Thursday, May 31, 2012

Affording the Disabled Vet

May as well continue with the Memorial Day theme.

My local paper, the Chambersburg Public Opinion, carried an Associated Press article on Monday:
Almost Half of New Vets Seek Disability

A staggering 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. That is more than double the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s, top government officials told The Associated Press.

What's more, these new veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average, and the most recent ones over the last year are claiming 11 to 14. By comparison, Vietnam veterans are currently receiving compensation for fewer than four, on average, and those from World War II and Korea, just two.

It's unclear how much worse off these new veterans are than their predecessors. Many factors are driving the dramatic increase in claims — the weak economy, more troops surviving wounds, and more awareness of problems such as concussions and PTSD. Almost one-third have been granted disability so far.

Bottom line is that if we put troops in harm's way, and they get harmed, then we have the moral obligation to take care of them.  Forever.  No brainer.  I've previously blogged here about the Earth-Bound Misfit's common-sense take on this:

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.

And here's another almost-unnoticed fact from the AP article if you clicked over.  If you are deemed 100% disabled, you get $2,769 a month. That's $33,228 a year, not a whole lot if you are totally disabled.  Locally I occasionally read about fundraisers to build or fix up homes for vets now wheelchair-bound, and I gotta say, "This community spirit is commendable, but why isn't it the government fixing up this person's house to accommodate disability?"  He or she got hurt on the government's auspices.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Good News, Everyone!"

Via Melissa McEwan at Shakesville on 29 May.  She is the master mistress of the succinct sarcastic comment:

Good News, Everyone!

Reuters: President Obama marks Memorial Day by promising no more war "unless it's absolutely necessary."
That would make me feel a lot better if every US president who's ever started a war didn't believe the war was "absolutely necessary," even if the private reasons were different than the public ones.

Time to revisit Clarence Jordan and his wonderful proposal that it be the old men who are sent off the make war in person, not the kids.  Would tend to make war a tad more unplatable, dont you think?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Local War Dead...Sobering Statistics

From my local paper, the Chambersburg Public Opinion, a brief tally of the local war dead over the past century.

5     Global War on Terror (Iraq & Afghanistan)
32   Vietnam
15   Korea
225 WW II
88   WW I

Keep in mind that this county is probably as typical as any here in PA or the entire U.S., for that matter.  Think of all those sons, brothers, fathers, uncles, lost to war.  Families forever shattered. 

It's just sad to think that our problem solving skills are so poor that war is so common.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Hearing Your Feet

Today’s local run brought with it an increased awareness of my feet.

Specifically, I could not hear them.  I was running virtually silently.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon before—whenever I can hear my footfalls, it generally means that I am struggling to some extent, that the run is not effortless and flowing.

Now, I am not one to monkey with running form, so if I can hear my feet (i.e., the run is a bit labored) I really don’t react to that knowledge other than to hope it’ll get better.  And sometimes it does.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cats in Art: The Painter's Studio (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, May 26, 2012

Coyotes in the Northeast...and Ultrarunning

[Image credit Nature]

First, a bit of history from the article in
European colonists took a very different view of the coyote (Canis latrans) and other predators native to North America. The settlers hunted wolves to extinction across most of the southerly 48 states. They devastated cougar and bobcat populations and attacked coyotes. But unlike the other predators, coyotes have thrived in the past 150 years. Once restricted to the western plains, they now occupy most of the continent and have invaded farms and cities, where they have expanded their diet to include squirrels, household pets and discarded fast food.

Then the punch line about adaptability:

Researchers have long known the coyote as a master of adaptation, but studies over the past few years are now revealing how these unimposing relatives of wolves and dogs have managed to succeed where many other creatures have suffered. Coyotes have flourished in part by exploiting the changes that people have made to the environment, and their opportunism goes back thousands of years. In the past two centuries, coyotes have taken over part of the wolf's former ecological niche by preying on deer and even on an endangered group of caribou. Genetic studies reveal that the coyotes of northeastern America — which are bigger than their cousins elsewhere — carry wolf genes that their ancestors picked up through interbreeding. This lupine inheritance has given northeastern coyotes the ability to bring down adult deer — a feat seldom attempted by the smaller coyotes of the west. 

