Monday, May 31, 2010

I’d Rather Laugh With the Sinners than Cry With the Saints….

As an ultrarunner who has had some mid-pack success—I once finished 3rd in a small 30 person 50K—I am always interested in the facial expressions of the front runners. That is, if the race venue is such that there is some sort of out-n-back that enables the runners further back to see the leaders. For example, the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Race had a couple of spurs that permitted those of us further back to see the leaders coming back the other way.

And usually it seems that the leaders are not enjoying themselves as much as the middle or back of the packers are. They just seem not to having as much fun as I am further back. Now, of course I realize that the top dogs probably have much different goals than I do (i.e., winning rather than merely finishing!), and I am NOT being judgmental. It’s just that I am glad, at age 58, that I’m not a contender and can figuratively sit back and enjoy the companionship of the race and not feel compelled to push if I don’t want to.

To stretch an analogy, as Billy Joel once sang, I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints…the sinners are much more fun….

(tried to embed the YouTube, but failed, so go here instead)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Habituated to War

Via Andrew Sullivan, I wound up over at Travels With Shiloh.  The author there attended a COIN Symposium 11-13 May at Fort Leavenworth, KS (COIN meaning Counter Insurgency).

He observed the following:
There were about 100 attendees at the conference with a pretty even mix of military and civilian personnel (both contractors and what appeared to be a smattering of reps from other departments). While primarily American there were other nations represented, particularly Canadian, British and Australian. There were no representatives from Afghanistan which was disappointing but apparently logistics got in the way of that.

Most of the military attendees were field grade officers (between major and colonel) with a few scattered captains and senior enlisted (SFC and MSGs) thrown in.

On an interesting note I don't recall hearing the terms 'War on terror', 'long war' or anything similar over the three days. The conflict in Afghanistan was (rightly, I think) divorced from some greater project.

While, current U.S. policy states that we'll begin withdrawing our forces in 2011 there was a universal recognition that any real effort to apply COIN in Afghanistan would take a very long time. While the subject wasn't addressed (except for one question at the final Q&A roundtable) my impression was that all of the speakers (British, Canadian and U.S.) were operating under the assumption that forces would be in place well beyond 2011. I heard no discussion about how to conduct any sort of hand off to the Afghans within 18 months, alterations to COIN theory or doctrine or trains of thought about alternate ways militaries could support/conduct COIN without significant numbers of forces on the ground. I would interpret that to mean that the military has been given the word (explicitly or implicitly) that that 2011 deadline is NOT set in stone. I would, in fact, go further and predict that barring some unforeseen change in the operating environment we will almost definitely have a significant presence in Afghanistan for some time.

With respect to that last paragraph, are you much surprised? Didn’t think so. Beyond the reality of continuing occupation, the fact that it isn’t surprising is perhaps the other point of the story.

Somehow we have become habituated to war since we've been at it 9 years and counting (in our current iteration). Rather than the use of military force being an exceptional condition, only invoked and perpetuated in the gravest of situations, it’s sort of become part of the background noise.

Move along people, there's nothing for you to see here, just an endless war with a blank check, no success criteria, and no discernable exit strategy. In the meanwhile, service men and women keep coming home in boxes.

See also my post on Congressman Grayson's attempt to rein in defense spending, via The War is Making You Poor Act.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Things That Ultrarunners Know (Part 1)

So much of our effort in civilization involves staying dry….yet so much of our effort as ultrarunners involves being wet. Besides getting rained upon, we do some big time sweating, to say nothing about routinely wading across creeks with not much of a thought about getting our shoes wet.
This past weekend, for example, I ran a 10 miler on local roads, and as I went out in the late morning I could see that the skies were threatening. Since the air temp was about 70 F and cold was not a concern, my only concession to possible rain was to wear a baseball cap (which I often do anyway). That way if it did rain I could pull the brim low over my eyes and keep the rain off my glasses.

Well, some 5 miles into the run I encountered a hard downpour that lasted a couple miles, followed by a lighter rain the rest of the way home. I could see in the eyes of the drivers of the passing cars that they were thinking, “That poor guy, he’s all wet!” or “He’s nuts!”

While I certainly was drenched (I love that word), I was not nuts. In fact, despite having a down day physically (my legs just felt flat and lethargic), my mental attitude was one of loving the freedom and feeling of running in the rain, careless of puddles, enjoying the pelting warm rain. See, “civilized” people just don’t, by and large, spend time in the rain sans umbrella—It. Just. Isn’t. Done.

Imagine how many millions (billions?) of dollars are invested in the umbrella, poncho, slicker, hood, and hat industries to keep us dry. I tried to Google some data for the umbrella industry but came up empty, but the figure has to be high. I trash a couple umbrellas annually, to say nothing of purchasing outerwear for the times that I don’t want to get wet.

So add this to the list of things that Ultrarunners know and the rest of the word doesn’t—the sheer exuberance of running in the rain.

I wanted to embed the famous clip of Gene Kelly dancing the title tune from Singing in the Rain, but You Tube won’t permit embedding for this one. So you’ll have to click over here to see it. Believe me, it’s worth 4:05 of your time…just imagine a muddy trail instead of the street scene….

(photo credit here)

Friday, May 28, 2010

The War Is Making You Poor Act (H.R. 5353)

Here's an action that I can support:

From Congressman Alan Grayson's (Dem, FL 8th District) web page, he gets its exactly right:

During a compelling speech on the floor of the House last night, Congressman Grayson pointed out that the United States spends as much as the rest of the world combined on defense.

"Why is that necessary? If we are going to have that much military spending, do we really need another $159 billion for the wars on top of that? I think not, particularly when people in America are suffering," Congressman Grayson said.

The War Is Making You Poor Act (H.R. 5353) does not necessitate an end to the wars or mandate a cut-off date. The bill simply requires the President to fund the wars from the $559 billion budget for defense spending in FY 2011. "There is no longer any need to go beyond the exorbitant base defense budget. It is not necessary. Enough is enough."
I don't think that Congressman Grayson's action here is a mere stunt, I want to believe--and I do--that he is a person of conviction and courage, with the unique ability to influence U.S. events by being in Congress.

I do, however, despair at the possibility for meaningful results. I'm working on a post I think I'll call Habituated to War, that will try to delve into our lack of concern? outrage? over the perpetual state of war we have found oursleves in for the past 9 years.  Even if the mood of the country is to continue these military efforts, as embodied by our elected representatives, then we do need to treat such expenditures as part of the budget rather than as a semi-permanent supplement appropriation each year.

The way we do it now is nothing more than a form of book-cooking, and masks the true cost to the American people...and the Mister Tristans of this nation, on whose backs and wallets this burden will ultimately fall.

(photo credit here)

No, I am NOT depicting Congressman Grayson as an a-hole...the key feature is a couple feet south of there.  You go, Congressman Grayson!

