Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gender Bending

I recently needed a new set of lopping shears and pruning shears.  We have a lot of shrubbery and trees and it seems that cutting tools juts don't hold up well.

From QVC we just ordered a set of shears.  The ratcheting action of the lopping shears in actual usage seems smooth and efficient.  Now if they hold up for the long haul I will bestow my blessing upon them.

Oh, and as you can see from the image, I just was taken with the purple color.

And along the gender bending meme, Mister Tristan (the 3 year old human being, not the blog) is smitten with his older cousin's purse.  He wants one to play with, so a purse he shall have.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Castaway Caboose, Part 2

On Saturday I promised more details about our excursion on the Castaway Caboose.

The bride and I like to ride on tourist trains.  Well, truth be told, it’s more me than her but she is a good sport about it and actually does enjoy the history and the scenery that is part of the typical tourist train trip.  When I was a kid growing up in Beaver Falls, PA, trains were an intimate part of my kid existence.  There were 3 lines thru town: one on each side of the Beaver River, and another on the bluffs on the west side of town. We spent most of our time down near the river at the ballfield and playground, where the passage of trains was an everyday thing, so common as to be unremarkable.  We played on the tracks, hiked on the tracks, with nary a thought that there was anything different or unusual about it, so I think for me that exploring tourist railroads now is a trip back in time.

Anyway, I digress.  The Durbin and Greenbrier Valley railroad once ran some 100+ miles thru the mountainous heart of eastern West Virginia. Now the tourist excursion runs some 5+ miles out along the Greenbrier River and back, for an approximate 11 mile round trip.  It’s not a long trip by any stretch, but you are right on the banks of the scenic Greenbrier River.  The main draw for us was the overnight stay—they have outfitted 2 cabooses like campers.  They take you out to the end of the line (the tracks beyond 5 miles were wrecked in a 1985 flood and have not been restored), uncouple your caboose, and leave you there until the tourist train comes back the next day.  Whereupon you get coupled back up and return to the station.

The caboose was well equipped and comfortable, with a little kitchen, refrigerator, flush toilet, and even a shower with hot and cold running water.  It sleeps up to 6 using the bench seats along each side of the caboose. I must say that none of us really slept all that well, due to the fact that the beds are not real beds, plus the strangeness of sleeping in a new place.  But the novelty of the caboose more than compensated for that.

Anyway, it was a great little trip with the bride, her parents (dad once worked on the railroad and loved the trip!), Mister Tristan (the 3 year old human being, not the blog), and his cousin Miss Doodybug.  Would definitely do again, and next time stay for 2 nights.

Here is the web site for the train, and another site that explains more of the history.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

George Carlin, Flamethrowers...and Ultrarunning

A week or so ago (22 June) I missed the birthday of George Carlin.  He was a professional smart ass, which is good work if you can get it.  The bride always says that when she was taking those aptitude tests in high school, she never realized that "smart ass" was a legitimate career choice or she may have taken a different path in life.

Anyway, below I will try to embed a YouTube video of the George Carlin flamethrower routine, but YouTube has been balky for me lately.  If it won't appear below or play just click here for it in a new window.

You should really play the short clip and hear it from George's mouth, but if YouTube is balky, here's what the brillinat George says:

The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.

Wiki tells us that today is the birthday of George Denis Patrick Carlin (May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008), who was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, actor and author, who won five Grammy Awards for his comedy albums.

Carlin was noted for his black humor as well as his thoughts on politics, the English language, psychology, religion, and various taboo subjects. Carlin and his "Seven Dirty Words" comedy routine were central to the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation, in which a narrow 5–4 decision by the justices affirmed the government's power to regulate indecent material on the public airwaves.

Oh, and the connection to Ultrarunning?  Can you imagine any of us peaceful trail runners, in a sane world, even imagining the use of a flamethrower?  I realize that some of us have spent time in the military and were in situations where such weapons were used, but really? 

I was going to say something like if the world were full of trail runners, there would be no wars.  I happen to believe that, but I think that virtually any circumspective pastime might qualify.  For example, if you substitute the word quilters, you get the same effect.  Or gardeners or birders or cavers or model train enthusiasts or people interested in high-altitude bogs....

I guess if you are a real devotee of some peaceful pursuit, you don't embrace war as a general rule.  Of course, maybe Dick Cheney collected stamps, but  I think you catch my drift.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Test of YouTune Embed...Please Bear With Me

Please excuse the housekeeping.  This is a test of embedding and publishing a YouTube video.  Below is a George Carlin routine about flame throwers that I have set up to publish on Tuesday @ 6:02 am. 