I've only seen a coyote locally on the military base where I worked, on the perimeter road in an overgrown area beside railroad tracks.  It was clearly larger than a fox, although I did not think of it as BIG or any sort of threat.

Perhaps if I were in the backcountry, alone, I might think a tad differently.  But I believe these guys are more critters of the edges rather than of the deep woods, so I'd be more likely to encounter one near my home that on the Appalachian Trail.

In either case I'd count myself lucky to have seen one.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Brian Banks Exonerated

This is a feel-good story.  This young man seems like someone you'd like to know, and I wish him well.  If he were an Ultrarunner--and who knows, maybe he is or will be--I'd love to spend some hours with him on the trail.

From Southern California Public Radio:

The 2003 rape charge against a once-promising Long Beach high school football star Brian Banks has been dismissed. Banks collapsed in sobs on the counsel table during a court hearing where a prosecutor quickly conceded the decade-old case and moved for the dismissal.  Outside the court, Banks told reporters, "I'm here today and I remain unbroken."
In the summer of 2002, Banks’ future looked bright: He was a 17-year-old high school football star being heavily recruited by a number of colleges. But in a single day that changed with the accusations of kidnapping and rape by a female student.

He maintained there was no rape and their sexual contact was consensual, but his lawyer urged him to plead no contest rather than risk a sentence of 41 years to life in prison if convicted. He followed the advice and went to prison for six years, shattering his dreams of gridiron glory. Lawyers for the California Innocence Project were prepared Thursday to argue he should be exonerated.

In a strange turn of events, the woman who accused him a decade ago friended him on Facebook when he got out of prison. Wanetta Gibson explained she wanted to “let bygones be bygones.”  According to documents in the case, she met with Banks and said she had lied; there had been was no kidnap and no rape and she offered to help him clear his record.

But she subsequently refused to repeat the story to prosecutors because she feared she would have to return a $1.5 million payment from a civil suit brought by her mother against Long Beach schools.

Justin Brooks, a lawyer who heads the innocence project, said that Banks has remained on probation, under electronic monitoring, has had to register as a sex offender and has had trouble getting a job. He said Banks continues to train for what he hopes will be a future chance at a football career.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Over by The God School, Steer With a Toothache...and Ultrarunning

Tuesday when the bride dropped me off on her way to work and I ran home, I decided to take the road past what I call The God School.  I forget the actual name of the school, but it's a small Mennonite school, say with about 4 classrooms.  Many of the local Mennonites--perhaps most--do not send their kids to public school.  So The God School is one of their education sites (I know, me being slightly disrespectful here is probable cause for banishment to hell).

But the point of this post isn't The God School.  It's what's right beside The God School: a cow pasture.  The farmer is pasturing a bunch of steers (beef cattle) there.  I don't know my cattle breeds very well; perhaps these are Black Angus because these steers are almost totally black in color, save for some small white patches on a few individuals.

Except for the one steer with the odd, extensive white coloration on his head.  This guy has a white chin, white extending back along both jawlines, black cheeks and face, then white across the top of his head between his ears.  The rest of him is all black.

From a distance, I swore the animal was wearing a bandage wrapped around his head as though he had a toothache (like in old movies).  Alternatively I thought he could have had a forehead injury, bandaged, with a securing wrap down around the chin to keep it in place.  When I got closer I saw that it was natural, and not a bandage.

I didn't have my camera but I may pack it next time, as this critter was very strikingly colored.

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning?  Nothing direct...just the notion that every run, however mundane, presents opportunities to learn, to be amazed by our world, to be caused to smile.  And runs in the backcountry are especially rich in potential for wonder.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pocket Cameras, Flowers...and Ultrarunning

I came across a stunning new flower in my yard on Sunday.  Couple shots to illustrate a point about pocket cameras (or at least my pocket camera, a Nikon Coolpix):

Sunday was a flawless day without a cloud in the sky.  The first photo is in full sun and is tough to get the auto exposure right.  The yellow flower parts just get all washed out.  In the second shot I deliberately cast my shadow on the flower and got better results, but still not quite there.