Note that I hesitated to include this picture of balls to represent the courage of Congressman Grayson, since I consider myself as a feminist and am sensitive to the fact the language of sexism is pervasive and damaging. I don't want to perpetuate the male-dominated patriarchic society, but go with this image anyway for now...I certainly would be grateful if someone could provide me a gender-neutral equivalent of balls = courage.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Golf Balls, Catnip, and Running

This past weekend I did not make it out for an Appalachian Trail run as I had hoped. We were away Friday and Saturday, and Sunday seemed just too good an opportunity to catch up on some sleep that an AT run just wasn’t feasible.

I did run 10 miles on local roads, and out in the middle of nowhere I found a golf ball, in perfect shape. I carried it home and gave it to a golfing buddy, even though, as we all know (just like NASCAR), golf is not a real sport. I’ve previously found golf balls on runs far away from any course, so all I can figure is that golf aficionados must be teeing off from their yards to practice their drives…or they are tossing them from moving cars.

Neither explanation seems too plausible.

The other thing I bought home was some catnip for the cats. I don’t need to plant any in my yard as it grows profusely around here on roadsides. It seems mighty strange to see a cat munching on a green plant, but munch they do, eagerly.

By the way, the run went OK, but barely. The skies were threatening when I went out and sure enough, about 5 miles out I got drenched, although that was no big deal since it was not cold. The main reason for an unsatisfactory run was that I just had nothing in my legs.

My running has been majorly flat and uninspired since completing the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run on 27 March. I’ve experienced similar letdowns subsequent to some major effort and I realize that this, too, shall pass. I need to apply for another race—there’s nothing like a commitment and an actual date on the calendar to focus one’s mind and body.

(photos by Gary)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Death Hits Close to Home: RIP Army SSG Richard J. Tieman

Army SSG Richard J. Tieman (photo credit here)

Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars has posted last week's casualties, based upon a Pentagon release of the names of eleven service members killed in Afghanistan:

US Navy PO3 Zarian Wood, 29, Houston, TX US Marines
CPL Nicholas D Parada Rodriguez, 29, Stafford, VA
US Marines SSGT Adam L Perkins, 27, Antelope, CA
US Army COL John M McHugh, 46, New Jersey
US Army LTC Paul R Bartz, 43, Waterloo, WI
US Army LTC Thomas P Belkofer, 44, Perrysburg, OH
US Army SSG Richard J. Tieman, 28, Waynesboro, PA
US Army SPC Joshua A Tomlinson, 24, Dubberly, LA
US Marines LCPL Patrick Xavier Jr, 24, Pembroke Pines, FL
US Army SSG Shane S Barnard, 38, De Smet, SD
US Army PFC Billy G Anderson, 20, Alexandria, TN

According to iCasualties, the total number of allied service members killed in Iraq is 4,717; in Afghanistan, 1,783. During this same period, Iraq Body Count lists 78 Iraqi civilian deaths. The Army announced this week that they would launch an investigation into the illegal deaths of Afghan civilians.

The 7th name on the list strikes home: Army SSG Richard J. Tieman, 28, Waynesboro, PA. He was from a community just a few miles away.  I did not know him personally, but his death will leave a hole in his family that can never be filled.

While I continue to strongly feel that continuing the Afghanistan venture is ill-advised and basically a no-win situation, I applaud the sacrifices made by all service members, who can take satisfaction from the fact that they are doing their duty to the best of their abilities. We have a seemingly endless war, coming with a blank check (i.e., no estimate as to costs), no success criteria, and no discernable exit strategy.

Richard Tieman deserves better.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Looking DOWN on Red Tailed Hawk (via Hot Air Balloon)

(Photo by Gary)

Last summer, the bride and I celebrated our 36th anniversary. We picked well and have been lucky, and have thoroughly enjoyed our time together. We hope to be fortunate enough and healthy enough to continue to enjoy each other's company until we depart this earth.

To commemorate that anniversary, as a surprise I booked a hot air balloon ride with Windjammer Balloons out of York, PA. The ride originally was booked for our anniversary weekend, but the weather did not cooperate (rain and wind are the nemeses of ballooning and do necessitate rescheduling, perhaps as much as half the time). Trying to reschedule with the other couple was tough, so we ultimately punted until this spring when the ride went off as scheduled without a hitch.

As a nature lover and ultrarunner, I am pretty familiar with the critters that roam in our neck of the woods here in southern Pennsylvania. I have been blessed to have had many encounters with them, on foot, in their own territory where I was the intruder and always strive mightily NOT to be an unwelcome guest. So one of the things that pleasantly surprised me about the balloon ride was seeing critters. As we flew over farm fields and woods we saw numerous white-tailed deer. Also we saw two separate foxes, one that appeared from its color to be a red fox, and the other a gray fox.

But the crème de la crème for me was to be looking DOWN on a red-tailed hawk in flight. I have always admired this magnificent bird, but have only ever seen it from below. I am pleased that they are again doing well. Their population was in severe decline due to ill-informed people shooting them on sight so as to increase the population of game animals, and the effects of DDT.

When I and my running buddies take our noontime run around the perimeter of the Navy base where we work, we often see a resident Red-tail, who is familiar enough with people that he/she often does not fly from its street light perch as we run beneath it. And when it does fly, seeing those magnificent red tail feathers spread to catch the wind brings a thrill to my spine.

Back to Windjammer--their price per person for a 1-hour flight is $195 (I have no financial interest in this). The pilot was friendly, professional, and inspired confidence. I should mention that one of our flying companions is a licensed private small-plane pilot and is strictly by-the-book when it comes to safety--he was impressed with the attention to equipment and procedural safety. The ground crew in the chase vehicle kept in constant radio and visual communication with the balloon, and was there to meet us as we gently touched down in an large backyard.

Then after the balloon was stowed and we had been transported back to the launch site, we toasted the experience with champagne. What a memorable day--highly recommended!

The Balloonists' Prayer
The Winds have Welcomed you with softness.
The Sun has blessed you with its warm hands.
You have flown so high and so well,
that God has joined you in your laughter.
And He has set you gently back again
into the loving arms of Mother Earth.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Terrible Things

While I'm on a Writer's Almanac roll (see Saturday's post on Salvador Dali), I saved this one from last August 14th:

It's the birthday of journalist, essayist, and humorist Russell Baker, (books by this author) born in Morrisonville, Virginia (1925). He's a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner; the first he won in 1979 for distinguished commentary for his syndicated humor column, "The Observer," which ran from the early 1960s to the late 1990s. The second Pulitzer he received for his autobiography, Growing Up (1982). He's edited a number of anthologies, including The Norton Book of Light Verse (1986). He once said, "I gave up on new poetry myself thirty years ago, when most of it began to read like coded messages passing between lonely aliens in a hostile world."

Russell Baker said, "Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things."

