Tuesday, August 31, 2010

In Case You Thought We Were leaving Iraq Anytime Soon

From Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast on 21 August:

We are still an occupying force in that country, and billions of dollars that could be paying for Social Security, Medicare, health care, teachers, and infrastructure are still going into the pockets of companies like Blackwater and Halliburton.

Endless war. Endless unaccountable money being funneled into these wars. Blank checks for Blackwater, cat food for America's elderly and failing schools for America's children and no jobs for Americas working-age citizens.

Does it really matter anymore who we elect, when one party loves endless war and the other one is so terrified of being labeled weak that they enthusiastically go along? Does it really matter who we elect when BOTH parties are just champing at the bit to make sure people work busing tables at Fuddruckers until they drop dead because they've been pushed out of their living wage jobs? Does it really matter anymore? Or do we just sit and watch it all fall apart?

Jill goes on to quote David Sirota’s piece in the Huffington Post:

As the Associated Press reports, there was lots of happy talk about the end of combat in Iraq this week throughout the national media, as various media outlets stumbled all over themselves in a desperate (and rather blatant) attempt to pitch the news as a reprise of the famous Vietnam withdrawal imagery. The problem, of course, is that there are still tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq -- and, according to the New York Times, the Obama administration is "planning to more than double its private security guards" there (Blackwater anyone?).

That's the story cable news doesn't want you knowing, because it gets in the way of reporters efforts to pretend to be documenting some sort of iconic military history -- when, at least at this moment, it looks like they may be promoting a new version of George W. Bush's infamously misleading Mission Accomplished/"end of major combat operations" declaration back in 2003 -- a typical form of spin that simultaneously reassures a war-weary public and obscures a permanent-war reality.

But for any media outlet to pretend that a change in official policy and rhetoric is akin to the end of the war is arguably as misleading as the "March to War" coverage that led us into this conflict in the first place. And I say that because of what the military itself is telling us not in the glamorous high-spotlight national media, but right here at home where troops and their families live.

Notice today's dispatch from the Colorado Springs Gazette, which has been all but ignored by the national media:

In a matter of days, the seven-year-old Iraq war will officially have a new name: Operation New Dawn. At Fort Carson, however, the new day brings few changes.

In a news conference on post Thursday, representatives of the 4th Infantry Division discussed the future of Fort Carson's infantry soldiers, saying that current and scheduled deployments will resume as planned.

"Our mission has not changed," Maj. Joe Bethel of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team said.

Remember the simple phrase that should be guiding every action that any of us take: For. The. Children. Has this misbegotten military adventure made us or our children safer?


Monday, August 30, 2010

Tendons...and Ultrarunning

(Gary's foot...photo by the owner)

Having recently been on a beach vacation, I was in a unique position to observe bare feet. Not to fulfill a foot fetish, but to compare my lifetime runner's feet with those of sedentary people.

Leaving aside the black, misshapen or missing toenails that I come to accept as normal on my feet, what really struck me were my tendons, and that's what set me to looking at the tendons of other people.

Yes, tendons. My 5 tendons, one for each toe, running back from my toes up the front top of my foot, differ significantly from those of non-runners. Mine are quite prominent and stringy looking, even when my toes are not flexed, while most other people's are largely invisible, not standing out at all from the rest of the foot.

I'm no exercise physiologist, but I can only assume that this must be the result of thousands (millions?) of extra footstrikes over the years.

If you're just dying to read more and to see some anatomical drawings, see here and here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cats in Art: Sleeping Girl With a Cat

Sleeping Girl With a Cat, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1880, 120 x 94 cm, oil\ on canvas.  Image credit here.

See here:

Renoir also included cats in several paintings, perhaps the best-known being Girl with a Cat. Renoir's cats were always pleasant, contented felines. To share their warmth, he often nursed one of the many cats that lived around his house. Occasionally, the Institute Pasteur in Paris, checking the authenticity of Renoir's paintings, has found cat hairs in the paint, which helps date the paintings.

Both the girl and the cat are the epitome of contentment.  See previous post on Cats in Art here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

“I Have a Dream”

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

My family is of mixed race. I cannot imagine that anyone who looks at Miss Doodybug or Miss Sophia would see anything other than what I see—two sweet children.

In honor of these children and in honor of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I am posting his entire “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered some 37 years ago today from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC (photo and text from the American Rhetoric website). Please take a few minutes to read it and see if the tears don’t streak down your face by the end….

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!


Friday, August 27, 2010

Truth and Totems

Follow-on to my post of Wednesday.  Some thoughtful additional words about thought processes, from a thoughtful blogger.  Maha posts:

I’ve written before that righties tend to interpret events through myths and symbols rather than facts. Just so, I think they also tend to regard documents such as the Bible and the Constitution more as totems than texts. The documents are cherished as icons of whatever it is they think America or Christianity is, not for what they actually say.

