Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Via Dependable Renegade--always a good read--I got steered to the following YouTube video. 

I seldom click on videos.  Not that they won't be funny or amusing or enlightening.  Nope, it's precisely BECAUSE they will be funny or amusing or enlightening.  And once I start, where will I stop?  There are millions of these things out there, and not enough time.

That said, I broke my rule for this one and I'm glad I did.  Possibly because one of my running buddies is named Fenton.  He apparently has shape-shifted and is now a dog.  A BAD dog.  In London. 

I give you permission to also break my rule.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Remembrances…and Ultrarunning

November is a time for remembrances. 

  • On a global scale on 11 Nov we had Armistice Day (renamed Veteran’s Day, but the original name is better).  The “holiday” (if that’s the right word) commemorates the dead of WWI, the so-called war to end all wars.  That hasn’t worked out all that well.

  • On the national scale, 19 Nov was the anniversary of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  He was speaking at the dedication of the new National Cemetery at Gettysburg, where Union dead from the battle some 4 months prior were being reinterred from their temporary graves scattered over the battlefield. The short speech has become iconic for its succinct and eloquent capture of the spirit of remembrance of the sacrifices of the Union dead.

  • On the local scale, this morning on my early run on my beloved Harshman Road loop, I paused again at Janet Christiansen’s grave in Browns Mill Cemetery.  Janet was murdered back in 2005, and her exhumation last year to obtain forensic evidence really touched me (see previous post here).

I probably won’t ever get there, but the link to Ultrarunning is a somewhat famous memorial plaque in CA dedicated to Barbara Schoener.  She was a trail runner killed by a mountain lion in 1994 in northern California along the American River Canyon Trail, in the Auburn State Recreation Area.  This trail is part of the Western States Endurance 100-Mile Endurance Run trail.


Monday, November 28, 2011

If I Have Enough Years...and Ultrarunning

My local paper, the Chambersburg Public Opinion, has a weekly outdoors feature in which they highlight some local outdoor activity or trail.

I just read a feature about the Loyalsock Trail in northeastern PA, web site here (and also the image credit), and it sounds absolutely gorgeous--waterfalls, scenic vistas, great geology.  Doesn't seem that they have maps on the site, but it sounds like it's a point-to-point trail some 60 miles in length.  Without ordering the trail guide, it's unclear whether there might be a shorter alternatives, but it certainly sounds intriguing.

The problem is that in life there are only so many summers, and so many springs (I think that's a line from an Eagles tune).

Oh, and the same is true about Ultrarunning as well.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cats in Art: Miss Ann White's Kitten (Stubbs)

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.

Click image for larger. Image credit, hereMiss Ann White's Kitten, George Stubbs1790, oil on canvas, 10" x 12", held by Roy Miles Fine Paintings, London.

Zuffi tells us:
Stubbs is one of the great animal painters of all time, and was highly popular in Britain for his ability to capture with great sensitivity not only the exterior "portrayal" of an animal but also its feelings, its instincts, its internal nobility.

This adorable kitten also makes me wonder, who was Miss Ann White, and what was her relationship to the painter...and to her kitten? 

Also, I find quite remarkable the tiny size of the painting: a mere 10" by 12".  Now that's pretty darn small, yet we see all this wonderful, careful detail of a beautiful little kitty.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Climate Change Denial "Progression"

Eric Martin gives us "...a clearer enunciation of the stages of evolution for climate change denialists," that goes something like this:

Stage 1.Climate change isn't real, temperatures aren't actually increasing, El Nino!, etc.

Stage 2. OK, the data can't be denied any longer, temperatures are in fact increasing, but it's not because of the activities of man or increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Stage 3. OK, OK, temperatures are increasing, and it is the result of man-made causes, but doing something to arrest the progress of climate change would simply be too expensive.

My prediction: When the likely catastrophic costs of inaction are fully revealed, we'll see some variation of the following:

Stage 4. We would have agreed to address global warming earlier, but the liberals and scientists were so smug, condescending, etc., and they failed to reach out and create an environment conducive to bipartisan cooperation. 

What I can't get my head around is that the stakes here are epic and final--what sane person would want to take the chance that we're well on the way towards passing the so-called tipping point, beyond which we cannot recover?  What sane person would do that to their children and grandchildren?

I guess it depends upon your definition of "sane."  Apparently its saner to take the short term view and not be inconvenienced now; after all, some technological wizardry will come along to bail the progeny out of this fix we've put them into.  Right?


Friday, November 25, 2011

"These Fragments Are Not Where They Were Born To Be."

Here's an excerpt from the Esquire article, by Chris Jones.  Now go read the whole thing.

Those are the remains that ended up in landfills. They ended up in landfills because back in 2003, the gore-numb folks at Dover must have stood in their mortuary, with so many bodies all around them, and made a callous, officious decision. When they did their DNA tests on every finger and ear and eyelid spread out on the metal tables before them, and when their computers told them that this finger or ear or eyelid once belonged to a man or woman already sent home and whose family didn't want to have someone knock at their door with another little bag of Joey or Matt or Laura in his hands, that those parts needed to be cremated and made to vanish. It was just another part of the process.
Since 2008, those same parts have still been cremated, but they've been buried at sea rather than at a landfill. This is better. It is better, if only symbolically, if only to relieve one of the thousands of burdens borne by the bereaved.
But it doesn't really change the very terrible facts. Whether they're in a landfill or at the bottom of the ocean, these fragments are not where they were born to be. The ocean is just a prettier idea. It might be a deeper place to bury our horrors, but that doesn't make them any less real. All of this has happened. No one can go to Dover and feel as though everything is right in the world. No one can go into that building and come out feeling whole

"These fragments are not where they were born to be.'

