Monday, April 30, 2012

Federal Budget...and Ultrarunning

Saw a great post over at Firedoglake a couple weeks ago that with plain and simple graphics talks to the Federal Budget...and options for solving "the problem."

I can't embed the graphics so I ask you to click over there.  But the narrative is quite simple and direct:

If you are truly worried about the budget deficit, which is an idiotic thing to actually be worried about at a time of incredibly low government borrowing rates and high unemployment, the place to start would be looking at the basic outline of the federal budget.

Our Federal budget is mostly military spending, public health care spending, and Social Security. If you really want to reduce the deficit your options are raise taxes or cut from those three. Since our tax rate is low by international and historic standard, it could be easily raise tax revenue by a modest amount.

When it comes to cuts, though, any legitimate cost benefit, efficiency or needs analysis would say radically cut the military spending is the most logical move.

The simple fact is that the United State is a nuclear power. We are a mostly geographically isolated country. We only share a border with two smaller and weaker allies. Finally, we have a well-armed and fiercely nationalist population that makes a theoretical foreign occupations a bloody nightmare.

Even if we eliminate all military spending except for the national guard, there would still be zero chance the USA would be invaded or attacked by another nation state. Achieving what should be the only real goal of our military can be done for probably about 1/40th our current spending.

Tough to argue with that.  Ponder while you're out the the trails today.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cats in Art: The Two Beggars (Ceruti)

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, then ESC to return.  Image credit About.com Art History, The Two Beggars, Giacomo Ceruti, 1730-1734, oil on canvas, 52" x 67", held by Coteca Tosio Martineco, Brescia, Italy.

Zuffi comments:
Cats are often the companions of the poor folks that inhabit the world painted by Il Pitocchetto, "the little beggar," as Ceruti was known [aside by Gary: I like this guy already, just based upon that fact!].  Sad and emaciated like their owners, they nevertheless share the poignant humanity that to canvas with few concessions to the pathetic or sentimental....These three living creatures, perceived from a low point of view, gaze at the viewer with a mixture of melancholy resignation and human dignity.  And if they are capable of loving a kitten--ragged and disheveled as they are--they have a heart like everyone else.


Cats touch our hearts...just as they did for these two beggars and their painter nearly 300 years ago.

Also, since most of us see world class art only via the medium of print (such as a coffee table book like Zuffi's), I pay close attention to the listed size of the painting.  Many images actually are tiny--perhaps only 12" on a side--and others are huge, measuring several feet on a side.  Ceruti's The Two Beggars is large, nearly 4' x 7'.  If I ever get to Italy and get to see this painting I would likely just stand there and stare at it in awe for a long, long, time.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Local Paper, Dumb Criminal, and Ultrarunning

From the Chambersburg Public Opinion on 24 April 2012:

Man Leaves Cell Phone at Scene of His Crime**

A Shippensburg man was cited after he allegedly broke a garage window on Richard Avenue, defecated on the ground, and left his cell phone behind. 

In a written statement issued Monday, PA State Police said Michael Keith Hess, no age given, was charged with criminal mischief in connection with the incident about 2 a.m. Saturday at 25 Richard Avenue.

The crime was apparently linked to Hess because "he left his cell phone next to his poo," police said.

Sometimes we Ultrarunners are careless when we do potty breaks in the woods (but NOT like this joker!).  Dumping in the woods is the most natural thing in the world, but PLEASE make sure that you are well off a trail where someone later could see or step in your mess. 

  **Note: in trying to source this article back to the Public Opinion, I Googled "Man Leaves Cell Phone at Scene of His Crime."  Try it, you'll get something like 4,000,000 hits.  Apparently this lapse is quite common (and there are only so many ways to entitle that news story).

Friday, April 27, 2012

Silent Spring

Over at Lawyers, Guns and Money, Erik Loomis marks an important milestone.  It's a short post, so I quote it in full:

Fifty years ago, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, the landmark book connecting pesticide usage with species decline. Carson noted the very real threats of chemicals on humans as well as species and helped usher in the environmental movement that transformed the nation in important ways during the 1960s and 1970s. Elizabeth Kolbert wonders if, a half-century later, we have learned anything. It seems not. Kolbert cites several studies suggesting that colony collapse disorder in bees, a disease threatening the commercial viability of several fruits and vegetables we routinely eat, has happened because of a new type of pesticide. These neonicotinoids are neurotoxins that all these studies show completely decimates bee hives.

