San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Friday, January 1, 2016

Affluenza and Other Mythical Mental Illnesses

Did you hear the story about the San Antonio teenager who used the "affluenza" defense for his vehicular homicide?  Ethan Couch was sentenced to juvenile probation after driving drunk and plowing into and killing four people with his car.  Under biblical law, which should be the law of this immoral land, Ethan would be executed for his crime.  Under the law of the Socialist Democracy of Amerika Ethan was given a couple of years probation. Apparently even that sentence was deemed too harsh by Ethan and his mother so they have fled to Mexico in defiance of his court orders.  I can't wait to see how all of that turns out.
My focus today is not upon Ethan's flight to Mexico, it is upon his legal defense.  His defense attorney hired a expert in psychology and psychiatry who testified on his behalf at his trial.  According to an Associated Press report, "During the sentencing phase of Couch's trial a defense expert argued that his wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility --  a condition the expert termed 'affluenza.'"  So there you have it.  A new mental illness has been created....almost.  According to that same report, "The condition is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its invocation drew ridicule."  Did you get that?  Invoking the medical diagnosis of a mental illness called "affluenza" drew "ridicule" from the professional headshrinkers among us.  That got me to pondering.....I wonder how many other "mental illness" are equally ridiculous?
To answer that question I went to the one true source of accurate information....Wikipedia!  According to an article found here, the exhaustive list of officially government approved mental illnesses contains a lot of items I believe most people would consider ridiculous.  If the diagnosis of affluenza is ridiculous then certainly the ones below must be as well.  I started down the list, selecting those mental illnesses that seemed most ridiculous to me.  I did not even get through the letter "C" before I had a list of ten utterly ridiculous mental illnesses recognized by the professional ruling class in the Socialist Democracy of Amerika as medical conditions requiring government approved treatment at the hands of doctors working within a government created medical monopoly.  Let's go through this list and see what you think.  For each of the ten "illnesses" on this list I begin by quoting its description (without editing it for links to other websites), followed by my insightful comments on each one.
  1. "Anorexia nervosa, often referred to simply as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by a low weight, fear of gaining weight, a strong desire to be thin, and food restriction. Many people with anorexia see themselves as overweight even though they are underweight. If asked they usually deny they have a problem with low weight. Often they weigh themselves frequently, eat only small amounts, and only eat certain foods. Some will exercise excessively, force themselves to vomit, or use laxatives to produce weight loss."   Anorexia is truly a first-world problem.  Can you imagine any second or third world citizens being pathologically terrified of eating?  Neither can I.  In the Socialist Democracy of Amerika however, fearful and insecure teenage girls attempt to cope with the unreasonable demands put upon them by their Yuppie parents by engaging in obsessive control over what they eat.  By focusing on obsessively controlling their food intake they effectively shut out all other thoughts from their minds, thus giving them the sense of peace they are seeking.  Anorexia is nothing more than selfishness.  It is no more a mental illness than my obsession with cake and whiskey as a means to forget my miserable status in life is a mental illness.  Making girls who practice anorexia the center of attention only makes things worse as it gives them precisely the attention they want.  If a girl wants to starve herself to death, let her do it.  Or let her get over her selfishness and join the adult world.  But by no means is stubbornly and stupidly refusing to eat a mental illness.  That belief is ridiculous.
  2. "Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a pervasive pattern of disregard for, or violation of, the rights of others. There may be an impoverished moral sense or conscience and a history of crime, legal problems, and impulsive and aggressive behavior."  I love this one.  I am not a jerk, I just have the mental illness known as antisocial personality disorder!  Ha! Ha! Ha! Have you ever heard of anything more ridiculous than that?  And can you imagine the stuffy professional psychiatrists, filled with arrogance, guffawing over the affluenza diagnosis while, at the same time, making this diagnosis?  How ridiculous! Some people are jerks.  They are selfish, stupid and refuse to exercise self control.  When they see something they want they take it.  Hummm....this is beginning to sound like a description of career politicians.  I conclude that all career politicians are mentally ill.
  3. "Anxiety disorders are a category of mental disorders characterized by feelings of anxiety and fear, where anxiety is a worry about future events and fear is a reaction to current events. These feelings may cause physical symptoms, such as a racing heart and shakiness."  If this is a mental illness then it is one every single person in the universe has.  And if every single person in the universe has it I think that is a pretty strong argument that it is not a medical condition treated by drugs and talk therapy with a government approved "therapist."  Who isn't afraid, besides the Welsh, of terrorism, global warming, bird flu, the next worldwide recession, speaking in public and your crazy, lunatic neighbor walking around carrying a handgun?   I am afraid calling fear a mental illness is ridiculous.
  4. "Alcohol abuse is a previous psychiatric diagnosis in which there is recurring harmful use of ethanol despite its negative consequences In 2013 it was reclassified as alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) along with alcohol dependence. There are two types of alcohol abuse, those who have anti-social and pleasure-seeking tendencies, and those who are anxiety-ridden people who are able to go without drinking for long periods of time but are unable to control themselves once they start."  Give me a break.  Some people are heavy drinkers.  Some people get drunk.  People who get drunk are drunks, not mentally ill.  If doing something that causes harm to myself is the definition of mental illness then everyone is mentally ill.  Since everyone cannot be mentally ill and the concept of mental illness still have meaning, then drinking too much is a choice and not an illness.  How ridiculous it is to believe that a drunk is suffering from a medical condition that forces him, against his will to get drunk.  Drunks make the entirely rational decision to anesthetize themselves to life's disappointments by zoning out via alcohol.  That is not evidence of a mental illness.  On the contrary, sometimes it is the best possible option.  "Give strong drink to him who is perishing" is a biblical injunction you know.