Sure makes me immediately think of the War on Terror and the justifications for torture, unlawful wiretaps, and incarcerations without due process.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Last of the Mohicans and Ultrarunning

(image credit here)

I posted this to the Ultralist back in 2000 but I think it’s sorta funny to resurrect here on the blog. Besides, after my recent political and philosophical posting, I’d better put up something to do with ultrarunning, right?

A buddy of mine is into 18th century living history and has probably worn out his copy of the Last of the Mohicans movie. Anyway, for those into such things, he pointed out 2 pretty cool technical errors in the film that survived editing:

--Near the beginning of the final climactic hill climbing scene, the main character (Daniel Day-Lewis) emerges running from under a "cave" or rock pile.....and he bounces off a "rock" in the left foreground that shakes significantly. It obviously must be a fabric-covered mock up.

ULTRA CONTENT: we need these forgiving rocks on the trails we run on.

--In the scene after the surrender of the besieged fort, when the stream of British & settler refugees is walking thru that long meadow just prior to being ambushed: a crew person in a blue/purple baseball cap with a small megaphone is clearly visible in the right foreground walking with the others.

ULTRA CONTENT: late in an ultra, with a crash & burn imminent, we may need crew direction.

I better go running now.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Salvador Dalí and Dr. John Ostrom

(photo credit here)

May 11th was the birthday of Spanish painter Salvador Dalí, born on this day in 1904 in Figueras, Spain.  From the Writers' Almanac, which I receive daily in email form:

Salvador Dalí's ambitions included cultivating a reputation for eccentricity, and he once said, "The one thing the world will never have enough of is the outrageous." For one thing, he had a perfectly waxed, upturned mustache that's been alternately described as "flamboyant," "bold," "grotesque," and "hilarious." In recent years, it's inspired a line of Dalí mustache necklaces.

He wore long sideburns, sported clothes like Oscar Wilde's, and sometimes walked down the street ringing a bell so that people would look at him. He himself said he had a "love of everything that is gilded and excessive." And he said, "In order to acquire a growing and lasting respect in society, it is a good thing, if you possess great talent, to give, early in your youth, a very hard kick to the right shin of the society that you love. After that, be a snob."
Couple comments:  First off, the snob comment wouldn’t work for me but I sort of admire the thought. Also, I don’t like to call much attention to myself, so the bell ringing thingy or the outrageous mustache wouldn’t fly either.  But again, I grudgingly admire somebody who could pull it off. Must be my passive-aggressive side coming out.
I knew a girl in high school whose brother Mark was an artist. Upon a whim, the artist brother decided to see if he could go to New York City and meet Dali. If I recall correctly, he was able to obtain Dali’s phone number and call him. To Mark’s great surprise, Dali said something like “Sure, how soon can you get here?” So Mark went and spent a life-changing day with Dali.
I once had a similar experience. Our son was a huge fan of dinosaurs when he was in elementary school. Sometime around 1993, shortly after Jurassic Park came out, we saw a PBS special in which Dr. John Ostrom of Yale’s Peabody Museum appeared, showing a behind the scenes tour of the museum. At that time he arguably was the most important paleontologist on the planet. We were planning a trip to New England anyway so I wrote to Dr. Ostrom and basically he said the same thing: “Sure, how soon can you get here?”
Dr. Ostrom was the guy who found the original raptor claw that figured so prominently in the movie. He also first championed the theories that dinosaurs were not sluggish and cold-blooded, but rather were active and agile...and their descendants survive today as birds.  We actually got to hold that very claw specimen from a dinosaur called Deinonychus. That day ranks high on my list of magical, wonderful days.
We have a photo of Dr. Ostrom nearly identical to this one (credit here), excecpt we are also in it.  He was a kindly, sweet man.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Battle of Falling Waters Road

The Battle of Falling Waters Road, Maryland, 1863

(Photo credits here)

Yesterday (scroll down) I posted about the Battle of Falling Waters, which occured in July 1861, in what was then Virginia, now West Virginia.  I speculated about what it meant when Henry Kyd Douglas, a staff officer for Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, wrote:

It was only a little "affair at Falling Waters," as General Johnston called it, and few were hurt. To me it was of memorable importance; for there for the first time I heard the whiz of a musket ball and the shriek of a cannon shot....Nothing came of it, but the war had made a beginning.

If you were one of the "few" you certainly would have had a quite different perspective....

Today's post is about another Civil War action, this one occurring some 2 years after the one mentioned above, and occurring on the Maryland side of the Potomac River.  It bears a quite similar name, which makes things confusing to keep straight: The Battle of Falling Waters Road (the addition of the word Road is the discriminator). 
This site was critical during the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, and looks much as it did in 1863.  General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was trapped against the flooding Potomac for several days, and at this site two corps of his army (Longstreet's and Hill's) managed to cross safely on pontoon boats just as Union General Meade attacked the rear guard.
The American Civil War would continue for nearly another 2 years.

In addition to the historical marker pictured above, there's another a few feet away:

The marker reads:

Finally on July 10, the Confederates completed a pontoon bridge, but it took two days for the ambulances and hundreds of ordnance and artillery wagons to cross. By the early evening of July 13, during another downpour, Gen. James Longstreet’s infantry corps began tramping across, guided by bonfires on both shores and signal torches on the bridge. Gen. A.P. Hill’s corps followed, and by mid-morning the next day, 30,000 Confederates were across.”

Lee’s army had escaped.

Quartermaster John Harman, who previously had served as Stonewall Jackson’s chief quartermaster, built 16 pontoon boats in two days from dismantled sheds and warehouses and wood from a Williamsport lumberyard. When the lumberyard manager complained, the Confederates retorted: “Just charge it to Jeff Davis. Our army is worth more than all your lumber in gold.

Whenever I run here I try to be alert and cognizant of what went on here.  Sometimes, I would swear, I hear indistinct noises, faint footfalls, murmured voices.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The 1861 Battle of Falling Waters

 (Engraving from The Illustrated London News, image credit here)

Henry Kyd Douglas, from I Rode With Stonewall:

It was only a little "affair at Falling Waters," as General Johnston called it, and few were hurt. To me it was of memorable importance; for there for the first time I heard the whiz of a musket ball and the shriek of a cannon shot....Nothing came of it, but the war had made a beginning.

This post will pull together some American Civil war history, some Chesapeake and Ohio Canal history, some of course some ultrarunning. Please read on....

One of my favorite places to run long is the C + O Canal, which now is a National Park along the Potomac River in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

In the 1830s, in an idea that dated back to George Washington, since the Potomac River was not navigable, why not dig a canal immediately beside it, control the water levels thru a brilliantly engineered series of dams and locks, and use it to float boats for heavy hauling? So eventually it was done, accomplished over several decades...but ultimately doomed in the 1920s by the increasing dominance of the railroad.