We may not have learned anything from Silent Spring, but Monsanto sure has. Unhappy with a research firm that produced a study critical of the Monsanto-produced neonicotinoids that are causing colony collapse, Monsanto simply bought the research firm. That’s some old-school Gilded Age action right there, like when Jay Gould used to buy newspapers who said bad things about him.

I can only sadly shake my head, and again ask, "Have these people no children?  No grandchildren?"  What kind of person chooses short term profits over potentially civilization-destroying practices?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Favorite Ultrarunning Clothing


[photos by Gary]

For me, one of my favorite garments is a baseball cap from the 2002 JFK 50 Mile Run.  This was not swag from the race, but sold by an apparel vendor the night before at an expo at the race packet pickup.

I wear this cap when I run, pretty much year-round (though when it gets much below about 35 F or so, I do don warmer headgear).  Anyway, after 10 years of hard use, the buckle in the sizing band on the back corroded through and I was forced to do some repairs in the form of sewing male and female Velcro strips onto the sizing band.  See below:



If I do say so myself, the repair looks professional and should keep the cap functional for another 10 years.

By the way, I never wash this cap or wear it in the rain or snow.  I keep adding layer after layer of crusty white sweat to it.  I have told the bride that if I predecease her, this cap must be among the memorabilia and photos that should be displayed at my memorial service.  Possibly more than anything else, this cap embodies my identity as an Ultrarunner.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cold, Rainy Run

After a March that was 10+ degrees warmer than normal, April has been downright chilly.  In fact, on Monday morning after the bride dropped me off on her way to work so I could run back home, I encountered 38 F temps, a stiff headwind out of the west at 20 mph, and a stinging rain mixed with occasional wet snowflakes.

In short, it was a somewhat miserable run.  Although I was properly dressed for the occasion, still I was thoroughly chilled by the time I got home after 7 miles.  Thank goodness the wood stove was blazing and I quickly was warm and dry again.

Despite the poor conditions, while I was actually running, I quite enjoyed it.  After all, I could be in a situation where I could no longer be a runner, or even commenced the long dirt nap.  I always say that some of my best runs are when external conditions, frankly, suck.  I call it the smugness factor--you're out there and nobody else is because it's pretty miserable. 

Complaining about the weather is nonproductive.  Within reason, there is no such thing as bad weather, just weather for which you are not prepared.  And in any case I continue to thank my lucky stars for life and health and the ability to run.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

India, Some Interesting $$ Facts

From India Facts of the Day:
India spends 2 percent of its GDP [Gross Domestic Product] treating diarrhea, according to TERI, one of the country's most prestigious scientific research institutes [...] Not one of the 35 largest cities in India has water service more than an hour or two a day-including the name-brand cities we've all heard of: Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Delhi.

Now, here's what India spends on Defense:  2.8% of its GDP, or some $35 billion dollars.

Couple observations:

Given India's geographic location and its chronic disputes with neighbors China and Pakistan, maybe $35B is the right number for defense, I can't say.  But it boggles my mind to think that the diarrhea budget nearly equals that of the military.

Now, if the same ratio were true here in the U.S., our military budget would be quite minuscule (I guess that means I'm in favor or more diarrhea here...?). 

Also, I was going to make a point about how we ought to forgo military aid to India in favor of humanitarian aid to combat diarrhea...when I found out that India is NOT on our A list for military stuff: we give them only $1M (not billion) in military aid and only $132M in other economic aid (source = Census Bureau). 

I would have thought we supported India's military, big time.  Note that we do give India's neighbor Pakistan some $1.3 billion annually (2009 data).

This is kinda rambly and disconnected, but I am a stats geek to a certain extent and these data were shocking to me, to say the least.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Where I Run: Abandoned Railroad Truss Bridge

This "through truss" bridge is about 3 miles from my home, crossing the Conococheague Creek.  It once carried the line of the Southern Pennsylvania Iron and Railway Company from near Marion, PA to Mercersburg and thence to Richmond Furnace, PA.  From the east:



And a bit closer....


[preceding photos by Gary]

This railroad through truss bridge was built around 1896 and abandoned around 1973, according to local bridge aficionado Jodi Christman:

Southern Pennsylvania Iron and Railway Company built this bridge as part of the railroad with a mission to connect to ore lands where new furnaces were built. Richmond Furnace, being one of the furnaces, unfortunately turned into an expensive disappointment. Later in the 1950s there was a surge on this railway as additional tunnels for the Pennsylvania Turnpike were built. I believe the railroad closed in 1973, but I am not certain. SOURCE-"Railroads of Western Franklin County" by Randy Watts

Jodi's site contains maps, coordinates, and many additional photos.