Note: if you see this YouTube today (Monday ~ 4:37 PM EDT) as part of this test, please go ahead and read the full post when it shows up on Tuesday morning anyway--it contains my thoughts with the link to Ultrarunning.

End of test.

Cats in Art: Annunciation (Rubens)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I'm using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.

(Sorry this is a day late; life happened)

Image credit hereAnnunication, c. 1628, Peter Paul Rubens, oil on canvas, 119" x 73", held by Rubenshuis (Ruben's House), Antwerp, Belgium.

Zuffi talks about Ruben's joy of painting, his variety of colors, the dynamism of movement, "almost a visual symphony," etc., then gets to the heart of the matter: keeping with its reputation for imperturbability, the cat placidly maintains its siesta, crouched by the sewing basket.

I can only wonder at the near-miraculous ability of the cat to stay cool in the midst of all that art happening around it. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Castaway Caboose

My whereabouts the past couple days: Durbin, WV.  Just Google “Castaway Caboose.”  One of the coolest things I have ever done.

Will post more on Monday.


Friday, June 24, 2011

From Andrew Sullivan's The Dish, a great quote:

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution is pretty simple. It says, 'Raise an army.' It says absolutely nothing about race, color, creed, sexual orientation. ... Let's just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let's be Marines," - Sgt. Maj. Michael Barrett, the top non-commissioned officer of the Marine Corps, on the repeal of DADT.

Enough said.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

More Ultrarunning at Breezewood at the Abandoned PA Turnpike

(Photo by Gary)

Here's some additional detail about a side run I like along a trail just off (south of) the abandoned Turnpike.  You go up a marked trail called the Railroad Arch Trail, signed along Oregon Road just west of where it crosses under the old Turnpike.  It's a pleasant trail and an easy run on good footing.  After perhaps half a mile all of a sudden you come upon a culvert containing a stream some 10' wide.  The culvert is about 200' long, obviously old and carefully made of cut stone.  It's intact--you can see from end to end and even walk through it if you don't mind wet feet.

Here's the official PA Department of Natural Resources blurb:

The Oregon Road area also includes a stone aqueduct built in the 1880s by masons brought from Sicily for an aborted railroad project. The aqueduct is 15 feet high, 10 feet wide, and 199 feet long and is easily accessible from Oregon Road on Railroad Arch Trail. Built with native stone without mortar, the Sicilian masons created a structure that is as solid today as the day it was built. The South Penn Railroad project also created the nearby tunnels that were used by the PA Turnpike before being abandoned in 1970. The tunnels can be reached by walking the abandoned turnpike, which is open to hiking and biking. A parking lot on Oregon Road is adjacent to the abandoned turnpike.

This culvert is a WAY cool bit of construction...but it is WAY out of place sitting here in the woods, with no clue as to why.

It took a return trip when the leaves were off the trees to figure out this engineering puzzle.  See, this little stream flows down a wide ravine that is pretty much north-south, with the uphill end to the south and the downhill end towards the north (where the abandoned Turnpike is).  The culvert runs parallel to the ravine.  The unfinished South Penn Railroad that once was planned to occupy this route had to cross the ravine at right angles (i.e., east-west).  Rather than build a trestle across, they were going to fill the ravine to build the embankment up to the height of the existing grade...which you can see when the leaves are off  on the ravine's east side.  The grade is above you some 30'? 40'? Maybe even 50', I can't recall.

But basically the culvert, some 200' long, would have been the width of the fill at the base.  The fill would have tapered up like a trapezoid in cross-section, rising the 30' to 50' needed to reach grade level at appropriate railroad track width (maybe 20' or so wide?).

When you climb up and stand at on the east side of the ravine you can look down on the culvert and it all becomes pretty clear.  You can imagine the grade where you are standing extending across the ravine at the same level, which would have been some big fill job.  You can see the culvert that would have been buried in the bottom of the fill to carry the stream under the fill (else you have just a big earthen dam).  You can also follow the old RR grade back east towards the abandoned Sideling Hill tunnel to where it's obliterated by the grading of the Turnpike.

The way this would have been solved today in railroad or highway engineering would be to install a 10' diameter pipe in lieu of all that stone work.  Then just fill over it.  Done.

But I like the stone arch and the forgotten Italian hands that crafted it.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

PA Turnpike, Father’s Day…and Ultrarunning

Image credit here.

This near-real time blogging, triggered by my road trip on Tuesday (21st), from my home in Chambersburg, PA, along the PA Turnpike to  the Alleghany Valley interchange (Rt 28).  Purpose was to participate in a meeting with one of our R&D contractors.

