Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tales from the Perimeter: Thank You

Perimeter meaning the 6 mile patrol road inside the fence of the military installation on which I work, where some half a dozen of us comprise a pool of running “talent” and strive to show up for a noontime run a couple times a week if we can escape our desks. We share a lot and these guys are one of the core pillars of my sanity.

Tuesday I took what was my final spin around the perimeter as an employee.  Hereafter I plan to run here with my buddies about once a month or so, but it will be as a retiree.

Today I was alone: CH is in Afghanistan until mid-summer; JH is just finishing up a pleasure cruise with the bride; KK has an injured knee; and MS was also unavailable.  The sky was brilliant blue, absolutely cloudless.  The temperature was mild—around 45 F or so—with only a slight wind.  It was one of those near-perfect running days, and I let it sink in.

I thought of the past 11 years of running here with these guys, my brothers.  We have literally shared blood, sweat and tears as we’ve commiserated on our families' joys and struggles, our despairs and our high points.  It’s a bond that I have truly been fortunate to have been a part of.  Such a compatible group of fellow runners does not come along often, I am convinced.

So my hat’s off to you guys. You helped me to survive some rough times, so Thank you.  I hope to be back here to run in a few weeks.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When I Am Among the Trees...and Ultrarunning

Yes, it's another poetry post, and I just did one last week.  Have I suddenly begun to despise my readers?

Fear not, this is another good one (also from Hecate, here) , short, and you in all likelihood will not need to fire up the DELETE key.

When I Am Among the Trees - Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

 And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

Trees--Ultrarunning--what's not to like?  And the trees DO save me.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Tonight, Go See 5 Planets

OK, Ultrarunners and fans of the sky.  You have just a couple of days left to check out a pretty cool phenomenon in the night sky.

I had read somewhere on the net where right after sunset you could see three planets easily: Jupiter, Venus--those are easy and common--but the real bonus was you could see Mercury as well. 

Here's what I saw last night:

This was my first confirmed sighting of Mercury!  But it turns out that if you wait a bit (unfortunately, Mercury will have set by then), you can look to the east and also see Saturn and Mars--thus completing the quint-fecta of seeing all of the 5 planets visible from earth with the naked eye.

See Earth Sky for more details (also they get the credit for the image above):

In the Northern Hemisphere, all five visible planets can be seen sometime between sundown and late evening throughout late February 2012. (At latitudes to the south of the equator, however, Mercury may be too close to the glare of the setting sun to view.) By visible planet, we mean any planet that’s easy to see with the unaided eye and that has been watched by our ancestors since time immemorial. In their outward order from the sun, the visible planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

Sounds like it's time for a run around sundown tonight.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cats in Art: The Graham Children (Hogarth)

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

Image credit Chez-Alice gallery, The Graham Children, William Hogarth, 1742, oil on canvas, 63" x 71", held by National gallery, London, England. 
Zuffi's comment:
In the history of English painting, cats, whether gentle or sly, are generally depicted in the laps of the rightful owners, who are women or girls.  This painting by Hogarth is a clear exception, for in the family group the viewer's attention is taken completely by they scene that is taking place on the right, under the amused and perhaps slightly sadistic gaze of the only boy.  The poor caged bird is terrified by the appearance of the cat, who must have reached the top of the armchair in a single bound.

To me the cat looks positively enthralled, as if the the best thing ever is happening to it right now.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Elites Have Lost Control

Via Driftglass, on 13 Feb 2012, we have this great insight from economist Paul Krugman: 

How did American conservatism end up so detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality? For it was not always thus. After all, that health reform Mr. Romney wants us to forget followed a blueprint originally laid out at the Heritage Foundation! [Gary: a conservative think tank]

My short answer is that the long-running con game of economic conservatives and the wealthy supporters they serve finally went bad. For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy - a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America's defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security. 

Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum - and now the party elite has lost control.

Thus we see conservatives screeching incoherently, conflating religious liberty with birth control--when said religious freedom actually isn't threatened by women controlling their bodies (hint: it's only the male-dominated patriarchy social construct that's threatened).

Also we see the righty base seemingly voting against their own self-interests: demanding smaller, cheaper government with less taxes, all the while saying keep your hands off my Medicare and Social Security...and also all the while looking the other way while the party elites keep pushing deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy.

All this dissonance makes my head hurt.