  5.  "Bereavement is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions."  Uncle Joe dies and I get sad.  Watch out!  I have a mental illness.  I was unaware that being sad at the loss of a loved one is an official mental illness.  When the time comes, and it will, when people who are diagnosed as being mentally ill are forbidden from purchasing guns, this particular mental illness is going to exclude a lot of people.  "Have you ever grieved at the death of a loved on?" the gun dealer will ask.  "Rejected" will be his response to your application for government permission to buy and hold a gun.  This mental illness creates another interesting problem.  I watch a lot of Dateline and one of the key characteristics of a husband who has murdered his wife is insufficient bereavement.  So now what is a murderous husband to do?  If he grieves he is mentally ill and subject to incarceration in a government approved prison known as a mental health hospital.  If he does not grieve he is a murderer.  I don't know which is worse
  6. "Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by binge eating without subsequent purging episodes. The disorder was first described in 1959 by psychiatrist and researcher Albert Stunkard as "night eating syndrome", and the term "binge eating " was coined to describe the same binging-type eating behavior without the exclusive nocturnal component."  This mental illness pretty much describes daily life in Welsh households.  The Welsh never knew where their next meal was going to come from.  As a result of that fear (anxiety disorder), the Welsh take every opportunity to load up on food that presents itself.  That is why you might want to think twice about inviting a Welshman to dinner, unless it is to an "all you can eat" restaurant.  The fact that some folks like to load up their plates at the dinner table is deemed to be a mental illness is ridiculous.  The fact that some Dagwoods like to get up in the middle of the night and make themselves a huge sandwich is not a mental illness, it is a fun way to spend the evening.  The only people mentally ill about BED are those who call it a mental illness.
  7.  "Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), also termed body dysmorphia or dysmorphic syndrome, but originally termed dysmorphophobia, is a mental disorder characterized by an obsessive preoccupation that some aspect of one's own appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix it."  Have you ever been to the gym?  If you have you know that just about everyone in the gym suffers from this mental illness.  Watch the Yuppie woman obsessively use the weight machine as she desperately attempts to get rid of her sagging triceps muscles and tell me that she is not mentally ill.  Watch the Yuppie man pound the bench press as he desperately seeks to develop enormous pectoral muscles and tell me he is not mentally ill.  Watch all of the Yuppies pound out endless hours on the cardio machines in vain attempts to lose weight and tell me they are not all mentally ill.  And if everyone is mentally ill then no one is mentally ill.  How ridiculous it all is.  Is everyone who gets a face lift mentally ill?  There is no doubt they are all extremely vain but it is hard for me to call them sick.  As a Welshman I do not understand this problem since all Welsh people are perfectly content with their bodies.  That is not because we have perfect bodies.  It is because we just don't care about stupid things. 
  8. "Borderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder – impulsive or borderline type or emotional intensity disorder, is a personality disorder. The essential features include a pattern of impulsivity and instability of behaviors, interpersonal relationships, and self-image. There may be uncontrollable anger and depression."  Have you ever observed  a teenager?  They all suffer from BPD.  They are all either angry or depressed, all of the time.  They are also impulsive, especially teenage males.  Just watch how they drive.  Teenage driving skills, if we can call them that, are an object lesson in impulsivity.  I guess all teenagers are mentally ill.   In fact I believe all people, both male and female, suffer from BPD the moment they slide behind the wheel of an automobile.  How else do you account for the enormous amount of road rage on display every day in this hate-filled country?  Lots of people are impulsive.  Lots of people are angry.  Lots of people are depressed.  But to believe that all these people are mentally ill is ridiculous.
  9. "Caffeine-induced sleep disorder is a psychiatric disorder that results from overconsumption of the stimulant caffeine. "When caffeine is consumed immediately before bedtime or continuously throughout the day, sleep onset may be delayed, total sleep time reduced, normal stages of sleep altered, and the quality of sleep decreased."  So I had a cup of coffee in the evening and I am having a hard time falling asleep. What should I do?  Quick, call a government approved shrink!  I am suffering from a mental illness.  I have written about this absurd and ridiculous mental illness previously.  Go here if you are interested.
  10. "Factitious disorder is a condition in which a person acts as if he or she has an illness by deliberately producing, feigning, or exaggerating symptoms. Factitious disorder imposed on another is a condition in which a person deliberately produces, feigns, or exaggerates the symptoms of someone in his or her care."  Okay, so I jumped down to the "F" category to find this mental illness.  I had a reason for doing so.  Every woman reading this blog post knows for an absolute fact that her husband suffers from the mental illness of Factitious disorder.  No matter how slight the cold her husband might have, it forces him to be bedridden and utterly helpless until she comes along to nurse him back to health.  The wife can have a combination of diphtheria, polio, influenza and several broken bones and her husband will tell her to man up and get over it.  But give the man a bit of the sniffles and he collapses into a quivering heap of helplessness on the floor, begging his wife for succor.  If FD Is a mental illness I am the King of the SDA.  By the way, I am not the King of the SDA.  
Enough of this ridiculousness.  Let's get on with the new year, shall we?

Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Baker's Dozen New Year's Resolutions For You

It is that time of the year again.  You know what I mean.  It is time to make up your list of New Year's resolutions.  Do you have last year's list with you?  If you do, take a look at it.  How many of them were you able to keep?  I would guess that your list included something about losing weight, getting exercise, eating better and being a better person, right?  Maybe you had a resolution on your list in which you resolved to actually do some of your resolutions.  Regardless, the odds are pretty good that you are no different today than you were a year ago.  You probably weigh a little bit more, eat the same foods, engage in the same amount of exercise and display the same personality characteristics.  In other words, you are a total failure.
The Mad Welshman does not like to see, nor does he derive any satisfaction from, the failures of others.  By the way, I have resolved to not refer to myself in the third person in 2016 so allow me to rephrase that last sentence.  I do not derive any satisfaction from watching you fail to keep your resolutions.  In fact, I want you to succeed and that is why I have come up with a list of attainable New Year's resolutions just for you.  Unlike the resolutions you have failed to attain year after year, this list is eminently doable.  Not only that, if you do establish this list as your own I believe you will discover that you will become a much happier person.  The Welsh, if nothing else, are a happy people.  One of the reasons for our natural happiness is the nature of the lifestyle choices we make.  Each of the resolutions listed below are derived from my statistical analysis of how the Welsh people I know live.  So if you want 2016 to be a New Year for you, characterized by wealth, happiness and general good will, adopt this list of resolutions as your own.  If you have limited resources of will power I list them in ascending order of importance.  Therefore you may skip the earlier ones and concentrate on the last couple of resolutions if you really expect to be a failure in 2016.
  1. Take up drinking, but don't get drunk.  This one is so obvious I almost did not put it on the list.  People who drink are happier, more well adjusted and the most fun to be around in social settings.  Alcohol is a drug that God has given to man to make his burden light and his heart merry.  Evangelicals and other kill-joy Christians who despise a genuinely good feeling believe that consuming alcohol is a sin.  They are wrong.  Getting inebriated is a sin, drinking is not.  The Bible contains many verses extolling the virtues and benefits of drinking alcohol.  Did you know that we will drink alcohol in the Eternal State?  Or, to put it more accurately, those who make it to the New Jerusalem rather than the Lake of Fire will consume alcohol once they get there.  If you are a non-drinker you might want to take it up now so you will be prepared for the future.  Not only will you be happier today, you will also be prepared for eternity.
  2. Take up smoking, but don't inhale.  I call this principle "Be Like Bill," in honor of former Socialist Democracy of Amerika King Bill Clinton.  Smokers are in our society what Jews were in Nazi Germany.  There is nothing you can do to them that is too harsh, demeaning or hurtful.  According to the career politicians who rule over us, anyone who uses tobacco products is evil and doomed to hell.  How wrong it all is.  One of the blessings of the New World was the discovery of tobacco.  I bet you were not taught that in the government schools.   Because smoking is on the government's list of most terrible things to do there is an almost total blackout of information about the benefits of smoking.  Go here, here and here for articles about the benefits of smoking.  If you do decide to take up smoking I would recommend you not inhale the smoke.  You can get all of the benefits of the tobacco through the lining of your mouth without taking any of it into your lungs, where it can do some serious damage.  And, like everything else in life, the key is moderation.  You can smoke too much and end up doing more harm than good.  Follow the Golden Mean, however, and you will be fine.  You will also be happier and less prone to many debilitating diseases. 
  3. Take up exercising, but don't become obsessive/compulsive about it.  Every January I have a difficult time going to my gym because it is filled with so many new members.  Sometimes I have to wait in line to use exercise machines that I never have to wait for the rest of the year.  The reason for this state of affairs is obvious...everyone is attempting to fulfill their resolution to get more exercise.  Fortunately it only lasts a couple of weeks and things quickly return to normal.  There are few things in life as good for your body as exercising.  Despite that fact, don't forget that God says, "...bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come."  I will get to godliness later on this list.  For now it is enough to know that bodily discipline is of some benefit, when kept in the proper perspective.  Most people never exercise and that is not okay.  Some people exercise like maniacs and that is not okay.  Follow the Golden Mean on exercise and you will be okay and happier.
  4. Eat whatever you want and avoid food fads.  Many people are never able to get off the fad diet roller coaster.  I will let you in on a little secret.  Here it is....there is no secret to losing weight.  It is a simple case of calories consumed versus calories expended.  Don't believe any talk about how eating nothing but kale will make you lose weight.  Neither will eating only grapefruit.  Neither will avoiding gluten.  Neither will avoiding fats and sugars.  Nor will eating bacon exclusively. I know of a fellow who lost weight eating only at McDonald's and not ordering anything green on the menu for an entire year.  Do you know how he did it?  He ate less calories than he consumed.  You can do the same thing.  It does not matter what you eat, just eat less than you burn and you will lose weight. Guaranteed.
  5. Lose your tattoos and never get a new one.  Admit it, as each year goes by you are less and less impressed by your tattoos.  If you have been able to actually make progress in your sense of personal security each year you have no doubt already discovered that the tattoo that was so important a few years ago is now a bit of an embarrassment.  I hope you are not one of those people who has covered his body with those eyesores.  If so, it would be prohibitively expensive to have them removed.  On the other hand, if you are considering getting one, do yourself a favor and put the decision off another year.  If you follow the other resolutions on this list you will find that by the end of the year that tattoo will no longer look like a great idea.