Ya think?


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Millionaires...and Ultrarunning

Via Rising Hegemon, who got it from Chris Piascik at Daily Kos.

Most people in Congress are very, very wealthy. It's the natural by-product of a campaign system engineered by and for the benefit of the richest Americans. Campaigning after all is a 24/7 job, and few members of the 99% can afford to balance the time constraints of fundraising and campaigning without quitting their normal income-producing job. It's why running for Congress is a rich person's game. It's why we end up with charts like the one above.

We will never get empathy from Congress (beyond a few sentient members) because they just don't get our plight.  They are too comfortable, too far removed from paycheck-to-paycheck living, having secure incomes and health care, never treading the edge of being only a single misfortune away from financial ruin.  It's bad, and getting worse.

And the link to Ultrarunning?  Sounds sappy, but since I'll never be a millionaire, I'll have to be satisfied with the treasures of the trail. 

Once, long ago, I read something to the effect that when you die, your last thoughts are of beaches and sunsets, not the first time you bought stock or opened a checking account.

So we Ultrarunners will have a lot of memories to choose from, should we have the luxury of being conscious at the time of thinking our last thoughts....


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"If You've Done Nothing Wrong...."

The Earth-Bound Misfit gets it right again, here, writing about automatic license plate readers in the DC and other areas, saying:

It is this variant of this line: "If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear."
Every time the cops trot out that line, you can figure they're creeping closer and closer to a 1984-level security state.

Then in comments we see this:

The casual attitude of the police toward the privacy of the rest of us, the casual embrace of the notion that the limitations on what they can know about us and our movements are only those of the available technology, are truly chilling.

Said license plate readers are generating a huge database of information, with little or no guidelines on usage, strorage, etc.  It make me nervous...and I have nothing to hide.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

JFK 50 Miler, Revisited

I may have been a bit uncomplimentary about the JFK 50 Mile race in my post last week, in which, in case you missed it, I offered  photographic proof of what unquestionably is the WORST race T-shirt ever.

Although I chose not to run this year, as a 5-time finisher, my heart was with the runners all day.  At 7:00 AM I imagined myself at the start, in that pulsing mass of 1,000 runners, all having come to that street in Boonsboro, MD, from countless towns all over America, and even from abroad.  All would have trained for this day, and like lemmings obeying an invisible call, all somehow made it to that starting line on that day.

The first 3 miles are on US Alternate Rt 40, a storied highway from America’s early days.  That 3rd mile + is uphill as you gain the top of the Blue Ridge.  Many people run this hill out of an abundance of energy; I was always more than happy to walk it.  There’d be plenty of time to run later if I still had the legs.

Then you reach the Appalachian Trail.  Although you can pass other runners along this stretch, the trail generally tends to be narrow, and I always found it best to bide my time, passing only if I absolutely had to.  Again, my watchword was to be conservative--there’d be plenty of time to run later if I still had the legs.

You reach the flat Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) canal at mile 16 or so, and face 26 miles of flat towpath running.  Many people say, “The Canal is SOOOOOOO boring…it’s all flat…nothing to break it up…blah blah blah.”  For me, the Canal is the best part.  C’mon, you’re running in the woods, beside a major scenic river, mere feet away from what has to be one of the most historic and fascinating engineering feats ever constructed in the US.

Just seeing the historic artifacts of the canal—the lift locks, the lockkeepers’ homes, the aqueducts and culverts where the canal bridged tributaries of the Potomac, the cuts in stone where the laborers carved a flat space into cliffs along the river to fit the canal and towpath, the stonemasons’ carefully cut stones to construct the locks, the dams to keep the canal watered…

I guess I’m an engineering geek at heart, because this section is so fascinating.  For those of you who find the towpath boring, you should read up a bit before your next running and you’ll have a greater appreciation for what you’re seeing.  Try this, and this, for example.

Along the Canal, there are markers every mile.  I tried to maintain a pattern of walking for 5 minutes at every second mile marker.  Thus of every 2 miles I’d walk about a quarter mile.

At length you reach the final 8 miles of road.  You’ve reached the point mentioned earlier where “there is plenty of time to run later if you still had the legs.” Here is where I always tried to push, to actually race the race, depending upon what I still had left in the tank.  Again, the rural roads, the carefully built stones walls on either side enclosing the fields--beautiful!

Then the finish line, after covering 50 miles, something that most people cannot fathom.  But you know what you did.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Miss Mom

Yesterday would have been Mom's 86th birthday, but she only made it to 82. 

I miss her at odd times, like over the weekend when I stopped at the local German deli to get some Christmas stuff, and remembered taking her there for what would be her last Christmas.  I got all choked up just being there and could hardly focus.

Anyway, she always asked about my Ultrarunning--although secretly I'm sure she thought I was nuts, she never questioned it out loud.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cats in Art: The Painter's Studio (del Castillo)

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.

Click image for larger. Image credit Artunframed, here.  The Painter's Studio, Joes del Castillo, 1780, oil on canvas, 41" x 63", held by Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.   
Zuffi  narrates:

Disproportionately large compared to the boy, who extends his arms to make a hoop through which it is to leap, the presumed acrobat-cat is the painting's true protagonist.  Probably the cat will never accomplish the small test of agility which the boy is inviting it to pass; or, if it does, it will be with a feeling of superior, regal condescension.

