Friday, March 27, 2015


A couple of years ago I did a post I called  "Embarrassing Moments in Ultrarunning" about the Roberta Flack song "Killing Me Softly" in which I completely turned around the tune and permanently ruined it for any reader (it had to do with wiping my *ss with a snowball, so you really ought to click over and read it).

I'm about to do the same for Eric Clapton.  Ruining a song, that is.  Actually, it's an improvement because the original tune was a real downer.

So this is the Before:

Image credit Target

And this is the After:

YouTube link is here if the embedded video fails.

To close the loop in case it was not clear, every time I see a propane bottle or hear "Cocaine" on the radio, I immediately substitute Propane for Cocaine and burst into song.

It makes for a rather catchy tune.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What Are You Doing on 14-15 July?

Nope, it's not a race.  It's the North American Manure Expo, to be held in Chambersburg, PA, hosted by the county agricultural agent in conjunction with Penn State.

Web site is here.

I was in their office the other day to get a soil test kit for my garden and could not help but notice this flyer.

Believe me, I get it that farmers are the backbone of America and we don't want to take them or their profession for granted...but this tickled me!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fragmented Habitats...and Ultrarunning

Here in south-central PA we have been "civilized" for some 400 years, meaning that we no longer have any large swaths of uninterrupted forests.  For example, when I run on the Appalachian Trail near my home, the AT corridor is typically a ridge top scenario and you are indeed in the woods...yet you'd be hard-pressed to travel a linear mile without crossing some sort of of jeep trail or a real road.

I've always thought that the lack of contiguous habitat has adverse effects on the critters and plants that can live there, and this study is one of the more recent that verifies that intuitive thought:

The new study, led by Nick Haddad, a professor at North Carolina State University, and co-authored by Laurance and others, found that fragmented habitats lose an average of half of their plant and animal species within twenty years, and that some continue to lose species for thirty years or more. In all of the cases examined, the worst losses occurred in the smallest habitat patches and closest to a habitat edge. The study also demonstrates, using a high-resolution map of global tree cover, that more than seventy per cent of the world’s forest now lies within one kilometre of such an edge. “There are really only two big patches of intact forest left on Earth—the Amazon and the Congo—and they shine out like eyes from the center of the map,” Haddad said.

Think about that and treasure those times when your running habitat more closely resembles the primeval forest.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cats in Art: Key West Kitties (3)

From my continuing weekly series on cats in art.

The bride and I recently returned from a fine week with friends in Key West, where we were fascinated with the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum and its array of cats, many of which exhibit the polydactyl trait (6 toes).

Image credit Gary, of a painting hanging in the house.  As previously in the series, I did not note the painter or the date, but you juts gotta love the alert, interested expression on this kitty's face...just waiting for something good to happen.

And this was another of the cats who inhabit the place.  This one looks exactly like our cat, Ca Beere, except for the fact that Ca Beere's tail is shortened due to an infection which led to amputation.  

She gets along just fine with the shortened tail, except that on occasion her leaping is off due to the lack of a tail for balance.  Just the other day Ca Beere tried to execute a leap from the bed to the dresser in our bedroom and came up just a tad short, crashing into the top drawer and running off, shaking her head.  Cats hate to have people see them screw up.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Well-Intentioned Advice...and Ultrarunning

People just can't help themselves--they want to be helpful and concerned, sincerely believing that they have some good advice for you.

"You," of course, being an Ultrarunner.

I was reminded of that this morning when I went out for a snowy run here on the final official day of winter, not a trail run, but just a flat 5-mile road loop from the house on my beloved Harshman Road.  My mother-in-law is staying with us for a few days, being newly mobile--sadly--due to the death of her husband and the loss of her last cat.

All the MIL stereotypes do not apply in her case; she's a kind, sensible and likable woman whom I am privileged to know.  But today as I was heading out the door came the words from behind: "Don't slip!"

I said "Thanks" and went on my way.  And I didn't even slip, not once.

But that reminded me of what surely was one of the most egregious examples of such unnecessary advice, which came when I was running on the Appalachian Trail nearby.  Keep in mind that over the years I have run hundreds if not thousands of AT miles, and this day I had run some 10 miles south from Caledonia State Park in southern PA to the vicinity of Old Forge.  I was running swiftly along the 2 mile downhill on the stretch below Chimney Rocks when I encountered a group of hikers struggling uphill.  Their leader was in the front, a young man, with perhaps a dozen or so teenagers strung out behind.  They may have come from Abraxis or Vision Quest, which are local residential facilities for troubled youth located just off the AT in the village of South Mountain.

(As an aside, in my day, the kids would have been called juvenile delinquents and the place where they were sent was called reform school.  But I am dating myself, and please know that I am quite pleased anytime I see kids on the trail.)

At any rate, as I sailed by heading downhill, the leader said to me, "Be careful, lots of loose rocks on the trail."

I said the requisite "Thanks" and after they passed, just shook my head and smiled.  He did mean well.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

And We've Complacently Begun to Think of This as Normal

The drone war, that is.  Highly touted as an alternative to "boots on the ground," our policy of raining death from the skies has had some unintended consequences (of course, "unintended consequences" are so common as to be recognized with their own rule).

Via Digby, the superb analyst of our day, speaking of the operators who pilot these drones:

Some say that the drone war has driven them over the edge. "How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile? How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?" Heather Linebaugh, a former drone imagery analyst, wrote in the Guardian. "When you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience."

"It was horrifying to know how easy it was. I felt like a coward because I was halfway across the world and the guy never even knew I was there,” Bryant told KNPR Radio in Nevada. "I felt like I was haunted by a legion of the dead. My physical health was gone, my mental health was crumbled. I was in so much pain I was ready to eat a bullet myself."

Digby goes on to discuss the effectiveness of drone strikes:

How effective are the drone attacks? Chatterjee cites a report by Jennifer Gibson of the British-based human rights organization, Reprieve, that claims some targets on the White House "kill list" have allegedly “'died' as many as seven times."

Gibson adds, “We found 41 names of men who seemed to have achieved the impossible. This raises a stark question. With each failed attempt to assassinate a man on the kill list, who filled the body bag in his place?” In fact, Reprieve discovered that, in going after those 41 “targets” numerous times, an estimated 1,147 people were killed in Pakistan by drones. Typical was the present leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In two strikes against “him” over the years, according toReprieve, 76 children and 29 adults have died, but not al-Zawahiri.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Graceful Herbivores?...and Ultrarunning

Naturally seeing deer in the eastern woods while running is always a thrill.  Not that deer are rare, it's just that it's a real bonus of running.

That's why this article was a tad disturbing:

Deer aren't the slim, graceful vegans we thought they were. Scientists using field cameras have caught deer preying on nestling song birds. And it's not just deer. Herbivores the world over may be supplementing their diets.

You ought to go read the whole article.  In Nature, remember: there is no right and wrong, there are only consequences.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cats in Art: Key West Kitties (2)

From my continuing weekly series on cats in art.

The bride and I recently returned from a fine week with friends in Key West, where we were fascinated with the Ernest Hemingway Home and Musuem and its array of cats, many of which exhibit the polydactyl trait (6 toes).

Image credit Gary, of a painting hanging in the house, I believe in the main upstairs bedroom.  I did not note the painter or date. 

This gray was quite friendly.  The rules of the road for the Hemingway Home tell guests not to pick up the cats, but petting them is just fine.  They'll exit if the petting gets too much.

Mostly they just lay around, people-watching.