And if you understand that, you can see how it isn’t inconsistent for them to, say, claim they believe in religious liberty while forming a mob to stop the building of what they think is a mosque. “Religious liberty” is something iconic to them, but they don’t understand or appreciate how it is applied to real-world situations.

The link to Ultrarunning? Probably none, just wanted to rant some more in a more thoughtful way about the so-called “Mosque at Ground Zero” and how people have checked their minds at the door.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Beach Running Sucks

I am in full agreement with the concept of beach running, how it seems idyllic and peaceful and has that connectedness to nature, etc....but the actual running itself, on sand, pretty much sucks.

Having just returned from the Outer Banks of NC for our annual vacation, my bias against beach running has again been reinforced. 

I tried another short stint, just up to the local pier and back (2 miles at most).  The slope of the beach, the softness of the sand (despite running just before low tide, the time of best sand compaction), the kicking of sand into my shoes and socks....I was happy to head to the roads and multi-use trail.

This sounds like the antithesis of all I'm about (nature etc.), but I am in the final analysis a practical guy who needs to get a long run in while at the beach.

Last year I did some trail running over at Nags Head Woods, so while that venue did not suit me this year, I will go definitely back next summer.  I'll just need to watch out for the water moccasins. (seriously).

(Cool tree at Nags Head Woods; photo credit here)


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Mosque" at Ground Zero...and Ultrarunning

May as well weigh in. I’ve had it with all this hand-wringing. People in the U.S. are guaranteed freedom of religion by the Constitution of the United States.
Tough sh*t if you’re offended by a Muslim cultural center 2 blocks from the site of the World Trade Centers.

Turns out the ground is not so sacred after all. Here's an example; see this for more photos of the area.

Daryl Lang writes:

What’s my point? A month ago, I wrote about my support for a group of Muslim New Yorkers—whom I consider my neighbors—and their right to put a religious building on a piece of private property in Lower Manhattan. Since then, the debate over the Park51 community center, inaccurately nicknamed the “Ground Zero Mosque,” has jumped from talk radio to mainstream conversation, and turned nasty in the process. Sarah Palin wrote that, “it would be an intolerable and tragic mistake to allow such a project sponsored by such an individual to go forward on such hallowed ground.”

Look at the photos. This neighborhood is not hallowed. The people who live and work here are not obsessed with 9/11. The blocks around Ground Zero are like every other hard-working neighborhood in New York, where Muslims are just another thread of the city fabric.

At this point the only argument against this project is fear, specifically fear of Muslims, and that’s a bigoted, cowardly and completely indefensible position.

If that’s not enough, how about an official Muslim prayer service inside the Pentagon. (this link uses much more "colorful" language than I do!)

Yes, Muslims have infiltrated the Pentagon for their nefarious, prayerful purposes -- daring to practice their religion inside the building where 184 people died on Sept. 11, 2001. They haven't even had the sensitivity to move two blocks, let alone a mile, away from that sacred site.

Give it a rest.  Can't you see that the freedom of others is inexorably linked to our own?

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning?  I've said before that we seem by and large to be a more laid-back, accommodating and inclusive group than Joe Public.  I can't imagine that in an all-nighter on the trails that a Muslim and a Christian ultrarunner would not find a common ground of spirituality.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More on the Bonner Bridge (NC) Run

Yesterday I wrote about my run while on vacation at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The prime highlight was running across the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge.   It's maybe 2 miles long with the approaches.  Couple more observations about the run:

There was a “shoulder,” some 2’ or so to the outside of the painted line to delineate the right side of the traffic lane. Of course, I ran on the left facing traffic, but not wanting to be a mere 2’ from immortality, I always hopped up onto the 1’ high “sidewalk.” Said “sidewalk,” however, was little more than a foot wide, and the guardrail to my left was only then about thigh-high. I felt rather exposed and only hopped up there for the time it took a vehicle to pass.

This was a typical August run, meaning hazy, hot and humid, even though I started at 5:45 AM. What does that mean for the runner, specifically this runner?: sweat running down my ears, nose, elbows. And a new phenomenon I’d never experienced—sweat permeating and drenching my hat so thoroughly that droplets formed and fell from the bill of my cap.

Right before the bridge I veered in to the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center for some Dr. Pepper and a donut, plus to refill my water bottle. Gotta love this sport—Dr. Pepper and donuts!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Running on NC's Outer Banks

Juts back from our annual vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Little time to write now other than to say I ran a great 13 miler from our rental house in South Nags Head, south down Route 12, across the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, then some 4 miles further south to where the bride picked me up at a prearranged time.  Here are a couple aerial shots of the bridge (photo credit here):

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Coffee Mugs and Domestic Harmony

Here are two of our favorite coffee mugs.  Now, these were specially picked out for their images--while both are Van Gogh prints, I liked the painting of the room, while the bride liked the sunflowers.