"Superior, regal condescension"...Zuffi hits it out of the park.  Say no more, it'd just be superfluous.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Draft the Boys at Sixty-Five

Clarence Jordan was a practical theologian who founded a Christian community in Georgia that he named Koinonia.  The bride and I spent several days there when we were in college, it it had a marked effect on our lives.

One of Jordan's essays was called "Draft the Boys at Sixty-Five."  The only place where I was able to grab a copy was at this site, where, unfortunately, you will be subjected to some annoying ragtime music.

But hit PAGE DOWN about 9 or 10 times, mute your sound, and read.  It's tongue-in-cheek...or is it?  I am reproducing the essay (written around the time of the Vietnam War) here in its entirety, with some of the quotes that I particularly liked bolded and in blue.  Substitute the word "terrorist" for "Communist" and it's totally contemporary.

There's a lot of talk going on today about how we don't need peacetime conscription in a nation like this. But we might as well just face up to the fact that we've got to have the draft. In the first place, we've gotten too civilized to go to war voluntarily. We've just got to be made to fight. And then, automation has taken all the sport out of killing. Time was when an honest man could go to battle against an honest man, and there was a lot of sport in that; there was a lot of fun, a lot of challenge. You don't have to be drafted for that kind of sport. But who wants to operate a computer to kill scads of women and children? We're just not going to war and do that kind of thing unless we're drafted.

Look at it this way—a very peace-loving nation like ours has the responsibility to keep the peace, all over the world, even if we have to do it by ourselves. And even if we have to kill off everybody else in the world to keep the peace in the world. We got to do it. It's our responsibility. Peace is that important—we've got to have it. The trouble is, some people think you can have it without plenty of guns and planes and napalm and bombs and men. Well, you can't. You've got to have these things. And when too many folks get to arguing about this, the only thing you can do with folks who are arguing is just draft them.

Without the draft, there'd be entirely too much talk about peace and too little real fighting for peace. So until people quit thinking and talking, we're gonna have to have the draft, that's it. Now, I admit we might have to occasionally make a few changes in the draft law. For instance, at the present, we're drafting kids from eighteen to twenty-six. We shouldn't be drafting those kids. They're too young; they're too flighty; they're too sexy; they're too immature. They're not even represented in Congress. They don't have any say-so about this decision. Besides, those kids need to stay at home and get married and get into their vocation and start raising a family and all those kinds of things. Then too when you send these kids off, you got to have such a long veterans' program. They come back veterans eighteen, nineteen years old, you know. You gotta keep 'em on the rolls for another forty to sixty years.

Now, it could be that we could draft middle-aged folks, but, you know, they're too productive. We got to have them to make the bombs and the planes and the napalm, without which there can be no peace. We need them to run our big banks and our big corporations, to keep the economy booming. We gotta keep ‘em in Congress, to pass draft laws and tax laws and laws against draft-card burning and all like that. We got to keep these middle-aged folks at home, to make committees in Congress, to investigate people who ain't peace loving. And then we got to keep ‘em at home to teach their sons the glory and the beauty of killing off men, women, and children that they've never seen before. We can't have peace in the world without our middle-aged folks staying at home.

Well, that only leaves our senior citizens, but they're too—well, now wait a minute, what about our senior citizens? Yea, what about our senior citizens? How about starting the draft at sixty-five? Looky here, at that age they're getting ready to retire and they could go at their own expense. We wouldn't have to pay ‘em—they're on Social Security, and old-age security, and all like that. They're on their pensions….
And then another thing, and I noticed this, that the older a man gets, the more belligerent he gets. You listen to these guys talk in Congress. There isn't anybody who's more anxious to give the Communists hell than a man who's too old to deliver it. Now anybody that's as anxious to deliver some loads to the nether regions as our senior citizens ought not to be denied the privilege of delivering them in person. They wouldn't even have to be drafted to do it. If given the opportunity, they'd volunteer in droves.

And too, by the time a man reaches sixty-five and had to be drafted, he usually wouldn't leave at home a sweetheart or somebody like that weeping for him. This would definitely cut down on hasty marriages. And when he was given his two-week leave before being shipped abroad, his wife probably wouldn't get pregnant, and that would cut down on the war boom of babies and help the population explosion.

But I think his wife ought to be drafted too. We ought to draft them all—men and women that are sixty-five years old—so she could go along with him to do his cooking and cleaning and see that he comes home at night like a good soldier should. With their wives along, these elderly GI's would not be liable to turn these foreign cities into brothels and burden its citizenry with illegitimacy.

It's also obvious from the traffic on our toll roads that senior citizens love to travel. You get on Interstate 75, and you see one camper trailer after another going up and down, going to Florida. Most of our senior citizens, by the time they're sixty-five, have seen practically every tourist place in the United States. Let's give 'em a chance to see the rest of the world. All we'd have to do with this new army would be to equip 'em with a camper trailer and let 'em get on the road. Now you would have to have in these foreign countries adequate tourist places with adequate rest stops and so forth. This might be a real nasty problem in backward countries with outdoor privies. But we might be able to even get around that. This army would be highly mobile with their camper trailers. Perhaps they could be even more mobile than in helicopters, and we could do away with the expensive helicopters.