What remains today is a 185 mile long woody corridor right along the Potomac, complete with historical locks, dams, and structures, preserved via the National Park designation. While the canal bed itself is largely overgrown with trees, there are a couple of sections that have been rewatered to show the canal as it once was 150+ years ago.

The main draw for a runner, though, is the so-called "towpath," the dirt road beside the canal bed where the mules once walked to pull canal barges. It's a perfect running surface, a double-track dirt or fine gravel road, and with enough trees in the summer to provide 99% shade and in the winter to provide a decent windbreak. The JFK 50 Miler uses some 26 miles of the canal towpath as part of its route.

I love running along the C + O Canal and always look forward eagerly to logging some miles. One of my favorite routes is to run downstream of Williamsport (the closest access point for me by car, only 30 minutes from my home). About 5 miles downstream is a locale called Falling Waters, after the stream on the West Virginia side that empties into the Potomac. 

So, to keep the geography straight, I'm running on the north, or Maryland, side, where the C + O Canal is, and the 1861 action in question--called the Battle of Falling Waters--took place across the river on the West Virginia side.  Of course, in 1861, it was all Virginia--Unionist western Virginia had not yet been peeled off into the state of West Virginia.  It is this 1861 battle that I wish to focus on.  It actually took place some 5 miles or so south of the river.

(NOTE:  don't get this Battle of Falling Waters (West Virginia in 1861) confused with the 1863 Battle of Falling Waters Road (on the Maryland side of the river), which is better known due to its connection to the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg.  I will post something on that 1863 action tomorrow).

Back to 1861 and what happened.  From the Civil War News website:

Falling Waters was the first Civil War engagement in the Shenandoah Valley, fought on July 2, 1861, approximately five miles south of the Potomac River in what is now West Virginia. The majority of the fighting was around the Porterfield House, a large log structure built by the grandfather of the Alamo's Davy Crockett.

This battle, actually little more than a skirmish by later standards, was quickly overshadowed by the Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) less than three weeks later.

Although generally known, both now and during the war, as Falling Waters, this little battle was given a number of names, which has helped to keep it obscure. Of course the use of different conventions by the North and South to name battles is a lot of the issue.

For example the Confederate rank and file frequently called the battle "Hainesville" after the last village they passed through as they marched toward the engagement. The Harper's Weekly correspondent called it "Hoke's Run," referring to the first water Federal troops encountered after the fight as they pursued the withdrawing Confederates.

Falling Waters, a tiny hamlet not far north of the site and containing a small waterfall, conveniently met both naming criteria.

This winter, with the leaves off the trees, I finally got a real good look across the river from MD to WV and was able to see this tributary stream, and just smiled to myself, thinking, "So that's why this place is called Falling Waters!"

Also this winter I was re-reading Henry Kyd Douglas' I Rode With Stonewall. Douglas was a Confederate officer on General Stonewall Jackson's staff, whose memoirs remained undiscovered until the 1940s, when their publication created quite a stir among Civil War historians.  Let me repeat my lead-in to this post.  Writing in his first chapter of the "Affair at Falling Waters," here's what Douglas says about the 1861 action, and I've highlighted what piqued my interest:

It was only a little "affair at Falling Waters," as General Johnston called it, and few were hurt. To me it was of memorable importance; for there for the first time I heard the whiz of a musket ball and the shriek of a cannon shot....Nothing came of it, but the war had made a beginning.
I guess I'm struck by the fact that while Douglas (understandably) referred to the numbers as "few," if you were one of the few, the life changing effect of being shot (if you survived) would certainly give you quite a different perspective.

So I surfed the net eagerly, looking for what was meant by "few were hurt." I found limited and inconsistent data, but in the course of my research I had the wonderful good fortune to connect with Gary Gimbel, a local historian, one of whose passions is the 1861 Battle of Falling Waters (the Falling Waters Battlefield Association info is here).

In a marvelous coincidence, Gary G wrote back to say: "It is ironic that one of my current projects is trying to determine not just the exact number of casualties, but actually the names of the soldiers on both sides who were killed, wounded, captured or missing." He was unhesitatingly willing to share his data with a fellow researcher, and went on to provide the following information:

I don't (yet) have a polished, footnoted document to send you listing the July 2, 1861 casualties. However I will give you a summary of what I know at this time. It is quite different than what you find on the internet and in the claims by both sides at the time. I have documentation on these figures and in most cases even the soldiers' names.

   Killed 3
   Wounded 18 (one of these mortally, dying at the end of August)
   Captured 49

   Killed 2
   Wounded 14
   Captured/Missing 9

It is very likely that some (1 to 3 possibly) of the missing Confederates were left on the field dead (even Jackson admitted that in a letter to his wife). Some were definitely captured and I would guess there were some desertions at that point too. The grand total of all Confederate casualties is 25 and is confirmed in a number of sources.

Please note that frequently [Confederate cavalry leader J. E. B.] Stuart gets credit for all 49 Union soldiers captured and that they were all from the 15th Pennsylvania. That is not the case. One of the biggest problems I have in putting this list together are aging veterans (both north and south) claiming in newspaper articles that they received a wound at Falling Waters that wasn't reported at the time.
So, some 149 years ago, on that summer day back in 1861, when the American Civil War was new, exciting, and still a grand adventure, some 37 or more men were shot by musket ball or artillery. 37 human beings (the so-called "few" who were hurt) underwent a life changing experience. War surely did not seem so glorious when you were on the receiving end of a projectile tearing through your flesh at high speed.

Historians, and those who read histories, sometimes tend to think of history in terms of the grand overview of events.  However, to me real history is comprised of those personal events that were actually lived by the participants.  I always try to remember that the people written of in histories were as real as you and me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

For. The. Children.

(Image credit here)

Speaking of the birth of his new grandson last fall, Larry J. Schweiger (President & CEO, National Wildlife Federation) wrote in an editorial in the Feb/Mar 2010 edition of National Wildlife:

I knew he was leaving his mother's womb to enter a world that is increasingly warming and more uncertain with intensifying storms, deepening droughts, massive forest fires and overheating cities. He deserves to live in a safer world.

You see, in the end, it's about the common property that is all around us: the air we breathe. It belongs to everyone on Earth-and no one-at the same time.


When I was a senior in high school in 1968, I read a provocative article in the journal Science titled "The Tragedy of the Commons" by Garrett Hardin that greatly influenced my thinking. Hardin described a number of herdsmen who were sharing a public grazing land called the commons. Each sought to get the most grass for their animals without limits and collectively they destroyed the commons. One line in his article has long haunted me: "Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all."

Global warming may soon be seen as the penultimate tragedy of the commons. If the nearly 7 billion people on the planet are free to continue dumping billions upon billions of tons of carbon dioxide, soot and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we will surely destroy the atmospheric commons that gives and protects all life.