I wish I had shot # 3 where it all comes together in a perfect exposure, but such are the limitations of my device.

Oh, and the flower?  This is from my vegetable garden, a variety of red potato, which I planted (and got away with) back in March when early spring hit here in south central PA.

With respect to Ultrarunning, I have often carried this camera on runs.  It is the size of a deck of cards and takes excellent photos.  As we've seen above, it has some limitations (full sun shots and close ups) but it covers 95% of my needs.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Take Your Kid Ultrarunning...

...or at least hiking in the backcountry.


Via Hecate, who blogs as and in fact is a witch (seriously):

Most environmentalists attributed their commitment to a combination of two sources, “many hours spent outdoors in a keenly remembered wild or semi-wild place in childhood or adolescence, and an adult who taught respect for nature.” Lots of time rambling in neighborhood woods and fields and a parent or teacher who cared about nature were frequently cited as causal forces in the development of their own environmental ethics.

And further down, a great quote from anthropologist Edith Cobb:

“My position is based upon the fact that the study of the child in nature, culture and society reveals that there is a special period, the little understood, pre pubertal, halcyon, middle age of childhood, approximately from five or six to eleven or twelve, between the strivings of animal infancy and the storms of adolescence—when the natural world is experienced in some highly evocative way, producing in the child a sense of some profound continuity with natural processes. . . .” 

My dad was an avid hunter and trapper, and often took me along on his jaunts.  Thank goodness the killing part didn't stick, but I learned a LOT about natural things from him.  I am convinced that my love of nature stems from the hours we spent together.  I learned about what mammals live in a particular area, what they ate, what their preferences were for cover, what their fur and paws felt like, what kind of teeth they had, what their internal organs looked like, etc.

It was rather a complete education, I think.  One that with suitable modifications I used with my descendants, hopefully with good effect.


Monday, May 21, 2012

A Real Plod

Today's AM run, dropped off by the bride on her way to work, was one of the toughest in recent memory.

It should not have been difficult.  This as a road run on lightly traveled rural roads, with few hills.  I just had nothing--no energy, no speed, no desire.  I can only describe the run as a plod, or a trudge, or a slog.

I think a family gathering yesterday to celebrate the end of a successful semester for one child and a new job for another (i.e., lots of food and drink) largely accounts for my sluggishness.

But that's the beauty of running, particularly long-distance running.  A bad day running sure beats most anything else.  Each day is different, each day brings challenges, each day presents opportunities to apply the benefits of one's experience.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cats in art: Cats (Marques)

This was my first post in my Cats in Art series, from 2010. I just hit upon images here and there, from the web and elsewhere.

Cats, by Francisco Domingo Marques, image credit here.

The gray tabby is one of my favorites.  Out first cat was one, although with much more gray and much less white.  We had him some 14 years.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Capon Valley 50K, WV

Some friends are running this today. It just didn't fit into my plans, but West Virginia is where my heart is.  Throughout the day I will be imagining the course, the hills, the stream crossings, the dogwoods, the power line, the camraderie....


Friday, May 18, 2012

More Golf Balls...and Ultrarunning

[photo by Gary]

Well, it happened yet again--finding another golf ball (2, actually) in a cornfield along a rural road, away from any homes.

My previous in-depth coverage of this phenomenon is here and here.

I could not resist busting my running buddy, Jack, who also is a serious golfer, by spinning this find and photo into a Chuck Norris joke.  Jack hates Chuck Norris jokes and doesn't think they are funny.  He is wrong--the real joke is that they are not funny...and that's what makes them funny.  Or something.  Anyway, on to the joke:

Speaking of balls, Jack won a contest thru Golf Digest to play  a 1-hole match with Chuck Norris.  Jack’s ball is pictured on the left.  He considers it his lucky ball since he has used it with some success and without losing it since before the winter.  Jack went first and wound up making par on the hole.