Friday, February 24, 2012

The Peace of Wild Things...and Ultrarunning

I know, it's poetry, and as I've often said, most of you probably can't hit the DELETE key fast enough.

But, it's short, and beautiful. You should invest the 30 seconds it will take, and will thank me.

The Peace of Wild Things - Wendell Berry
(Via Hecate, here)
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

On the trails I at one with the peace of wild things, and my psyche is renewed.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Critters in Tuscarora State Forest (PA)...and Ultrarunning

Background first, then the photos....

My local paper ran a story a couple weeks ago about the Golden Eagle Project to document populations and possible dangers of wind turbines.  Dr. Todd Katzner of WVU is heading up the study.

Katzner's consortium of scientists and conservation groups has started using radio telemetry and automatic still and video camera setups baited with road-killed deer to discover the areas where the birds are most concentrated. Some of those cameras are set up in an undisclosed location in the Tuscarora State Forest.

The photos can be stunning. The bait draws more than eagles. Spotted so far have been coyotes, raccoons, spotted skunks, once thought to be rare, and even a fisher, a large member of the weasel family once extinct in Pennsylvania but re-introduced through a captive breeding program.

Photos from the Tuscarora camera site can be seen at

Note: the following photos come from that site, but since I rarely do Facebook I have huge problems navigating it.  I never was able to locate the fisher photo that was mentioned.

I do some running over there (next county west, some 20+ miles away).  The Tuscarora Trail goes thru this state forest.

I better keep my eyes peeled!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. : A Lyric

On a run this morning, now that I’m largely over my bad cold, it was pre-dawn and the stars were brilliant overhead.  I had lots of trouble identifying any of my companion constellations, however, because there were bands of thin, wispy clouds that obscured some of the stars.  But the ones without any cloud interference were as bright as any time I’ve ever seen.

I was reminded of a line from an old John Denver (born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.) song, Rocky Mountain High:

The shadow from of the starlight / Is softer than a lullaby

Now, the music of John Denver, who died in 1997 in an ultralight plane accident, is probably largely unknown and unconnected to the youth of today, but he had a profound influence on my life.  His message of simple connection to nature resonated with me at a particular time in college when I was trying to put it all together. 

Later, many people—me included—soured on Denver when his marriage broke up in a very ugly and public way; his man-of-the people environmentalism was called into question by his installation of a large gas tank around the height of the gas shortage period in the 1970s; and he struggled with alcohol and DUIs.

Time has again mellowed me, and with today’s run, I again was thankful for the legacy of John Denver.  That lyric perfectly captured my moment with the stars this morning. 

Good people can do bad things, and bad people can do good things.  I think a quote from singer Kathy Mattea sums it up:

A lot of people write him off as lightweight, but he articulated a kind of optimism, and he brought acoustic music to the forefront, bridging folk, pop, and country in a fresh way.... People forget how huge he was worldwide.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Drawbridgers...and Ultrarunning

Some thing recently just reminded me of an article that I clipped nearly 30 years ago and stashed in a file for my kids. Geoffrey Norman, writing in Esquire magazine in March 1984 ("For Love or Money--Environmentalism Gets to the Heart of the Matter"), wrote:

Drawbridgers like me will take Thoreau or Rachel Carson every time. We know that when you die, your last thought is of the first time you saw the sun rise, or made love, or swam in the ocean. Not the first time you opened a checking account or bought stock.

Ultrarunning is like that for me--aside from family memories, my backcountry running is what I remember, keep coming back to, and with any luck, will be in my thoughts as I draw my last breath. Things like being the first one on a trail at daybreak and running thru the spider webs across the trail...seeing deer and bear and beavers and porcupines and owls and mink and rattlesnakes up close...breaking trail in the snow...finding old home foundations in the middle of the now-unbroken forest...trail running by the full moon...drinking deeply of the coolest, freshest water from springs and streams...overlooks and cliffs...sharing the trail in silence or in laughter or in hardship with like-minded companions....

You get the idea. This sport nourishes both our bodies and our psyches.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Head Cold...and Ultrarunning

Light post today.  Was down hard the second half of last week and all weekend with a head cold, which I rarely ever get.  The bride had it worse and is still suffering.

Anyway, went out early today for a gentle 5 miler and it went well.  First run in nearly a week.

