I have one big tattoo of a phoenix on my left calf. I had it put there when I was 55 years old because it described my life better than anything else I could think of. How many times had my life be shattered and somehow, I’d arisen and come back as good or better than before?
I designed the tattoo myself. I didn’t want one that looked like someone else’s. It came out a lot bigger than I expected and over the nearly 20 years since I got it, it has faded considerably. I suppose I should get it “recolored,” but I’ve got enough weird stuff going on with my body so we’ll just let this one drift on the wind.
If you aren’t sure what the story of the Phoenix is, it goes like this:
In the still of the night, just before sunrise, a magnificent creature builds its nest. You stop and watch as it carefully puts each spice, clove, and branch that lay before it in place with meticulous detail. As you stand and watch, you are struck by the tiredness of the creature that is clearly evident – though in no way takes away from its beauty. The sun begins to rise and the bird begins to stretch. Its feathers are a beautiful hue of gold and red – the Phoenix.
It cranes its head back as it sings a haunting melody that stops the sun itself in the sky. A spark falls from the heavens and ignites a great fire that consumes both bird and nest – but not to worry. In three days, the Phoenix will rise from its ashes and be born anew.
This is my Phoenix. It could use more flames and updated color, but I’m fine with its fading and becoming more “me” and less “art.”
Usually, Bonnie crashes at about 11 at night and won’t wake up short of being shaken awake until early morning. This has become normal, and for a few nights, I just didn’t bother to wake her for her late-night snack.
Last night, she woke up.
When late-night snack time came around, she was climbing up my leg to get to her snack. When she barked me awake at about four in the morning, I staggered up and gave her her snack. She was wide awake and downright perky. I wish I could say the same.
When she woke me again at about six by not merely barking at the bedroom door, but jumping up on it and trying to unhinge it, I staggered up — again — and passed along some very small goodies because they are getting a bit beefy again.
When at around seven, she apparently felt we’d had more than enough sleep, I poked Garry and said: “Do something. Otherwise, I may strangle Bonnie.”
He got up. I don’t know what he did, but she’s still wide awake and peppy. Well, not at the moment. It’s just after dinner which is crash time for all three of them. They have no interest in us until they think it might be snack-time again.
It’s really nice to know that all that sleep has really perked up little Bonnie. Garry and I are dragging around like unwashed bags of laundry and she is dashing around the house. Maybe I should get up every couple of hours, shake her awake and bark in her ear?
I worry about small things even more than big ones. Right now, I’m worrying about ticks and fleas. We got some lethal mosquitoes in the area which is bad enough, but as I was petting Duke the other night, I realized that his flea and tick collar was too tight. The Duke has filled out.
We’ve had so much rain that it has been soaked repeatedly which I think made it expand some — and I just couldn’t get it to open more. Finally, I gave up and cut it off him which left him with no flea and tick protection. All three dogs were wearing the Seresto (Bayer) collars which are highly effective, but also poisonous. All is well as long as there’s no allergic reaction and your dog doesn’t get sick. Some dogs get sick and older ones tend to have a lot of skin, eye, and ear issues anyway.
Two of my dogs are getting kind of old and I figured it was time to replace their collars anyway. But with what?
Buy the very expensive Seresto ($52 to $58 each, if you please) collars or go with the less effective “natural oil” collars that apparently work for some people, but who knows if they will work here?
There aren’t a lot of choices. You can buy the Seresto collars (Bayer) and there’s one other manufacturer that makes poison collars, but I looked at the ingredients and decided no, I don’t think so. So I went with Tuzik Flea and Tick Collar, which is one of the “herbal oil” collars. Most of these contain essentially the same oils:
Some also include: cedarwood, cinnamon, lavender, thyme, and geranium oils — and some don’t use cinnamon or clove oil. There is some dispute over clove oil, but I think it’s probably safer than Flumethrin or Permethrin.
The things none of them use are Permethrin, Pyriproxyfen, Flumethrin, Imidacloprid, Fipronil, Pyrethrins, Nitenpyram, Deltamethrin, Diatomaceous Earth, Tetrachlorvinphos. There are a few other poisons used on other collars. The thing is, these poison collar work very well … except when they kill your dog. Sometimes, your dog does okay with no problem and you never see a tick or a flea — which is great. Sometimes, even after using them for a long time, your dog breaks out in a bloody rash that can be hard to cure. Or dies.
I finally went with the “natural oil” version. Do I think it will work as well as Seresto did?
Probably it won’t.
Did I make the right decision? I don’t know. It’s not like there’s a third choice — like “a little poisonous, but not too bad.” It’s either natural oil and non-toxic, or really toxic and let’s just hope everything works out okay.
I hate this kind of choice. Because I never know if I made the right decision.
Easy times, good times are not always the best times, at least not for creating a better world. When the world is running smoothly and turning sweetly on its axis, we are not building solutions to important cultural issues. Problems force solutions. Difficulties change society.
In the earliest years of what would later be called “The Renaissance,” the death of 25-million people resolved into a serious push to make the world a better place. Which is why I was sitting here thinking about the 1400s.
Not everybody thinks about the 1400s, but I do. Not only was it the time of the black death, it was a time when bands of terrorists roamed through Europe killing anyone they met. Inflation made money worthless. There was little of what we call “central government.” No congress, no government to address. Also, no roads, bridges, or books. And a whole lot of dying going on.
You know how Dickens said at the beginning of “A Tale of Two Cities”: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” or something to that effect? This was the worst of times.