The PA Turnpike is legendary, America’s original superhighway.  Portions opened in 1940 with the full mainline across the state completed in 1949.  If you’ve ever traversed the state, chances are you traveled on the PA Turnpike (currently designated as Interstate 76).  By modern standards, the highway is somewhat primitive, but as the road enters its 8th decade, major rebuilding projects have upgraded it to contemporary standards. 

My  personal connection is that my father was an over-the-road trucker in the 1950s, hauling ne automobiles from Detroit to New York City.  I like to say I got the “Teamster gene” from him (so-named for his strong union connections), and I love me some road trip.  Give me maps, coffee, the radio (now Sirius XM!) and a destination, and I’m there.  The lure and mystique of the road, not a known journey to a fixed place, but rather a flexible and infinitely variable adventure awaits.

There is a 12-mile stretch of the Turnpike near Breezewood, now abandoned, that  contains 2 tunnels.  The original road, 4 lanes (2 each way) narrowed to 2 lanes (1 each way) at the Sideling Hill and Rays Mountain Tunnels.  As traffic increased, bottlenecks developed, so a bypass was constructed and opened in 1968.  The abandoned section, with tunnels, sits there quietly in the woods, slowly deteriorating.  A rails-to-trails type groups now owns it and permits recreational use by pedestrians and bikers, to include tunnel access.

Oh, and the connection to Ultrarunning: I have run there several times, and it’s a Twilight Zone-like trip.  It’s like being in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust and you are the only person left, alone along this abandoned roadway.  I feel particularly eerie knowing that I can now stand right where my father, a half century ago, rumbled through with his car-carrier.

This post has kinda morphed from an account of a road trip, to PA Turnpike history, to fathers.  My dad was flawed but always did the best he could do for his family, and I love and honor him for that.  That’s all that any of the men in my life who fulfill the father role can do, and they all do it well.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Have Gun Will Travel

Image credit Wikipedia.

While I was recuperating from arm surgery, I watched High Noon (Gary Cooper) and Hombre (Paul Newman, Richard Boone) via Netflix. 

A friend and I had had a discussion about Richard Boone, and I had to agree that he was quite right--Richard Boone was a bad dude in Hombre, not the dark antihero of the TV series Have Gun Will Travel.

I commented to the bride while in the midst of my Have Gun Will Travel marathon that although Paladin (Richard Boone) was dressed all in black etc., the show was anything but black and white.  It was decidedly gray, with all kinds of moral ambiguities and situational ethics.  It's about, I guess, a gunfighter with principles.

As a kid in the 50s I was smart enough to realize that this show was somehow different, unusual.  It took 40 years for me to finally see it on DVD and syndication and confirm my opinion as a child.

Love me some Have Gun Will Travel! You should check it out on DVD or Encore Westerns on cable.


Monday, June 20, 2011


Image credit here.

Of all the things I could blog about, today's post is about Godzilla.

I am a sci-fi geek to a certain extent, so it is natural that Mister Tristan (the human being, not the blog), now shares that interest and likes those cheesy Japanese movies about the large reptile.

Just saw one that was new to me and actually not all that bad: Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002).  IF you are a COMCAST customer, you can find it for free until 30 Jun at On Demand/Free Movies/FEARNET/Godzilla.  The COMCAST description:

The attack this time comes from a new malevolent member of the Godzilla species.  To protect Japan from destruction, scientists create a human-piloted cyborg, suing the 50-year old skeleton of the original Godzilla.

But what arrested me about this film was not the entertainment value but one of the added information trailers in English across the bottom of the screen (note the dialog is dubbed English, not subtitles).  While the tanks and personnel carriers were rolling in the initial response to Godzilla's reappearance from the sea, 3 lines appeared in sequence to explain what was happening.

Anti-Megalosaurus Force (AMF)
Established in Chiba in 1966
To defend the nation from monsters

Methinks we need such a task force to guard our nation against the monsters who have usurped the rule of law and created a climate where torture and targeted killings without due process are unremarkable.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cats in Art: Christ in the House of Simon the Pharisee (Champaigne) (detail)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I'm using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.

Image credit here. Here we have a detail of the right foreground of Christ in the House of Simon the Pharisee, c. 1656, Philippe de Champaigne, oil on canvas, 9.6' x 13.1' (that's big!), held by Musee de Beaux-Arts, Nantes, France.
Zuffi tells us:
A charming little tabby cat often appears in the works of Philippe de Champaigne, who depicts the animal in minute detail and introduces it even in his most sacred paintings...the only figure in the painting [of a dozen or more people] that looks directly at the viewer....
  Charming is right.  And maybe a little grumpy.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Climate Change..and Ultrarunning

I am a member of the Sierra Club (of course).  While not everything the club does is perfect, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks and they are an environmental and ecological and political force t o be reckoned with.

