sister, whether she likes it or not.

What Makes Them Bloom?

A Joshua tree forest. As you can see, Joshua trees are not fit for climbing, unless you're wearing a full-leather suit.

A Joshua tree forest. As you can see, Joshua trees are not fit for climbing, unless you’re wearing a full-leather suit.

Joshua trees are in mass bloom in the Mojave desert this year. What makes these crazy trees bloom? Your smartass answers are always welcome, and would be as good a guess as anyone’s. But conventional wisdom, and Wikipedia, claim that rainfall and a hard freeze is required.

Joshua trees bloom in late-Winter, with most blooms gone by the first day of Spring.

Joshua trees bloom in late-Winter, with most blooms gone by the first day of Spring.

It seems the wise, Wikipedia-types weren’t around eight years ago. That’s when a drought brought zero rain to our desert over the winter. And yet nearly all the Joshua trees bloomed. During normal years you’ll see a smattering of blooms–a tree here, a tree there, but with most barren of blooms. And some years, hardly no trees bloom at all.

Some blooms take on a dark pink hue.

Some blooms take on a dark pink hue.

However in 2008, botanists were baffled to see almost every Joshua tree in rare, full bloom. And this during one of our driest winters on record. So what caused the mass bloom? Scientists came out from all over to study the phenomenon, but never figured it out. They’re still scratching their heads.

An early bud.

An early bud.

A bud just beginning to open. Looks kind of like an artichoke.

A bud just beginning to open. Looks kind of like an artichoke.

Many blooms are creamy white, without the pink.

Many blooms are creamy white, without the pink.

The Joshua tree got its name from Mormon settlers who thought it resembled the biblical Joshua lifting his arms in the air in praise of God. I think they should be renamed the “Seuss Tree” since they look kind of like trees found in Dr. Seuss books. The botanical name is Yucca brevifolia. This means yucca with short foliage. Joshua trees have short, spiky leaves, as opposed to most yuccas with much longer spikes. Yep, those spikes are technically leaves.

I wonder if Dr. Seuss saw these trees before illustrating his famous books?

I wonder if Dr. Seuss saw these trees before illustrating his famous books?

Joshua trees can live up to a thousand years. They only grow in the Mojave desert of California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. Some say they also grow in Israel, but this is a myth. The only Joshua that grew in Israel was the biblical Joshua, who never saw a Joshua tree in his life.

This looks a bit like an ice cream cone.

This looks a bit like an ice cream cone.

Today you can find tens of thousands of these trees growing in Joshua Tree National Park, California. But global warming is causing it to depopulate its southern range. Botanists fear that by the end of this century it will no longer be found in its eponymous park.

Looks almost good enough to eat. But the taste is bitter and soapy.

Looks almost good enough to eat. But the taste is bitter and soapy.

The Joshua is a strange, grand, majestic tree to behold. I feel kind of sorry for those who’ll live here a century from now. This desert will look rather bland without them.

Close-up of the flower petals.

Close-up of the flower petals.

Harry Browne

My thumbworn copy. Could be a collector's item, since it's out-of-print. But no, I'm not selling it.

My thumbworn copy. Could be a collector’s item, since it’s out-of-print. But no, I’m not selling it.

Harry Browne died ten years ago today. Harry who, what the heck? Harry Browne. He was a candidate for U.S. President, you know.

I was in my 20’s. I was depressed and suicidal. I was broke and my life was going nowhere. Then I picked up the book How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, by Harry Browne. This great book is now out of print, and that’s a shame. It applies libertarian philosophies to the traps we find ourselves in life, and shows you how to free yourself from those traps. Browne describes traps such as, The Morality Trap, The Group Trap, The Government Trap, The Despair Trap, and so forth.

Harry Browne was a disciple of Ludwig von Mises, who had a heavy influence on the libertarian movement in the mid-20th century. I, myself, became a disciple of Harry Browne. I applied his teachings to my life, and really did turn things around. I shook off my dependence on others and embarked on a path of self-determination. I pursued the things in life that truly made me happy. I found a successful career. I met my current wife, and we’ve had a close, loving relationship for nearly a quarter century now.