Now I think the uniforms for this new army should be usual tourist shorts—both the men and the women should be equipped with the usual shorts that these senior citizens wear when they are touring the country. Now the reason I prescribe shorts is that if you were to get all of our senior citizens with their knobby knees and their varicose veins descending on a country, the psychological effect on that country would be such that they would capitulate immediately.

This army would have other psychological advantages also. Practically all of the elderly GI's would be grandparents, with the standard ailments and aches and pains. It's doubtful that any enemy, no matter how fierce or determined he might be, could long resist a vast invasion of grandparents talking about their grandchildren and their aches and pains. No tonnage of bombs could produce a greater stampede to the conference table.

Now the morale of this army would just be superb. It would be boundless, because when a man's sixty-five years old he's had forty, fifty years to reflect on the bliss of private enterprise and the gross evil of Communism, and without hesitation, he would be so committed to his superlative ideals that he would gladly and eagerly spill his iron-poor blood. Who would want to fade away in boredom at a retirement center, when he can go down in a burst of glory for his superlative ideals on a foreign shuffleboard court?

Another boost to morale would be that some of the troops would be the directors and chairmen of the boards of huge corporations with war contracts. Given the opportunity to execute the wars that they helped plan, and that have made them rich, their zeal would just be boundless. Well may it be said of these rich men who plan the wars, “His strength is as the strength of ten, because his heart's corrupt.”

But to provide the greatest morale stimulus, the law to draft at sixty-five would have to allow for some exceptions. For instance, the president as commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy, even though he may not yet be sixty-five, should not be denied the privilege of volunteering, donning his shorts, and leading his shorted army in this great expeditionary force. We should give the commander-in-chief the privilege of accompanying this senior army.

In the next place, I think we should make exceptions for the Armed Services Committee, and also for the House Appropriations Committee. If you're going to make laws for appropriations and all like that, certainly you need some field experience. And these men, even though not sixty-five, should be given the privilege of joining the army.

Now, let's consider some more of the economic aspects of the draft at sixty-five. The first big thing I see would be in the cost of recruitment. You wouldn't need but two recruitment centers for these elderly GI's –one in Florida and one on California. And you wouldn't have to have any pre-induction physicals, in view of the fact of universal disability. Now there might be one or two physically fit men, but the number of fit would be so small that you could just go ahead and dispense entirely with the examinations and conscript them all. It could be too that there would be a tremendous savings to Medicare, provided we could have rather high casualties, because most of these guys are just beginning Medicare and if we could arrange to have a casualty rate pretty high, think of the savings it would be to that program.

Another thing is that by drafting only those over sixty-five, we could almost eliminate the enormously expensive Veterans Administration. A maimed man of this age would hardly consider it worth the effort to learn how to use artificial arms and legs. Nor would he likely want to go to college, or to buy a twenty-year house on a forty-year mortgage. Even his meager needs wouldn't last too long, and because the crop of veterans would disappear so rapidly, we could afford to have twice as many of 'em. And by raising the draft age to sixty-five, we could completely bypass the astronomically extravagant training centers and camps. When a man's that old, he's just about as trained as he's gonna get. The government not only would be spared the considerable expense of training him, but would profit immensely from his long years of experience. Overnight, we would have, not a band of immature amateurs, but an army of decrepit professionals.

Besides the savings in money, though, there would be the greater savings in manpower. For instance, when you kill a man off at eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old, you're killing off a guy that's got twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years of productive life left in him. Now these folks that make automobiles up here in Detroit, they wouldn't catch an automobile right off the assembly line and junk it. They would expect to get some mileage out of it. You wouldn't take a kid right out of college and junk him on the battlefield. You want to get some mileage out of him.

Now, another thing is that when you kill off a boy that's maybe eighteen, nineteen years old, you don't know but that maybe you're killing a future Einstein, or a future Abraham Lincoln, or a future George Washington. You don't know, you might be killing some great genius of some kind. But when you kill off a guy sixty-five years old, you know what you're killing.

There's one final thing that might be said. This army would really have no equal in the art of pacification. Its ranks would be filled up with retired bankers and insurance company executives. They could completely rebuild the crude economic structure of a foreign country. The elderly newspaper and radio editors and managers could supply a whole lot of American intellectual trash for the foreign people. The enlisted personnel who in private life were captains of American industry could have a whole foreign country on cigarettes and wheels in no time at all. And these are the foundation of any civilization. The conscripted politicians could teach the foreign hopefuls all the ins and outs of, well, you know, under-the-table deals and how to conduct a successful candidacy and all like that. In a matter of weeks, after storming the beaches, all these mighty architects of the American dream, these wrinkled but wise GI's, would transform alien lands into prosperous territories begging for statehood. With prospects of such affluent bliss, most countries would actually invite us to invade them. And we've never needed any pretext other than an invitation from a corrupt regime.

But if this calls for more senior citizens than we could supply, it might be necessary to have a war waiting list. Some countries that are fairly well off might just have to be told plainly that we wouldn't invade 'em under any circumstances. So the only thing then that stands between us and world peace and plenty is one little minor change in the draft law.

Clarence Jordan (1912-1969) founded Koinonia, an interracial farming cooperative in Americus, Georgia, in 1942. A Bible scholar, he is the author The Cottonpatch Gospel, a translation of the New Testament from Greek into colloquial southern English.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Banning War

Image credit American Battle Monuments Commission, Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial, France...where our dead from WWI rest, content in the success of their mission in "the war to end all wars"....