Anyway, the July/August issue of their magazine just arrived and in the quiet of the morning sitting beside my water garden I pored over it.  The magazine is FULL of material of interest to Ultrarunners, and in subsequent posts I will explore those.

Biu today I’ll just focus on an essay by Carl Pope, Sierra Club chairman, that he calls Bevies of Black Swans.  A Black Swan is an unanticipated event with enormous consequences:

Humanity’s latest gamble is ignoring climate change.  Thos endorsing it argue that the likely costs of preventing climate disruption exceed the probable benefits, particularly to the present generation.  Not only is this conclusion almost certainly false; it also largely irrelevant.  The issue…is not the likely benefits of action but the potential costs of inaction in the form of black swan climate changes…We can clearly afford a rapid transition away from fossil fuels; it won’t be free, but we can pay the bill.  What we can’t afford is the collapse of our stable climate.

Read the whole essay here.

Left unchecked, climate change may render our Ultrarunning irrelevant for us and our offspring, as mere survival may become our priority.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Drinking Spring Water

Mister Tristan (the human being, not the blog) and I went for a short hike the other day.  I decided to take him to the Appalachian Trail and then the Mainline Hobby Supply model train shop in nearby Blue Ridge Summit, PA.

It was a day tailor-made for boys, young and old.  The main purpose of the short hike was to take him to Bailey Spring along the AT where he could drink spring water from an actual spring for the first time and savor its cold sweetness.  Mister Tristan loved it—the notion of drinking water where it comes out of the ground was absolutely fascinating for him.

This hike was deliberately short, about a mile, max.  And of course, the model train shop afterwards was the icing on the cake.  They have a small layout with O, HO and N gauge trains where kids can work some of the controls while the bigger “boys” talk.

I hope I’m doing it right.  I think so.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

George Takei (Mr. Sulu)...Right Again

I forget where I was diercted to this, otherwise of course I would give credit, but George Takei gets it right again.  He is an outspoken gay rights advocate and takes on Tennessee's proposed "Don't Say Gay" bill that would outlaw the use of that though not talking about it makes homosexuality just go away.  Poof!  Gayness gone.

I am having tons of trouble making the YouTube embed video code work, so here's the link. It is worth clicking over and watching for a minute.



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Loss of a Bandana

Turns out I do have a running post after all.

In my run the other day I lost my favorite bandana, one from the famous flea market in Hawaii at the stadium.  It was a simple gray floral Hawaiian print but I loved it.  I think bandanas are indispensible ultra equipage, to mop your brow or clean your glasses or bind up a cut or scrape.  Yet I really don’t see all that many folks carrying one on the trails.

My particular “carry” is no doubt responsible for the loss.  I keep the bandana tucked maybe 1/3 of its length into my waistband on my right side.  I frequently check for it, much as most men check reflexively for their wallet.

Well, I must not have had it tucked deeply enough and the next time I checked, it was gone.  As I was on a schedule I was unable to backtrack to search.  The next day, when I happened to drive that route, I looked in vain for it.

What is ironic in a way is that my next previous favorite bandana, also one from a different trip to Hawaii (see, working as a civilian employee of DOD does have some good benefits!), met with a similar fate along the Appalachian Trail.  But in that case I always assumed and hoped that some grateful backpacker would find that bandana and look upon it as a gift from a Trail Angel.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How to Finance War

My recent running experiences about which to blog have been in short supply while I was recuperating, so let's try some politics, shall we?

Seems that there was a Faith & Freedom conference a week or so ago, attended by some high-profile Republican folks and Presidential contenders.

M. Bouffant at Whiskey Fire pointed out a sad example of a politician speaking the truth:

Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell spent a little time away from the podium to meet activists and talk to reporters. He runs [strategist Ralph] Reed's affiliate in Ohio; he's thinking about running for U.S. Senate. He was the only Republican in that position who said what the social conservatives believe.
"Clean water is important to us," said Blackwell. "Decent housing is important to us. But they're not rights. And we have to begin to say that what's important is that we in a rational way are able to reform these programs in a way to save them. And, yes, if it means that somewhere down the line individuals have to make sacrifices, because the rationalization of the system means we save it, but we are also doing it in a more efficient way. … I don't think too many Americans will object to that. At the end of the day we're going to get back to making sure we're in a position to finance the wars in which we engage. Does that mean we can do that without sacrificing? No. We have to make sacrifices. But what's more important? Our freedom and security or the gluttony of the federal government?"