I've previously posted about my theory about fevers and running but it obviously didn't work this time:

You know how you always hear that running a fever is your body's way of fighting an infection? That an elevated body temperature can kill pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses?
Well, my theory is that in running we elevate our body temperature all the time and that's why--in my case, at least, as an experiment of one--we are healthier than the general population. Not just fitter, but healthier.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cats in Art: The Music Lesson (Fragonard)

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

Image credit Wikipaintings, The Music LessonJean-Honore Fragonard, 1769, oil on canvas, 43" x 47", held by Musee du Louvre, Paris, France.

Zuffi's comment:

Is this a real music lesson, or is it just the usual pretext for depicting one of those boudoir scenes that made Fragonard, with Boucher, the master of Rococo amorous dalliance?  Certainly, the music teacher seems more interested in the charms of the sweet young girl demurely intent on her musical exercise. 

The witness to this encounter is, naturally, the placid white cat that has taken its place in the chair holding a lute: its flattened ears, as if it wanted to close them, indicate the animal's irritation at the sounds produced by the musical instrument.

In my vast cat experience, flattened ears are a harbinger of something worse to come.  I don't blame the cat: absent speech, flattened ears are its only way of communicating the universal message: "Knock that s**t off, now!"

Fragonard certainly gets it right here.  The cat wants to be a buddy (after all, it's still on the chair), but the human activity is just too much to bear.  Oh, the price of domesticity!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Uteri, or the Focus of Politicians

Another post from Margaret and Helen on 2 Feb that can stand completely alone without any amplifying comments from me:

I wish politicians would figure out how to run the country rather than trying to run my uterus.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Why am I an Ultrarunner?

H. L. Mencken came pretty close to nailing the answer to that question, although he was talking about being a writer. But the theme is indeed the same.

First a digression to note that I previously posted on Mencken, here, with this lovely and tantalizing quote on the Unknowable:

Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits, nevertheless, calmly licking its chops.

At times all of us get casual and complacent in our running, and when in the course of going some far distance, the unexpected sometimes happens: we approach or cross "the edge" and into the unknowable.  It's a strange and wondrous experience indeed.  For there we learn about who we really are, by breathing in a zone that the sedentary never even know exists.

Anyway, digression closed, and I want to come back to the question at hand about Mencken's nailing it about why I am an Ultrarunner (a term that probably did not even exist back then).  From a Pharyngula post, here:

You ask me, in brief, what satisfaction I get out of life, and why I go on working. I go on working for the same reason that a hen goes on laying eggs. There is in every living creature an obscure but powerful impulse to active functioning. Life demands to be lived. Inaction, save as a measure of recuperation between bursts of activity, is painful and dangerous to the healthy organism-in fact, it is almost impossible. Only the dying can be really idle.

The precise form of an individual's activity is determined, of course, by the equipment with which he came into the world. In other words, it is determined by his heredity. I do not lay eggs, as a hen does, because I was born without any equipment for it. For the same reason I do not get myself elected to Congress, or play the violoncello, or teach metaphysics in a college, or work in a steel mill. What I do is simply what lies easiest to my hand. It happens that I was born with an intense and insatiable interest in ideas, and thus like to play with them. It happens also that I was born with rather more than the average facility for putting them into words. In consequence, I am a writer and editor, which is to say, a dealer in them and concoctor of them.

To paraphrase, it also happens that I must have been born an Ultrarunner...and was lucky enough to discover that fact and act upon it.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Parable of the Talents...and Politics

I don't usually blog about the Bible and religion unless it is to point out hypocrisy, which I eagerly and gleefully love to rip into.

See, I believe that one's faith or absence thereof is a personal issue, unless somebody trots it out first and cloaks themselves in the mantle of sanctimony.  Then it's fair game.

Anyway, I think I've figured it out: the real reason why conservatives (like those who are vying for the Republican presidential nomination) are so very staunchly in favor of tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy.

For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. (Matthew 25:29, Revised Standard Version)

See, it's Biblical.  Thus unerring, infallible, etc.  Not only do the rich get more as their just due, this verse also addresses the flip side of screwing the poor as well, in one neat little package.  Oh, and lest you think this verse is taken out of context, it's the capstone summary sentence to the famous parable of the talents, which is all about...creating and protecting wealth.