I owe a lot to Harry Browne.

In the early days of this freedom path, I was a perfervid proselyte of libertarianism. I crafted my own moral code, avoided group efforts, and regarded government with great skepticism. Harry Browne’s advice was that government does not solve any problems, and I took that to heart.

You can mine a lot of valuable gold from the libertarian philosophy. But beware of the fool’s gold. No one can be completely independent, as wonderful as that sounds in theory. Reality checks have moderated my passion. Apparently they moderated Browne, also.

Harry augured against being caught up in the Group Trap and the Government Trap. But he also gave investment advice, which included investing in stocks. Stocks are issued by corporations, and corporations are group efforts. Also, corporations cannot exist without government laws and charters. So we must fall into the Government Trap if we want to follow his advice and invest in stocks.

Harry Browne even ran for president, winning the Libertarian Party’s nomination in 1996 and 2000. In 1996 he garnered 485,798 votes. One of those votes was mine. So he and I were both kind of caught in the Government Trap, he by running for office, and me by voting for him.

He was an investment analyst for most of his life, and developed the permanent portfolio investment strategy. It’s designed to protect your assets from large losses. However it also make spectacular gains virtually impossible.

In 1970, he authored the book How You Can Profit from the Coming Devaluation, where he accurately predicted the devaluation of the dollar, and a sharp rise in gold prices. Had you abandoned the permanent portfolio strategy and followed his advice in that particular book, you would have made a fortune.

In 1989, he authored the book The Economic Time Bomb: How You Can Profit from the Emerging Crises, where he inaccurately predicted a global economic apocalypse. Had you followed his advice in that book, you would have missed out on the skyrocketing stock market during the 1990s.

But in most of his books on investing, Browne warned about following the advice of anyone who predicts an economic downturn or upturn. He claimed that no one can consistently predict the future of any investment with accuracy, and you should calibrate your investment strategy accordingly, by diversifying.

So he fell into the very traps he warned against. And he made predictions, while advising us to beware of predictions. He was a man of contradictions, faltering on the very philosophical paths he advocated. But don’t we all?

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Harry Browne shocked many of his followers when he wrote a column entitled When Will We Learn. It criticized our nation’s foreign policies as being a catalyst for the 9/11 attacks. He lost some of his followers over this, including the conservative radio and television personality, Larry Elder, who quit the Libertarian Party and became a Republican. Nonetheless, it became his most widely-read column.

Harry Browne succumbed to Lou Gehrig’s disease on March 1st, 2006. He was 72. He was eulogized by Congressman Ron Paul.

My life has been guided by many philosophers, but he is one of the foremost. So on this day I remember him. Keep resting in peace, Harry Browne.

Saving Egan

Don't flush your life away. Call We Care Line!

Don’t flush your life away. Call We Care Line!

I was snoozing away at the Suicide Prevention Hotline, where I volunteer. Suddenly my supervisor shook my shoulder and woke me up.

“Tippy, take line three. It’s Egan. He’s a regular. I think I can trust you to handle this guy.”

Egan Obendorfer. I’d never heard of him before, but I was fairly new to this job.

“We Care Line. Tippy here. What’s up, Egan?” I yawned, while wiping my bleary eyes.

“It’s in my hand right now. I’m ready to do it.” the shaky voice on the other end said.

I felt my heart explode into overdrive. This was a real one. This guy really meant it. How could an idiot like me possibly talk him down? I just wanted to throw down the phone and quit, right then and there. But I couldn’t. A life was on the line. A drop of sweat dribbled down my neck.

“Let go of it!” I gulped. It was the only thing I could think of to say.

“Oh no, I’m doing it. I’m lifting it up to my mouth right now.”

“Wait! Think of your wife!”

