Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cats in Art: Apparition of the Monstrous Cat (Kuniyoshi)

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.

On 2 September I used a Utagawa Kuniyoshi image and will continue with several more for the month of September.

Image credit WikimediaApparition of the Monstrous Cat, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, early to mid 1800s.

Since this is not an image from the Zuffi book, I have no comments to comment upon, so I get to be the art critic.
I LOVE this painting title!  The words "apparition" and "monstrous" immediately conjure up images--these are active words that engage teh viewer. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

SNL, Mick Jagger...and Ultrarunning

Today NBC airs a rerun of last season's finale show, with Mick Jagger as both the host and featured musical guest.  He was great as a comedic actor, and of course the music was awesome.  An A+ episode for sure!

I was totally smitten with that episode, especially the tune The Last Time, preformed with the Canadian band Arcade Fire.  I've been all over the net but cannot seem to find that clip, other than this short and grainy excerpt, here (cannot embed it, apparently--sorry!).

Anyway, watch it or set your DVR--you will be so glad you did.

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning?  The continued existence of both Mick Jagger and Saturday Night Live attest to the enduring power of vintage things.  Like me, who has been enjoying this sport for over 3 decades now. 

I know I don't have 3 more, but I'll take what I can get.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Behind Bars...and Ultrarunning

[image credit abardwell on Flickr, here]
I blogged here a few weeks back about one of my pet peeves, the use of the word "blaze" to denote a fire...a term used only by media people, and never spoken or even used by you me.
Think about it: have you ever spoken the word "blaze" aloud?  I doubt it.
Well, here's another example.  Seems that we have a lot of local crime, at least as reported by local TV station WHAG, the NBC affiliate in Hagerstown, MD that the bride and I tune into.  Every single time somebody goes to jail, the newscasters always work in the phrase, "behind bars."
Seems that "jail" or "prison" or "incarcerated" or "locked up" just don't cut it--it's gotta be "behind bars."  If I were a serious drinker, I could have a great drinking game with this one...I'd be hammered before the half-hour newscast was finished.
Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning is obvious: "behind bars" is about as far (literally and figuratively) away from Ultrarunning as one can get.  The freedom of the trail and all that stuff.
I've been peripherally associated with some folks who have done jail or prison time, enough to know that I cannot imagine ever being locked in a cage because of my actions. I want to keep any personal experiences with the legal system totally out of my life.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Military Suicides

Via Corrente, where DCBlogger points us to Military Times:

The Army’s biggest failure: Losing the war on suicides

Facing an enemy it can’t seem to defeat, the Army continues to lose more soldiers to suicide than to combat in Afghanistan.

So far this year, the Army has reported 212 suspected suicides — 132 active-duty soldiers and 80 National Guard or Army Reserve soldiers who were not on active duty when they died.

During the same time period, January through August, the Army lost 171 soldiers in Afghanistan. In FY2011 there were more than 1,000 known suicide attempts.

Army leaders don’t know why the service is seeing a spike in 2012, Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Army Times.

DCBlogger sadly observes, "Clearly they are being asked to do things that they cannot live with. We need to end the war now."

Note that the numbers above do not address suicides in the other services. 

I'm one of those people who think that "where there's life, there's hope," and I can say this with the experience of having been to some very dark places in my life.  But obviously the epidemic rates of suicide among the Army family is indicative of some very dark places indeed.

The double whammy is not just the victim is gone...forever after, the person's family and friends will always carry the burden that somehow they failed, they didn't do enough, they missed something that would have somehow made a difference.  

And that's a terrible legacy.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Musings of Running on Phillippy Road

Tuesday morning when the bride dropped me off on her way to work so I could run home, I decided to pass via Phillippy Road.

For me the two claims to fame are an old (ca. 1813 limestone farmhouse), here:

What detracted from the ambiance and nostalgia were the Pontiac Firebird and the Jeep parked outside...just didn't fit.  I was thinking global thoughts of all the babies who had been born in that house, and of all the people who died in that house, in the 200 years it has sat there. 

Had I turned right onto Phillippy instead of left past the old home above, I would have gone past a specially built home for a young farmer paralyzed in an accident.  Their old farmhouse was not wheelchair-friendly, so a new, one story home was built, using donations and the proceeds of a series of fundraiser dinners.  This was back in the early 80s, shortly after the bride and I first moved to southern Franklin County.

I thought how for the past 25 years I have been enjoying my running life.  And I wondered how the young man--now in his 50s--has coped with the last quarter century of life in a wheelchair.

The point is that life can turn instantly into something quite different than what we have or what we imagine.  Taking our lives and relationships for granted is not a good strategic move.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Media, Nature...and Ultrarunning

Just got the Oct/Nov issue of National Wildlife, the magazine of the National Wildlife Federation.  I love this simple magazine--it's full of photos, great articles, plus hard-hitting editorial positions.