I've run across this bridge a few times, most recently about two years ago when PENNDOT was rebuilding the auto bridge 1/2 mile north and the creek was just too high to ford.

 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cats in Art: Images from the Museum Store

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. The bride and I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art recently, so my last 3 Sunday Cats in Art posts have been from that museum. We thoroughly enjoyed looking around the galleries for cats.

Our last stop was the museum store, where we encountered the following items (all photos by Gary).  It's good to see that cats are well represented in retail:






The pillows and stuffed animal were cute, but I kinda liked the salt and pepper shakers best.  They had some pop to them!

 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cats...Now I Can Die a Happy Man



[photo credit Mister Tristan--the 4-year-old human being, not the blog]

Well, my life is now complete--bucket list all checked off-- and I can indeed die a happy man.

I have run the sweeper on a cat.

Lest you think this was child cat abuse, Sammy is 17 years old and deaf as a stump.  Without the sweeper noise, he actually liked the brushing.  He is shedding fur like a maple tree drops leaves in October, and I figured I might as well address the problem at the source.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Test

Google's Blogger software has a brand new interface and I'm fumbling my way thru.

Bear with me, please with this test post.

Gary, blog owner

The American Way of War

Via Dianne at Cab Drollery on 17 April, a great David Horsey cartoon from the LA Times entitled War, The American Way:


[click to enlarge, then ESC to return]

The post then goes on to quote from cartoonist Horsey's review of the new Rachel Maddow book, "Drift":

Maddow's core thesis is that in the decades since the end of the war in Vietnam, there has been a steady and dramatic shift in the way the United States goes to war. There was a time when Congress stepped up to its constitutional responsibility to say when the country would send troops into battle. Once engaged, the entire country took part. Now, Maddow writes, the president can churn up a war anytime he wants, Congress rolls over, and only a tiny fraction of Americans do the fighting while the rest blithely carry on with their normal lives.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Women in Ultrarunning

I love this sport!

Probably more than any other athletic endeavor, in Ultrarunning, men and women are athletes first, and gendered people second. 

Go no further than the April issue of UltraRunning Magazine, the voice of endurance running for over 30 years now.

We have an article about Jennifer Pharr Davis (page 30), the woman who now holds the supported speed record on the 2,181 mile Appalachian Trail, in 46 days, 11 hours, 20 min.  She averaged 47 miles per day for 46 consecutive days. Let that sink in a bit. 

Oh, and it’s not the woman’s speed record.  It’s the record, eclipsing previous record holders Andrew Thompson (47+ days), Pete Palmer (48+ days, and David Horton (52+ days)

A bit further on (page 34) we have an article by a woman who investigates the techniques for peeing while female while standing up. In a 30 hour ultra, taking care of bodily functions does consume some time, and to make the process a bit easier, neater, and faster is a significant thing.  She was able to achieve success and gets into the detail.

As if these articles are not enough, in the previous (March)issue of UR, where they recap significant performances and statistics for 2011, we see where 18 women won ultras outright, everything from 50K to 100 miles, as in the first place finisher.

As I said, I love this sport!

 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Watch Out for Bears...and Ultrarunning



[Image credit National Geographic]

Via Dependable Renegade, who calls this "The headline I've waited all my life to read":

Naked Vermont governor almost eaten by bears


We get directed over to Raw Story and the rest of the tale.

“The (bear) charges me on the porch — I’m tearing through the door,” he reportedly said. “You almost lost the governor. Security was not there. I was within three feet of getting ‘arrrh.’”
Shumlin is also quoted as saying: “I sleep like many Vermont boys, without too much clothing at night. I’m not a big pajama person. The bottom line is: The bears were dressed better than I and they could have done some real damage.”

I've seen black bears here in the east numerous times while running in the backcountry--and the not-so-backcountry--and every time it was like "Wow!" rather than a fear-inducing situation.

I seem to recall that the number of confirmed black bear attacks on humans over the years is virtually nil, so I know I'm much more at risk from a fall or a bee sting than from a bear.  Yet it's one of those fears that non-trail-runners seem to bring up repeatedly in discussing our sport.