(photo by Gary.  I don't know who made the mugs)

However, even if the mugs were identical, I would always know which one is the bride's.  See, she is always right, so whenever I am dealing with both of our coffee mugs I always place hers on the right.

It's pretty easy, actually.

Sunday morning...ah!!  We are enjoying our Cafe du Monde French roast on our newly expanded patio/pergola.  I order the coffee here (I have no financial interest).  Ever since a pre-Katrina trip to New Orleans in 2004 we got hooked on a love of the strong, bold coffee in the yellow can.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Undead Math

More pleasure reading.  I ofter surf over to Bad Astronomy, where I found this by Phil Plait.  I found this notion interesting, of writing a short story of only 1024 characters - some 200 words.

I don't see how to shorten Phil's post all that much and still preserve the essence, so here's a largely intact excerpt:

Last year I wrote about the nifty website Ficly, a community where you can write short fiction. And I mean short: each story can only be 1024 characters — roughly 200 words or so. It’s incredibly limiting, which means you really have to be careful when you write.

The story I wrote then was loosely based on the last chapter of my book Death from the Skies!. I’ve been playing around again, and have recently become interested in zombies. Since I’m a scientist, of course I had to put my own spin on it… and I was curious if it was possible to have an overarching theme to a story when it was so short. I think the answer is: barely. So here, in its entirety, is my new Ficly, "Random Walk".

I know a mathematician’s an unlikely survivor. But it’s not axiomatic.

By the time I realized I was in trouble, there was only one way to go: up. I locked the door, made sure the windows were secure, and ran up to the second floor.

I peeked out a bedroom window at the rotting, writhing mass below. I should’ve predicted this, I guess, but in my defense I didn’t know all the initial conditions.

I didn’t see how the pile got started. Extrapolating backwards, I can guess it was one of the deadwalkers in advanced decay. It bumped into the house and fell apart. There must’ve been hundreds before who stayed intact, but statistics won’t be denied.

Once seeded, it grew. Another fell, and another. They don’t climb, really, but they can walk up hill. One on the pile, then another. Given their speed, average size, direction, I can calculate how long before they’ll reach this window in front of me: 6 to 8 days. Plus or minus.

I have 7 days of food here. I suspect in week or so, I’ll have one last equation to solve.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Flashing Lights!"

Photo credit here.

Mister Tristan (the human being, not the blog) loves lightning bugs, or fireflies.

At age two and a half, he amazes me at what he knows, thinks about, and is able to articulate. Back in June when the lightning bugs started here in south-central PA, he looked out his window from where he was laying in his crib and said, “Flashing lights!”

So we went outside, where he tooled around the yard, catching and releasing them. He was very gentle, almost reverent, with the critters. And that became our daily evening event.

Now with August upon us and a hot dry summer in progress, the lightning bugs are about gone, save for a couple strays. I can’t wait until next June when his childlike sense of wonder will again be displayed.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cowboy Coffee...and Ultrarunning

We have a coffee pot with a timer so that the magic elixir will be ready when we arise (but please don't confuse coffee with that other magic elixir that is also key to Ultrarunning).

Problem comes when I get up early for a long run.  If I've set the coffee to brew then, I'll be happy but the bride's coffee will probably be stale and cool since the coffee pot shuts off after 2 hours.

So I leave it set for her...and I enjoy me some cowboy coffee.  I don't know where I first heard the term, but basically in the old days, cowboys would crush some beans and throw them into boiling water, then drink the resulting brew through clenched teeth,

Well, I've improved the process.  The night before an early departure for running I will fill a large mug with water and a standard scoop of ground coffee (I think it's 2 TSP, or 1/8 C).  I like my coffee good and strong.  Next I microwave it for 2-3 minutes to a near-boil.  Then I stir it well, cover it with a saucer, and let it sit until morning.

Overnight the grounds will have settled fully to the bottom.  I then pour the coffee off into my travel mug.  Since I used a larger coffee cup for the intital brew than the travel mug, I don't have to pour all the way down to the dregs.  Actually, I get little to no grounds.

Then I dose it heavily with cream and sugar, pull my bagel with cream cheese (also made the night before) out of the fridge, and head for the hills as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ocean Warfare Exercises..vs For The Children

Now this, from the 5 Aug 2010 USA Today,  is alarming.  As a career DOD employee I know better than most the need for military readiness....within reason.

But in this case, analogous to the classic guns vs. butter argument, I come down wholeheartedly on the side of the critters.

The Navy plans to increase ocean warfare exercises, conduct more sonar tests and expand coastal training areas by hundreds of square miles - activities that could injure hundreds of thousands of marine mammals or disturb their habitats, federal records show.

Training areas already are established along most of the continental U.S. coastline, so the Navy is seeking federal permits to broaden an existing range off the Pacific Northwest and dramatically expand exercises and sonar use in the Gulf of Alaska.