Chuck’s first shot was headed for a hole-in-one (of course) when a squirrel ran out at the last moment and stole the rolling ball only 6” from the cup.  The new ball Chuck used just for the 6” tap-in is also pictured, on the right. 

The squirrel, unfortunately, did not survive.

The link to Ultrarunning?  The day I find a golf ball along the Appalachian Trail may indicate it's time to retire from the sport.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Conflict of Interest Among the "Very Serious People"

From Think Progress, this disturbing tidbit about a conference this week in DC:

NBC’s David Gregory To Headline Conference For Major Republican Advocacy Group

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which calls itself “the voice of small business,” is one of the Republican party’s strongest allies. The group spent over $1 million on outside ads in the 2010 campaign — all of it backing Republican House and Senate candidates (and, Bloomberg News reported last month, “another $1.5 million that it kept hidden and said was exempt” from disclosure requirements). The group is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Obamacare law and bankrolled state governments’ challenges to the law. The NFIB has also taken stances against allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, opposing regulations on businesses, and supporting curtailing union rights.

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics states:
Journalists should:
Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.

This confirms to me what I have always suspected: Mr. Gregory is a tool.  What passes for journalism among the Very Serious People of DC is pathetic.  They are afraid to ask the tough questions for fear of losing access to the rich and famous.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dressing for the Rain...and Ultrarunning

Runs in the rain require a bit of thought.  For example, here in the mid-Atlantic we are loving two days of steady rains (we need it).  Yesterday I took a local run where the bride dropped me off on her way to work and I ran back home.  This road run was safe, flat (there were hills but no mountain crossings), and fairly short (90 minutes).  Basically I just had to dress for my immediate comfort, which on this day meant short sleeves and a hat.  I made no attempt to shield myself from the rain; rather I just embraced it and went with it.
Contrast that scenario with a backcountry run where I’d be out for hours, over varied terrain and elevation.  In that case I would instead opt for rain protection—in other words, try to stay at least somewhat dry.  That would mean a thin long sleeve synthetic shirt with a thin nylon vest over it.  Sure, over time I’d get wet anyway from rain penetration and sweat, but I’d be wearing a layer and a half of insulation that would help keep me warm during those walking breaks or if the wind kicked up.  I also always carry a space blanket and some fire-starting materials should I ever be incapacitated on the trail until help would arrive.

Help would arrive for you, wouldn’t it?  You DID remember to tell somebody—even if it was a voice mail—to some level of detail where you were gonna be, right?


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More Gay Marriage...and Ultrarunning

As usual, the Earth-Bound Misfit nails it:

First off, let's be clear on one thing: The vote on North Carolina's Amendment One, just like their earlier one, was nothing more than an exercise in hatred. Nobody has ever shown how allowing gays to marry would diminish the rights of straight people to marry. No, this is a matter of a bunch of old, bigoted (mostly white) folk using the cudgel of government to pass judgment on the private lives of other people.

The matter of gay marriage will go, ultimately, to the Supreme Court, which will have to decide if equal rights and equal protection under the law means what it says when applied to gay people. I imagine that one of the topics of discussion will be the lack of proof that allowing gay people to marry harms, in any way, straight people.
The efforts by the homophobes on the Right to push gays and lesbians back into the closet will fail, just as their earlier pushes to marginalize women and people of color have failed. They will lose in the courts and, ultimately, they will lose in society at large.

Meanwhile, out on the trails, the issue sexual orientation matters not a bit.  People are just people.  Maybe we should be the model for society.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Amazing Race and Survivor

Well, both Amazing Race and Survivor are history now.  The bride and I are avid followers of the genre, dating back to the days of the original outdoor adventure show, the Eco-Challenge.

Spoilers follow if you didn’t catch Sunday night’s Survivor yet.

Anyway, our consensus was that this season’s crop of contestants was uninspiring.  Over at the Amazing Race, of the final four couples, all teams contained at least one a**hole and some teams had two.  The team that won—Rachel and Dave—was indeed the strongest and most deserving based upon their performance in the game.  But we just didn’t warm up to them and never wanted to actively root for them.