The latest is another Lawrence Schweiger essay (he's president and CEO of the NWF) that is spot-on.  He takes on the national media in What's Not Making the News.

The key point here for us is how the national media somehow has lost its tradition of diligent journalism.  Let's see Schweiger's words [I added the bolding]:

Given the intense competition, broadcast news content skews toward then interests of big advertisers, reflecting a diminished sensitivity to environmental issues that threaten wildlife, such as pollution, climate change and habitat destruction. We hear a lot on the news about massive drought, record-breaking floods and other extreme weather around the world, but we hear little about the causes of those extremes because special-interest advertisements dominate the airwaves and stifle the newsrooms.  How can we learn about the threats to nature when the media often is allergic to the subject?

That's one of my pet peeves about the network news, which I still am in the habit of watching.  So often I see an environmental story about something happening, but I wait in vain for the other shoe to drop...i.e., the WHY? of the story.  Is there a reason, is there a cause-and-effect explanation?

If there is, we frequently are not told about it, I believe, for the reasons Schweiger cites: the networks just don't want to bite the hand that feeds them.

Which is not journalism.

The connection to Ultrarunning should be obvious.  We, more than most, are connected in a very physical and visceral way to the natural world. What happens to the natural environment happens to us.  We need to know the cause-and-effect, the ultimate causation, not just the proximate causation, so that we can take appropriate steps if we are so inclined.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Death of a Tree...and Ultrarunning

Here's what I was working on all last week. A large red oak in my front  yard had been slowly dying back in the crown for the past several years.  I had it diagnosed, but forget if it was bacterial, viral, or fungal...but it wasn't gonna ever get better.

Anyway, I had a tree guy come to take it down, then I proceeded to cut, split, stack and clean up.  Easier said than done....

First a look at the stump and a partial reveal--finally--of Mister Tristan, the 4 year old human being, not the blog:

[Oops, I accidentally cut off his head in the photo]

Here are a couple other shots that indicate the extent of the work:

I reckon this tree yielded nearly 6 cords of wood, which should cover my heating needs for next winter (2013-2014).  Thank goodness for chain saws and hydraulic wood splitters!  But it makes me wonder how the heck the first settlers of this land ever got it cleared enough for farming?
The link to Ultrarunning is that trees are so commonplace as to be below the radar when I am out in the backcountry.  See, here in PA "backcountry" means forested trails--we have no treeline or bald stony mountains.  So leave it up to a "domestic tree" in my yard to bring me back to reality.
When a tree of this size falls in the backcountry, it's a total non-event.  It just happens...and whether it makes a sound or anyone hears it remains a mystery.  But in my yard, it's almost a life event.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cats in Art: Four Cats in Different Poses (Kuniyoshi)

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.

On 2 September I used a Utagawa Kuniyoshi image and will continue with several more for the month of September.

Image credit Wikipedia CommonsFour Cats in Different Poses, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, early to mid 1800s.

Since this is not an image from the Zuffi book, I have no comments to comment upon, so I get to be the art critic.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Water Garden, 2012...and Ultrarunning

[photo by Gary]
I have been an avid water gardener for the past 15 years or so.  My "pond" is kidney-shaped, some 20' long , 4-5' wide,and up to 3' deep. It is inhabited by a stable population of approximately 20 goldfish and 5 koi of various sizes, shapes, and colors (some of which are discernible at the base of the waterfall above).  I have a wide array of flowering plants in the water garden.
My circulating pump is in the main pond, and sends water up to an upper level small circular pond (some 3' in diameter and 1' deep).  From here, as pictured above, the water runs out a short spillway and creates a nearly 2' high waterfall.  The waterfall is at the end of the main pond furthest from the pump, so that gives the system a circular circulation (how's that for alliteration?).
I want to highlight the plant to the left of the waterfall: Parrot Feather, in close-up below.
It's a feathery plant of trailing stems, delicate in appearance but tough in actuality.  It can grow either on the surface of the water, or as a trailing plant above the water.  It's both beautiful and hardy, and grows rather quickly.  Mine overwinters--as do all my water plants--in pots sunk to the bottom of the pond.
The link to Ultrarunning is that in contrast to some of my other water garden plants (e.g., water hyacinth, iris, pickerel rush, cattails) which I do sometimes see along streams or wetlands as I run, I have never seen Parrot Feather in the wild.  I suppose I could look it up to see where it comes from, but for now I'll just enjoy the mysterious beauty of this plant.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sitting on Benches...and Ultrarunning

[photo by Gary, bench on side trail off C+O Canal near Lock 38]
Along the trails we run upon we frequently encounter park benches of various types.  These occur most often along popular routes with easy access, as opposed to benches installed in the remote backcountry (of which I have seen none).
The fact that a bench exists means that someone went to some trouble to get approval for, to obtain, to install, and to maintain said bench.  That effort is worthy of respect and thanks
Accordingly, here is my philosophy: It is my sworn duty as an Ultrarunner to sit on any bench I encounter when I am trail running.  After all, it would be disrespectful NOT to spend a few moments enjoying such a labor of love.
The bench in the photo above is not well used--witness the yellow flowers growing up through the slats--but I managed to squeeze my butt onto the edge for a quick respite from the uphill slog.  Here's a close up in case any alert readers can identify the flower:


Thursday, September 20, 2012

DNFs...or "That’s it man…game over, man, GAME OVER!"