The Navy estimates in federal permit applications that its activity in those areas will impact about half a million sea mammals each year, including seals, sea lions and whales, some of which are endangered.

The effects range from brief interruptions in normal feedings to significant injury and, in very rare instances, death.

However, the Navy's plans have ignited a debate with environmental groups that say the service underestimates the long-term impact of its activities and fails to restrict training sufficiently in marine sanctuaries and other areas where it is likely to affect sensitive species. The plans to expand training off the Pacific Northwest, where the service's exercise areas reach into the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, have drawn about 3,500 public comments, most in opposition.

Trading off safety and security for a few marine mammals?  Many would think that's a good trade, but I don't.  We need biodiversity and healthy ecosystems more than we can possibly imagine.

Just think, For. The. Children.  If that's our credo, we will always do the right thing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Soapy Immortality

Photo by Gary

I admit I'm probably anal-retentive, and maybe even with a touch of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  But I have a rich life and I'm happy, so these issues are probably non-issues in the big scheme of things.

I never throw away the end of a bar of soap.  Instead, I carefully meld and melt it into the next bar of soap.  Not only is this a money-saving venture, I wonder whether the traces of some ancestral bar of soap from some decades ago, still lingers.

That kind of thinking sort of comforts me.  Because isn't it what we all want, the knowledge that things live on, that the end may not really be the end?

This brings to mind an NPR story I heard or read a couple years ago, here.  The premise is that every time we breathe, now, today, we inhale at least one of the molecules exhaled by Julius Caesar in taking his last breath:

....a large portion would float free and spread themselves all around the globe in a pattern so predictable that (this is the fun part) if you take a deep breath right now, at least one of the molecules entering your lungs literally came from Caesar's last breath. 


Monday, August 16, 2010

Great News for Ultrarunners: C + O Canal Work

The C + O Canal is a true treasure, a 185 mile long shady path through the woods right alongside the Potomac River from Washington, DC, west to Cumberland, MD.

It's a place rich in Ultrarunning lore as the site of 26 miles of the JFK 50 Miler, America's oldest, largest and premier ultra.

Now a gap of some 4 miles will be fixed. This is the section immediately upstream from where the JFK course leaves the Canal.  Washed out long ago by floods, the towpath from Dam Number 4 upstream to McMahon's Mill at Milepost 88 will be rebuilt.  From the C + O Canal Trust website:

A $17 million project to replace the deteriorated Big Slackwater section of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park will result in an impressive structure that uses a precast deck for a new section of the towpath, a park official said.

The Big Slackwater section of the towpath needs to be reconstructed because of flooding damage over the years and the new structure is needed to protect the towpath from a particularly powerful section of the Potomac River, said William T. Justice, chief of interpretation for the C + O Canal.

Big Slackwater is in a turn on the river and during high water levels on the river, the force of the river directed right at the towpath, Justice said.

Built between 1828 and 1850, the C + O Canal once served as a vital transportation line for commerce in the early decades of the nation. Boats hauling goods were pulled along a canal by animals who walked along the route’s towpath.

Today, the towpath is a premier destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

The Big Slackwater section of the towpath downstream from Williamsport eroded following significant floods between 1972 and 1996 and has been closed more than a dozen years, the release said.

An unsafe detour has been a problem for bicyclists and hikers and more than 36 people have been hospitalized, the release said.  Most were struck by vehicles traveling on the detour, the release said.

I can drive to the Canal in half an hour and love to do some of my long runs there.

Another piece of good news.  I say, money well spent:

The project is mostly funded by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the work represents the largest federal stimulus project of any park in western Maryland, the release said.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cats in Art: Children Playing With a Cat

This is a pefect post for a lazy summer Sunday morning.  See my previous post on cats in art here.

Children Playing with a Cat (may also be known as Sara Holding a Cat), Mary Cassatt, 1908.  Image credit here (scroll down towards bottom).  The site owner also comments:

Mary Cassatt was born in Allegheny City (Pittsburg now), Pennsylvania but spent much of her working (painting) life in France. It was the time when Paris, France was the center of the Impressionist movement and it seems that she was inspired and motivated by the place and the people. She befriended some well known artists such as Edgar Degas and exhibited with the Impressionists.

Mary Cassatt's brother was better known than her during her life. He was Alexander J. Cassatt (1839 – 1906) the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1899 to 1906. Although Mary Cassatt struggled to achieve recognition in her lifetime, particularly in the USA, her paintings are now very valuable, one being sold for $2.87m (2005).

These kids are richly blessed, to share space with a cat for eternity.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Risk of Terrorism...and a Proportional Response (Not!)

Via Ziad Jilani at Think Progress:

One of the most common themes in post-9/11 politics is for public figures to campaign based on the public’s fear of terrorism. Candidates from across the political spectrum regularly point to “increased threats from terrorists at home and abroad” as the reason you should elect them so they can keep you safe.