In Survivor, Kim took the honors, and in retrospect she did play a masterful game and was the most deserving.  But again, we never felt “That Kim is awesome—she should win.”  I guess what struck me most about this season’s Survivor was the herd mentality. I mean, why on earth did Colton have any acolytes at all, ever?  Why would somebody be swayed by anything he would say?  Yet he was a kingpin until felled by a medical evac.  But it think he’ll be back for another season. 

And as for Kim, it never seemed to occur to any of the other players to challenge her.  It was like she wore the crown the whole time and the worshipful subjects just did her bidding.

Of course, all this is easy to speculate about now.  I’ve never been hungry in the jungle for a month.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cats in Art: The Bogey-Cat (Bocchi)

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.

Click to enlarge, ESC to return.  Image credit Nec Spe, Nec Metu (an art blog whose title means Without Hope, Without Fear), The Bogey-Cat, Faustino Bocchi, c. 1740, oil on canvas, 16" x 21", held by Galleria Palatina, Florence, Italy.

Zuffi's comment:

Faustino Bocchi's paintings depict a word turned upside down--absurd and thus even more biting and grotesque...What emerges from these pictures--of dwarf humans and giant animals, of humans looking after animals--is a satire of the notion of "superior being."

I love this painting where a giant cat is saddled and ridden.  And the size: only 16" x 21".  How does Bocchi cram that much detail into so tiny a space?

And no matter what we or any artist thinks, cats are the superior being.  Just ask one.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Green Flowers...and Ultrarunning

[photo by Gary]

Not all flowers are bursting with showy color.  One of my favorites is the Jack In The Pulpit, which is the plant in the foreground above.  Hiding right in the middle is the green flower.

The other plants above (in 3 clusters), with the watermelon-like leaves, is Bloodroot, which bloomed earlier with a very pretty white flower.

Here is a closer shot of Jack, from Hilton Pond:

Connection to Ultrarunning?  This is a plant that likes moist, rich soils.  So it's not one you'd see, say, along the ridgetop Appalachian Trail.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Little Ultrarunning, Just Flowers

[photos by Gary: click to enlarge, ESC to return]

Well, the bride's Yellow Lady's Slippers are thriving.  This plant is about 3 years old, planted in 2009.  In the springs of 2010 and 2011 it had only a single stem and a single bloom. 

Now this spring the plant has exploded, pushing out 3 stems with a total of 4 flowers as seen above.  Unfortunately the yellow washes out a bit in the image above (damn that autofocus/autoexposure!). But below is the money shot, a close-up of one of the blooms:

Meanwhile, out back in the water garden, we're seeing our first water lilies:

I guess there is an Ultrarunning connection after all.  Back in 1998 when I ran the Massanutten 100 miler in VA, I was fortunate to see what is becoming a rarity in the wild: Pink Lady's Slippers.  This species--a cousin to the yellow--does not lend itself well to domestic propagation, otherwise I'd have one.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

More Like This, Please!...and Ultrarunning

Via Talking Points Memo (and a host of thousands of news outlets):

President Obama made history Wednesday, becoming the first sitting president to come out in support of legal same-sex marriage. In an interview with ABC News, Obama said, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

Guess what?  The sun still rose here Thursday morning.  What's not to like about people, just people, wanting to spend their lives with someone they love?  The gay folks in my family are not anarchists--they just want society and government to not intrude into the personal issues of whom they happen to love.  In other words, the freedom to be left alone.

The downside--and it's a big one--is that the President seems to have been expressing a personal opinion.  It remains to be seen to what extent the Federal government will move in this direction, since Obama stated that the issue should be left up to the states.

Ultrarunners are, by and large, the most open and friendly demographic I know.  One's sexual orientation or choice of partner matters not on the trail.  Nor does it matter in life.  It's just personal.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Walking in Ultrarunning

In my post on Monday about Ice Mountain, WV, I alluded to walking during uphills as a time of rest.  I don't think I did that topic justice so I wanted to amplify that a bit here.