Via Corrente, I was fascinated to read about a 1929 law--a treaty, actually, that has the full force of law and remains in effect today:
A Forgotten Law We Need

In January 1929 the U.S. Senate ratified by a vote of 85 to 1 a treaty that is still on the books, still upheld by most of the world, still listed on the U.S. State Department's website - a treaty that under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is the "supreme law of the land."

This treaty, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, bans all war.  Bad wars and "good wars," aggressive wars and "humanitarian wars" - they are all illegal, having been legally abolished like dueling, blood feuds, and slavery before them.

David Swanson has written a book about this effort, and you can read more about it here

Before you  dismiss out of hand this notion of "let's just not do war anymore," think about it.  Think seriously about it.  Then think about your children, your grandchildren, all of your loved ones...then think some more.

I'd argue the point that all of our wars reflect the fact that somebody f**ked up.  Remember what Atrios said, quoted here:

But what I've learned over the increasingly many years of my life is that the existence of just about any war in which the US is involved means that the Very Serious People, with all the power they have, fucked up completely. Even if that war is, in some sense, "necessary," it still means that the people who run this place screwed up and at the very least should resign in shame before sending people off to kill and be killed. But they don't. They go on Meet the Press to talk about how awesome they are.

Tomorrow's post: Clarence Jordan's not-so-tongue-in-cheek essay about why it would make a lot of sense to draft 65-year-olds rather than young people.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cheerleading...and Ultrarunning

Hey, this is only 2 weeks late, but it seems that 2 Nov is the anniversary of several noteworthy events of a geeky nature (i.e., right up my alley).  From the Writer's Almanac:

On this date in 1920, the first modern commercially licensed radio station--KDKA in Pittsburgh--began broadcasting.

It's also the anniversary of the maiden--and only--flight of the Spruce Goose, made on this date in 1947. It's technically known as the H-4 Hercules, and it was made of birch, not spruce. Dreamed up by shipping magnate Henry Kaiser, and designed by Howard Hughes, it remains the largest airplane ever built, by far: It's five stories tall, it boasts a wingspan of 320 feet, its cargo area is large enough to hold two railroad boxcars, and it has eight engines with 17-foot propellers. It was made of wood because metal was at a premium during the war.

And last but not least: 

It's the birthday of cheerleading, which made its debut at the University of Minnesota on this date in 1898. Pep clubs had been around for a couple of decades, especially at Princeton, where their all-male pep club led the crowd in unified chanting to motivate the football team.

Cheerleading was a male-only sport until 1923, when the first female cheerleaders took the field. This phenomenon didn't really take off until the 1940s, when the male student body was depleted by World War II. The '20s also saw the advent of acrobatics, human pyramids, and dance moves to accompany the fight songs and chants.

Now that's what is lacking in Ultrarunning--cheerleading!  Forget about the pathetic efforts of family, crew, and race volunteers to cheer is on.  What we REALLY need is some "unified chanting to motivate" the runners. 

Squads of cheerleaders could position themselves deep in the forest, far from any access point, to maximize the impact of their motivational chants.  Depending on the terrain, "acrobatics, human pyramids, and dance moves" should also be employed to whip up the tired runners.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The UGLIEST Race Shirt Ever...or Good Luck, JFK Runners!

Photo by Gary

This JFK 50 Miler shirt would have been from 2006, I think.  I wore it exactly one time, just to model it for my running buddies, to gain their consensus that, yes, this was the ugliest race T-shirt that any of us had ever seen.


The fact that I still have it is that my car waxing and oil change efforts have slowed a bit, so this particular rag hasn't made it to the the top of the rag pile yet.

The 2009 shirt, my last and final running, was a nice short-sleeved technical shirt. 

Why never to run JFK again?  Well, it has to do with the race being very popular and fills quickly.  Race management had to somehow limit entries or otherwise make them more manageable.

Historically JFK did have a grandfather clause that anyone with 5 finishes would be offered entry if they wanted it.  But when I went to sign up for 2010...I saw where the 5-finishes-grandfathered rule had now been extended to 10 finishes.

Oh, and the entry fee went to $195.

Hey, race management sets up the rules for their race, I'm fine with that.  You can choose to enter or not.  I'm now in the "or not" camp.

That said, the race is THIS SATURDAY, 19 November, and I will be beaming good karma south to all runners!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Corrente: "Psychopathy As a Preferred Corporate Executive Trait"

From MontanaMaven at Corrente, an enlightening explanation of the 1% (in fairness, at least some of them). 

She cites a British study and observes, " seems to me that if you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a poor family, you're likely to go to prison. If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a rich family, you're likely to go to business school."

In a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading British businesses. They compared the results to the same tests on patients at Broadmoor special hospital, where people who have been convicted of serious crimes are incarcerated. On certain indicators of psychopathy, the bosses's scores either matched or exceeded those of the patients. In fact, on these criteria, they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders.
The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly, Board and Fritzon point out, closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people. Egocentricity, a strong sense of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations.

MontanaMaven also brings up David Korten, who discusses this point in his book "The Great Turning; from Empire to Earth Community". 

Korten identifies sociopaths as People with an "Imperial Consciousness" which is the 2nd of 5 orders of human consciousness. They are people who realize it's easy to cheat their friends i.e. people who trust them. They live in MY WORLD. They suck up to the powerful and exploit the oppressed. The first and lowest order of moral consciousness is called "Magical Consciousness" that believes in an OTHER WORLD of magical beings like Santa Claus and God. It's a child's consciousness. The Imperial is the consciousness of a 7-14 year old. So, yes, it's very disconcerting to meet someone in this order that is an adult.