  6. Stop worshiping the military and, by all means, do not join it.  Unless you believe that the endless wars of imperial aggression waged by the SDA are morally justifiable (and I would like to hear your argument if you believe they are) you should not be joining the military.  People who murder others, even if they are stinkin' foreigners who deserve it, are not heroes.  They are murderers.  You do not want to be a murderer.  It takes a lot of courage to go against the overwhelming majority of people  in this militaristic country, especially when everywhere you go you are assaulted with propaganda telling you that soldiers are heroes who keep you free, but you must do it.  Principles are more important than popularity.  
  7. When it comes to the cops, keep your mouth closed, your eyes down and go to your mental happy-place until the tasers and beatings stop. Every day in the new year you will be less secure in your papers, possessions and person.  Every day in the upcoming year you will be more likely to be assaulted by a militarized police force charged with enforcing laws that impinge upon your freedom.  If you should find yourself on the receiving end of a visit from one of the jack-booted thugs who represents the law enforcement apparatus of the SDA, follow the advice above.  Consider yourself to be the social equivalent of a Jew in Nazi Germany or a black man in the pre-civil rights south.  If you are Welsh you do not have to do anything.  You are already  accustomed to being exploited by every other powerful social class that you live among.  
  8. Open a stock mutual fund and put some money into it.  A couple of weeks ago I posted a piece to this blog, found here, about how simply opening an  account with a stock mutual fund and allowing it to sit year after year, without attempting to predict the future or do any fancy market timing, is a guaranteed pathway to financial prosperity.  Go back and read that post if you do not believe me.  But you will never build a nest egg if you don't start.  And if you haven't started this year, be sure and start in 2016.  The best time to open your investment account is yesterday.  The worst time to open it is tomorrow.  Get started today.
  9. Put more money into your stock mutual fund.  Then, put in some more. The reason so many people are broke is the simple fact that most people are materialists who are unwilling to forego present consumption for future consumption.  Most people want all sorts of shiny stuff and they want it today, whether they have the money on hand to pay for it or not.  I have a name for those pitiable folks......lost souls.  If you are a materialist there is no hope for you until you change your time orientation and adopt a long term time perspective.  If you are a materialist, and you probably are, it is almost impossible for you to do that.  So I am preaching to the choir on this one, and the choir is a mighty small one from what I can see.  You know that shiny things do not bring you happiness, don't you?  Certainly if you are over 30 years of age you have learned that lesson.  So why not put that wisdom of the years into practice and abandon your materialism this year?
  10. Don't vote.  It makes you an accomplice to theft and is truly meaningless.  Democracy is an immoral system of government in that it allows the majority to steal from the minority.  As I have reported ad nauseum in this blog over the past year, the top 49% of the income population is now paying 98% of the entire federal tax bill.  That is theft on a grand scale.  When you vote for politicians who perpetuate that system you become an accessory to theft.  Indeed, when you vote for any politician who promises to rob Peter to pay Paul you are an accessory to theft.  Voting is also a meaningless activity.  No matter who you vote for and no matter who is elected the end result is always the same.  No man alive has the moral character necessary to resist the temptations associated with political power and career politician status.  They all end up becoming corrupt, every single one of them, and they all end up becoming thieves, every single one of them.  
  11. Don't worship the Beast.  Politics is truly irrelevant. Becoming politically involved is dangerous and harmful for your soul.  The Beast, in case you are not aware, is civil government in the Socialist Democracy of Amerika.  Google "Amillennialism + The Beast" if you want to read some fine articles explaining this theological position.  Each generation has its manifestation of the Beast (from the biblical book of Revelation) and our generation has the most powerfully evil representative of the Beast in human history found in the government of the SDA.  The SDA military has killed 30 million people during my lifetime as it has prosecuted wars of imperial expansion around the world.  The SDA is either universally hated or feared (sometimes both) by all of the rest of the nations in the world.  Cut yourself off from the Beast.  Ignore it.  Avoid politics at all costs.  Do everything you can to minimize the influence of the state in your life and, above all, never use the coercive power of the state to get your own way.  When you do that you become a functional beast yourself.  Whenever you feel tempted to become politically involved, go for a walk and contemplate the moral virtues of minding your own business.
  12. Worship the true and living God found in the Bible.  I list this as a most important resolution for the new year with the full knowledge that unless the Holy Spirit causes you to be born again there is nothing you can do to fulfill this resolution.  Yes, I am a Calvinist.  God has sovereignly chosen who will be saved and who will not.  Do you believe that is unfair?  God has a response for you.  He says, "who are you oh man to answer back to God?  Does not the potter have the right over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?"  Yes, those words are in the Bible. They are found immediately following a teaching passage written by the Apostle Paul in which he raises the rhetorical question, "You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault?  For who resists His will?'"   Those questions are asked about God's choices as to who will be saved and who will not.  Is it not interesting that the hated doctrine of predestination is clearly taught in the Bible and yet Evangelicals insist that it is untrue?   Regardless of whether you are elect or reprobate (no man will know until after his death) you are commanded by God to worship Him and Him alone.  I suggest you make a commitment to do that this year.
  13. Put Down Your PED!  Although not as important as resolution number twelve, this resolution, if performed, will dramatically improve your life and bring you great happiness.  Personal Electronic Device addiction is rampant in this sad land.  People are dying in droves as a result of car accidents that are the direct result of PED addiction.  Interpersonal human communication is at an all time low as a direct result of PED addiction.  Nothing good comes from the use of a PED.  I don't own one and never will.  I am also happier than anyone else in the world that I know.  Coincidence?  I don't think so.  Put away your PED and share in my happiness.  You will never regret it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Favorite Photographs of 2015