The top dogs in a Ultra trail race do indeed run the whole thing, or nearly so.  But for those of us in the middle to the back of the pack, walking makes up a significant part of the forward motion.

My strategy is to try to run all the flats and the downhills, walking the uphills and any places where the footing is bad (e.g., rocks, roots, stream crossings).  For me, that typically translates into running about 75% of the time.  Thus in a 100 miler I'd cover 75 miles while running and 25 at a walk.

What makes the uphills so gratifying and why I look forward to them is the idea of a respite from running.  Although it's still an uphill trudge and a significant effort, the contrast with running is marked enough that it seems like I'm taking a break.  A long uphill--say a mile--will take some 15 minutes to walk, plenty of time to be ready again to break into a run upon reaching the top.

This just proves that everything is relative.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cows, Death, and Ultrarunning

[photo by Gary, cemetery and cows on Reservoir Road, Franklin Co., PA.  Click to enlarge, ESC to return]

Cows must be immortal, at least in their minds.  They pay no heed to human trappings of death.  They seem to live their lives placidly and without a thought for the future or any gloomy end that will befall them.

Along the rural roads that comprise my running routes from my home, there are numerous churches with associated burial grounds, plus other stand-alone cemeteries. You can hardly throw a stone around here without hitting a tombstone.

I write here often about death and cemeteries.  I suppose that might seem morbid or unhealthy, but to me it's just a normal thought process as I get older.  Death is not so far removed to me now as it once seemed to a twenty-year-old.

The fitness that comes from Ultrarunning has granted me--I hope--some extra healthy years.  And if not, the sport has at least given me a much happier ride along the way.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Ice Mountain, WV...and Ultrarunning

[photo by Gary of small toad at Ice Mountain]

Over the weekend the bride and I, plus 2 kids (including Mister Tristan, the 4-year-old human being, not the blog), visited the Ice Mountain Preserve in Hampshire County, WV. 

This is a place where a large, steep talus slope of deep rocks traps cold air well into the late spring and early summer.  From the web site:

For generations of North River Mills residents, summertime meant weekend pilgrimages to Ice Mountain. There, at the rocky base, they’d chip off chunks of ice to cart home as the critical ingredient in fresh, homemade ice cream and chilled lemonade.

Ice Mountain gets its name from the refrigeration effect that takes place inside its talus — a sloping mass of boulders at the foot of a mountain. In cooler months, dense, cold air sinks deep into the talus, and ice masses form inside. As the weather warms up, the cooler air flows out of vents among the rocks at the bottom of the slope. It’s here, at the foot of the mountain, that many local children would eagerly gather ice.

This spring revealed no ice--probably due to our mild winter--but the vents were blowing air at 39 F, so the geological effect was certainly evident.  We will need to go back next spring, when we may perhaps see ice.

Anyway, the link to Ultrarunning?  The trail to Ice Mountain first goes up over a low ridge, then drops to river level on the other side.  Many in our guided group were huffing and puffing over the uphill portions. I smiled secretly inwardly--it was exactly the kind of trail and uphill slope that I eagerly look forward to in an ultra, just for the ability to rest while walking.

Thus one man's labor is another man's rest.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cats in Art: Caroline Luise Kaercher With Cat (Street)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. The bride and I visited the Carnegie Museum of Art recently, and we thoroughly enjoyed looking around the galleries for cats.  Due to limited time, and the presence of Mister Tristan (the 4-year old human being, not the blog), this was the only cat image we saw.

Image credit Carnegie Museum of ArtCaroline Luise Kaercher With Cat, Robert Street, 1830, oil canvas, 30" x 25", held by Carnegie Museum of Art. Pittsburgh, PA.

The image is a bit grainy to discern, but to me the kitty actually seems to be enjoying the attention.  Not quite relaxed, but OK with the situation...for now, anyway. 

Of course, since we seldom know what a cat is really thinking, the feline may just as easily be looking for the opportunity to bolt.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

(It's not) Torture...Really?