“I don’t have a wife. She divorced me. I’m opening my mouth wide now.”

“Your children! Do you have children? Think of them!”

“My children hate me.” this insufferable self-inflicter said. Why do people have to be so difficult? Then I heard a dog bark.

“Your dog! What would your dog do without you? Think of him.”

“Her. And she bit me this morning. I’m putting it in my mouth, right now.”

I heard a kind of slurping sound, like he was sucking on the end of it. I plugged my ears, anticipating a loud bang. But then I realized I had to listen, in case he had some final words. And he did.

“There, I did it. And I’m going to do it again if you can’t talk me out of it.” he finally spoke.

Did what? How do you commit suicide twice?

It took a few more minutes of dialogue for Egan to explain that he has an eating disorder. He worries that he’s eating himself to death, so when he goes on a binge he calls the Suicide Prevention Hotline.

On this occasion he had a bucket of Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Buttah ice cream in front of him. Delicious stuff. Even his dog was begging for it, and all cause to bite him earlier in the day had been forgotten.

This gave me an idea, and I convinced Egan to share his ice cream with his dog. And this renewed his relationship with his best friend.

Egan only ate half a bucket of ice cream that day, and his dog got the other half. So I was pretty successful, if I say so myself.

There are many Egans in this world. Suicide isn’t always a sudden event. Some people commit it slowly, whether by eating, drinking, drugs, smoking, or maybe by just not taking care of their health. Their deaths are not usually entered into the suicidology statistics. They’re sneaky at killing themselves.

But at least I was able to help this one person. And after the call, I felt content enough to catch a few more z’s. It had been a good day.

Disclaimer: My Suicide Prevention Hotline is fictional. If you’re feeling hopeless and would like a skilled, trained counselor to talk to, try calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They’re real, and available 24/7.

Hillary’s Generic Grandiloquent Speech to Wall Street

The initial rough draft of Hillary's speech

The initial rough draft of Hillary’s speech

Bernie Sanders points out that Hillary Clinton has made $200,000 a pop for delivering speeches to Wall Street. He implies that these speaking fees are nothing more than bribes from Wall Street executives, so that she will do their bidding once she becomes President, and he’s challenged Hillary to release transcripts of these speeches.

But it seems Hillary will not be releasing these transcripts. But don’t worry. I managed to bribe a disaffected Wall Street employee, who works in a mail room, and he has provided me with the very transcript that Bernie has been asking for.

And yes I use the singular, “transcript,” because as it turns out our former Secretary of State was lazily giving the same generic speech over and over again. C’mon Madam Secretary, for 200 thousand mazumas you couldn’t write a fresh new speech each time? But that’s how it is. There’s only one transcript. However I must admit, it’s a grandiloquent stemwinder. Here it is, because I want to share it with you so I can become rich and famous in the interests of the greater public good:

HILLARY’S GENERIC GRANDILOQUENT SPEECH TO WALL STREET (final draft)

For scores and several hundred years, ya know, our mothers and fathers brought forth on this continent new corporations, conceived in profit, and dedicated to the proposition that I’m gonna get 200 large for a speech, any speech, even if it’s one I lift from Abe Lincoln.

Now we are engaged in a great business transaction, testing whether any big corporation can long endure paying this much money for a speech. We are met at a great auditorium of one of these corporations. We have come to dedicate a portion of that corporation’s profit, as a final resting place in my purse. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this vast sum of money. The brave employees, still working and laid-off, who struggled at this corporation for a fraction of what I’m getting for this piddly speech, have consecrated this money, far above my power to add or detract.

The world will little note, nor long remember this speech–unless Bernie Sanders insists on a transcript–but it can never forget what I’m being paid. It is for $200,000, to be directly deposited to my bank account, which the employees who have worked here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is for me, to be here dedicated this great sum of money—that from these honored employees I have increased devotion to that cause for which their bosses gave the last full measure of payment—that we here highly resolve that these employees shall not have worked in vain—that this corporation, under my Presidency, shall have a new birth of profits—and that corporations of the stockholders, by the stockholders, for the stockholders, shall not perish from the earth.