Again--and again--and again--I keep going back to a simple rule. I guess it's a lot like the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you), but it forces us to focus on the children:

For. The. Children.

It's that simple--is what I am doing good for the Mister Tristans of this world? If not, don't do it. This rule must look to the larger as well as the short term picture, and applies to agriculture, to banking, to pollution, to government, to war, to morality, to health care, to religion, to interpersonal relationships, to fill in the blank.

Children are a gift, a treasure, and are utterly dependent upon the unselfish and altruistic actions of their caregivers. In the example above, is overgrazing the commons in the best interest of the children? Of course not--perhaps there would be a short-term benefit, but it would be followed by a long-term collapse.

This isn't rocket science, people--we all have that little voice of conscience within us that tells us when we are straying from the rule:

For. The. Children.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ultra Thoughts on Immortality

One thing I do as an ultrarunner is to think. Spending time in the backcountry on trails is a marvelous venue for thinking about as much--or as little--as you wish. Sometimes my mind covers great soaring expanses of thought; other days, I'm on autopilot, enjoying the run, and later can’t really recall a single meaningful thought.

Thinking about life and death is not something I particularly dwell upon. But I do sometimes focus on that subject, particularly after the death of a friend or loved one and my thoughts naturally turn to immortality (or the lack thereof), the afterlife, morality, the essence of what is a good or an evil life, etc.

In some recent blog reading, I came across Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish, and post called Meditating On Death, And Life. This turned out to be a lengthy post with many wonderful reader comments. One particular reader comment resonated with me, as it comes pretty close to my current thinking.

My best friend died six years ago. A few years later, I got into an argument with a friend when I told him I no longer believed in Heaven and Hell. It was a big issue because we had both been struggling with the death of our friend and while I didn't think our friend was "in Heaven" in the traditional sense, he did believe that. He took great offense that I could say our friend wasn't in Heaven, as if I was saying he didn't deserve to be. I tried to explain what I thought Heaven and Hell meant now that I no longer believed in the traditional concepts or that they are places your soul goes after death.

I didn't say exactly this, but my argument was basically that Heaven is the emotional legacy you leave behind in the souls of others. By leaving the world a better place and touching the lives of others in positive ways, those good works ripple away from you for eternity. Hell on the other hand is hurting others and having those negative ripples go on forever. So if you're doing good things, helping others, making people smile, being a decent person, all of those actions are leaving a mark on the souls of those people you help and they and the world are better off for your having helped them. On the flip side, hurting others marks the soul of others, as well. And because your actions will impact the actions of another and their actions do the same and so on for eternity, in a way one can reach eternal life by doing good deeds.

Or here's another thought, this one mine--perhaps Heaven and Hell really do exist, but only for believers. That is, if you place yourself in the Theist camp, you become subject to their bylaws, and Heaven and Hell become real consequences. If you align yourself in the Atheist camp, you have removed yourself from the jurisdiction of the Theist rulebook, and at the end of your life your light simply goes out, forever.

Makes about as much sense as some of the other theories.  I guess it's time to go for a run, we sure aren't gonna solve this one here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Body Work

When I run to or from the garage where I get my cars worked on, I pass an auto body business. I am always amused by the large sign they have painted--visible from Interstate 81--which reads:

Todd Auto Body Inc.
Serving You and the Lord

I didn’t realize that God would have much of a need for auto body work.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Exactly Spot-On

One lefty blog I follow is Brilliant at Breakfast (or see right sidebar) In Jill’s post on 14 May, (crediting Andrew Tobias’ blog, here) she posts a letter to the editor from an angry mother of a gay son in Vermont.

As someone with gay family members and friends, I know that someone's sexuality is no threat to me or to anyone.  Moreover, it is simply none of my business.  I utterly fail to see why folks get their panties all in a bunch over it.

I reproduce that mother's letter in its entirety here because I can't make the point any better:

Sunday, April 30, 2000
For the Valley News (White River Junction, VT)

Many letters have been sent to the Valley News concerning the homosexual menace in Vermont. I am the mother of a gay son and I've taken enough from you good people.

I'm tired of your foolish rhetoric about the "homosexual agenda" and your allegations that accepting homosexuality is the same thing as advocating sex with children. You are cruel and ignorant. You have been robbing me of the joys of motherhood ever since my children were tiny.

My firstborn son started suffering at the hands of the moral little thugs from your moral, upright families from the time he was in the first grade. He was physically and verbally abused from first grade straight through high school because he was perceived to be gay.

He never professed to be gay or had any association with anything gay, but he had the misfortune not to walk or have gestures like the other boys. He was called "fag" incessantly, starting when he was 6.

In high school, while your children were doing what kids that age should be doing, mine labored over a suicide note, drafting and redrafting it to be sure his family knew how much he loved them. My sobbing 17-year-old tore the heart out of me as he choked out that he just couldn't bear to continue living any longer, that he didn't want to be gay and that he couldn't face a life without dignity.

You have the audacity to talk about protecting families and children from the homosexual menace, while you yourselves tear apart families and drive children to despair. I don't know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn't put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse. God gave you brains so that you could think, and it's about time you started doing that.

At the core of all your misguided beliefs is the belief that this could never happen to you, that there is some kind of subculture out there that people have chosen to join. The fact is that if it can happen to my family, it can happen to yours, and you won't get to choose. Whether it is genetic or whether something occurs during a critical time of fetal development, I don't know. I can only tell you with an absolute certainty that it is inborn.

If you want to tout your own morality, you'd best come up with something more substantive than your heterosexuality. You did nothing to earn it; it was given to you. If you disagree, I would be interested in hearing your story, because my own heterosexuality was a blessing I received with no effort whatsoever on my part. It is so woven into the very soul of me that nothing could ever change it. For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I'm puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will? If that's not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can?

A popular theme in your letters is that Vermont has been infiltrated by outsiders. Both sides of my family have lived in Vermont for generations. I am heart and soul a Vermonter, so I'll thank you to stop saying that you are speaking for "true Vermonters."

You invoke the memory of the brave people who have fought on the battlefield for this great country, saying that they didn't give their lives so that the "homosexual agenda" could tear down the principles they died defending. My 83-year-old father fought in some of the most horrific battles of World War II, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart.

He shakes his head in sadness at the life his grandson has had to live. He says he fought alongside homosexuals in those battles, that they did their part and bothered no one. One of his best friends in the service was gay, and he never knew it until the end, and when he did find out, it mattered not at all. That wasn't the measure of the man.

You religious folk just can't bear the thought that as my son emerges from the hell that was his childhood he might like to find a lifelong companion and have a measure of happiness. It offends your sensibilities that he should request the right to visit that companion in the hospital, to make medical decisions for him or to benefit from tax laws governing inheritance.

How dare he? you say. These outrageous requests would threaten the very existence of your family, would undermine the sanctity of marriage.