Haven't blogged about torture lately, so it's about time.  Via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing (you should read that blog if you don't already), in its entirety:

Courtesy of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a list of "things that government officials could do to an American citizen and still claim later that they didn't know they were "torturing" that citizen."
Prolonged isolation; Deprivation of light; Exposure to prolonged periods of light and/or darkness; Extreme variations in temperature; Sleep adjustment; Threats of severe physical abuse; Death threats; Administration of psychotropic drugs; Shackling and manacling for hours at a time; Use of "stress" positions; Noxious fumes that caused pain to eyes and nose; Withholding of any mattress, pillow, sheet or blanket; Forced grooming; Suspension of showers; Removal of religious items; Constant surveillance; Incommunicado detention, including denial of all contact with family and legal counsel for a 21-month period; Interference with religious observance; and Denial of medical care for serious and potentially life-threatening ailments, including chest pain and difficulty breathing, as well as for treatment of the chronic, extreme pain caused by being forced to endure stress positions, resulting in severe and continuing mental and physical harm, pain, and profound disruption of the senses and personality.
Lowering the Bar explains:
The legal issue was whether John Yoo should be entitled to "qualified immunity" in a case brought by Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen detained as an "enemy combatant." "Qualified immunity" is a doctrine that bars claims against government officials if, at the time they acted, it was not "sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood that what he or she was doing violated the plaintiff's rights." The idea is to try to preserve some freedom of action for officials who have to act in areas where the law may not always be clear. If it applies, no lawsuit.

So, next question: do you think a "reasonable official" in 2001-03, when John Yoo was in the government, should have understood that doing those things to an American citizen -- one who, by the way, had not been convicted of or even charged with a crime -- violated that citizen's rights?

So tell me again why Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo, et al, are not behind bars?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Peeing on Bushes...and Ultrarunning

One thing I don't miss about working life--especially, associated as I was with the military--is how people in authority feel compelled to change things even if the old way was tried and true and worked.

I call it the Peeing on Bushes syndrome.  The new boss has to mark her/his territory, much like critters do.  Or at least they think they must do that to demonstrate...leadership?  Power?  Wisdom?  Or something.

The reason I'm thinking about this is that the bride will shortly be dealing with a new regime in power at her job.  The new top dog is (in)famous for her management style in meetings:
"No, no, nothing's decided, just want to get your thoughts and inputs on xxxxx"... when in reality it's been a done deal for weeks.  That bush has already been peed on, and the illusion of participatory management is especially demoralizing for the workforce.

The nexus to Ultrarunning?  In the backcountry, of course, there is a lot of peeing on bushes.  But it's in the natural sense, not the power play sense.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Death, Butterfly Effect, and Ultrarunning

[photo by Gary, click to enlarge, ESC to return]

On McLanahan Road, a sleepy rural road that I infrequently run on, I came across one of those makeshift roadside memorials, above.  When the foliage is out you really cannot see it as you drive by, so this is a place for people on foot.  Since part of the memorial is a small motorcycle, I figured it was the spot where a motorcycle rider, Eric Ford, 28 (a stranger to me), left the road and crashed, dying in the process.

Then last week, near the memorial, I was hauling some foundation rocks out of an old barn for use in building some limestone steps in my Hosta garden (see photo at bottom).   I was chatting with Preston, the landowner on whose property the old barn foundation and the roadside memorial sit.  He told me that the death was not an accident; rather, Eric Ford parked his motorcycle in the middle of the road, walked into the woods, and killed himself with a gun.

I can't imagine a situation where I would prefer death to life, for I have not walked in those shoes.  But I got to thinking about the so-called butterfly effect, via Wikipedia:

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane's formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.

Since this memorial was revealed via running, when I ran by there again today I wondered whether my stopping to view the memorial, or talking to Preston about it, or later thinking about life and death and suicide, would have some later butterfly effect on my life...that somehow I might be more careful on the roads or trails, that I'd skip some slightly risky behavior, or even just say something helpful to a friend or family member who might be struggling.