[make sure you play the video at the end!]

I was speaking to an Ultrarunning buddy a couple days ago, and we were talking about dropping out of races, the dreaded Did Not Finish, otherwise known as DNF.

A couple weeks ago, my friend had dropped out of the Susquehanna Super Hike, a 28.4 mile race in central PA.  The day was hot and muggy, and for a number of reasons that became cumulative and overwhelming, he dropped at the first aid station.  He had was just not his day.

But that first DNF kinda stings.

My first came in a marathon back in the early 1990s, the Great Valley Marathon in Chambersburg, PA.  It was in January and the temperature was cold--single digits--but the killer was that the mostly rural course wound right past my house at Mile 18.  Right then and there I just lost my will to go on and simply ran over to my house and dropped.  I felt I had nothing and simply could not bear to put one foot in front of the other...but within half an hour I felt OK and was kicking myself for dropping.

I've also dropped out of a couple of winter fun runs that were slated to be two 25 mile loops, to yield a 50 mile distance.  But in both cases I stopped at the half way mark due to deep snow making the course simply run too slow.  These cases were qualitatively different than a DNF; I still could go on but recognized that the finish time would be WAY later than expected and just didn't want to deal with those logistics.

Anyway, whenever you pull the plug and commit to the DNF, it almost seems that your mind and body shut down virtually instantaneously.  Like flipping a switch.  All of a sudden, you go from a run to a full stop, and you KNOW you just can't go on.

It's like that timeless quote from the wonderful but underrated Bill Paxton, in Aliens:

That’s it man…game over, man, GAME OVER!
Play it, it's only 30 seconds.  You know you want to.

If the embedded video doesn't work, click here.

Here's to our next DNF!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More Photos of Potomac River Crossing

Yesterday's post focused on the American Civil War angle of recreating Confederate General A. P. Hill's famous forced march to save the day at Antietam.  That route involved me fording the Potomac River as Hill's men did some 150 years ago.

I also took some natural history shots to contrast with the death and destruction.  I love history, but I love nature more.

As you can see, the Potomac River is clean and healthy.

Underwater grasses...tons of them!

The riverbed holds a nice population of clams
Great Blue Heron on the MD side as I finished crossing the ford

Typical view along the wonderful C + O Canal

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ultrarunning 150 Years After the Battle of Antietam

Yesterday (Monday 17 Sep) was the 150th anniversary of the battle of Antietam in the American Civil War.

1. First, a quick historical recap: The battle is considered the single bloodiest day in American history, in which some 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing. The battle is regarded as a tactical draw in that both sides remained on the field, but as a strategic Confederate loss since General Lee then abandoned his first invasion of the North and withdrew his army back to Virginia...and the war dragged on for another two and a half years (good battle summary here).

During the battle, the outnumbered Confederates were on the brink of disaster at various points during the day. The final Union attack came when Union General Ambrose Burnside finally was able to put his corps across the bridge that bears his name, and threatened to collapse the Confederate right flank. Just in the nick of time, Confederate reinforcements in the form of General A. P. Hill's Light Division completed their 17 mile forced march from Harper's Ferry (where they had received the surrender of the Union garrison) and fell upon the exposed left flank of Burnside's advance, crushing it and saving the day (again) for the Confederates.

2.  Second, the Ultrarunning part: I've twice on foot retraced the route of A. P. Hill's division from Harper's Ferry to Antietam, complete with fording the Potomac River at historic Boteler's (or Pack Horse) Ford. I blogged about my 2010 run here.  Last year (2011) the river was too high to attempt the crossing.

3.  So....that brings us to my 2012 iteration of the memorial run.  I've not been training well over the summer, so I knew that a 28 miler would be too much of a stretch.  So I ran a route that only included the fording of the Potomac River piece of General Hill's route.  I parked along the C + O Canal just downstream of the Rt 34 Bridge between Sharpsburg, MD and Shepherdstown, WV; ran back upstream and crossed the river on the highway bridge; ran thru the streets of Shepherdstown (a charming little college town!); German Street becomes River Road after leaving town; River Road to reach the WV side of Boteler's Ford; forded the river; headed back upstream on the C + O Canal to my car.