You use religion to abdicate your responsibility to be thinking human beings. There are vast numbers of religious people who find your attitudes repugnant. God is not for the privileged majority, and God knows my son has committed no sin.

The deep-thinking author of a letter to the April 12 Valley News who lectures about homosexual sin and tells us about "those of us who have been blessed with the benefits of a religious upbringing" asks: "What ever happened to the idea of striving . . . to be better human beings than we are?"

Indeed, sir, what ever happened to that?

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I posted this to the Ultra List some 13 years ago, on May 15, 1997. I vividly remember this run as though it were yesterday.  Photo credit Wikipedia.

For those of you with a biological bent, I noted an interesting phenomenon today while on an early AM run. I was running on South Mountain, just south of the PA-MD border, along the road leading to High Rock (hang gliding site). To orient those of you who are semi-familiar with the area, this would be along the same ridge approx 20 miles north of the Appalachian Trail portion of the JFK 50-Miler.

Anyway, I began a typical run at daybreak from Fort Ritchie, MD where I work, at 1300' elevation. As I ran steadily uphill, I found that between about 1500' and 1800' elevation, the road was littered with live and smashed millipedes (the pencil-thick dark brown critters approx 4" long, with beaucoups legs, they curl up when disturbed). I couldn't run more than 5 steps without passing one. What was strange was as I continued the uphill run beyond High Rock at 1800', they disappeared and stayed absent all the way up to the very top of the ridge at the communications towers at 2100' elevation. The character of the oak-chestnut oak forest remained the same throughout.

Millipedes--virtually insignificant in the big scheme of things. But today, for awhile at least, they were the most important things in the world. Funny how ultra training provides these little gems in an otherwise routine day. Today it was millipedes, tomorrow I have no doubt that I will see, I mean really see, something else familiar for the first time. (By the way, although by profession I am a civilian telecommunications specialist for the U.S. Govt., my first love is Biology, in which I have a MS I never have professionally used. Comes in handy while running, though).

Friday, May 14, 2010

Where I Run: A Mason-Dixon Line Marker (Mile 103)

My last installment of Where I Run was here, back on 22 March.

When I run to or from my garage where I get my cars worked on, it’s but a short distance to the PA-MD state line. In fact, the little village that sits astride the line along US Route 11 is called State Line (go figure!).

At any rate, on the outskirts of State Line, tucked along an embankment and nearly covered by the Crown Vetch roadside planting is an original stone mile marker placed in the 1760s by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, when they surveyed the now-famous Mason-Dixon Line to settle a border dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Here are 3 shots I took this week:

Across the road, the marker stone is in the center, at the base of the post.

Up close, about 18" is above ground.

Note the "P" for Pennsylvania

The surveyors placed small stone markers every mile and a larger stone every fifth mile. This is one of the regular mile markers. Note the P on the north (Pennsylvania) side.

What amazes me, according to an excellent National Geographic article, is that
…the line was off the mark by as little as one inch in some places and never more than 800 feet….Although there is nothing scientifically groundbreaking about the calculations made by Mason and Dixon, creating a boundary with almost constant latitude was a logistical achievement and represented hard core science done under harsh conditions.

When Mason and Dixon placed this particular stone, the area undoubtedly would have been heavily wooded. Then as civilization reached the frontier, roads and villages grew, and now nearly 250 years later this small stone sits virtually unknown and unnoticed, except by someone who is looking for it.

Whenever I run by I touch it and send good vibes to the long-dead Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who in their own right were ultrarunners in spirit.

Another good site to read more is here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Needing an Appalachian Trail Fix

(Photo credit here)

Over the winter, when I was preparing for the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run, I needed to crank out several long training runs (~ 30 miles or so).

I love running on the Appalachian Trail--it's only 20 minutes from my home at its closest point--and I have found over the years that my speed is about 4 MPH. That's 15 minute miles, a seemingly glacial pace. I keep thinking that if only I applied myself, I could run faster.

But I just can’t do it. It's 4 MPH no matter how hard I press. The speed (or lack thereof) is dictated by a couple factors:

--The rocky nature of the trail: Pennsylvania's rocks are notorious among AT thru-hikers; this is the one consistent observation of PA across multiple hiking diaries across many years. You run the rocky sections at your own peril. Most of the time you pick your way gingerly at slow walk.

--The hills: at least where I am, long uphills of a mile or more are common. These may be either gradual or steep, but in any case, these hills are walked, not run.

--Water: There is only limited water immediately along the trail, so by and large you need to go off trail to a shelter and hope the spring there is flowing. Other options include caching water along the way, or using surface stream water and treating it. In the summer, taking care of one's water needs can be particularly time consuming.

So...back to Umstead training. I passed on AT running for these long training runs just because it'd take too much time in the dead of winter. To cover 30 miles of AT would be a 7 or 8 hour proposition, before driving time is even factored in. Plus this winter, for a change, we had significant snow and the mountain trails were buried.

On the other hand, if I went to the C + O Canal or ran on rural roads around the house, I could maintain 6 MPH, resulting in a 5 hour run. By going out at 4:00 am I could be back before 10:00 am and thus still have most of full a day to live my non-running life.

Anyway, I'm suffering from Appalachian Trail deprivation, and gotta get me a fix this weekend. I'm desperate!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Cost of Iraq

In my reading I've come across two reckonings of the cost of Iraq, the first at the macro scale, and the second at the micro (human impact) level.

1. The macro view...
 In a post by Matt Yglesias, he discusses an effort to "...tally up the full cost of Iraq—human, financial, and strategic—and discover that the price was very, very, very high."

We certainly have paid a severe price, squandering our nation's blood, treasure, and international moral authority.

Matt's link is to The Center for American Progress, here. From that Center for American Progress post, I found this quote to be most germane.

But when weighing those possible benefits against the costs of the Iraq intervention, there is simply no conceivable calculus by which Operation Iraqi Freedom can be judged to have been a successful or worthwhile policy. The war was intended to show the extent of America’s power. It succeeded only in showing its limits.

2. The micro view....

Per Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars, in her regular weekly feature, the U.S. last week lost nine service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan (I also linked to her a week ago, here)

US Army 1LT Salvatore S Corma, 24, Wenonah, NJ
US Army SGT Anthony O Magee, 29, Hattiesburg, MI
US Air Force A1C Austin H Gates Benson, 19, Hellertown, PA
US Army SGT Ralph Mena, 27, Hutchinson, KS
US Army MSG Mark W Coleman, 40, Centerville, WA
US Marines 1st Lt Brandon A Barrett, 27, Marion, IN
US Army SPC Eric M Finniginam, 26, Colonia, FM
US Army SPC Wade A Slack, 21, Waterville, ME
US Marines LCpl Richard R Penny, 21, Fayetteville, AR

According to iCasualties, the total number of service members killed in Iraq is 4,715; in Afghanistan, 1,752. During this same period, Iraq Body Count lists 40 Iraqi civilians killed.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Yellow Lady Slipper

Just in time for Mother's Day, the Yellow Lady Slipper flower that I purchased last spring burst forth its flower.  The bride was quite pleased, as was I.