If I see a bear, I figure that at that moment I'm the luckiest guy alive.  And no, I don't approach the bear saying "Nice bear...just let me pet your muzzle."  I give them space.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Seen Along the Road



I took this to mean we menfolk might be OK if we stuck with dames and avoided broads...though perhaps if I looked up the Biblical reference I might find out the real intent of the sign.

Not to be misogynistic, but this sign reminded me of Woody Allen's 1972 film, Play It Again, Sam, where a Humphrey Bogart-like character is advising the hapless Woody Allen how to succeed with Diane Keaton.

Bogart comments that women are not all that hard to figure out:

I never saw a dame yet that didn't understand a good slap in the mouth or a slug from a .45.
 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Memorial Service Small Talk About Ultrarunning

The bride and I were out to  western PA over the weekend to attend a memorial service for a cousin who had passed away.  As expected, the service was sad but it was great to again see family members whom we just never otherwise see.

Several of my cousins know that I run ultras and asked me about it when we were chatting.  The following conversation happened at least twice.

“Still running?”

“Yes.  I’ve cut back some but still try to run 3 or 4 times a week.”

“Honey, Gary can run 100 miles!”

“Well, there is some walking involved, like on uphills or when the trail is too rough.  Probably I run about 80 miles and walk 20 or so.”

“I don’t know how anybody can do that!”

“Well, first off, I enjoy it,  Being out in the woods that long is just fun for me, and the time actually passes pretty quickly.  And the human body evolved to be a trotting predator, like wolves.  It may sound weird but it’s kinda natural.  Plus I like it. I finally found a sport that I love and that’s good for me. Like I know you swim--if I couldn't run and had to swim for fitness I'd probably hate it.  So with trail running I feel really lucky.”

And so on.  We’ve all had these conversations and I’m never quite sure how to handle it.  So I just tell the truth so I’ll never have to try to remember a lie (Mark Twain said something like that).

 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cats in Art: Woman Plucking a Duck (Maes)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. The bride and I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art recently, so the next few Sunday Cats in Art posts will be from that museum. We thoroughly enjoyed looking around the galleries for cats.


Photo by Gary of painting at Philadelphia Museum of Art, Woman Plucking a Duck, Nicolaes Maes, 1655-56, oil canvas, 23" x 26", held by Philadelphia Museum of Art.  See museum's image here.
 
The cat is obviously distressed by having a duck--prey--mere inches away and being unable to get it.
 
This is one good kitty, showing the restraint that it does.
 
 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Dark Friday & Saturday

Sorry, but Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 4-yr-old human being) will be back on Sunday with a Cats in Art post.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

In Praise of the Running Buddy

Used to be that I embodied the whole "loneliness of the long-distance runner" thing.  Running odd distances at odd times at odd places was the basic theme, and synching up with someone to run with was mighty difficult, just from a logistical perspective. 

Moreover, I just liked running alone.  Me and my thoughts.  Want to add a loop?  Just do it.  Bushwhack to intersect another trail?  Done, and a fine adventure to boot.

But now I prize the easy companionship of running with friends.  Yesterday I ran with my noontime running buddies from work, and it was as easy as Sunday morning.

I'm working on a longer post on this theme next week.

 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dropping in an Ultra…and Robert E. Lee’s Farewell to his Army

[Image credit Encyclopedia.com]

147 years ago this week, on 9 April 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, thus effectively ending the American Civil War.



I am a long-time researcher and writer on the American Civil War, living as I do only a 50K run from Gettysburg, and have long been fascinated with the history of those times.  I guess what repeatedly strikes me is that while historical events seem distant and almost sterile, those people living them at the time were are real as you or me.

How does this relate to Ultrarunning?  Bear with me...

With respect to long distance running, my drop history: I’ve dropped at 18 miles in a marathon and at halfway in a two-loop 50 mile ultra, so my experience is limited.  But I keep coming back to Lee’s farewell address to his army as being strikingly parallel with the notion of dropping out of a race.  The idea of being overcome by overwhelming odds and resources, remaining steadfast to the last, that valor and devotion could not compensate for the loss that would have come with continuing. 

And of course, the thought that you did your best: “You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed.”

Regardless of your leanings with respect to that war, Lee’s farewell address to his troops is a marvel of succinctness, wistfulness, admiration, and regret at what might have been:

Head-Quarters, Army of Northern Virginia, April 10, 1865.