Monday, November 14, 2011

Cell Phone Tossing...and Ultrarunning

This from REFDESK, my home page, on 2 Nov 2011, which pointed me to The Free Dictionary, here, and this undervalued sport.

Mobile phone throwing is an international sport that started in Finland in the year 2000. It is a sport in which participants throw mobile phones and are judged on distance or technique. In addition, people sometimes throw cell phones in anger, such as model Naomi Campbell,[1] that gives extra points.

There are usually four categories in the sport:

--Original (also called 'Traditional'): an over-the-shoulder throw with the farthest distance winning (best of 3)

--Freestyle: contestants get points for aesthetics and creative choreographics

--Team original: up to three competitors have one throw each with their scores added together

--Junior: for children aged 12 or younger

Ultrarunning parallels include the GPS toss; the suddenly-unappealing-aid-station-food-you-are-carrying toss; and the fruit rind toss, to include banana skins and orange peels. 

And of course, the cookie toss, wherein you regurgitate the entire contents of your stomach, feel better immediately, and continue the race.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cats in Art: Self-Portrait with His Wife (Baldrighi)

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.

Click image for larger.  Image credit Wikimedia Commons, hereSelf-Portrait with His Wife, Guiseppe Baldricghi, 1756, oil on canvas, 49" x 63", held by Galleria Nazionale, Parma, Italy.  
Zuffi explains:
In this forceful double portrait Baldrighi depicts himself in his work clothes, in the process of posing his wife. The young woman is sitting a little stiffly, with a forced smile. On her left, with a vitality that contrasts with here bearing, the cat has focused on the little birds' cage, and has assumed the typical pose cats adopt before pouncing.

"Vitality"--why, cats own that word!  While the humans work, the cat, well, continues to do cat things.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tebowing (Part 2), and the Brick Testament

I posted a bit ago about Tebowing, here.  Now I have the seond part, which is the Christian's own guide on how to pray, from the Bible itself (Matthew 6: 5-6)...and I daresay it calls for throwing a flag at any Tebowers:

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Also I ran across this site, The Brick Testament, and it tickled me a bit.  Check it out.  Lego figures act out Bible stories literally.  Hilarity ensues.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Armistice Day...Every Family Has a Story

I am reposting the same post I put up one year ago today, on the 93rd anniversary of the end of World War I.

Armistice Day...Every Family Has a Story

For Veteran's Armistice Day (as it was originally called)....

Every family has a story. My mother told me of my great-grandfather, Julius (or Jules?) Brinkmann, who was killed on this date in 1918 in World War I on the Western Front.

Word of the armistice, which took effect the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, did not reach all the lines in real time. He was killed sometime later that day, AFTER the armistice.

He would have been one of the very last casualties of the Great War. You know, the war that was supposed to end all wars.

Oh, and he was a German. Funny, that really doesn't seem to matter, does it?

What is your family story? Please comment.

This is a generic photo, not of Julius...but it could have been.

Photo credit here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bicycling...and Ultrarunning

Out of curiosity I happened to pick up a copy of Bicycling magazine, Oct 2011, at the gym, where they have an informal magazine exchange.  There were several items that jumped right out at me a illustrating a distinctively different world view on the part of serious bikers, as opposed to the Ultrarunning community that I am familiar with.
  • Page 6, ad for Nair Men Shower Power "If removing body hair was a competition, razors would finish 2nd."  Body hair for Ultrarunners is a feature, not a bug.
  • Page 52, article on how to crash properly.  In fairness, if you're gonna crash, this article gives you tips on how to minimize the damage.  But I can't ever recall seeing any how-to equivalent on how to face plant while trail running so as to minimize damage.
  • Page 89, ad for a Cycling Accident Attorney.  Why don't we have a corresponding ad in UltraRunner magazine?  After all, backcountry trail running lawsuits are extraordinarily common, aren't they?

But my favorite comes from the Editor's Letter (page 10), where Peter Flax is talking about buying a used Ibis Hakkaluggi bike (doesn't mean anything to me, but I'm not a biker, and it sounds suspiciously like a fake name anyway) from a famous bike racing pro named Bobby Julich. 

The editor makes the point that he was "...buying a bike from a guy who podiumed at the Tour" [de France, presumably]. 


An interesting verb-making trick from the word podium, if you ask me.  Seems right in line with my stereotype of serious bike aficionados being largely Type A personalities, where inventing a verb out of a noun is simply a breezy construct to communicate even faster, and then rush off to do, well, other important stuff.

I will post more soon about Type A and Type B individuals in various human-powered sports...and it'll be a goodie!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ultrarunning Article!!!

(photo credit: Stan Jensen)

I am SO fired up!

Just got my November issue of UltraRunning magazine, and there on page 32, big as you please, was my article on Ultra license plates.

Over a year in the making, I posted a note to the UltraList back in Nov 2010 asking for photos of ultra-related license plates.  I got a number of great photos and took a few months to try to craft an article around the themes that emerged.  It took a few more months on the UR end to massage my draft and fit it into their publishing scheme.