Parole

"Prisoners Exercising" by Vincent Van Gogh

“Prisoners Exercising” – Vincent Van Gogh

My wife and I would like to live a few more decades before the natural ebbing of life takes us to another world. We want to avoid being stabbed to death.

“He got parole!” Jay’s mother gleefully announced.

Jay was a dangerous man. He’s also our nephew. How could the state of California do that?! What the hell are those guys thinking, on the parole board?

“Help me, help me, please!” Jay moaned, lying in the front yard of a complete stranger. A woman peeked at him through a window and summoned her husband from another room. Jay was a teenager barely two months into adulthood. Beneath his veneer of desperation lay a darker desperation. Jay was in a blind, drunken rage. He had decided to kill the first person he saw, and he hoped to draw someone from the house.

Why the rage? Was it because he imagined he was jilted, by a girl he had a secret crush on in high school? No, according to the transcript it went much deeper than that. This was merely the trigger.

Was it because he’d been raised by a mother who had abdicated ordinary parental supervision, losing herself in a fantasy world of Wicca and hoarding? Perhaps, but his rage also plumbed deeper than that.

Was it due to living in a house with boxes piled to the ceiling, blocked off rooms, and narrow aisleways between the junk, crowded in with his mother and brother? Claustrophobic conditions can be stressful, but there were even deeper depths to Jay’s rage.

Was it because his brother, who was six years older than him, still lived at home? This same brother who had molested him at a young age, and who bullied him throughout his life? Certainly this could produce rage, but there was still more.

There was also a father who’d been tragically killed in a car accident when he was only two years old. A good father, who would have protected him from his crazy mother and deviant brother.

So Jay had sipped vodka from his hidden flask, while at high school, then walked home feeling angrier and angrier with each step. Normally alcohol calmed his rage, but this time it was like throwing gasoline upon a fire. At home he drank more, until his vodka-fueled rage propelled him from his house like an unguided missile, and with murder on his mind. He vowed to kill the first person he saw.

Her husband left the safety of their front door to assist this prostrate stranger in his front yard. She watched him lift Jay off the ground, then saw the young man draw a knife from his waistband. A bloody struggle ensued, as Jay plunged the knife repeatedly into her husband’s body, and slashed at his defensive arms and hands.

Had Jay been sober, her husband would not have stood a chance. But he drunkenly lost his balance, and in that split-second her husband grabbed a large rock and clobbered Jay over the head. Dazed, he broke off the attack and staggered away.

Within minutes an EMT team staunched her husband’s bleeding and saved his life. Over the next few months and years, surgeons repaired much of the damage to his arms and hands. But he will never be completely whole again, either physically or emotionally.

Deputies tracked Jay’s muddy footprints to his house and arrested him the next day. Initially he plead not guilty by reason of insanity. But later he changed his plea to guilty and received seven years to life. The DA promised he’d never be released.

But now, after just ten years behind bars, he’s being released.

Our fear was that he was crazy enough to hurt someone again. Perhaps us. We’d never harmed him, but neither had the stranger he stabbed, who was simply trying to help him. Suppose one day he showed up at our front door, asking for help? Would we dare let him in? Would we dare to even open the door?

How could the parole board possibly release someone as crazy as Jay? Especially when it was his first try for parole? It’s rare to release anyone with a life sentence on their first time up for parole. What the hell were they thinking? I contacted the parole board for an answer. They sent me a transcript of the parole hearing. I read every page.

Jay has spent the last ten years doing everything possible to reform himself. He’s kept out of trouble, for the most part. He’s stopped drinking, and attended substance abuse and self-help classes in prison. He’s reflected deeply on his crime and his childhood. He’s developed an impressive philosophy about life. He seems truly contrite and empathetic with his victim and victim’s family. He has a detailed plan for earning a living outside prison. And he plans to stay away from his mother and brother after being released.