Bouffant's comment:

There you have it. We are to "sacrifice" in order that "the wars in which we engage" may be financed. Wars that protect our freedom and security, but won't allow for clean water, decent housing or anything else of real worth.
In order to protect the nation, we must destroy it. (Or make Ken Blackwell drink some less-than-clean water. Which would you prefer?)

So, this joker, with no apparent self-awareness or inkling of what he actually is saying, tells us that we have to sacrifice basic entitlements to clean water and decent housing to be able to afford our military adventures. 

You'll pardon me if I believe that the esteemed Mr. Blackwell has it exactly a**backwards.

Monday, June 13, 2011 Blogging and to Running

Well, I’m back to being able to blog a bit.  My keyboard abilities are limited so this’ll be shorter than normal for a bit longer.

I had a bad case of tennis elbow that no longer responded to Cortisone or physical therapy.  The surgical fix by the ortho doc was to detach the tendon that terminates the main forearm muscle at the elbow, remove the deteriorated end, and reattach it slightly closer to my wrist.

The incision is all healed up but the motion of typing is still a bit painful.

Yesterday brought another bonus—a nice leisurely Sunday morning run.  I wore an arm brace just in case I might fall so I would not be able to bend back my hand.  But no falls, just an easy run.  Laid some wildflowers in a couple of cemeteries I passed and otherwise just enjoyed the morning, happy to be back to running and now to blogging. 


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cats in Art: Two Children Teasing a Cat (Carracci)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I'm using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.

Image credit hereTwo Children Teasing a Cat, Annibale Carracci, c. 1590, oil on canvas, 26" x 34", held by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

Zuffi--I assume with a straight face--says:

No one can predict the consequences of this mischief on the part of the two children...when that big placid tabby cat realizes what they are doing to it, it will almost certainly rebel and scratch its tormentors.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

REPOST: Teddy Roosevelt Would Call "Bullsh*t," not "Bully!"

While I am down after arm surgery and can't type, I am recycling some posts from a year ago.

This from 11 June 2010:

(photo credit here)

My run this week along the Potomac River (see yesterday's post) took me up to Theodore Roosevelt Island, opposite Rosslyn, VA. There I got a very needed trail running fix, albeit only 2 miles (of the 10 total on this run). But running in the woods, however short, is always worth it, especially so close to Washington, DC—Roosevelt Island is only about 2-3 miles on foot from the White House.

This land is owned by the National Park Service, and the memorial to TR is comprised of water features (pools and fountains), a large statue of TR, and stone inscriptions of some of his famous sayings, all in a woodland setting. Per the NPS site:

One of Theodore Roosevelt’s greatest legacies was his dedication to conservation. Today, this island stands as a fitting memorial to the outdoorsman, naturalist, and visionary who was our 26th President.

But here in early June, the water features are dry and full of winter’s debris. I assume that this is a casualty of budget cuts to the NPS.

In times of economic distress—or any distress, for that matter—I submit that we need more parks, not less. We need the soothing effects of the woods and of water features such as those on TR Island.

It breaks my heart that our national parks are underfunded and barely limping along in many cases. It pains me that the TR memorial is decrepit, largely ignored, and neglected. Yes, turning on the water features on TR Island will cost money, but you know what? Just pull the $$ from the Defense Department and pass it to the Department of the Interior. Sort of swords into plowshares.

Back to the title of this post—Teddy Roosevelt would be appalled, not at the neglect of his memorial, but at the larger issue of lack of funding for our historic and natural treasures protected for our children under the auspices of the National Park Service.

Friday, June 10, 2011

REPOST: DC Running--the Mount Vernon Trail

While I am down after arm surgery and can't type, I am recycling some posts from a year ago.

This from 10 June 2010:
As a Defense Department employee, I have had my share or business travel, to some sucky locations but also to some very nice destinations (such as Hawaii, Japan, Alaska, Puerto Rico, San Diego, San Francisco, New Orleans, to name a few).

This week I attended a conference in Arlington, VA (across the Potomac River from Washington, DC and within spitting distance of the Pentagon). This conference focused upon research and development projects specifically set aside for small business under the Small Business Innovation Research program. I manage a couple of these contracts and wanted to attend this conference to see what other projects were in the works.