Beginning in the early part of the 1300s with the importation of the Bubonic Plague-carrying rats, Europe became a horror show. Unless you lived in Warsaw which for some reason was spared.
The bubonic plague hit the continent in the 1340s, arriving on ships from (probably) Constantinople. The Black Death swept Europe like a hot blade cutting through butter.
Beginning in 1346 and through 1353, the number of deaths is unparalleled in human history. Ultimately, the Black Death killed more than 25 million people in Europe. Remember too that the world was much smaller. 25-million people were the largest part of the human race.
More than half the population of Europe died in the plague and in some towns, it was 100%. In other words, everybody died. The forest grew back over lands that had been sown. Murderous gangs that had formerly been remnants of disbanded armies roamed throughout the continent. When most of the peasants died, everyone starved. No one remained to grow new crops.
A burst of invention occurred. The peasantry, always been the least valuable members of European society, suddenly achieved importance. So few people remained who were able to grow crops, it was not unusual for peasants to go from castle to castle to see where they could get the best deal for their labor.
The middle class grew too, while more than half the nobility disappeared. Between death by plague and war, and the abject poverty the Crusades produced throughout Europe, many families slid from the bottom of nobility to the center of poverty. By the 1600s, many former nobles were tilling their own lands.
The Wars of the Roses consumed England. The printing press arrived. Europeans took to movable type with enthusiasm. The press was created sometime between 1400 and 1455. Movable type swept the scribes away.
I’m sure someone was telling everyone that this whole “printing thing” would never last. It was probably someone running a school for scribes.
The 1400s saw the invention of:
The golf ball (1400) Hey, for some folks this is a big deal
The piano/spinet (1400)
The trigger/matchlock (1411) The handgun arrived in 1364. Before the trigger, it was ignited with an ember or another form of portable fire.
Oil painting (1420) The paint was invented long before this in China, but oil painting techniques (Rembrandt, et al) were 15th-century.
Hoisting gear (1421)
Spectacles/eyeglasses (1450) Possibly earlier.
Printing Press (1450-55) Johannes Gutenberg
Engravings (dry) (1465)
Muzzle-loaded rifle (1475)
Parachute (1485) Leonardo Da Vinci
The copyright (1486)
Bell chimes (1487)
The map globe (1492) This is also when Leonardo was pondering flight because he had a parachute, so you ought to be able to fly, right?
Sometime during this period, the moldboard plow was invented, turning agriculture on its ear. Deep plowing allowed real farming in areas that had previously been non-tillable.
Historians are still arguing exactly when the moldboard plow was invented, but it was sometime between 1350 and 1475. There was no official “inventor,” so it’s hard to set the date. It was more of a development by farmers until finally, someone got it right.
This might not sound like a lot to you, but the invention of the printing press was a bigger deal than the mobile phone or the computer or, for that matter, electricity and diesel power. It overturned the world. Made knowledge available to the many rather than the élite few.
Everybody drank whiskey.
The point is that times were really bad in the 1300s, only nominally better in the 1400s, yet by the 1500s, the world began to flower. These terrible old days gave the world a kick in the butt and triggered the arrival of central governments. It elevated both the peasants and the middle classes. It advanced banking, industry, and art. Towns expanded and grew into cities. The building industry changed and expanded. Bridges were redesigned to enable better roads and better roads made it easier for people to take goods to market.
Everything changed, including religion because this also was the birth of Protestantism, though it was not called that until later.
Hard times create a new world. Our two world wars were what pushed Europe into modern socialism and the caring world that they now (or used to) embrace. I think a lot of people have forgotten that before the first world war, it wasn’t the post-war caring, sharing Europe. It was a bunch of rich nobles doing whatever they felt like to anything and anyone.
The world doesn’t advance when times are easy. When all is well, we get lazy. Comfort doesn’t force change.
I want to believe the current awfulness of our world will force us into great creative change and will ultimately improve this world. I don’t know if it is true because I don’t think I’ll live to see the future.
The English language has more than 200,000 “official” words in its dictionary and probably another twenty thousand or so unofficial, idiomatic, or regional words used by specific groups which have meanings yet to reach a dictionary.
There is nothing you cannot say in English using real words. If you are living in an English-speaking country, using real words will not diminish your level of communication. More likely, it will enhance it while lending you credibility with other literate people.
You know: people who read books and stuff like that?
If you feel there is nothing you can say that is not cruel or insulting — and which will surely hurt someone? If you cannot make your point without hateful speech? Maybe you should consider just shutting up. Silence is golden, they say, so why not give it a try?
Hateful speech and bullying is not a symptom of how free you are. It’s a sign of a twisted soul. It is by definition ungrammatical and ugly.
Everyone knows the invisible yet obvious lines of what is acceptable speech and what isn’t. I think we all know this much by the time we get to first grade.
The people who regularly cross these lines are not ignorant. They know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. It isn’t any lack of education. It’s a failure to have sympathy or empathy for other humans.
This is a disease for which there is no known cure.
The language of the truncheon is not an accident. Those who speak like thugs do it intentionally.
You can argue this point until the cows come home. It will remain wrong.
One of the things I’ve always admired about the British upper class — possibly the only thing I admire about the British upper class — is their ability to be absolutely polite while verbally eviscerating their opponents.
It’s an art form. They at least understand that a rapier — a razor-sharp, tool — is a much classier weapon than a bludgeon. And on the whole, leaves less of a mess.
If you have to join the fray, put away the big stick and try the rapier.
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