Although the overall plant and its flower are fairly petite, it still was a stunning morning sight when I paused along my south flower bed after coming back from a windy run this weekend. 

I saw numerous Lady Slippers along the trails of the Massanutten 100 Miler; in fact, that is one of the vivid, enduring memories I have of that run back in 1998.

Monday, May 10, 2010

At Last, Scientific Proof that Outdoor Exercise is Good for You

At last, scientific proof that outdoor exercise is good for you.  Not just exercise--duh--but OUTDOOR exercise.

I came to this article by a circuitous route. All I have to say--just as President Theodore Roosevelt surely did 100+ years ago--is "Bully for the Internet!"

I was originally surfing the political blog, Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, where I was intrigued by this post, entitled Get off That Treadmill. Then I clicked over to the referenced BBC news story for 1 May 2010, and from there with some effort was able to drill down to the original article in the American Chemical Society's bi-weekly journal, Environment Science and Technology, 25 March 2010.

That article is entitled What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis.

Here are the money quotes from the BBC article:

Just five minutes of exercise in a "green space" such as a park can boost mental health, researchers claim.

There is growing evidence that combining activities such as walking or cycling with nature boosts well-being.

In the latest analysis, UK researchers looked at evidence from 1,250 people in 10 studies and found fast improvements in mood and self-esteem.

The study in the Environmental Science and Technology journal suggested the strongest impact was on young people.

The research looked at many different outdoor activities including walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding and farming in locations such as a park, garden or nature trail.

The biggest effect was seen within just five minutes.

With longer periods of time exercising in a green environment, the positive effects were clearly apparent but were of a smaller magnitude, the study found.

Looking at men and women of different ages, the researchers found the health changes - physical and mental - were particularly strong in the young and the mentally-ill.

A bigger effect was seen with exercise in an area that also contained water - such as a lake or river.

Comments: ultrarunning is NOT mentioned, but presumably it'd fall into the category of "exercise."  The young and the mentally ill benefit most from exercise. Since I'm not young, and I would say that I benefit from exercise, then I guess by default I must be mentally ill.

Snark aside, we who run in the woods already know that this is true, but it's great to see it documented in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.  Also I loved the point that exercising near water is very effective.  We ultrarunners, of course, already knew that.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

First Water Lily Flower

No ultrarunning content today, just a shot of my first water lily flower.  This in honor of all the mothers out there who have done so much.  

To the four mothers closest to me (Mom, the bride, daughter, daughter-in-law): thank you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

For the Children (2)

I saved this photo from April 2008 and taped it in my work cube where I would see it every single day. 

The caption: Ali Hussein is pulled from the rubble of his home after a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad's Sadr City. The 2-year-old died at a hospital.

Mister Tristan (the human, not the blog) is now 2 years old.  I cannot imagine losing him in any way, much less to experience the grief and horror of losing him in a senseless war without end.

I could no longer recall from whence my clipped photo came, so I went on the web to try to source it properly.  The best I could do was here at dcMemorials, where the author says he borrowed it from the Associated Press and photographer Karim Kadim.

I echo the sentiments of the author, who wrote:

This page is dedicated to the late Ali Hussein
& all the other children of Iraq so tragically affected by this war.
And to the hundreds of thousands of American fighters
who have faithfully discharged the duties
thrust upon them by their Commander in Chief.

My heart weeps for the children...
& shares the pain of the soldiers
upon whom this horrible burden has been placed.

(I've posted on Children before and about our sacred duty to protect them at all costs.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Stepping on Nightcrawlers

The other morning, following an overnight of steady, soaking rain, the nightcrawlers were out in full force on the roads. I had to pay close attention lest I trample one underfoot. It was interesting to note that the worms were quite prevalent along pastures, overgrown fields, or yards, and much less common along active farm fields. I presume that the practices of modern agriculture (plowing, chemical defoliation, chemical fertilization) are not worm-friendly.

As the sun rose higher and the pavement dried off, there were many of the critters caught in the middle of trying to cross the road. Since there were literally thousands of worms in that situation, I simply had to trust that they'd either make it to the other side safely without dehydrating, or they would not. Where I did intervene, however, was a stretch where there was an alfalfa field on the left and a fertilizer business on the right, whose parking lot was covered with sand and nuggets of fertilizer.

Any nightcrawler heading over there was doomed, so I took the time to toss any worm heading in the direction of the fertilizer business back into the alfalfa.

It was 10 feel-good minutes well spent in the middle of my run.

Photo credit here (this is the European version but looks virtually identical as here in the U.S.)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Byronic Heros and Antiheros

I love REFDESK as my home page. Once, long ago, when I still respected Colin Powell, I read that he uses it as his home page. I figured that if a busy person such as he relied upon it, REFDESK was probably worthwhile.

And it is worthwhile, big time. Basically it’s a gateway to hundreds of other informational sites. You should just go take a look.

Tuesday’s gem on REFDESK is a section called “ARTICLE OF THE DAY: provided by The Free Dictionary” where the featured article was The Byronic Hero.

The Byronic hero is an idealized, but flawed character exemplified in the life and writings of Lord Byron, characterized by his ex-lover Lady Caroline Lamb as being "mad, bad and dangerous to know". The Byronic hero first appears in Byron's semi-autobiographical epic narrative poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-18). The Byronic hero has the following characteristics:

--highly intelligent and perceptive

--cunning and adaptive

--often sophisticated and highly educated

--self-critical and introspective

--mysterious, magnetic and appealing

--struggles with integrity

--seductive and sexually attractive (sleeps with many women, claims them as his own, etc.)

--dominant: in sexual relationships and interaction with people

--conflicting emotions bipolar tendencies, or moodiness

--a distaste for social institutions and social norms

--being an exile, an outcast, or an outlaw

--has "dark" attributes not normally associated with heroes

--a lack of respect for rank and privilege

--a troubled past

--being cynical, demanding, and/or arrogant

--often self-destructive

--loner, often rejected from society

The Byronic hero is also featured in many different contemporary novels, and it is clear that Lord Byron's work continues to influence modern literature as the precursor of a commonly encountered type of anti-hero.
I'm clearly not a Byronic Hero…but it might be sorta fun!

Oh, the ultrarunning connection: I can’t think of a single ultrarunning acquaintance who embodies enough of these characteristics to say it’s a good fit. I guess we (mostly) tend to be more laid back.