While combating terrorism is important and a crucial part of the nation’s national security strategy, the State Department’s annual Country Reports On Terrorism, which was released late last week, shows that its importance as a leading topic of public concern may be overstated. McClatchy’s Warren P. Strobel notes that the State Department report finds that only 25 American civilians were killed by terrorism worldwide last year:

There were just 25 U.S. noncombatant fatalities from terrorism worldwide. (The US government definition of terrorism excludes attacks on U.S. military personnel). While we don’t have the figures at hand, undoubtedly more American citizens died overseas from traffic accidents or intestinal illnesses than from terrorism.

Once again, the threat of terrorism is a serious national security concern and should be seen as such. But given its relatively low fatality rate in comparison to other threats to humanity — the State Department’s report found that 58,142 people were killed by terrorist attacks worldwide in 2009, a fraction of the three million children who died from easily preventable malnutrition and hunger a year before — a more reasoned assessment of our priorities is needed.

 So tell me again why we are in Afghanistan?  And for how long beyond the first decade?


Friday, August 13, 2010

Iraq...10 More Years?

Which of the following statements, each published in a major U.S. newspaper on Thursday, is true? 
1. "Iraq will need U.S. military support for as much as a decade to defend its borders because the Iraqi army won't be ready to guard the country when American troops leave at the end of 2011, according to U.S. and Iraqi commanders." (Los Angeles Times, August 12, 2010, Pg. 1, by Liz Sly)

2. "President Obama is satisfied that the United States can finish its combat role in Iraq safely at the end of this month and meet the deadline for removing all U.S. troops from the country by the end of 2011, White House officials said Wednesday." (USA Today, August 12, 2010, Pg. 5, by the Associated Press...(sorry, story seems not to be available on-line)

I'm more than a little confused, and I have 3 college degrees.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back to the Appalachian Trail

Early Sunday, my buddy Jody and I did a  rendezvous at the Appalachian Trail for a fairly short run (some 12 miles).  Previous post here about needing an Appalachian Trail fix; photo credit here.


We met at the Big Flat trail crossing east of Shippensburg, PA, and ran north towards Pine Grove Furnace State Park (south would have taken us towards Caledonia State Park).  The trail starts out at 2000' elevation--pretty high for PA--and drops some 700' or so to the low spot of 1300' about 6 miles out, where we turned around at Michaux Road.  This was right near the site of a German submariner POW camp from WWII.  We need to explore that area more when the leaves are off the trees.

The run was routine, mostly single track, rocky at spots but overall largely runnable.  When I run with Jody, I tend to exert myself more because he likes to run the mild uphills that I would otherwise walk.  In fact, in the last mile, mostly uphill, I told Jody to just take off and I'd see him at the cars.  I'd probably been holding him back most of the run.

But that's one of the great things about Ultrarunning--there's lots of room for different strokes for different folks.  I'm slower, Jody is faster, but we make it work when we run together.

No critters, but as always, Mother Nature comes through.  She delivered  me some small, but tasty, wild huckleberries.  Mmmmm!  Also some delicious cold spring water.  Again, mmmmm!

It'd been many moons since we had run there together, and all the good times and camaraderie came flooding back.  We need to schedule this regularly, say about once a a month.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Perseid Meteor Shower THIS WEEK....and Ultrarunning

Via Boing Boing (a remarkable site for those of us with a streak of geek):

Boing Boing points us to Space.com (here) where we read:

According to the best estimates, in 2010 the Earth is predicted to cut through the densest part of the Perseid stream sometime around 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday. The best window of opportunity to see the shower will be the late-night hours of Wednesday on through the first light of dawn on the morning of Thursday, and then again during the late-night hours of Aug. 12 into the predawn hours of Aug. 13. The Moon, whose bright light almost totally wrecked last year's shower, will have zero impact this year; unlike last year when it was just a few days past full, this year it will be new on Monday, Aug. 9, meaning that there will be absolutely no interference from it at all.
A very good shower will produce about one meteor per minute for a given observer under a dark country sky. Any light pollution or moonlight considerably reduces the count.

The August Perseids are among the strongest of the readily observed annual meteor showers, and at maximum activity nominally yields 90 or 100 meteors per hour. Anyone in a city or near bright suburban lights will see far fewer. [Video: Perseid

However, observers with exceptional skies often record even larger numbers. Typically during an overnight watch, the Perseids are capable of producing a number of bright, flaring and fragmenting meteors, which leave fine trains in their wake.

On the night of shower maximum, the Perseid radiant is not far from the famous "Double Star Cluster" of Perseus (hence the name, "Perseid"). Low in the northeast during the early evening, it rises higher in the sky until morning twilight ends observing.

So we'll have 2 chances: late Wed night into Thurs pre-dawn; and again Thurs late into Fri pre-dawn.