So that’s why I was in Arlington. After the conclusion of today’s sessions, I put on my running clothes to knock out 10 miles on the Mount Vernon Trail. This is a multiuse paved trail that runs on the south (Virginia) side of the Potomac River from Mount Vernon to Theodore Roosevelt Island (opposite Rosslyn, VA). I picked up the trail at the Crystal City section of Arlington and ran upstream some 4 miles to Theodore Roosevelt Island. There I logged a couple of miles on the trails of the island, then returned via the same route to my hotel.

Over the 8 or so multiuse jogging trail miles run between 4:00 and 6:00 PM, I passed many bikers, runners, and roller bladers and had several observations that I thought were interesting:

1. Of the roughly 150+ bikers, about 90% were wearing helmets. I am ambivalent over the mandatory use of helmets or seat belts—my libertarian streak, I guess—I see it as a good end but a questionable means. But I do support mandatory helmet usage for children. So even if you don’t want to wear a bike helmet yourself you absolutely should wear a helmet to set a good example for the children…which is one of my personal crusades (see here, here, here, and here).

2. Of the runners, I observed how many were wearing headphones/ear buds, etc. I only counted up the women, just because I was thinking about personal safety issues. Of some 40 female solo runners, only 10 were NOT wearing headphones/ear buds. I was astounded, I guess, at their trust. The Mount Vernon Trail is heavily used but is largely bordered by thick vegetation where a victim could be quickly dragged. Maybe, though, the wearing of headphones is a statement that "I will not be intimidated." Gotta think more about this.

3. Of the handful of roller bladers (less than 10), all were wearing helmets but nobody wore elbow or knee pads. Again, that’s your personal choice, but what is the example you are setting for the children?

4. Of the dozens of bikers that overtook me from behind, a slim majority was courteous and safety conscious enough to ring their bell or call out “on your left” by way of warning. There were many bikers, however, who zoomed by with no warning and who came very close to me, as though they owned the multiuse trail.

5. Last observation: when I run on the local roads around my home, or on the C + O Canal, or on the Appalachian Trail, I always greet other runners and bikers and even nod or wave to passing motorists. This was not the case along the Mount Vernon Trail, where of the couple hundred people who passed me coming from the other direction, NOT A SINGLE PERSON waved or offered any sort of greeting. Zero. Zilch.

Now, I realize that: 1) this is a metro area and people become sort of insulated and isolated, putting on their anonymous faces, and 2) the Mount Vernon Trail is a local Mecca as a running/biking venue for the more serious athlete to do some serious traffic-free miles. But c’mon people, could you just be a tiny bit friendly?????

Thursday, June 9, 2011

REPOST: Sir Paul McCarntey...and Torture

While I am down after arm surgery and can't type, I am recycling some posts from a year ago.

This from 9 June 2010:

Greg Sargent, of the Washington Post, 4 June 2010, commenting on Sir Paul McCartney's recent visit to DC to receive an honor:
And the random deep thought of the day: Paul McCartney's crack about George W. Bush's lack of familiarity with libraries is far more controversial and worthy of discussion than Bush's glib claim that he would authorize torture again.

We certainly have become desensitized, haven't we?

Per Dan Froomkin at the Huffington Post blog:

George W. Bush's casual acknowledgment Wednesday that he had Khalid Sheikh Mohammed waterboarded -- and would do it again -- has horrified some former military and intelligence officials who argue that the former president doesn't seem to understand the gravity of what he is admitting.

Waterboarding, a form of controlled drowning, is "unequivocably torture", said retired Brigadier General David R. Irvine, a former strategic intelligence officer who taught prisoner of war interrogation and military law for 18 years.

"As a nation, we have historically prosecuted it as such, going back to the time of the Spanish-American War," Irvine said. "Moreover, it cannot be demonstrated that any use of waterboarding by U.S. personnel in recent years has saved a single American life."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

REPOST: How Dogs Run

While I am down after arm surgery and can't type, I am recycling some posts from a year ago.

This from 8 June 2010:
(photo credit here)

I really love The Writer's Almanac, delivered free daily to my inbox.

This from June 5th. I know, I know, it's poetry, and most of you can’t hit the DELETE button fast enough. But just read it, OK? It has a lot to say to us about a model for simplicity in our ultrarunning.

Read it.

Billy Collins

The way the dog trots out the front door
every morning
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her doghouse
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.

Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance—
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Gandhi with his staff and his holy diapers?

Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.

If only she did not shove the cat aside
every morning
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she
would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

REPOST: My Timex Ironman Gave Up the Ghost

While I am down after arm surgery and can't type, I am recycling some posts from a year ago.

This from 7 June 2010:

My Timex Ironman gave up the ghost. Well, the plastic band did, anyway.

I attempted to get a replacement band at 3 places but it seemed so integral to the whole watch that I figured nobody could just replace the band. And that turned out to be the case.