Media outlets love to do feature stories on the year end.  I guess that makes some sense.  There is something within us that makes us look back every once in a while.  Whether it is to measure how far we have come, or how far we have fallen, a good look back can serve as a reasonable measuring stick of our progress.  When I am climbing up a steep tundra slope in search of the elusive summit of an alpine mountain I will frequently look back from whence I came.  My perception of constant progress is an excellent motivator for me to continue the upward path.  It is the same way coming back down.  My quad muscles scream out each step of the way back down the slope but looking back to see how far I have descended encourages me to persevere onward to the flat land at the bottom.
I have taken photographs of my various adventures in the mountains and elsewhere over the years.  I enjoy going back through those photographs at the end of the year in order to relive those enjoyable moments.  I thought maybe this year I would share some of them with you.  It is in that spirit that I have dedicate today's blog post to my favorite photographs of 2015.  These photos do not include all of my favorite moments as, alas, I often fail to capture a wonderful moment as a digital image.  And some photographs are too personal to share on a public blog like the Mad Welshman.  Nevertheless, these pictures do capture a bit of the enjoyment I have had in the last year.  I hope you enjoy them as well.  I don't know if it is possible to post a photo to the "comments" section of this blog but if it is and if you have a favorite photo from 2015, won't you put it up?
My first adventure of the year was a March trip to Phoenix where I was able to spend several days getting to the top of several Phoenix area peaks.  I chronicled that trip here.  One of the peaks I climbed on that trip was Barry Goldwater peak, in the White Tank mountains on the extreme western border of the Phoenix metropolitan area.  My friend and climbing partner re-titled Barry Goldwater peak as AuH2O peak.  I thought that was appropriate.  Although not a particularly striking picture, this one still reminds me of a great day on the trail in the desert on a very warm spring day.  This view is from the summit due east, towards the Phoenix metropolitan area:

The summit was covered with a series of radio towers.  That explains the presence of a road for the last half mile to the top.  The view to the west from here is stark as it reveals a seemingly endless series of remote desert mountain ranges, each calling out for intrepid climbers to explore the hidden crags and distant summits.  I hope to get to some of them in future years.
In May I made a trip to Tucson to attempt the long slog up Tanque Verde peak.  The standard route up to the summit is 18 miles long, round trip, and includes about 4500 feet of climbing.  The trail is good but rocky and somewhat slow.  I joined the aforementioned partner on that day and we were treated to various views of the Sonoran desert in bloom.  The ocotillo were particularly profuse that day.  Here is a shot, looking north to the Santa Catalinas, that shows the beautiful ocotillo:

We didn't make it to the summit that day, coming up two miles shy, as my wintertime training program proved to be less than what was required for such an ambitious spring hike.  On the way back down we were treated to this fellow:

July brought a hike up the Herman Gulch trail, near the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70.  The wildflowers are always resplendent along this trail and this time was no different.  Notice the abundant Colorado columbine:

In  August I managed to finally get around to climbing the last official 14er in Colorado.  It marked my 60th 14er personally.  I was joined by my wife and the aforementioned climbing partner.  He snapped this picture of my wife and me as we were nearing the false summit on the north ridge of Culebra Peak in the Sangre de Cristo range.  I like it because I rarely get pictures of us together:

From that false summit this view of the true summit, the high point on the left accessed via the ridge on the right, came into view.  The north facing cirque on this peak was surprisingly beautiful and only visible to those willing to do the work to get to where we were.  On the day we were there no one else was willing to do the work so we had it to ourselves.

On our return to the trailhead we were treated to these gorgeous purple/white gentian flowers (below) and a couple of fluttering butterflies unlike anything I have ever seen before (second below):

In August my church had a church camp trip we attended.  We gathered in Taylor Park, a place I had never spent a night in before.  I was surprised to discover that the nightly temperature dipped below freezing even though we were only at 9,000 feet.  It has to be one of the coldest places in Colorado.  Here is a view of Taylor Reservoir, looking north, and the 13er peaks that surround it to the north, east and west.  I suspect that is why the place gets so cold.

During the trip we decided to do a hike up a long fishhook valley on the Mt. Tilton trail.  I suspected the wildflowers would be in fine form and I was not disappointed.  Here is just one tiny portion of what we saw:

We also saw some fine mountains along the trail as this photograph of the rarely climbed Star Peak attests:

I hope to go back and climb Star (on the left end of the above ridge) at some point in the future.
September brought a trip to Silverton with some friends.  We did an easy climb of a peak above Animas Forks that gave me an opportunity to snap this photo of a couple of summits I had climbed many years before.  The fall colors are in fine form, as you can see:

For those in the know, those summits are California and Hanson peaks.
My wife and I took a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in mid-fall to enjoy some hiking among the aspens, as well as a couple of easy peaks.  That trip was a total disaster and I chronicled it here.  I am continuing to actively suppress that memory and I have no photographs of what happened.
The year ended with a Thanksgiving trip back to Phoenix where a large group of friends joined my wife and me for several easy day hikes.  Picacho Peak is a requirement for all climbers.  It has a cabled route to the summit that makes it accessible even to non-technical climbers like me.  I have been to the top before so I was having a go at its northern sub-peak while my friends went to the top.  I snapped this shot of the summit from the north ridge where I was climbing:

I will leave you with a shot of a saguaro cactus I entitled "Exhausted Mother Holding Baby."  Do you see it?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Donald Trump Is Not As Rich As He Could Be