But Gary, you may say, what about helping the poor?  See, Jesus also said these things: 

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" (Matthew 19:21)

"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys."  (Luke 12:33)

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" (Luke 18:22)

But not to worry.  Since the Bible says both things, you can practice situational ethics and select the verse(s) that you wish to adhere to.   Invoking the first verse gives plausible deniability against those liberals who would point to the last three verses about helping the needy and downtrodden.

Actually, conservatives don't overtly invoke the first verse--that'd be a bit too crass, to speak of it aloud.  They just act on it like it's the Prime Directive in Star Trek.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

An Arctic Fox...and Ultrarunning

 Image credit National Geographic.

I’ve blogged before about the prodigious swimming feat of a certain polar bear.  Well, I’m back with a tale of another denizen of the Arctic--this time an Arctic fox, which via the magic of satellite telemetry now is known for a prodigious feat of walking and running.

You know, sorta like Ultrarunning.

Per the Feb/March issue of National Wildlife, in 2008 one female Arctic fox was tagged and monitored from its home on Bylot Island, just north of Baffin Island, 250 miles west of Greenland.  I’m tempted to use the term “God-forsaken” but I guess the foxes are happy there.

In the fall of 2008 she began to wander, all over the place: onto the ice cap, back onto land, repeat.  Over the course of one year, she covered some 3,100 miles.  That’s nearly 3 times my meager running total in a typical year.  And unlike this fox, I don’t run in -40F temperatures, and over 90 days in total darkness, and hunt for my food along the way.

Per the article:

Arctic foxes that decide not to stay in one area during the long winter appear to be true nomads, roaming distances that are continental in scale.

I am simply in awe of this critter in comparison to our humble Ultrarunning efforts.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Boners Vs. the Unborn

This is an appropriate post for Valentine's Day.

Some blog posts I run across stand alone and are better without any additional commentary from me.

This comes from Lindsay Beyerstein's blog, Duly Noted, where she comments upon the news that researchers in Louisiana used stem cell therapy to reverse erectile dysfunction in rats:

If this therapy proves effective for humans, expect conservative opposition to stem cell research to rapidly deflate. If it comes down to boners vs. the unborn, boners will win.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Deadliest Catch...and Ultrarunning

I've been worried that I could not seem to find any evidence that the 8th season of Deadliest Catch (image credit above) would be returning in 2012 on the Discovery Channel. Then I read where it traditionally airs in April for the fishing season just completed that winter, and that Discovery Channel has said it was coming back.

When Deadliest Catch does finally end its run, it'll be a bummer because the bride and I are longtime regular watchers of the show.  We were hooked even before it became a popular near-cult phenomenon.

The show follows various boats and crews fishing for king and opilio crabs in the Bering Sea, a God-forsaken piece of freezing water between Alaska and Russia.  It's a brutally tough and dangerous way to make a living.  The boats are based out of Dutch Harbor, AK, which is about the last outpost of civilization halfway out the chain of Aleutian Islands, with the Bering Sea to the north.

Each episode focuses on a story, situation, or theme that occurs on one or more boats, while side stories delve into the backgrounds and particular activities of one or two crew members, in particular the "greenhorns" (rookie crew members) on several boats. The fleets' captains are featured prominently throughout the episodes, highlighting their camaraderie with their fellow captains and relationships with their crew, as well as their competitive nature against the other boats in the fleet regarding the hunt for crab throughout the fishing grounds.

As the story moves from boat to boat during an episode, they flash a map with dots indicating boat positions, and say something like, "Meanwhile, 200 miles northeast of Dutch Harbor, the crew of the Cornelia Marie is exhausted from 24 straight hours of pulling crab pots."

So I like to say to the bride, for instance, in talking about a trail run, "Meanwhile, 4000 miles southeast of Dutch Harbor, Gary was fighting muddy terrain at the Blues Cruise 50K near Reading, PA."

I do it often enough that she is past the eye-rolling stage and is moving into active annoyance.  Maybe for the sake of our marriage I'd better back off.  Otherwise my Ultrarunning might suffer.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cats in Art: Girl With a Cat (2 variations, by Perronneau)

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

Today's post is somewhat different.  When I went to the net to snag an image of Perronneau's Girl With a Cat, I found another version, and will reproduce both here.  I've encountered this several times previously, where apparently an artist will do multiple versions of a painting.  Or we have an original, then perhaps a student paints a slightly different study.  Regardless, it's fascinating, and with these paintings in question having been done some 250+ years ago, the truth of the matter will likely never be known.