This route was some 5 miles or so.  The bank of the WV side at  the actual ford is on private property, so as I described here I entered the river a bit upstream and waded down to the actual ford.  The river was quite low--at the ford, where Hill's troops crossed, the water depth was literally not over knee deep.

Here are a few shots of the run:

C + O Canal Lock 38 from Rt 34 bridge
Limestone mounting step along German street in Shepherdstown
Historic marker on WV side of ford
Midriver, looking back to WV side
Midriver, looking ahead to MD side
Typical water depth in the ford
I'll post a couple natural history type shots tomorrow.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Teachers...and Ultrarunning

With the Chicago public teacher strike beginning its second week--and since the bride is a public school teacher--I am following with interest both sides of the issue.

Seems like the key sticking point is teacher evaluations.  On one hand, it seems fair to evaluate teachers on their results (i.e., student performance as measured via standardized tests).

However, linking pay and even continued employment to student performance is not as straightforward as it may seem.  Consider this analogy, via Corrente:

Teacher evaluation: "It turns out that when you chart the achievement growth of students (plants in our analogy) and try to take into account the socioeconomic factors (soil conditions) that affect educational attainment, there still are too many variables to yield a reliable, consistent measurement of the quality of teachers (the fertilizers)."

Or consider this other analogy, which has been on the web for awhile now: what if dentists were measured on their outcomes along the exact same lines as is being proposed for teachers, to wit, "No Dentist Left Behind".  PLEASE go ahead and read it, it's eye-opening:

My dentist is great! He sends me reminders so I don't forget checkups. He uses the latest techniques based on research. He never hurts me, and I've got all my teeth, so when I ran into him the other day, I was eager to see if he'd heard about the new state program. I knew he'd think it was great.
"Did you hear about the new state program to measure the effectiveness of dentists with their young patients?" I said.
"No," he said. He didn't seem too thrilled. "How will they do that?"
"It's quite simple," I said. "They will just count the number of cavities each patient has at age 10, 14 and 18 and average that to determine a dentist's rating. Dentists will be rated as Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average and Unsatisfactory. That way parents will know which are the best dentists. It will also encourage the less effective dentists to get better," I said. "Poor dentists who don't improve could lose their licenses to practice in South Carolina."
"Cavities are the bottom line, and you can't argue with the bottom line. It's an absolute measure."
"That's terrible," he said.
"What? That's not a good attitude," I said. "Don't you think we should try to improve children's dental health in this state?"
"Sure I do," he said, "but that's not a fair way to determine who is practicing good dentistry."
"Why not?" I said. "It makes perfect sense to me."
"Well, it's so obvious," he said. "Don't you see that dentists don't all work with the same clientele; so much depends on things we can't control?
"For example," he said, "I work in a rural area with a high percentage of patients from deprived homes, while some of my colleagues work in upper-middle class neighborhoods. Many of the parents I work with don't bring their children to see me until there is some kind of problem and I don't get to do much preventive work.
"Also," he said, "many of the parents I serve let their kids eat way too much candy from a young age, unlike more educated parents who understand the relationship between sugar and decay.
"To top it all off," he added, "so many of my clients have well water which is untreated and has no fluoride in it. Do you have any idea how much difference early use of fluoride can make?"
"It sounds like you're making excuses," I said. I couldn't believe my dentist would be so defensive. He does a great job.
"I am not!" he said. "My best patients are as good as anyone's, my work is as good as anyone's, but my average cavity count is going to be higher than a lot of other dentists because I chose to work where I am needed most."
"Don't get touchy," I said.
toothbrushestoothbrushesspacer"Touchy?" he said. His face had turned red, and from the way he was clenching and unclenching his jaws, I was afraid he was going to damage his teeth. "Try furious. In a system like this, I will end up being rated average, below average or worse.
"My more educated patients who see these ratings may believe this so-called rating actually is a measure of my ability and proficiency as a dentist. They may leave me, and I'll be left with only the most needy patients. And my cavity average score will get even worse.
"On top of that, how will I attract good dental hygienists and other excellent dentists to my practice if it is labeled below average?"
"I think you're over-reacting," I said. "'Complaining, excuse making and stonewalling won't improve dental health '... I am quoting that from a leading member of the DOC," I noted.
"What's the DOC?" he said.
"It's the Dental Oversight Committee," I said, "a group made up of mostly lay-persons to make sure dentistry in this state gets improved."
"Spare me," he said. "I can't believe this. Reasonable people won't buy it," he said hopefully.
The program sounded reasonable to me, so I asked, "How else would you measure good dentistry?"
"Come watch me work," he said. "Observe my processes."
"That's too complicated and time consuming," I said. "Cavities are the bottom line, and you can't argue with the bottom line. It's an absolute measure."
"That's what I'm afraid my patients and prospective patients will think. This can't be happening," he said despairingly.
"Now, now," I said, "don't despair. The state will help you some."
"How?" he said.