Link to Ultrarunnning: one of the best celestial sites I ever saw came one morning, pre-dawn, as I was running the Harshman Road 5 mile loop around my home.  Suddenly a large fireball raced across the sky, leaving a vivid green and yellow trail. 

I was stunned and literally open mouthed in awe at the brilliance and colors.  I mean, this meteor was BIG.  Now, the Perseids are more of the "shooting star" variety of meteor, not usually large or flashy, but who knows?


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bullet, the Wonder Dog...and Ultrarunning

Photo credit here.

Back in mid-July, I read that Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger, and his dog Bullet, had been sold.  Having grown up with the show, I was fascinated with the fact that they had been preserved via the miracle of taxidermy, were for sale, and that the selling prices were so high.

NEW YORK — Roy Rogers' stuffed and mounted dog, Bullet, fetched $35,000 on the second day of an auction of the movie cowboy's belongings in New York City.

An executive of Nebraska cable TV network RFD-TV says the company bought Bullet to accompany Rogers' horse Trigger, which the company snagged Wednesday for more than $266,000. RFD-TV chief financial officer Steve Campione says the network hopes to start a museum one day.

I had forgotten that the dog, Bullet, was referred to in the show as “Bullet, the Wonder Dog.”  That got me to thinking....

Here’s an excerpt from a Roy Rogers’ fan site:

Bullet The Wonder Dog was a character on the television series "The Roy Rogers Show" (1951 - 1957). In real life the German Shepherd that played Bullet had the same name, and was also a family pet that was owned by the show's married stars, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. "The Roy Rogers Show" was an action-packed Western with plenty of things for a good, honest, dog like Bullet to do. Bullet was a master at knowing who the bad guys were, and always eager to bite a gun out of their hand or to tackle them when his human partners were outnumbered. He could run alongside Roy's horse Trigger and keep up no matter where they went, but he also got to ride in Pat Brady's Jeep, Nellybelle. Bullet himself probably lost count of all times he untied Roy or Dale when they had been caught by villains, and of all the bad guys he led them to.

Now, I’ve been around a few dogs in my day, but one dog belonging to a particular family member surely qualifies as a wonder dog, for he saved his master’s life. I already posted about it here, and the details are personal and don’t matter, but suffice it to say that this dog was there to offer unqualified love, support, and non-judgmental loyalty during a time of great darkness. This dog was there when everything was crumbling and remained true.

To this day I often hug him and thank him for saving my family member’s life. Of course he doesn’t know the actual words I’m saying to him when I sit on the floor beside him to whisper in his ear.  But it’s OK, he knows in his heart that’s just what a dog is supposed to do for his master.

Bullet, The Wonder Dog.  Photo credit here.

The link to Ultrarunning?  Bullet "could run alongside Roy's horse Trigger and keep up no matter where they went."  That's the feeling I get once in awhile when it all comes together on the trail.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Milepost 35...and the Twilight Zone

This is where cars come to die.  Actually it's a range of miles, say from MP 29 to 37 along Interstate 81 in south-central PA, where it seems there always is a disabled car or two on any given day.

I'm not talking about wrecked cars, just disabled cars.

North or south of this point, there may be a stray disabled car or so pulled off onto the shoulder, but nothing like the regular appearance of dead cars that seem to populate this particular stretch of highway.  It's like the Bermuda Triangle for cars.

PA State Police investigate disabled cars and tag them, giving the owner a short period (24 hours?  48 hours?) to be removed before they supposedly will be towed and impounded.  So there's a regular turnover of vehicles, a steady stream of cars that give up the ghost along this highway.

I would not be surprised if I'd see this guy out there one day.  You see, Interstate 81 replaced the old north-south major road, US Route 11:

From a chilling Twilight Zone episode, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Minor incident on Highway 11 in Pennsylvania, perhaps to be filed away under accidents you walk away from. But from this moment on, Nan Adams's companion on a trip to California will be terror; her route – fear; her destination – quite unknown.

Nan Adams, age twenty-seven. She was driving to California, to Los Angeles. She didn't make it. There was a detour, through the Twilight Zone.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Morally Culpable

I lately find myself blogging more and more about my feelings on the Afghanistan war. In summary, if the purpose of the war was to deny safe haven to the terrorists who perpetrated 9/11, we succeeded long ago and should have declared victory and gotten out. Now nobody's sure of the mission, the military strategy, the criteria for success, the exit strategy....Afghanistan has become a big black hole, sucking even more blood and more treasure. With no end in sight.

Ask yourself this: is staying in Afghanistan making you any safer? And if you bring up the point that we owe it to the Afghan people to try to fix up the country we wrecked, I do agree and we should send humanitarian aid rather than combat troops. We should offer--on the condition of safe passage and non-interference--to build schools and wells and hospitals and roads and bridges, and provide vaccines and medical care. We could do a lot rather than squander a million dollars per U.S. soldier per year.