So, first the Zuffi version called Young Girl With a Cat, held by the Louvre (although Zuffi omits the initial word "young"):

Image credit, Young Girl With a Cat, Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, 1757, pastel on parchment, 18" x 15", held by Musee du Louvre, Paris, France.

 Zuffi's comment:

In this adorable girl, and in the little gray cat that peeps out from a corner of the picture, Perronneau's gifts for intimacy and precise definition, along with the notable sense of color that characterize his work...are clearly visible.

And the second version:
Image credit National Museum, A Girl With a Kitten, attributed to Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, 1745?, pastel on paper, 23" x 20", held by The National Gallery, London, England.

My comment: Same girl, same clothes, different poses, and most importantly, different cat.  Whichever work came first, and whether both were by Perronneau, the first cat must have misbehaved and needed to be replaced by a better cat.

I think the second image must have been the first one painted, because that cat just looks bad.  The cat at in the first image actually looks like it is enjoying being held by the girl.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Conservative Politics, 2012...and Ultrarunning

Via David Atkins at Hullabaloo on 7 Feb 2012:

Forget all the other insanity this year and simply focus on this: Republicans are poised to take a stand this year against contraception, Medicare, and middle class tax cuts. If that doesn't seem bizarre to you, step back, and focus your lens out to the past 40 years of American politics. Try to picture those stances being taken openly by a majority of Republicans during, say, the first Bush Administration in 1989. It's hard to fathom. That Republican Party was alive and well only 20 years ago.


Threatening to end Medicare, middle-class tax cuts and contraception? No problem--that's just politics as usual. But threatening even mild forms of protectionism, or even the slightest corrections to the behavior of out-of-control capital markets? That's scary crazy talk.

As long as no one gets in the way of the almighty bond markets, the Very Serious People couldn't care less. It's not like they're middle class, need Medicare, or can't get their contraceptives from overseas. So why worry?

The connection to Ultrarunning is that, as I have stated many times, is that we UR types tend to be more-laid back and open-minded than the populace at large.  However, when it comes to the erosion of rights of the regular folk to the benefit of the already-haves, maybe it's time to break out the torches and pitchforks.

For gutting Medicare is wrong (likewise gutting Social Security).  Contraception?--that's a no-brainer--the absolute right of a woman to control her reproduction should never be under political discussion.  Never.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Ego and Ambition...and Ultrarunning

Posted to the Ultra List on 25 Jan by Dana Rouche, who makes an excellent point on understanding why we decide to do things.  My comments follow at the end.

Deb, while reading this thread, I am reminded of one of my favorite pieces about running which took me almost 40 yrs of running to learn.  While planning your 100 mile run barefoot, make sure you spend time really understanding your reason for doing it.

From the Zen of Running, 1974, Fred Rohe

you can be victimized
by your imagination
if you imagine yourself
astonishing your world
with your progress and prowess.

we know this mechanism as Ego.

we know this state as Ambition.

being Great Runners
is not the attainment we need.

it is self control.

without it, ego forces us into ambition
and the price of ambition
is pain.

let's not be egotistical,
let's take it easy.

I can freely admit that at least part of the allure of Ultrarunning for me is the reaction of astonishment that I get from more sedentary folks about my ability to run vast distances.  Now, we Ultrarunners don't think of it as a big deal, it's just a predisposition and skill set that we came with and/or cultivated.  But to the uninitiated, it's kinda superhuman. 

For me, for maybe many of us, Ultrarunning is perhaps the single area in my life that I can confidently assert that I really KNOW, can be looked to as a sort of expert, and am comfortable in defending my opinions.  I'm a quiet sort of person.  In most other areas of my life I am rather deferential, seek to stay below the radar, and above all else avoid controversy, since I am a terrible arguer.  I can't think well or quickly on my feet and just stay away from that vulnerability.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Climate Change...and Ultrarunning

No sir, global warming is a hoax!  From the U.S. Government itself:

WASHINGTON-The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today [25 Jan 2012] released the new version of its Plant Hardiness Zone Map (PHZM), updating a useful tool for gardeners and researchers for the first time since 1990 with greater accuracy and detail. The new map-jointly developed by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Oregon State University's (OSU) PRISM Climate Group-is available online. ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of USDA.

Compared to the 1990 version, zone boundaries in this edition of the map have shifted in many areas. The new map is generally one 5-degree Fahrenheit half-zone warmer than the previous map throughout much of the United States.