"If you're rated poorly, they'll send a dentist who is rated excellent to help straighten you out," I said brightly.
"You mean," he said, "they will send a dentist with a wealthy clientele to show me how to work on severe juvenile dental problems with which I have probably had much more experience? Big help."
"There you go again," I said. "You aren't acting professionally at all."
"You don't get it," he said. "Doing this would be like grading schools and teachers on an average score on a test of children's progress without regard to influences outside the school — the home, the community served and stuff like that. Why would they do something so unfair to dentists? No one would ever think of doing that to schools."
I just shook my head sadly, but he had brightened. "I'm going to write my representatives and senator," he said. "I'll use the school analogy — surely they'll see my point."
He walked off with that look of hope mixed with fear and suppressed anger that I see in the mirror so often lately.
The link to Ultrarunning is that if you only consider the results of a race (finishing time/place only), you may completely miss the actual results.  For example, once in a trail race I stopped to help another runner in distress, thereby adding at least 15 minutes to my finishing time. 
Didn't matter to me, I knew what my effort was.  The "footnote" about my help would never be known to anyone else looking at the finish times and places.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cats in Art: Woman 21 (Kuniyoshi)

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.

On 2 September I used a Utagawa Kuniyoshi image and will continue with several more for the month of September.

Image credit Wikipedia Commons. Woman 21, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, early to mid 1800s.

Since this is not an image from the Zuffi book, I have no comments to comment upon, so I get to be the art critic.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Goodbye, Sammy

The male butterscotch, or tiger, cat, has absolutely the sweetest personality of all the cats we have ever known.
That was Sammy.
Rest in peace under the dogwood tree.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Staying Classy: Reagan vs. Romney

Via Rising Hegemon on 13 September, we see how a classy Republican handled a situation where the a serious military/political event was happening in the Middle East.  This is contrast to candidate Romney's foot insertion in an attempt to score political points over the murder of U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens:
In April 1980, President Carter ordered a raid to attempt to free the American hostages in failed spectacularly and tragically.
How'd Reagan react?
Reagan told a Los Angeles press conference, "This is a difficult day for all of us Americans. . . . It is time for us . . . to stand united. It is a day for quiet reflection . . . when words should be few and confined essentially to our prayers."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Creek Fording...and Ultrarunning

For some time now, I have been in the habit of fording the Conococheague Creek just west of Marion, PA, when I'm doing what I call my 10 mile Frederick Mill loop.

Even though there's a perfectly good bridge right there:

[The ford in a shot I took a couple of winters ago]

Basically my motivation is to get my feet used to running while they are soaked.  Summer or winter, doesn't matter: in the summer, it's a refreshing cool-down.  In the winter, it's toughening process to run with cold, wet feet...which, by the way, quickly drain and warm back up within a couple miles.

See, in a race or a backcountry training run, you need to be prepared for an array of conditions which you may face, to include stream crossings. Doing crossings deliberately in training gets you used to do it and running afterwards with wet feet. And it crosses another variable off of unfamiliar things that could help derail you--mentally or physically--in a race.

I have found for me that running with wet feet is no more likely to produce blisters tha running in perfectly dry foot gear.


FOOTNOTE. The route, for you anal-retentive types (like me):

For my place here are the details: I usually head down Angle Road, right on the Clay Hill-Kauffman Road, across U.S. Rt 11 on Kauffman Road West, right onto Guitner Road, right on Coontown Road, right on Gomer Road, right on Miller Road, ford the Conococheague here, right on Frederick's Mill Road, across U.S. Rt 11 to old Rt 11 (Main Street in Marion), left onto Colorado Street, right onto Angle Road, which I then follow south back to the house.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Beer in the Morning...and Ultrarunning

On Tuesday morning, I had the bride drop me off on her way to work.  I have unlimited distance and route options here in rural southern Franklin County, PA, and today's run was nothing fancy, just a short 5 straight back to the house.

Well, a couple miles into the run, I saw a can in the road.  I usually smash and carry aluminum cans back to a neighbor (she uses the recycling $$ to support the American Heart Association).  I have carried up to 12 recyle cans at a time, which is kinda cool but also sad that I can find so many cans along the road.

So I veered over to the center of the road, where I found a can of Natural Lite beer still with a couple ounces inside.  Since it was in the middle of the road and had not been smashed or blown off to the side, I presume it was a brand new litter, which got my mind racing:

  • Who drinks beer at 7:30 in the morning?  (I like beer but I do wait until at least noon to imbibe)
  • The littering is unconscionable.
  • Natural Lite is, well, something that rhymes with "miss."  Yuengling--made in PA since 1829--is my beer of choice.