Here is a man who has not lived in denial. He’s confronted his crime and his childhood with candor, and with determination to change his life.

He made an unusual impression upon the parole board, which they admitted.

The parole hearing occurred several months ago. If Jay stays out of trouble, he will be released before the end of this year. He will settle in a city far away from his victim, and far from where my wife and I live.

After reading the parole transcript we feel less worried about Jay’s upcoming release. But still, who knows?

Only time can prove the wisdom of the parole board’s judgment.

LIGO

A Black-Hole

A Black Hole

I’m trying to wrap my head around the latest astronomical discovery. On September 14th of last year, the scientific world was gobsmacked when astronomers at the LIGO observatory detected the gravitational waves of two colliding black holes.

They converted these gravitational waves into audio waves, and it sounded something like a drop of water from a dripping faucet.

By the way, LIGO is not to be confused with LEGO. LIGO is the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. LEGO is what you step on when trying to take a leak in the middle of the night. LIGO is the only such observatory of its kind. Except that it’s actually two observatories that work in conjunction with each other; one in Washington state and the other in Louisiana. It’s been operating since 2002, while detecting absolutely nothing worth anything. But that all changed last September, when it picked up the drop heard ’round the universe.

Somehow, this drip-dropping noise proved one of Albert Einstein’s theories related to relativity. This is the theory that my relatives are the ones who forget to tighten faucet handles. However, they say that the “sound” produced by this black-hole collision released three times more energy than all the galaxies in our universe combined. This to me is further proof of relativity, because some of my bumptious relatives can actually shout that loud.

The black holes collided 1.3 billion years ago, at a distance of 7,625,404,800,000,000,000,000 miles from Earth. They were both about 30 times the size of our sun, and were spinning around each other at several thousand revolutions per minute. That’s a pretty reckless speed for two objects of such Pantagruelian proportions, so naturally these lumbering titans had to collide sooner or later. Good thing we Earthlings kept a safe distance.

Now the question I have is, what happens when two black holes swallow each other? Shouldn’t it create some sort of anti-black hole, and force them to regurgitate up everything they’ve been consuming for billions of years? Back in my math school days, I learned between naps that a negative number multiplied by a negative number always equals a positive number.

So I have a positive attitude about this black-hole collision. I think they’re going to spit up all the stuff they’ve been stealing from the universe, and we’re going to recover lost property. Who knows what sort of wonderful marvels may emerge from the site of this cosmic accident? We should send a space exploratory mission to the site of the crash. Hey, what’s a few extra trillion dollars added to our national debt?

As you can tell, I’m no Albert Einstein. My thinking about this is about as far-off in outer space as the black-hole collision itself. But after 13 years of listening to nothing, then becoming elated when they heard the sound of a dripping faucet, I draw this conclusion about the astronomers who made this discovery:

Scientists are easily entertained.

My Apology Here

With great embarrassment and contrition, I’m writing this post to apologize for yesterday’s post. Yesterday I posted a sign in the widget sidebar that said, “Your Ass Here.” I intended that sign to read “Your Ad Here,” and have now corrected the spelling. I can explain this mistake, and I hope you’ll be kind enough to hear me out.

It is not my policy to post profanity on my blog. At least, not in such a conspicuous manner. This is a family blog, and children read my posts.

By the way, the following message is for any child who saw yesterday’s post:

Ass=Donkey

Ass = Donkey

Kids, the sign you saw on Uncle Tippy’s blog that read, “You’re Ass Here” was about donkeys. Just like the donkey named Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh. Did you know that “ass” is another word for donkey? So that’s what my sign was about. I wanted to see pictures of donkeys on my blog.

Now stop reading. The rest of this post is for adults only.

Alright, let me continue. I’m sorry for misspelling the word “Ad” yesterday. It’s nobody’s fault but my own. I’ve been having a bit of trouble in the nether regions lately. Seems I’ve developed an allergy to Preparation H, and my hindquarters have been foremost on my mind these days. The best way I can put my finger on it is, I felt an itch at the exact moment I created the sign, and the wrong word must have slipped into my spelling.