After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. I need not tell the survivors of so many hard-fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them: but, feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that would have attended the continuation of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen. By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain there until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you His blessing and protection. With an increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

R. E. Lee, General.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run Results

Some how my mental clock failed to register that the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Race has come and gone (31 March 2012).

Big time congrats to Mike Morton for his course record 13:11, and Traci Falbo, the women's winner in 17:02.  But moreover, congrats to all the men and women who trained and struggled and hopefully succeeded in whatever their particular quest was.

I have very fond memories of my 2010 finish and what an important event it was for me personally. 

Here is a great slide show of course pictures by Ben Dillon, as posted on the Umstead home page.  You really should check it out--this course has to be one of the most beautiful 100s in all the land.

How I missed it: I have my UltraList email feed set to Digest (meaning I get a more or less daily compilation of all emails sent that day, rather than live as they happen), plus in my Outlook I have all Ultra emails sent off to another folder so as not to clutter my inbox.  And I just had not checked that folder for the past week or so. 

This spring has been a big time of change for me with my retirement and reaching a big birthday.  My mind has been a bit less focused on Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 4 year old human being) than previously.  My commitment is to ensure that the blogging continues to proceed robustly, so stay tuned.

 

 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Health Care, In Simple Terms...and Ultrarunning

From a great post by Paul Waldman, on 4 April 2012:

One day, we'll realize who the villains are in today's debate about health care.

Someday, all Americans will have access to health care, just as all people in Germany and France and Japan and Sweden and every other advanced industrialized democracy do today. It may take a decade or two after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014 (if it survives the whims of Anthony Kennedy) to fill in the gaps the law leaves behind, or it may take decades beyond that. But it will surely happen eventually. And at some point after it does, we'll come to a consensus as a society that it was a collective moral failure that we allowed things to be otherwise for so long.

--SNIP--

And today, there are upstanding Republicans, including somewhere between three and five of the members of the Supreme Court, who believe it is unconscionable for the government to try to get everyone health insurance. Just as the defenders of child labor would never have dreamed of putting their own little children to work in a factory, all those crying about the tyranny of the individual mandate already have their own insurance, and so will have their "freedom" infringed not a whit by the requirement. What they find so abhorrent, in truth, is the very idea of universal health security. What offends them so is the idea that everyone, even those who have proven their defective character by not being rich, could have full access to health care.

What we have here is a clash of perspectives. One says that getting help when you're sick or injured is a right that should belong to all, like an education. There are countries where there are no public schools, and if you can't afford the tuition you'll remain illiterate and bereft of any opportunity to improve your lot. But here in America as in most places, we don't demand payment at the schoolhouse door, because education is so essential to human flourishing that we believe it should be denied to no one. Everyone may not be able to go to the fanciest prep school, but everyone gets to go to school. The other perspective says that health care is completely a privilege of wealth. If you can afford it you can get it, and if you can't then that's too damn bad. And should the government try to make a basic level of health coverage a universal right then it must be fought with unimaginable fury and resourcefulness.

If you are an Ultrarunner--or just an ordinary human being--I just don't see how universal health care is analogous to Satan's spawn.  It's just what's right.

   

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cats in Art: The Alchemist (Teniers)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. The bride and I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art recently, so the next few Sunday Cats in Art posts will be from that museum. We thoroughly enjoyed looking around the galleries for cats.



Photo by Gary.  This is a detail of painting at Philadelphia Museum of Art The Alchemist, David Teniers the Younger, 1649, oil on panel, transferred to canvas, 23" x 33", held by Philadelphia Museum of Art.
 
See the whole image here.  I could not embed that image from the museum web site due to licensing restrictions. 
 
As I searched the web for an image of the whole painting that I could use, I encountered a phenomenon that I've now seen again and again: namely, multiple works by the same painter, often with the same title, held by different museums. 
 
In this case, Teniers seemed smitten with alchemy, making it the focus of at least 3 separate paintings.
 
Given the fact that alchemy is bogus, Teniers would have been better off sticking to something real as his subject: cats.  He did a great job with the kitty in the image above, capturing perfectly the obvious thought of the cat: "What are you staring at?"
 
 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Alcoholic Monkeys...and Ultrarunning

Not minimizing the effects of human alcohol abuse, etc., just think this clip and story from the BBC is pretty funny.




The inevitable result begins around the 1:45 mark. If YouTube video will not play, go here.