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning?  I like to stash a can of my beloved Yuengling in my running bag to enjoy after a training run or race.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Due Process and the Constitution

First, this Brian McFadden cartoon (click to enlarge (I hope!)), or link here:

Then some somber words from a great leader in the middle of the last century, Winston Churchill:

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."
All of this is part of a lengthy interview/discussion between John Cusack, actor and political activist, and Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor, entitled Obama's Constitution, here

A couple more quotes, but you should really go read it yourself.  I for one an very uncomfortable with Obama's disregard of the Constitution when it's inconvenient to follow it...but weighing against that is the option of a Mitt Romney presidency.

CUSACK: And if he takes an oath before God to uphold the Constitution, and yet he decides it's not politically expedient for him to deal with due process or spying on citizens and has his Attorney General justify murdering US citizens — and then adds a signing statement saying, "Well, I'm not going to do anything with this stuff because I'm a good guy."– one would think we would have to define this as a much graver threat than good or bad policy choices- correct?

TURLEY: Well, first of all, there's a great desire of many people to relieve themselves of the obligation to vote on principle. It's a classic rationalization that liberals have been known to use recently, but not just liberals. The Republican and Democratic parties have accomplished an amazing feat with the red state/blue state paradigm. They've convinced everyone that regardless of how bad they are, the other guy is worse. So even with 11 percent of the public supporting Congress most incumbents will be returned to Congress. They have so structured and defined the question that people no longer look at the actual principles and instead vote on this false dichotomy.

Now, belief in human rights law and civil liberties leads one to the uncomfortable conclusion that President Obama has violated his oath to uphold the Constitution. But that's not the primary question for voters. It is less about him than it is them. They have an obligation to cast their vote in a principled fashion. It is, in my opinion, no excuse to vote for someone who has violated core constitutional rights and civil liberties simply because you believe the other side is no better. You cannot pretend that your vote does not constitute at least a tacit approval of the policies of the candidate.

I still gotta vote for him but issues like this make it very uncomfortable to do so.  I'm tired of the question always being reduced to settling for the lesser of two evils. 


Monday, September 10, 2012

Where I Run: Leslie Nielson

Nostalgia post today for those of you who watched TV (specifically Disney) in 1959 and 1960. 

Yesterday morning I ran my beloved Pig Farm 10 miler.  Photo above shows one of the road signs along that route that triggered me (actually it takes very little to trigger me).

The pig farm has been gone for decades now but I still call the route that, because it dates back to my formative years of running, long before I discovered the magic of trail running.

Anyway, while I was running I was passed by Leslie Nielson.  Passed because--unfairly, in my estimation, he was on horseback--and I was on foot.  After I finished the run I protested loudly to the bride.

 [image credit Steve Burns]

I gotta check more into local place names.  After all, somebody, sometime, had to name a road or a village; such a decision should not have been taken lightly.  Its' fun to try to discover the original intent.

I originally posted about this road sign a couple years ago, here.

For those of you who need more info about the photo immediately above, here you go:

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Disney television show often featured serialized stories of great Americans. People who had helped to shape the nation during its early days. Or perhaps people who had overcome some adversity. One such American was General Francis Marion.

Francis Marion, better known as the Swamp Fox, helped to turn the tide of the Revolutionary War. His unconventional fighting tactics included hiding in the Carolina swamps and attacking the British as they marched in formation. Because of this, his opponents accused him of abandoning the gentlemanly ways of fighting, which consisted of meeting your enemy face to face. Because Marion and his men knew the swamps so well, the British never could find him or anticipate his attacks.

Disney's version kept the main points of history, although perhaps presenting a somewhat sanitized view of things. The British were under the command of General Cornwallis and Colonel Tarleton. Also serving as villains were the Tories, those colonists who were still loyal to British rule. Marion was helped in his fight by his fiancee, Mary Videau, and her parents. The Videau family posed as Tories and then passed information along to Marion and his men.

Leslie Nielsen starred as General Marion, long before Nielsen's days as Frank Drebin in the Police Squad television show and the Naked Gun movies. The series also featured such Disney regulars as J. Pat O'Malley and Slim Pickens. Hal Stalmaster, from Disney's movie of Johnny Tremain appeared in the series, as did Tim Considine, who had previously appeared as Spin on in the Spin and Marty serials on the Mickey Mouse Club and later appeared as Mike Douglas in My Three Sons.

Disney obviously had high hopes of the Swamp Fox achieving the same popularity as Davy Crockett. Here was another great American hero who had practically reached folk hero status. Each episode featured action and intrigue. Marion wore a fox tail on his hat, and his men wore feathers on theirs. And he even had a catchy theme song, with words by Lew Foster and music by Buddy Baker. But for whatever reason, the Swamp Fox didn't quite catch on as the King of the Wild Frontier did. Eight episodes aired between 1959 and 1961. A single version of the theme song was released with Leslie Nielsen providing vocals, but that song didn't climb the charts like the Ballad of Davy Crocket did.