Of course there is no answer, but this is just a single example of the types of thoughts that flit around my brain while I am running.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Running Shoes

I have blogged about my running shoes before, here, but time to recap. 

Road.  I have two pairs of road shoes (Asics 2160) that I alternate between, as that is where I do most of my running. 

Trail.  For the trails I have a pair of Vasques (model ?) and a old pair of Montrail Vitesse for the worst of rocky trails.  For soft trails or dirt roads r for a course like JFK (trail and road)I have a pair of Asics Trail 2140 and an old pair of Adidas Trail Response.

Oh, and a pair of Adidas to which I affixed hex head screws for icy winter running.  Overall I like Asics best, as they fit and wear reliably over the years, regardless of model.


Tennessee's Gateway to Sex...and Ultrarunning

David Taintor at Talking Points Memo writes on Tuesday about some proposed legislation in Tennessee:

You’ve heard of gateway drugs — smoking marijuana supposedly leads to harder, more addictive substances. But what about “gateway sexual activity”: the hand-holding, lip-locking and light-grazes that can lead to … other things?

The Tennessee Legislature on Friday sent a bill to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk that, according to the Tennessean, would require sex-ed classes to “exclusively and emphatically” promote abstinence and ban teachers and outside groups from promoting “gateway sexual activity.”

The bill defines “gateway sexual activity” as: “sexual conduct encouraging an individual to engage in a non-abstinent behavior.” The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jim Gotto, said the bill wouldn’t address things as innocuous as holding hands, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. But critics of the legislation say the offending behavior is not clearly defined.

So, if this bill passes, teens in TN will only be able to hear about abstinence--exclusively and emphatically --as a method of birth control.  Yet another example of denialism that avoids a substantive recognition of basic facts.  David's post was followed by this insightful thought by commenter Rick T:

Hillbilly world, incest, and other unproductive prejudices aside, there's something much more insidious at work here.


That flips my conspiracy trigger. Teenagers still in high school or just out, with no higher education, unexpectedly pregnant, in a culture that forces them to wed. On top of that, pressure to get a mortgage.

It sounds like an attempt to socially engineer a self sustaining uneducated, debt driven, working class.

There is no link to Ultrarunning, other than I'm glad I have this sport so I can disengage from the crazy.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Another Test

Please ignore.  Sorry!

Drones...and Ultrarunning

Sunday was the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, in which the press mingles socially with the politicians.  Many people think it's an ill-conceived affair that lessens the ability of the press to ask the hard questions of the people they cover.  But that's another aspect.  Today I want to mention one blogger's perspective, Cenk Uyger, whose mind wandered off to drone strikes.

Then the president spoke at the dinner itself. He was brilliant. It was genuinely funny. It was better than any stand up I have seen in awhile. At every joke and smile, he seemed like the most likeable guy in the world. Here's the problem -- I kept thinking about the drone strikes. I know, I am the world's biggest downer (and hypocrite to boot for laughing at the jokes and generally enjoying the night).

I kept thinking how could that nice guy be the one who just ordered "signature" drone strikes where we bomb people without even knowing who they are. If you don't know about this program, I know that it seems unbelievable, but it's absolutely true. In Yemen and Pakistan, we can order drone strikes without having any idea who the target is or who the people we are firing at are. The kinds of strikes where we know who we're bombing are now called "personality" strikes. Isn't it amazing that they have a word for that?

Signature strikes versus Personality strikes.  Now there's food for thought when I head to the C+O Canal for a long run later this week.  To use an activity example near and dear to our hearts, imagine you're running on the C+O, just running, and suddenly without any warning you are vaporized because a foreign government wishes you dead.  Any running companions are instantly vaporized as well. Oh, and also the family who just happened to be biking by in the opposite direction gets obliterated as well.

Now, there are likely legitimate uses of drones or  any other war-making devices.  But we must never lose sight of the fact that when war becomes too easy, too push-button, we may tend to use it as a first resort instead of the last resort that it should be.