Human-caused global climate change has the potential to render moot all of our leisure pursuits, such as Ultrarunning, in deference to sheer survival.  While naysayers exist, the vast preponderance of climate scientists all concur that climate change is real, it's human-caused, and could spell doom for the planet.

Given what's at stake, one would think that the conservative point of view would logically be, "It'd be safest to plan on worst-case."  Yet their general position seems to be the exact opposite.  Have they no children?  No grandchildren?

I think it's a case of follow the money, and not wanting to sacrifice present standards of wealth and living.  To quote Upton Sinclair,

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Super Bowl Thoughts...and Ultrarunning

Thoughts for a couple days after the Super Bowl....

1. I will always hate the Patriots for the cheating shenanigans of their coach, Bill Belichick, busted in 2007.  For crying out loud, your team is good enough, you don't have to cheat.  Now whenever I see you all I can think is CHEATER.  Forever.

See here and here for a couple representative stories, in case you forgot.

2.  Why do owners always wear suits to a football game?  Not just the Super Bowl, but in any NFL game where they show the owner's box, the dudes are wearing suits.  Just for once I would love to see an owner in jeans and a sweatshirt or team jersey, like a normal person would wear to a game.

3.  It was a great game, well-played and interesting, all the way to the end.  But maybe closer than it should have been?...see point 1 above, 'cause we just don’t know whether the cheaters cheated in this one, do we?

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning?  Somehow I think that the prevalence of cheating in our sport is pretty minimal.  Not nonexistent, just insignificant.  You may counter with the fact that it's only because the stakes are low in Ultrarunning and not much $$ is involved.  But somehow I truly believe that the character of our practitioners is higher than the populace at large.

Can I prove that?  Nope, but it's still true.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Via Bad Astronomy this very cool dual crater shot.  If this site isn't on your blogroll to scope out a couple times a week, yours is the great loss.

Obviously, that's a volcano on the right: Emi Koussi, in northern Africa. But look to the left, almost at the edge of the picture. See that faded ring? That's Aorounga - an impact crater, some 10 - 15 km wide, formed when a chunk of cosmic debris hit the Earth about 300 million years ago! So these are two craters, one formed from processes happening deep below the Earth, and one from events from far above. Yet both can be seen at the same time, from one vantage point: orbiting our planet somewhere above the surface but beneath the rest of the Universe.

Kinda makes you feel a bit small and insignificant....


Monday, February 6, 2012

Dead Giraffes...and Ultrarunning

[photo and article credit Daily Mail]

Tourist trophy hunters are paying thousands of pounds to go and shoot giraffes with high-powered guns and bows.
The gentle giants are loved around the world for their comical appearance and gentle nature.
Just like character 'Melman' played by Friend's-star David Schwimmer in Disney's Madagascar, they are a hit with kids who love their long necks and eyelashes.
But shocking images show how scores of big-spending men and women - and even families - travel from across the globe, some even from Britain, to kill them for sport.

Something bad must have happened to these people when they were children, a subject previously posted about here. 

Let me recap this topic in a few simple words.

     Subsistence hunting = OK

     Trophy hunting = sick

Note: I recognize the fact that there probably is a middle ground, comprised of people who hunt, who love the outdoors, who do use the meat they shoot, get no special joy out of the act of killing, and who don't much care for trophies.  But the giraffe people above are over the line.

And the link to Ultrarunning is that I like to think we get a special joy of out seeing live animals in the backcountry, critters that the vast majority of sedentary people will only ever see in a zoo.  That's one of our rewards of this wonderful sport.



Sunday, February 5, 2012

Cats in Art: The Son of Francois Thomas de Baculard d'Arnaud (Greuze)

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

Image credit here. The Son of Francois Thomas de Baculard d'Arnaud, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1776, oil on canvas, held by Musee des Beaux-Arts, Troyes, France.

Zuffi's analysis:
This boy, his hair and clothes in the style that was fashionable at the time, is portrayed by the French artist holding a kitten in his arms, in keeping with the new trend that had emerged in 18th century English painting.
The cat is obviously quite annoyed and undoubtedly detonated soon after this image was captured.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Turnabout = Fair Play

Via Boing Boing on 30 Jan 2012:

To protest a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) on Monday attached an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication.