So, I just went ahead and bought a new one. And then luck turned in my favor—I was able to purchase exactly the same model. So I will not have to go thru the anguish of learning the controls for a new watch (I hate getting a new cell phone for the exact reason).

I provide an illustration below. Left to right: Old watch. New watch. Life is good.

(photo by Gary)


Monday, June 6, 2011

REPOST: Who are the REAL Robber Barons?

While I am down after arm surgery and can't type, I am recycling some posts from a year ago.

This from 6 June 2010:
An interesting point from the folks at Corrente:
Per President Obama on 27 May 2010: “What’s also been made clear from this disaster is that for years the oil and gas industry has leveraged such power that they have effectively been allowed to regulate themselves.”

Well, the banksters have "leveraged such power that they have effectively been allowed to regulate themselves." Then they crashed the economy, squeezed the taxpayers for the largest transfer of wealth in world history, and the same people are still in charge, and the big banks are bigger than ever. That is a mighty FAIL, and just as mighty as Deepwater Horizon. So why the double standard?

Are Goldman and JP Morgan really all that different from BP? Why?

I mean, say what you like about the oil companies, but they actually deliver oil that people use, a tangible product. They didn't inflate a huge financial bubble based on phony paperwork and accounting control fraud, and then loot the wreckage when the bubble burst, either.

To answer the question posed by the title of this post, obviously both the Banksters and the Oil Companies are culpable for their respective disasters.

Oh, and I do know what the answer is to preventing these types of rape and pillage. Just follow this advice:

I can’t help but think that if we so-called “mature” people would ALWAYS guide our actions by the credo, “Is this good for the children?” then we’d all be much better off. Especially the children.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cats in Art: Kitchen Scene (Campi)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I'm using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.

Image credit here. Kitchen Scene, Vincenzo Campi, c.1585, Oil on canvas, 57" x 86", held by Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy.

Zuffi comments on the kitty in the right foreground: 
Campi tends to remain a faithful, if amused, observer of reality.  The bristling cat that makes the larder its kingdom is perfectly suited to this approach.
My sense is that the cat is gonna prevail in this exchange.  The dog is a cocker spaniel, after all.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

REPOST: Knee High by the 4th of July

While I am down after arm surgery and can't type, I am recycling some posts from a year ago.

This from 4 June 2010, here (you'll need to click back to see any images, I could not easily or quickly insert them in this re-post):

Today’s morning run ( I was off work today) took me on my familiar Harshman Road. As always, I enjoyed observing the farm activity.

First off I noted the crops. Around here, the farms are largely dairy, so the primary crops are corn, alfalfa (for hay), timothy grass (also for hay). Also we have—although not for cattle—soybeans and wheat.

It was the corn, however, that caught my attention today. My father passed away in 1989 but I vividly recall one of his favorite expressions, that the corn should be “knee-high by the 4th of July.”

That maxim held true for western PA where I grew up, but here in the Cumberland Valley of south-central Pennsylvania we have a milder climate so that the growing season starts at least a couple of weeks earlier than western PA. Well, let the record reflect that for the first time since I moved here in 1974, the corn reached knee height by the 4th of June—a full month early.

Here is Harshman Road as it looked in January (photo by Gary). On the left, the closer field is now in soybeans and the farther one is in timothy grass. The field on the right is in corn, where I made the knee-high milestone discovery.

This winter's snowpack and subsequent mild spring have created perfect conditions for plant growth this year...which in turn creates an extremely pleasant environment for running.

Friday, June 3, 2011

REPOST: U.S. Military Spending vs. the World

While I am down after arm surgery and can't type, I am recycling some posts from a year ago.

This from 3 June 2010, here (you'll need to click back to see any images, I could not easily or quickly insert them in this re-post):

(image credit here, where there's lots of good stuff)

Take a look at the pie chart above. Take a good look. Let it sink in.

In other words,

•US military spending accounts for 48 percent, or almost half, of the world’s total military spending

•US military spending is more than the next 46 highest spending countries in the world combined

•US military spending is 5.8 times more than China, 10.2 times more than Russia, and 98.6 times more than Iran.

•US military spending is almost 55 times the spending on the six “rogue” states (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) whose spending amounts to around $13 billion, maximum. (Tabulated data does not include four of the six, as the data only lists nations that have spent over 1 billion in the year, so their budget is assumed to be $1 billion each)

•US spending is more than the combined spending of the next 45 countries.

•The United States and its strongest allies (the NATO countries, Japan, South Korea and Australia) spend $1.1 trillion on their militaries combined, representing 72 percent of the world’s total.