Explanation from the site:
In 2009, the BBC television show Weird Nature went to the West Indies island named St. Kitts to film vervet monkeys snatching cocktails from beach-goers and then proceeding to get drunk. According to the clip, the monkeys were brought from West Africa 300 years ago with the rum-making slaves and they acquired a taste for alcohol from eating the rum's leftover fermented sugar cane. The footage was produced and directed by award-winning media company, John Downer Productions.

The link to Ultrarunning is that some of us like to enjoy an adult beverage after a race.  Not a good idea, at least until your hydration comes back into equilibrium and you can process alcohol normally. 

The worst headache I ever got in my entire life came after a hot and steamy 5 mile road race sponsored by a beer distributor.  I had 2-3 beers immediately after the race instead of water or Gatorade.  Later in the day I worked outside, continued to sweat, and suddenly was down hard with blinding, migraine-like head pain that persisted overnight and well into the next day.

 
 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Weeping Redbud Night Shots



[Image credit Gary, click to enlarge]

I love my Eastern Redbuds, as I have posted frequently.  My front yard contains about 7 of these, either transplanted from the wild locally or descendants of such wild trees.  In our backyard, however, we planted a specimen plant from a nursery, a weeping redbud.

These are a couple shots of the weeping redbud with my pocket Nikon Coolpix using a tripod.  I had it on auto-exposure and the exposure time seemed like 3-4 seconds.

I like how the landscape lighting--the uplight--provides sufficient illumination for the shot.  Also how the other path lights show up as well.  In the far right of 2nd shot the waterfall of our water garden is visible (it has its own spot shining on it).

The bride and I handle most of our landscape design and labor, but for this lighting project we engaged a professional: Gardensmiths of Greencastle, PA.

 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Obama Care and Conservatives

It's been simply too long since I excerpted and linked to a Rude Pundit post.  As I have previously posted (here, here, here and here), I have a literary love affair with The Rude Pundit, a secret vice, actually, where via using profanity and vulgarity and crude sexual imagery he makes political points that are right on the money.

He is extraordinarily profane and sacrilegious, so if you are easily offended, don’t read on, and don't click the link below.

This post, from 3 April, is just plain awesome in describing what happens when the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak:

Conservative Heads Explode When Obama Mocks Their Fear of Unelected Judges
When President Barack Obama was having a joint press conference with the presidents of Canada and Mexico by his side, a reporter asked about the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning the Affordable Care Act. Obama responded, "Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress. And I'd just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint -- that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example."
Essentially, what he was saying was, "The idiot cocksuckers on the right have been huffing on the bone of 'unelected judges' outrage for years now whenever their shit was at stake, like, say, DOMA. Now that someone else's shit is at stake, all of a sudden 'unelected judges' are good shepherds of the Constitution. You're a bunch of hypocritical fucks. Go fuck yourselves." That last part might be a bit of a stretch, but mostly, that was it. It was calling out motherfuckers for fucking their mothers. It wasn't addressed to the court. It was addressed to conservatives.

The only problem with the so-called Obama Care legislation is not that it over-reached; to my way of thinking, it did not go nearly far enough to establish a Medicare-for-all system.

See, the system still operates under a for-profit model.  When the profits of the providers are directly linked to how much they spend on your care, is it any wonder that their concept of operations is to couch their plans in legalese rather than plain English; to deny, deny, deny, and place the burden on you to fight them for coverage; not cover pre-existing conditions; etc. 

Medicare works, on a very low overhead.  It'd work for all of us.

 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hydraulics

One final C+O Canal post (unless I look at my photos again and come up with another idea!).  Below is a view of Dam # 5, looking across to the WV side.  The water was high, but not nearly at flood stage (click photos to enlarge):




Next is a shot I was practically mesmerized by, a 30' tree trunk that was caught in the hydraulic immediately below the dam:



This tree trunk--15' of which was stood up vertically out of the water in this shot--was tumbled incessantly, both end for end and rolled.  It would disappear for 10-15 seconds, then pop back up, still caught in the hydraulic.  There was no escape.  Had this been a crazy kayaker, he/she undoubtedly would have also been trapped and drowned.

I love water, and although I am a decent swimmer, rushing water such as that above scares me.  The weight and the force are irresistible.

 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Will To Live...and Ultrarunning

Here's yet another post about running along the Potomac River--specifically the C&O Canal towpath--from a great run a few weeks back. This one concerns dying before one's time, and the will to live.