The overarching theme that came to me was “Commitment and Pride.”  This was actually my suggested title for the piece, although the UR managing editor, Tia Bodington, went with “License Plates in the Ultra World.”   In scoping out the plates, 4 sub-themes stood out to me:

  • Acknowledging the sport of ultrarunning
  • Identifying  as an ultrarunner
  • Espousing the concept and philosophy of ultrarunning
  • The Secret Message
I’ve had other articles published (a couple pieces of research on Southern infantry units at Gettysburg; the role of a free press in covering war) but this one is special, big time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fight, Talk, Build

Marcy Wheeler got it right last week, as she points out some irony with respect to the U.S. position on Afghanistan:

As the US stumbles around, trying to find its way out of a country it has occupied for over ten years, the path "forward" remains as murky as ever.  Just under two weeks ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was chosen as the point person for introducing the new US catchphrase "fight, talk, build" that is meant to describe US strategy in the region.  As I noted at the time, the US seemed to completely miss the irony of using the country's chief diplomat to introduce a new strategy that is based on the concept of shoot first and ask questions later.


That bit at the beginning should not be overlooked: the success of the "fight, talk, build" strategy "depends on a positive outcome for several variables that currently appear headed in the wrong direction."  Mechanisms for reversing the current direction of these variables are not presented in the article.

That's OK, we can just hope that things will kinda sorta get better, can't we?  Then Marcy in her perceptive way pulls back the veil just a bit more:

While the Obama administration begins to think about preparing to maybe get the Pentagon perhaps to agree to withdraw a few more troops out of Afghanistan,  we see the terrain being softened a bit more for the eventual realization that all of the US efforts  and investments in "training" Afghan forces are destined for failure.  It appears from this article that David Petraeus, who is touted in the press as responsible for training when it is described as being successful, will escape blame for the failure in Afghanistan because William Caldwell is described in the article as having "overseen all NATO training in Afghanistan for the past two years".  In true Petraeus fashion, the slate for the previous eight years is not just wiped clean, but ceases to exist.  Petraeus' name does not appear in the article.

Prospects for more and more dead and maimed improve as our reputation circles the bowl....


Monday, November 7, 2011

Jag-waters...and Ultrarunning

Photo credit Mister Tristan (the 3-year old human being, not the blog).  Seriously.  He loves cameras.

Mister Tristan loves the character Diego from Nick Jr.  The photos above depicts a downloadable coloring book page of a baby jaguar.

Only Mister Tristan mispronounces it, saying "Jag-water."

The bride and I once undertook a semi-adventure vacation to Belize in Central America.  One of the places where we went was the Cockscomb Basin, a jaguar preserve.  Our guide took us out multiple times to different locations over a couple days and nights, without success (the jaguar sighting rate is maybe 5%, so that result was what I expected). 

But we did see some fresh jaguar tracks--they are HUGE--and I could well imagine that we were under surveillance.

Anyway, a trip to Belize needs to be in Mister Tristan's he can have a chance to see a Jag-water.

The Cockscomb Basin is full of trails, and although trail running was not part of the last trip, perhaps next time....


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cats in Art: Cats Fighting in a Larder (de Vos)

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 The Prado's on-line image gallery, here.  Paul de Vos, Cats Fighting in a Larder, 1663, oil on canvas, 45" x 67", held by The Prado, Madrid, Spain.  

Zuffi calls this painting "Cats in a Larder," omitting the word "fighting," and comments:

De Vos' cats are truly wild! One after the other, they fling themselves from the small window of a pantry and roll around unceremoniously, in poses that seem incompatible with the usual feline dignity and composure.

But every cat needs to get its freak on occasionally.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why Trees Matter...and Ultrarunning

From the March-April issue of Sierra, the Sierra Club's magazine, but I forget the particular article of column:

There's something about being near a massive coast redwood, its spire impossibly tall, or a broad sequoia, with its lava flow of soft, knobby bark, that evokes a visceral response.  It's less like viewing a tree and more like stumbling on a geologic wonder, an arboreal version of the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls.  People use their library voices while walking among redwoods.  Maybe it's being in the presence of something that can outlive 50 human generations--a single tree, standing now in the Sierra Nevada, born during the Bronze Age, and whose grandfather shed its cocoa-colored cones before recorded history.

This is why trees matter. We have a solemn duty to protect and bequeath to successive generations the best of the natural world.  As Rachel Carson said, "Conservation is a cause that has no end.  There is not point at which we say, 'Our work is finished.'"

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning is obvious.  When you're running among trees, somehow you feel protected and sheltered.  Trees never seem sinister or foreboding; they are always benign and welcoming.  That's why running on forested courses is so comfortable, like slipping on an old shoe, or running with a dear friend.


"These fragments are not where they were born to be."

My post title is from the Esquire article.  Here's an excerpt.  Hoping you'll be curious enough to go read the whole thing.

Those are the remains that ended up in landfills. They ended up in landfills because back in 2003, the gore-numb folks at Dover must have stood in their mortuary, with so many bodies all around them, and made a callous, officious decision. When they did their DNA tests on every finger and ear and eyelid spread out on the metal tables before them, and when their computers told them that this finger or ear or eyelid once belonged to a man or woman already sent home and whose family didn't want to have someone knock at their door with another little bag of Joey or Matt or Laura in his hands, that those parts needed to be cremated and made to vanish. It was just another part of the process.
Since 2008, those same parts have still been cremated, but they've been buried at sea rather than at a landfill. This is better. It is better, if only symbolically, if only to relieve one of the thousands of burdens borne by the bereaved.
But it doesn't really change the very terrible facts. Whether they're in a landfill or at the bottom of the ocean, these fragments are not where they were born to be. The ocean is just a prettier idea. It might be a deeper place to bury our horrors, but that doesn't make them any less real. All of this has happened. No one can go to Dover and feel as though everything is right in the world. No one can go into that building and come out feeling whole.