•The six potential “enemies,” Russia, and China together account for about $205 billion or 29% of the US military budget.

Surely we could scale back our global military mission to refocus on domestic priorities? I think we have confused our defense wants with our defense needs.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

REPOST: 17 Ridiculous Laws Still On The Books In The U.S.

While I am down after arm surgery and can't type, I am recycling some posts from a year ago.

This from 2 June 2010, here (you'll need to click back to see any images, I could not easily or quickly insert them in this re-post):

Thanks to the Huffington Post, I had a good laugh about these ridiculous laws.

I sorta liked #6, just because of the running connection, although I am neither a drunk driver, nor a fan of personalized license plates, nor from New Jersey. I just can't figure out the logic for the associated "ridiculous law": In New Jersey, Once Convicted Of Drunk Driving You May Never Again Have Personalized Plates.

I'm betting that they'll rethink that one, because tax revenue, however small, will trump additional punishment for drunk drivers.

Upon further thought, I suppose the reason for the law was to not so much to punish drunk drivers after the fact as it as was to create a deterrent to drunk driving in the first place. However, do you really think that somebody, about to take the drink that'll put them over the limit, will suddenly stop and say, "Whoa--if I get caught, there go my personalized plates. No effing way!" Then they put down the drink, untouched.

Number 17 is also a major winner, although I am loathe to post that particular photo here. It's definitely worth clicking through to it!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

REPOST: Memorial Day

While I am down after arm surgery and can't type, I am recycling some posts from a year ago.

This from 1 June 2010, here (you'll need to click back to see any images, I could not easily or quickly insert them in this re-post):

I know it's Tuesday, a day after Memorial Day. But it was only this morning that I caught up with a very poignant opinion piece in the LA Times by Andrew J. Bacevich. It pretty well articulates the ambivalence I feel about Memorial day this year--wanting to honor the duty and the sacrifice of the fallen, but raging at the misguided priorities that caused many of those deaths in the first place.

I've taken the liberty of rearranging Mr. Bacevich's piece. I'll start in the middle:

The fallen gave their lives so we might enjoy freedom: However comforting, this commonplace assertion qualifies at best as a half-truth. Who can doubt that the soldier killed in battle at Gettysburg or on Omaha Beach died while advancing the cause of liberty? Whether one can say the same about the Americans who lost their lives assaulting Mexico City in 1847, suppressing Filipino demands for independence after 1898 or chasing rebels in 1920s Nicaragua is less clear, however.

In recent decades especially, the connection between American military intervention and American freedom has become ever more tenuous. Meanwhile, competence has proved notably hard to come by. Rather than being a one-off event, Vietnam inaugurated an era in which the United States has routinely misunderstood and repeatedly misused military power. Even as political authorities sent U. S. forces into action with ever greater frequency, decisive results - what we used to call victory - became more elusive. From Beirut and Bosnia to Iraq and Somalia, the troops served and sacrificed while expending huge sums of taxpayer money. How their exertions were helping to keep Americans free became increasingly difficult to discern.

The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, already the longest shooting war in U.S. history, embodies these trends. Just about no one, from the senior field commander on down, considers the war there winnable in any meaningful sense. Arguments for perpetuating the U.S. military commitment resemble those once offered to justify Vietnam: We can't afford to look weak; American credibility is on the line.

How exactly did we get ourselves in such a fix, engaged in never-ending wars that we cannot win and cannot afford? Is the ineptitude of our generals the problem? Or is it the folly of our elected rulers? Or could it perhaps be our own lazy inattention? Rather than contemplating the reality of what American wars, past or present, have wrought, we choose to look away, preferring the beach, the ballgame and the prospect of another summer.

So while politicians promise peace and Congress ponies up the money for war, the troops head back for yet another combat tour. And more American families will be given the opportunity to experience Memorial Day in ways they never expected.

Now let's go back the beginning of Mr. Bacevich's opinion piece. He's in unique position to write about this topic:

Three years ago this month, my son was killed while serving in Iraq. His death changed many things, among them my own hitherto casual attitude toward Memorial Day.

Here in New England, where we now make our home, deejays and local news anchors still proclaim Memorial Day weekend the unofficial start of summer, as if unearthing some fresh discovery. Folks with cottages to open up take to the highways, pushing through traffic toward seashore or mountains.

Our trek will be considerably shorter and simpler: We will make the five-minute drive to our son's gravesite.

For us, personal loss has rendered the last Monday in May into the day of remembrance that it was originally intended to be. Yet loss has also invested Memorial Day with political significance, posing uncomfortable questions.