I’m a real asshole for allowing that to happen. And I’m definitely a shitbird for not proofreading my post. I mean, fuck me to tears, this is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done.

I hope you’ll forgive me, and I promise never to let it happen again.

Your Ad Here

Your Ad Here

I have a new widget in my sidebar that I hope will not bother you. It’s a message that says, “Your Ad Here.”

Some people find messages like this disturbing. They want bloggers to be above this sort of thing. We’re supposed to put everything we have into our work, and not get anything in return. So let me make this clear. This blog is no charity, and I’m no saint. I want a piece of the action, baby!

If you share my ambition to be rich and famous, consider the opportunity presented by my sidebar message. Imagine all the exposure you’ll receive, from what you put onto that space. And think of the revenue you can generate. I guarantee you’ll be excited when you see your bottom line, and people keep entering your business.

Now if you’re a purist blog reader who doesn’t like this sort of thing, what goes in that space over there may really stink. But I encourage you to examine it carefully, and respond in a positive manner if you honestly like what you see. Who knows, you may enjoy it so much you’ll want to buy what’s being offered.

Don’t sit on this opportunity. With my blog, you’re poised to crack the market wide open. Get the exposure you’ve been dreaming about, and let the world discover everything about you.

Note: Unfortunately, I misspelled the word “ad”. Click here for my apology.

A Suicide Disclaimer

"Le Suicide" - Edouard Manet

“Le Suicide” – Edouard Manet

I mention a Suicide Prevention Hotline several times in my About pages. And I’ve posted about it. You may be wondering, is this real? You may also wonder if I’m making light of suicide. Perhaps it’s time for a disclaimer.

According to the American Association of Suicidology, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death. It’s a serious problem.

One of my blogging buddies, Elyse, at FiftyFourandAHalf, once posted about her own attempted suicide many years ago. It’s a funny post, but also a serious post. It’s a detailed description of an involved set of circumstances that eventually led to a sudden decision to kill herself by tetherball. Elyse points out in this post that many suicides are spur-of-the-moment decisions.

Suicide is a heavy subject, and one that many people don’t like to think about or discuss. I don’t blame them. Nothing gets gloomier than the idea of taking one’s own life. But it’s important to think about if you want to avoid being suicidal. So I try to lighten the topic with humor.

I believe suicide begins long before any impulsive decision to commit it. It begins with a mindset. The mindset we allow ourselves to fall into can lead us down a dark path toward a precipitous brink.

We turn ourselves into time bombs, waiting for just the right set of circumstances to trigger the explosion of suicide. I believe that many suicidal people have no awareness of the dynamite lying dormant in their psyche. They don’t recognize their own self-destructive potential.

My Suicide Prevention Hotline shtick is about revealing the kind of mindset that leads to suicide. For example, my Donald Who? post concerns itself with people who take politics so seriously, they easily become disappointed and depressed. Such people are suicidal, in my view, whether they realize it or not.

Suicide prevention begins when we recognize we’re on the path to our own demise. We all get on that path from time to time. The earlier we notice, the sooner we can change course. That’s why it’s important to be able to think about it. (And I mean think, not contemplate.)

I also believe suicide isn’t always such a bad thing. We all have suicidal tendencies to some degree. It’s a necessary part of human nature. For example, who wouldn’t risk their own life to save someone they love? What we have to guard against is taking our suicidal tendencies to an irrational level.

When we can recognize the mindset that leads to suicide, we learn how to avoid getting into such a frame of mind. Staying out of that frame of mind makes us less suicidal, and a whole lot happier.

And now, here’s the disclaimer:

Disclaimer: My Suicide Prevention Hotline is fictional. If you’re feeling hopeless and would like a skilled, trained counselor to talk to, try calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They’re real, and available 24/7.