Even though the show may not have been as popular as its predecessor, it was still fun to watch and made for great television. The Swamp Fox found a whole new set of fans when the episodes were aired on the Disney Channel in the 1980s and 1990s. Now that the Disney Channel has dropped its Vault Disney programming block, the Swamp Fox is no longer seen. But perhaps this Revolutionary War hero is hiding somewhere, just waiting to make another appearance!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cats in Art: Woman 8 (Kuniyoshi)

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.

On 2 September I used a Utagawa Kuniyoshi image and will continue with several more for the month of September.

Image credit Wikipedia Commons.   Woman 8, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, early to mid 1800s.

Since this is not an image from the Zuffi book, I have no comments to comment upon, so I get to be the art critic.
I like the colors--the reds, blues, and black--and how they contrast with the pale brown of the cat.  And I gotta wonder about the first 7 women that preceded this image?
To me, it appears that the woman is either reading to the cat, or making a comment to the cat about what she is reading.  The woman seems actively engaged and interested in whatever she is thinking about....for all the good it does with respect to the kitty.
The woman may as well not even bother.  I hate to break it to her, but cats don't speak or understand Japanese any more than they speak English.  The cat hears only a soothing sound--the woman's voice--and that's good enough.  Life is good for this kitty, who absolutely must be purring.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

On the Idyllic Outer Banks....

[image credit Gary]

The bodies of four British sailors from the HMT Bedforshire washed ashore on Ocracoke Isalnd, NC, in May 1942.  The ship had been torpedoed a few miles offshore by German U-boat 558.

The British cemetery, leased in perpetuity to the British government for as long as the interred men rest there, serves as a tangible reminder of when men again had lost their minds to war.

These guys were not some dim historic figures.  They were as real as you or me.

Friday, September 7, 2012

I Can't Stand Counting Songs...and Ultrarunning

Pet peeve day.

This song has the potential to be THE anthem about running. Even though it deals with motorcycle transportation, not running per se, the sentiments about getting away with your love and freedom have running written all over them.

[YouTube link here if the embed above fails]

But I said "potential anthem." For me the song is doomed; while otherwise decent, I just intensely dislike it. Why?--because Bruce counts in the song.  I'm talking actual counting, out loud, as in 1-2-3-4.  Play the clip at 3:30 if you need a refresher.

See, counting in your song is just NOT an acceptable lyric, it's basically either song administration or just plain lazy writing.

Just sing the song, we don't need to hear you counting out loud, because either of these alternatives is unprofessional:

  1. What should be your behind-the scenes signals to the band to be in synch, or
  2. Failure to write decent lyrics so you have to fill the space with counting (this option is actually philosophically worse)

The other day on Sirius/XM Radio, the Coffeehouse (channel 31) I heard a Sheryl Crow tune--and I like Sheryl Crow--in which she actually begins the song by singing "One, two, ready, now...." I can't recall the tune and it's not worth the effort to try to find that version. You'll just have to trust me that it's real. And that, aggravated and annoyed by the song, I jammed my finger punching the button in a rush to change the station.  C'mon--you can't get the rest of the musicians to come in when they should with some silent cue?

I do have one example of a song in which the lyrics actually contain counting done the right way (countdown commences around :45) and it works:

[YouTube link here if embed above fails]

Of course, Bruce and Sheryl will take my advice and immediately change their tunes--literally--since I am a world class musician and all.

Fixing Bruce's lyrics to make an Ultrarunning connection:

The highway's trail is jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive run
Everybody's out on the run tonight
but there's no place left to hide
Together Wendy we'll live with the sadness
I'll love you with all the madness in my soul
Someday girl I don't know when
we're gonna get to that place finish line
Where we really want to go
and we'll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us
baby we were born to run

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I Miss Bill

Despite his moral failings, when Bill Clinton looks at me through the camera, I trust him. Here's a representative sample from his speech last night as he nominated President Obama for another term:

In order to look like an acceptable alternative to President Obama, they couldn't say much about the ideas they have offered over the last two years. You see they want to go back to the same old policies that got us into trouble in the first place: to cut taxes for high income Americans even more than President Bush did; to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts; to increase defense spending two trillion dollars more than the Pentagon has requested without saying what they'll spend the money on; to make enormous cuts in the rest of the budget, especially programs that help the middle class and poor kids. As another President once said – there they go again.

And his summation says it all:
My fellow Americans, you have to decide what kind of country you want to live in. If you want a you're on your own, winner take all society you should support the Republican ticket. If you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibilities – a "we're all in it together" society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

I miss Bill.  I really do.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Paul Ryan, VP Nominee, Lies About Marathon Time

Turns out that the Republican vice-presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, has run a marathon (Grandma's in 1990), and at first glance I must applaud the man for that even if I could not disagree more with his proposed policies.