And (for anyone still with me!), there seems to be a slight distinction between the Byronic hero and the antihero:

It has been argued that the continuing popularity of the anti-hero in modern literature and popular culture may be based on the recognition that a person is fraught with human frailties, unlike the archetypes of the white-hatted cowboy and the noble warrior, and is therefore more accessible to readers and viewers. This popularity may also be symptomatic of the rejection by the avant-garde of traditional values after the counter-culture revolution of the 1960s.

In the postmodern era, traditionally defined heroic qualities, akin to the classic "knight in shining armor" type, have given way to the "gritty truth" of life, and authority in general is being questioned.

So although I'm not a Byronic hero, looks like I could still qualify as an antihero.  Good thing, because I love Have Gun Will Travel (see my post on Paladin as an antihero, here).

Oh, and I still love trails.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lost Cargo of the Titanic

In honor of the day....I send this out each year as a sort of annual ritual.

Image credit here

Most people don't know that back in 1912, Hellmann's mayonnaise was manufactured in England. In fact, the Titanic was carrying 12,000 jars of the condiment scheduled for delivery in Vera Cruz, Mexico, which was to be the next port of call for the great ship after its stop in New York.

This would have been the largest single shipment of mayonnaise ever delivered to Mexico. But as we know, the great ship did not make it to New York. The ship hit an iceberg and sank, and the cargo was forever lost.

The people of Mexico, who were crazy about mayonnaise, and were eagerly awaiting its delivery, were disconsolate at the loss. Their anguish was so great, that they declared a National Day of Mourning, which they still observe to this day.

The National Day of Mourning occurs each year on May 5th and is known, of course, as Sinko de Mayo.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

7 Service Members Killed Last Week

Over at the political blog Crooks and Liars, a regular--and sobering--weekly feature is called This Week in Memoriam.

Sunday's post, here, by Nicole Belle, lists the 7 service members who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan this past week. You should head over there to see Nicole's post because she has clickable links to each of the dead, often with a photograph.

It is good for us to gaze at the images of the dead, for they died on our behalf.

US Army SSG Christopher D Worrell, 35, Virginia Beach, VA
US Army SGT, 21, Ronald A Kubik, Brielle, NJ
US Army SGT Jason A Santora, 25, Farmingville, NY
US Marines LCpl Thomas E Rivers Jr, 22, Birmingham, AL
US Army SGT Grant A Wichmann, 27, Golden, CO
US Army SGT Keith A Coe, 30, Auburndale, FL
US Army SGT Nathan P Kennedy, 24, Claysville, PA

According to iCasualties, this brings the total number of allied service members killed in Iraq to 4,712; in Afghanistan, 1,741.

Christopher Worrell leaves his wife, Katrina, and four children ages 7 months to 6 years; Ronald Kubik was on his third deployment, and is survived by parents and two sisters; Jason Santora was on his fourth deployment, survived by parents and a sister; Thomas Rivers wanted to be a Marine all his life; Grant Wichmann died from wounds he suffered last month in Afghanistan; Keith Coe is survived by his wife, two sons, and a daughter; Nathan Kennedy, who was due to come home is less than a month, is survived by his father, two sisters and a brother.

The facts I teased out of the stories don’t come close to capturing the anguish that their families feel. Seven families ripped asunder. Seven families whose lives will NEVER be the same. Seven families whose loved one died for a cause whose origins are suspect and whose continuation is of dubious merit.

These families likely will project a stiff upper lip and assert that their loved one died in the cause of freedom, because to say that they died is vain is just too terrible to contemplate....but I am convinced that 50 years from now historians will be shaking their heads and asking, "What on earth was the United States thinking?"

I know that I could not look these families in the eye and tell them that their loved one's service and sacrifice was worth it.  The satisfaction will have to come from the fact that they did their duty. Stonewall Jackson, the Confederate general and fervently devout Christian, once commented on reconciling military service with his Christian beliefs.

One of his sayings (that may not have originated with him) was:

Duty is ours; consequences are God's.

Rest in peace.

Photo credit here, of the return of Keith A. Coe's remains and his family

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Mean Little Run

Sunday afternoon I finished up productive day of work round the house and went for a 5 mile run on the rural roads that surround my home.  I don't usually run in the afternoon, but circumstances dictated that it was either then, or not run at all.

I’d not been on what I call the “Clay Hill 5 miler” since last summer and I just felt like trying it again today.

Well, I remembered why I tend not to run it—it’s mean little run. It’s shaped like a lollipop, with the stick end starting at my house and about a mile long, then the loop part runs for 3 miles, then you intersect and repeat the last mile of the stick end from the opposite direction.

The stick end was in full sun and crosses I-81, so that part was sort of a drag due to the sun, the very high humidity yesterday, and the traffic noise. Then you go up a lengthy hill, not high, but long and rolling, with a couple of false summits along the way. I know the route well, so am not faked out by the false summits, it’s just that the hill seemingly rolls on and on and on. Then the road heads into the woods—what my kids call a “slinky road,” completely shaded, with the trees almost touching overhead. That part is pleasant…until another long uphill, again with a couple false summits to demoralize you.

The actual length of these 2 hills, and their height, are not really very significant, but just seem to be.

On the plus side, I should note that the run is very traffic-free, being on sparsely traveled roads, and there are a couple of nice downhills (there would have to be, given the uphills and the fact that it’s a loop course...duh!). I guess it’s not so bad after all.

All in all a good run. Maybe I’ll incorporate it into a 10 miler next weekend….

Sunday, May 2, 2010

First Iris in my Water Garden

Yesterday my first iris bloomed in my water garden. And the house wrens arrived (see previous anticipatory post, here).

Later when Mister Tristan heads off with Mommy, I’ll go for a run.

What a wonderful day!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Motivation Following a Major Effort Run

I'm in a running lull at the moment, and it's a lull I expected.

After running well 5 weeks ago at the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run, I took a week off to rest my tired legs and to heal my blisters, then resumed running with my work buddies at lunchtime. Runs for a couple weeks were in the 6 mile range. Then I went longer and hit a couple of 10 milers on the weekends.

This past week has been a rough one at work where I was too busy to break away for a run on a couple days, and my running buddies were also busy. So from the pool of 6 potential runners on any given day there might be 2 available. One day, I was the only runner, and I really had to whip myself up to do the run alone. Once I was out there, it was a fine run, but my lack of motivation in advance is an unusual phenomenon.

But, not unexpected. Every time I've done some big event, there seemingly has been a letdown in the ensuing weeks. Also, in my personal life, this seems to be a time of higher than normal stress, which compounds the problem.

It's like I'm stuck in a loop. I don't feel like running because I'm stressed and otherwise just not motivated....and my lack of running ensures that I remain stressed and unmotivated.

How to break the cycle? I guess, like I have done countless times in the past, you just go and do the right thing. Not because you feel like it but because it's the right thing. In this case, the right thing is running, and sooner or later--if prior experience is any guide--the enjoyment and motivation will return.