But rather than debate the issue, probably futilely, let me post a quote that you may also find interesting.  From the blog, WarIsACrime.org (formerly AfterDowningStreet), a post by John Grant on 3 August, "The New Afghanistan Policy: Murder Inc."  He poses a tricky philosophical question:

Let me get this straight. Robert Gates, the Secretary-Of-Defense-For-Life, is touring the TV news shows and major newspapers pleading with great angst lines in his forehead that WikiLeaks is “guilty” and “morally culpable” for releasing 75,000 field reports from Afghanistan to the American public because they endanger Afghans allied with US forces.

But he and the US militarists who initiated the war in Iraq and who have continued the war in Afghanistan for nine years, the people who keep everything about these wars secret except what is useful to sustain them, the people who finance these wars on credit without raising taxes, dumping the costs on future generations – these people are not “morally culpable,” “guilty” or endangering anyone?

Do I have that right?

In other words, to reveal information about the war makes one morally guilty of endangering people, while being responsible for the war itself does not.
Now my head hurts and I'd better go for a trail run.  If I'm getting strident about war, it's just that I'm becoming increasingly worried about the future of the Mister Tristans (the human being, not the blog) of this world.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Yippee!!....and Ultrarunning

Photo credit: AP Photo/Eric Risberg, via Digby at Hullabaloo on 5 August 2010.

A federal judge in California has ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.  This is the the voter initiative that banned gay marriage in the state.

My reaction, as one who has gay family members, and who fervently hopes that this ruling will be extended across the length and breadth of this country, is a resounding Yippee!!

From Judge Vaughn Walker's decision:

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

Same-sex couples are identical to opposite-sex couples in the characteristics relevant to the ability to form successful marital unions. Like opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples have happy, satisfying relationships and form deep emotional bonds and strong commitments to their partners. Standardized measures of relationship satisfaction, relationship adjustment and love do not differ depending on whether a couple is same-sex or opposite-sex.

The real money quote for me in Judge Walker's decision?

Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians.

Want to read the whole 136 page ruling?  Go here.

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning?  I submit that we Ultrarunners are a more laid-back, less judgemental population that the U.S. population at large.  We judge people by the content of their character, and worry more about compatibility and companionship on the trail that we do about who people love.   Now there's a social science PhD thesis for somebody.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"An Apology to the Woman Without a Nose on the Cover of Time Magazine"

As always, I am in awe of the slice-and-dice wit of the Rude Pundit, a blogger who does not suffer fools gladly, and who uses foul language and crude sexual analogies to make valid points.  He is a dark pleasure, and I read his blog daily.  You should too.

Many of you have seen the photo on the cover of Time Magazine last week, featuring Aisha, an unfortunate Afghanwoman who was horribly disfugured by the Taliban.  The photo is here; I don't want to post it.  Let me turn to the Rude Pundit, from 2 August 2010:

An Apology to the Woman Without a Nose on the Cover of Time Magazine:

Aisha, the 18 year-old Afghan woman on the cover of last week's Time magazine who  deserves all our sympathy, as does every victim of the particularly horrific violence committed against women by the savage and backwards men of places like the Congo, Somalia, and Pakistan. But, to Aisha and the women of Afghanistan, we owe an apology.


We owe Aisha an apology because we have fucked up the Afghanistan war so badly for us and for the Afghans that the only meaningful thing we can do now is get out. And even if that means more violence against women and more repression, we have to do it. For we are now in Afghanistan in a vain attempt to transform a society that won't transform.


We screwed it up, Aisha. First George W. Bush did by making Afghanistan into the Junior Pep Squad version of the misbegotten Iraq conflict. Now Barack Obama is screwing it up by thinking he can unscrew it. He can't. And now, Aisha, we can't. We have to leave. It's just that simple. We have to leave because things are so fucked up here, because we can't afford it anymore. The wars were the luxury of an empire bloated with cash and hubris. Now we have hubris and no cash. And every day we stay is another day that life will not get better for the women of your country, and we're sorry we promised that it would. Yes, there are ways we can make it better, but not this one. For what we are attempting to do, despite every effort to win hearts and minds, is bomb a culture into change. That ain't gonna happen. It didn't work even back in the 1990s.


(Note: we're never leaving Afghanistan.)


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Staying Buried...and Ultrarunning

As an Ultrarunner, I guess it's fair to say that I am concerned, to a point, about immortality. That's because my running not only has to do with loving back country running, but also the physical fitness aspects as well.

See, heart disease and diabetes runs in my family, particularly among the male members, so I have more motivation than most to be fit. For example, my dad had his first heart attack at around age 50 and was an old man, physically, at the time of his death at age 66.  On the other hand, I fully expect to run an ultra on my 66th birthday.