"These fragments are not where they were born to be." 

Ya think?


Friday, November 4, 2011

October Snowstorm...and Ultrarunning

(Photos by Gary, beginning of storm)

Well, the rare October snowstorm here in the northeast is over, although power is still out for some.

We had minimal damage, other than a very large limb off a White Oak (my favorite oak) that took some 3 hours to chain saw, stack, and haul off the twiggy debris to the burn pile.

I felt pretty sorry for my Elephant Ear plants, pictured above.  This is a non-cold-hardy plant here in PA, so I must dig out the roots every fall and replant them in the spring, lest they freeze out.  The location of planting this year, across the front of my house, really let them take off to a size that we had never had before.

Trouble was, when that wet, heavy snow landed on them, those poor Elephant Ears looked mighty forlorn.  I can imagine them saying, "But we don't do snow!"

Out of pity I dug the bulbs immediately after taking these shots.  Now they're resting until May in my crawl space.

As for Ultrarunning, I had the best of intentions to get out last weekend for a run, but the deep snow and the need to exercise my chain saw conspired against that plan.  So my first snow run of the year must wait. 


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Farewell, Halloween...and Ultrarunning

Sorry for the semi-blurriness, but my camera had a hard time figuring out which spot to auto-focus upon in the dark.

I've carved this particular jack-o-lantern a couple times.  It's actually quite easy and gives a pretty striking result. I always cut out the bottom of the pumpkin for access rather than a plug out of the top, but when a friend was over the other day she had never heard of doing that.

I don't know whether top- or bottom cutting is normal, but since I cut the bottom out, I suspect that top-cutting must be the norm.

Oh, and the nexus to Ultrarunning?  Very little, truth be told, except that for some inexplicable reason, I want to link it to what we wear on the trail.

For many of us, our running outfits run counter to the norm, like the pumpkin cutting example above.  Comfort and utility trump fashion.  I want my trail outfit not to be the runner's equivalent of LL Bean or Eddie Bauer, but rather a functional get-up that works well across a variety of possible conditions.

That generally means layers, zippers, bandanas, and hats.  Thicker and more of them if it's cold.  Plus I've found that the vest is a remarkably versatile garment that I like to add to my attire if it's cool.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Close on the heels of my Survivor rant the other day (here), here's another.  Some NFL players have long demonstrated apparent religious thanks/reverence in the end zone after a touchdown. 

The action is now officially referred to as "Tebowing," after the Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who took the practice to new heights in college and now in the NFL.

Well, the photo above was the predictable result from a game on Sunday.

Quote from an article on the game piece (also the image credit, 

Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch celebrated his sack of Tebow by joining the "Tebowing" craze, striking a prayerful pose near the prone second-year quarterback in the first half.

Maybe--probably--you really shouldn't mock somebody's religion.  But some dark part of me appreciates the irony.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Let's Just Go Back to Calling it the War Department

Robert J. Samuelson, Monday's Washington Post ("ThePentagon Vs. The Welfare State"), tries to make the case that now is the right time to spend even MORE on the Pentagon.
We shouldn't gut defense. A central question of our budget debates is how much we allow growing spending on social programs to crowd out the military and, in effect, force the United States into a dangerous, slow-motion disarmament.

America’s military advantage stems from advanced technology and intensive troop training. Obama repeatedly pledges to maintain America’s strength, but the existing cuts may do otherwise. Even before these, defense spending was headed below 3percent of national income, the lowest level since 1940. The need to maintain an adequate military is another reason why spending on social programs needs to be cut and taxes need to be raised.

You should read the entire loathesome article.  This piece reminds me of a couple seminal events in my life, when I was in college, about what was real and what wasn't.

As a biology major, of course we dissected frogs.  These frogs had been helpfully injected (immediately before death, I presume) with red and blue dye into their major arteries and veins, respectively.  That way, during the dissection the circulatory system would stand out and be easily identifiable.

I remember cutting open up my frog and thinking, "This frog looks just like the picture!"  In reality, injected vessels notwithstanding, it was the picture that looked like the frog, not the other way around.  The natural order had been reversed and I almost forgot which came first.

Along these very same lines, sitting in a planetarium, looking up at a projection of the night sky, and thinking, "Man, the sky looks just like this!"  Then realizing that, no, the planetarium projection looks just like the sky.  As with the frog example, the natural order had been reversed and we were dealing with a substitution.

With respect to this article, it presumes that the natural state of affairs is that defense spending is the default, the norm.  Social spending can only take away from that priority. 

I, on the other hand, would postulate that taking care of people's basic needs should be job one, followed by defense.  I suppose you could make the case that without security, questions of social programs are moot, but in the case of the United States of America 2011, our nation-state is safe, many times over.  While we may have some terrorist attacks directed against us, nobody seriously thinks that the U.S. can be successfully invaded. 

Our level of "defense"--at the level that we spend as much as the rest of the world put together--goes far beyond that needed for basic security.  In essence, Samuelson knows that we always must opt for the gold standard level of insurance.  Not against the 50- or 100- or 1000-year flood, but at defense spending levels which would cover any and all catastrophes whatsoever.

Shorter Samuelson: We gotta have power and the means to project it.  Or, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  

Perhaps we should go back to calling the Pentagon the War Department, not the Department of Defense.