I received a Christmas greeting from an old friend this past week.  As he was catching me up on the news from his part of the country he told me about a radio show he was listening to recently.  This fellow likes financial matters and he listens to lots of financial talk radio.  He also is an active stock trader and routinely tries to predict the market.  We have gone back and forth over the years about our different philosophies of investment.  I hold to the tried and true "buy and hold" approach to stock market investing and he believes it is possible to beat the market with active management and market timing.  He told me a story that he had heard on talk radio that confirmed my bias when it comes to stock market investing.  I went in search of the story on the internet and was able to find it.
According to this website I found that confirmed my friend's tale, "Celebrity real estate mogul, media sensation and now-presidential candidate Donald Trump is probably best known for his enormous wealth and distinctly abrasive personality. In 1974, Trump inherited $40 million from his late father, self-made multimillionaire and developer Fred Trump, along with his father’s real estate empire. In 1982, Forbes estimated Trump’s net worth to be $200 million. Today – although his actual net worth remains a mystery – Trump’s wealth is estimated to be somewhere between $2.9 billion (according to Bloomberg) and $4.1 billion (according to Forbes). Other financial institutions – including two separate banks that assessed Trumps assets and liabilities for business loans and the Federal Election Commission’s financial disclosure report – suggest much smaller holdings.
Despite all of the buzz about Trump’s business acumen and wealth – particularly recently during his run for office -- it is more than likely that he would have been a much wealthier man had he simply put that inherited sum into a mutual fund of S&P 500 stocks instead, then basically gone on a 40-year vacation. If Trump put the $40 million he inherited from his father in 1974 into index fund-equivalents (the first index mutual fund didn’t exist until 1976), instead of building skyscrapers and taking a chance on casinos, his wealth would have amounted to $3 billion – and without all the drama. If he put his total estimated $200 million wealth in 1982 into a hypothetical S&P 500 index fund, then simply rested on his laurels for 33 years, Trump’s fortune would have amassed to $8 billion today."
On December 9th I posted an article to this blog entitled, "Would you make this investment?," in which I told the tale of a stock mutual fund I own that has returned 13.5%/year since 1975.  The S & P 500 has had a average annual total return of 12.2% since 1975.  If you could have purchased an S & P 500 index fund in 1975, which you could not have done, you would have realized right at 12%/year in total return, after expenses.  The author of the story quoted above describes what would have happened to Donald Trump's inherited wealth if he had simply taken the $40 million he inherited in 1974 and invested it all into an S & P 500 index fund.  I am not sure where he got his figures but my calculations show that $40 million invested on January 1, 1975 would be worth $4.1 billion today.  Coincidentally, that is precisely how much Forbes estimates Trump's current net worth to be.  Even more important, from my perspective, is that if Trump had sold all of his holdings in 1982 and invested that sum into an S & P 500 index fund and simply held that fund until today, he would be worth double what he is worth today, with an astounding $8 billion in net worth.
Donald Trump is a blowhard who loves to brag about what a brilliant businessman he is.  He brags about how his multi-billionaire status is indicative of his expert ability to manage a business.  He informs those from whom he is soliciting a vote for next King of the Socialist Democracy of Amerika that he is qualified to lead this envy-filled land because of his track record in business.  Whether Donald is suited to be the next King of the SDA or not I do not know. What I do know is that my mother could have made more money than he has by simply putting the same amount into an index fund back in 1975 or 1982 and letting it sit there until today.  By the way, my mother, now deceased, did not know a single thing about investing. 
I am writing this post today for two reasons.  First, Donald Trump claims more financial ability than he has.  This observation does not make him unique.  Most people who actively manage their investment accounts and seek to time the market and predict the future grossly overestimate their ability to do so.  The world is filled with investment gurus who disparage the buy and hold approach and who will charge you hundreds of dollars to teach you their particular stock market timing scam.  People fall for those scams all the time because people believe it is possible, with the correct training, to predict the future.  Those of us who know we are not omniscient, a very small number of people by the way, also know that the best approach to long term investing is to be fully invested in quality stock mutual funds and make no attempt to manage them over time.
That brings me to my second reason for writing this post.  If you really and truly want to accumulate a nice nest egg for the future you need to run from the gurus who tell you they can predict the future and make a commitment today to invest for the long term with some quality stock mutual funds.  I will leave the investment selection up to you but you must buy only stock funds and you must hold them forever.  Donald Trump is not as rich as he could be, in fact he is only half as rich as he could be, because his ego got in the way when it came to investing.  Don't let that happen to you.  Don't be a Trump.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Homeland Security Stoops To A New Low