So the fitness motivation sorta relates to delaying--to a point--immortality. That's why I was disturbed last week when I ran through the local Brown's Mill Cemetery half a mile from my home and saw the freshly disturbed grave of Janet Christiansen Abaroa, murdered back in 2005. Her body had just been exhumed to gather additional evidence. From the local newspaper, the Chambersburg Public Opinion:

Janet Christiansen Abaroa was found apparently stabbed to death in her Durham [NC] home in late April 2005. Her husband, Raven Abaroa, was charged in her death earlier this year. He remains incarcerated at the Durham County Detention Facility.

Although most of her immediate family lives in Virginia, Janet was buried in Brown's Mill Cemetery near Greencastle...she was buried in a large family plot, next to the body of her sister, who died years ago of leukemia.

The closest marker to Abaroa's grave simply reads "Christiansen." There is no stone bearing her full name and the dates of her birth and death. The family will likely install a headstone after the case is finally closed.

I mused a bit about our mores and rules about disinterring people. It's OK to dig somebody up for forensic reasons, because it's for a good purpose and the body is then put back afterwards. And it's OK to dig up mummies, say, from Egypt's age of the pyramids (although maybe that's changing).  But while it'd not be cool to dig up, say, President Lincoln, King Arthur's tomb would (probably?) be fair game.

So somewhere in that time continuum it starts out as a no-no to dig up graves (unless for law enforcement), but as you work backwards, at some point it seems that a grave ceases to be so much a grave as it is a historical site worthy of investigation.  It becomes OK because the science  makes it worthwhile to disturb a grave.

I'm rambling here, so I guess the point I'm trying to make is that the jury is probably still out on where grave robbing stops and history begins.  I don't hold any special belief in the sanctity of a buried corpse; after all, the essence of the person is long gone. 

I believe in the necessity in this case of exhuming the body.  But it bothers me symbolically that Janet Marie Christiansen's memory? spirit? has been disturbed. 

When I run my last ultra and die, I plan to be cremated and my ashes scattered.  But I also hope to figuratively rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

In Memoriam

From Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars, the casualty reports from last week, in which we lost 11 service members in Afghanistan:

US Marines LtCol Mario D Carazo, 41, Springfield, OH
US Marines Maj James M Weis, 37, Toms River, NJ
US Army SSG Conrad A Mora, 24, San Diego, CA
US Army SGT Daniel Lim, 23, Cypress, CA
US Army SPC Joseph A Bauer, 27, Cincinnati, OH
US Army SPC Andrew L Hand, 26, Enterprise, AL
US Marines LCpl Frederik E Vazquez, 20, Melrose Park, IL
US Marines Abram L Howard, 21, Williamsport, PA
US Navy PO3 Jarod Newlove, 25, Renton, WA
US Army CPT Jason E Holbrook, 28, Burnet, TX
US Army SSG Kyle R Warren, 28, Manchester, NH

These are real people with real families, and whose loss will be felt forever.  May our leaders somehow see through all the fog and finally have the aha! moment when they realize that there is really no good reason for our continued combat presence in that country.

And as for these unlucky souls, may they rest in peace.

Monday, August 2, 2010

More Sirius/XM Radio

As I mentioned in a previous post last Wed, I recently bought a new minivan and it came with a 3-month free subscription to Sirius/XM radio.

On Channel 46, Classic Vinyl, I just heard Gloria (as in G-L-O-R-I-A).  The version I heard was by Shadows of Knight, although Wikipedia tells me that it was written by Van Morrison and originally recorded by his band at the time, Them.  It's been notably covered also by Patti Smith, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Rick Springfield, R.E.M., Rickie Lee Jones, plus others.  YouTube of the Van Morrison version is here.

Hearing Gloria made me think of other "spelling" songs, such as Respect by Aretha Franklin.  That YouTube is here.

The bride then contributed to the discussion by suggesting Lola, by the Kinks.  YouTube here.

Then somebody mentioned ABC by the Jackson 5, and the conversation was basically over.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Law of Unintended Consequences

From my local paper, the Chambersburg Public Opinion, on 30 July 2010.  The bold blue italics are mine:

Camera phones, other devices banned in Chambersburg Area School District

Almost a year after the Chambersburg Area Senior High School was struck with a sexting scandal, the district is taking camera phones out of the buildings.

The school board approved 7-1 at Wednesday night's board meeting a revised policy on electronic and communications devices. Board member Fred Rice cast the vote against the policy and board member Anne Boryan was absent.

Assistant Superintendent Eric Michael said it's the first time the device policy specifically addresses pictures or videos because it was not needed in the past. The revision prohibits any device capable of taking, storing, disseminating, transferring or viewing obscene, lewd or pornographic images. Under the policy, the district could report any violations to local, state or federal law enforcement agencies.

Looks like they'll have to ban computers, because, after all, they are devices capable of storing images.

Not saying sexting is desirable behavior, but beware the slippery slope associated with the Law of Unintended Consequences.