From the comments, here's the reason the underlying proposed requirement for an ultrasound is wrong:

Because the ultrasound used at such an early stage is what they call a "transvaginal ultrasound" (i.e. they insert the device into the vaginal canal). Which is to say, it's an invasive procedure that could be quite traumatic for, say, a rape survivor. Unless there's an actual medical need for it, it's essentially just being used as a kind of punishment. It has nothing to do with showing "a baby" because what you'd see, in the average abortion, is something like this.

Again, to paraphrase the bride, "Why is it that old men in suits are always the ones setting up the rules about abortion?"


Friday, February 3, 2012

Massanutten 100 Mile Run, Revisited

Recently I was on I-81 southbound in northeastern Virginia...the site of the Massanutten 100 Mile Run.

Just below Front Royal, off to my left I could see the spine of the Massanutten range of mountains, a 2000’ high ridge that runs some 50ish miles in the Shenandoah Valley between the Blue Ridge to the east (of Skyline Drive fame) and North Mountain to the west (the first ridge of the main body of the Alleghenies).

Two sights that I remember well are Short Mountain, famously described to me by Anstr Davidson of the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club (VHTRC) as being a “3-bottle section.”  And Bird Knob, the turn-around point of the race, just south of the gap in the Massanutten range for U.S. Route 211.

I ran the race in 1998 as my first attempt and first finish of a 100 mile trail run.  The run came perilously close to kicking my butt.  See my race report, over at Stan Jenson’s marvelous site.

Please note, however, that in my report when I describe Atlas Shrugged as an “awesome work” I was speaking strictly of how well-written it was as a novel—to me, Rand’s political and economic theories are pure crap (see my Rev. Martin Luther King post for more on that). 

And I wanted to use a quote that Rand just happened to write, that has no relation to Ultrarunning but sounds like it does:

He knew that he felt an odd, joyous, light-hearted self confidence.  He knew that these were the right steps down the trail he had glimpsed.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog Day...and Ultrarunning

I am writing this the day prior, and I am absolutely certain that the rodent is gonna predict 6 more weeks of winter.

[photo credit here]

Why?  Because it's slated to be a pretty day, near 60 F.  Not bad for the dead of winter here in the Mid-Atlantic.

By the way, the festivities at Punxsatawney sound like a real hoot.  They have a 50K or 50M in the late summer or early fall that I always have looked at but never run.  Maybe this year....


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

More Road Trip Observations

I previously posted here about a recent trip to a marble quarry in Georgia (I know, I still have not finished that thread but promise to do so here within a few weeks).

Wanted to add some additional road tripping observations to the 3 previously made in a blog post here (pink houses, crosses large and small, and music).  So here are some more observations:

1. Roadside kitties.  We all have seen those intent cats hunting in the grass right beside the interstate, right?  Ever notice how the preponderance of such kitties are black, or largely so, in color?  At least that’s the stereotype I have.

2. Paralyzed Veterans of America.  The radio carried a poignant commercial for this organization.  I cannot comment upon whether, as charities go, this charity is a good one in terms of a favorable admin-cost-to-program-cost ratio.  What I do want to observe is my utter disgust at the fact that paralyzed veterans need an advocacy group to lobby for their rights, programs, and services.  When a service member is injured, they deserve lifelong treatment for that injury.  100%.  By the government that sent them into harm's way. As the Earth Bound Misfit said here:
If we, as a nation, are unwilling to shoulder the financial burden of caring for our military retirees and veterans, then this is what we should do: Stop making so many veterans by getting into wars. When the shooting starts, there are going to be maimed veterans who will need care for the next eighty years. If that cost is unacceptable to the politicians, then stop sending men and women off to fight. No fighting, no combat veterans to care for-- that should be a simple enough equation for even most politicians to grasp.
3. The Dude.  On I-81 in VA, I saw a semi with the name on the cab, “Dude Smith Trucking.”  The name struck me, as I am not particularly into nicknames (previous post here).  Dude seems not to have a web site, but his Facebook page is here. 

My burning question is whether all of Dude’s friends called him Dude for so long that it just became the name he goes by.  Or scarier yet, did he get up one day and just decide, “You know, I want to be called Dude from now on”? 

See, the nickname “Dude” has already been claimed, forever, by Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski.  This joker in Virginia is an impostor.

The official Big Lebowski trailer here.  A curse-filled (and funnier) clip is here.