I don't fly anymore.  I loved to fly.  I never understood how people could complain when their flight was a couple of minutes late to their destination.  Maybe I read too much history.  It took the Pilgrims over two months to cross the Atlantic ocean on their way to Plymouth rock.  Today a person can fly over the ocean in a couple of hours.  So what if it takes an extra hour or two to go from New York to London?  No matter how you cut it, flying is fast, cheap, efficient and, until the impact of 9/11, most enjoyable.
Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Administration have completely ruined the flying experience.  By grossly violating my constitutional right to be secure in my person, papers and possessions the TSA routinely abuses my person and property whenever I have to fly by forcing me through their scanning protocols.  Today I will only fly if I cannot drive to my destination.  That means I will fly only when I have an ocean to cross.  Since I rarely have an ocean to cross I rarely fly these days.  I wish every abused and tyrannized citizen of the Socialist Democracy of Amerika shared my view of the TSA.  It would be fantastic if the airlines all began to suffer serious financial losses because customers refused to fly with them until the TSA is abolished.  But such is not the case, and not likely ever to become the case.  Why?  Because the Amerikan sheeple are terrified of terrorists, seeing them under every rock and in every baggage compartment.  That fear has caused the majority of the citizens in this terror-filled land to give up their civil rights and grant government the authority to do anything it wants to them in exchange for a promise to provide an unprovidable security from terrorist attack.
Donald the Trump is successfully exploiting this fear by promising to ban all Muslims from entering this country if he is elected.  I thought about writing a post to this blog about his proposed new law until I realized that I did not have a logical leg to stand on.  The government owns every square inch of land in the SDA.  If you do not believe that, and if you persist in the belief that you actually own some property, simply refuse to pay your real estate taxes and see how long your claim of ownership is honored.  Every single land owner in this country is a serf to the governing authorities and the payment of real property taxes is little more than our tribute as vassals to the lords who rule over us.  That being the case, if the King of the SDA, who technically owns everything in this immoral country, decides that nobody is allowed to pay us a visit, then nobody is allowed to pay us a visit.
According to a story in the Washington Post last week, a Muslim family, whom I believe are British citizens, was denied access to a flight from London  to LA on December 15th.  Mohammed Tariq Mahmood was looking forward to his trip to LA as it was his intention to treat his family to the Disneyland experience for a couple of days.  Mahmood is a 41 year old owner of a gym in northeast London.  He was met at the gate by some of Amerika's finest Homeland Security officers and informed that he and his family would not be boarding the plane bound for Disneyland.  There was no discussion.  There were no reasons given.  There was no opportunity to find out what was going on.  Mohmood was simply denied access to the plane and ordered to go home.
According to the newspaper article, "A prominent British parliamentarian demanded that Prime Minister Cameron press US officials for an explanation, something that Mahmood said he had not been given more than a week after the aborted December 15th flight.  'The only explanation I can think of is that my name is Mohammed,' said Mahmood."  Also according to the article, "US officials said little about the case Wednesday, citing federal laws protecting the privacy of air travelers."  It was that last phrase that sent me into a rage and caused me to write today's blog post.  Do you get the cruel joke?
The King owns all the land and he can invite anyone he wants to visit.  If he does not want anyone to visit, that is his business and he is under no obligation to inform the serfs why someone is not permitted to enter the land.  Nor is he obligated to inform the person who wanted to enter the Kingdom why he is not permitted to do so.  The King's word and power are supreme.  Mahmood is not entitled to, nor does he deserve, an explanation from the King for why he was not allowed to visit Disneyland.  All that matters is that the King said no to his request.  What bothers me is the excuse given to Mahmood by the King's representatives.  Rather than simply informing Mahmood that the King had spoken and that was the end of the matter, they fabricated this absurd story about the King being subject to some sort of law that both prevented Mahmood from visiting the SDA and prevented the King from telling Mahmood why he could not visit the SDA.  I am not very bright when it comes to understanding the various subtleties in human communication but even I can understand that the King's emissaries are telling lies.
A man has a ticket to board a plane to fly from London to LA.  He is prevented from doing so by the jack-booted thugs at Homeland Security.  When he dares to ask why he is being denied passage on a flight he holds a ticket for, the idiots at Homeland Security inform him that "federal laws protecting the privacy of air travelers" prevent them from telling him why he can't board the plane?  Mahmood is one of the "air travelers" the "federal laws" are designed to "protect" and yet he can't get a straight answer to the question of why he was denied the right to fly.  In fact, he can't get any answer at all.  In all of my life and in all of the dumb things I have heard coming out of the mouths of career bureaucrats, this has to be the dumbest of them all.  In essence the King's representatives told Mahmood that, "I won't tell you why you can't fly because the law protects your privacy and right to fly."  The law protects Mahmood's privacy so much even he does not know what is going on.  Hiding behind such legerdemain is typical of the cowards and idiots who populate Homeland Security and the TSA, praised be their names.