But--and this is a big but--it also turns out that he lied about it.  Via, here, we learn that his best marathon time was actually a 4:01 and not the "two hour fifty something" that he claims.

Never mind any factual inaccuracies in his political speeches: a runner's time is sacred. Straight-up lying about Obama "raiding" Medicare and closing GM plants is one thing. Bragging about a fictional athletic accomplishment is quite another.

"Sacred" indeed is true.  You just don't lie about your times and your accomplishments--it's just NOT DONE.  Sure, in the big scheme of things a difference of an hour in a marathon nearly a quarter of a century ago doesn't amount to a pinch of crap in terms of worldly impacts.  But it says reams about the kind of person you are.

Reminds me of a Vince Lombardi quote that has stuck with me over the years:

"If you cheat on the practice field, you'll cheat in the game," he said, "and if you cheat in the game, you'll cheat the rest of your life."

Paul Ryan, cheater.  A person who would lie about a race time does not have the character to be Vice President.  Case closed.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Peace of Wild Things...and Ultrarunning (part 2)

I originally ran this post 2 years ago on 4 Sep 2010. I'll repeat it here and expand upon the original thought:

The Peace of Wild Things...and Ultrarunning

Over at Hecate--who, seriously, is a witch--ran across a marvelous post that struck an ultra chord. more and more kids grow up in urban areas, in families who don't belong to the class of people who can afford a trip to see the redwoods or wade along a deserted shore, or canoe down a river, it becomes increasingly important to help them find nature inside urban areas. Although large empty spaces are really wonderful, for many kids [and adults!] a rather small space will suffice. A community garden. A gated alley full of trees, and tomato plants, and pets. A park. A local Nature Center. A tree that becomes a special friend.

Or, we could take our kids and grandkids ultarunning. Fitness aside, our doses of trail running are sweet therapy for our souls or psyches or whatever it is that makes us "us."
Update as of 4 Sep 2012:  I hate to play the "when I was a kid" card, but in the 1950s and 60s, there were TV and telephones, but by and large, you played outside unless it was raining.  Video games and the Internet were but a gleam in somebody's eye.
Now I fear that outdoor play is a vanishing trend, so whenever Mister Tristan (the 4-year old human being, not the blog) says he wants to play outside, we do it, regardless of the weather.

Monday, September 3, 2012

"Sinister" Products...and Ultrarunning

I guess I'm too old, because I saw this in a Kmart flyer and it bothered me.

Seems they sell a line of youth-oriented clothing with the brand name of Sinister.

Here is an example:

I suppose this concept of trying to be edgy and dangerous and James Dean-like is as old as humankind.  Reminds me of my friend Wacker back in the day when he began hanging out with a bad crowd.
We--the "good" kids--gave him the "Rookie Thug of the Year" award.
Yeah, maybe this Sinister clothing is a harmless way to explore personas...but for me, making this type of statement to the world at large is just telling them, "Hey, look at me!  I'm stupid!"
Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning?  I cannot ever in my wildest dreams imagine encountering a trail runner wearing such a product (even if it came in a synthetic technical fabric).

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cats in Art: Woman Holding a Cat (Kuniyoshi)

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 ZazzleWoman Holding a Cat, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1852, colored xylograph, 14" x 10", held by private collector.

May as well continue with a Japanese theme...last week's post was a Hiroshige image.

Zuffi really gets into it:

A perfectly dressed and made-up geisha, wrapped in the silk of an embroidered kimono, attempts to ward off the excessive affections of a magnificent white cat.  It is a pet, but also a sort of refined "domestic furnishing," as demonstrated by the knotted ribbon around its neck and its soft, carefully brushed fur, into which the woman sinks her fingers with pleasure.  There is an interesting contrast between the cat's onslaught and the much more dangerous scene depicted in the background, in which a gigantic octopus is threatening a small fishing boat.

Wow...getting kinda steamy here.  Good thing it's in a private collection, otherwise I'd have to hop a plane to check it out firsthand.

One of our cats, Ca Beere, is what we call a "face kitty," meaning she likes to burrow into your neck and face and lick.  It's fun for a moment but then you go into defensive mode like the geisha above depicted by Kuniyoshi.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Money..and Ultrarunning

[photo by Gary, Chimney Rocks, Franklin Co. PA]

Via Firedoglake:

Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only then will you realize that money cannot be eaten.
-- Cree Nation Tribal Prophecy
One of the beauties of our sport is that it can be cheap--just some running duds, trail shoes, a water bottle pack, and you're off to the backcountry.

Of course, should you choose to go high end with your gear and enter a lot of races, you'll quickly see a real drain on your checkbook.

And that's the beauty and simplicity of it all.  Just run.  On trails.  For hours.  But do what you should and must to protect our backcountry from those who would destroy it under the guise of progress.