Click to enlarge, ESC to return. This is a large limb from a sycamore tree.  You will notice that it still has its leaves.  Since as of this photo (early March) the new 2012 leaves are not yet out, these obviously are 2011 leaves.

My suspicion is that this limb broke off in the Halloween 2011 freak early snowstorm here in the northeast.  Many trees sustained serious damage as a heavy, wet snowfall clung to the leaves and branches, eventually snapping them off with the unaccustomed weight.  Normally, trees have shed their leaves naturally in the fall by the time any snow arrives, thus snow damage is usually avoided.  But not the fall of 2011.

What does this have to do with will to live?  Obviously I am anthropomorphizing here, but I like to think that this branch was not yet ready to die.  It still clings tenaciously to its leaves even though the rest of the leaves on the intact tree fell naturally months ago.

It's a vain hope, but I gotta admire the limb's pluck.

Of course there is a botanical explanation for this leaf-retention phenomenon, having to do with chemicals that normally act to sever leaves from their branches in the autumn, but I like my explanation better.

The link to Ultrarunning is that many of us--though reluctant to admit it--believe that the sport will improve our health and fitness, thereby extending our lives with additional years.

Maybe yes, maybe no.  The longevity issue is twofold: whether there are indeed additional years...but more importantly, whether those years are "quality" years inserted during our prime, or "junk" years just tacked on at the end when we're feeble and old anyway. 

But as above, the notion of additional quality years is a nice theory that I like to believe in. 

   

Monday, April 2, 2012

Runner's High

I forget how and where I got pointed to this article by Alasdair Wilkins, but it's the first time I've ever seen any discussion of exactly WHY the runner's high phenomenon came to exist, in an evolutionary sense.

The runners high is something most athletes experience at one point or another. It's a rush of pleasurable endorphins released by the reward center of the brain. This response is triggered by a part of the brain known as the endocannabinoid system. The runners high allows people to surpass their normal physical limits by suppressing feelings of pain and sometimes causing feelings of happiness and euphoria. This potentially can be dangerous - after all, it allows a person to overexert beyond their actual capabilities - but it's not hard to see the benefits of such short-term super-performance.

Exactly where the runners high comes from is uncertain - one less than charitable theory suggests it's actually the brain's information processing centers becoming overtaxed and going haywire - but the consensus is that it is linked to the survival of our ancient hominid ancestors. The runners high, with its ability to suppress the pain of overexertion, is one of a few key adaptations - that allowed early humans to run for tremendous distances without needing to stop.

The runner's high experience is one I have experienced ever since I began running ultra distances.  The best explanation or description I ever heard was something like "I felt like I could run forever."  For me it's a mild euphoria that comes and goes after an hour or so of running.  It's not something I seek out--like I run just to experience runner's high--rather, I run and I experience runner's high.

Exactly where the runners high comes from is uncertain - one less than charitable theory suggests it's actually the brain's information processing centers becoming overtaxed and going haywire - but the consensus is that it is linked to the survival of our ancient hominid ancestors. The runners high, with its ability to suppress the pain of overexertion, is one of a few key adaptations - that allowed early humans to run for tremendous distances without needing to stop.

This is known as the endurance running hypothesis, and the adaptations needed to make such strenuous activity possible can potentially explain such diverse human traits as large gluteal muscles, hairlessness, short toes, and even our bodies' inability to deal with obesity and sedentary lifestyles without health complications. Such running might well have been our first real evolutionary advantage that allowed us to hunt bigger, more powerful animals. Before the development of stone tools, hominids could have used persistence hunting, in which they would chase their prey for miles until the animal collapsed due to exhaustion.


The article resonated with because it combines two of my passions: Ultrarunning and evolution.  It's a great read!

 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cats in Art: Cat Playing With Two Dogs (Potter)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. The bride and I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art last weekend, so the next few Sunday Cats in Art posts will be from that museum. We thoroughly enjoyed looking around the galleries for cats.


Photo by Gary, of painting at Philadelphia Museum of Art (click to enlarge), Cat Playing With Two Dogs, Paulus Potter, 1652, oil on canvas.
This particular painting--some 360 years old--depicts a rather large feline "playing" with two dogs.  It looks to me as though this kitty could have the dogs for lunch.  They exist at the whim of the cat...which is as it should be.

Actually, the info at the painting suggests that the cat represents the surging Dutch nationalism, while the dogs represent the Spanish, whose power and influence were waning at that time.

I wonder who knocked over the chair?  Must have been the goofy dogs.