Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Rapture

I surf the web too much, it seems.  And I love my pets.  Plus my sense of humor is warped and twisted, and I especially seem drawn to things that poke fun of mainstream whatever.

This site made be blow coffee out my nose:

You've committed your life to Jesus. You know you're saved. But when the Rapture comes what's to become of your loving pets who are left behind? 

Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind.  

We are a group of dedicated animal lovers, and atheists. Each Eternal Earth-Bound Pet representative is a confirmed atheist, and as such will still be here on Earth after you've received your reward. Our network of animal activists are committed to step in when you step up to Jesus.

Note: Business must not have been very brisk.  The page states "This service cancelled due to lack of clients. Thanks for all of your interest & excitement over the past three years."


Monday, July 30, 2012

Lesbians vs. the Religious Right...and Ultrarunning

The passing of astronaut Sally Ride last week, and her posthumous coming out as a gay woman, made me think again at how unimportant one's sexual orientation is.  What truly matters--as Dr. Martin Luther King said--is the content of one's character.

Anyway, I thought back back to an office setting where I once worked.  This was pre-headphones, and PCs were equipped only with a set of small speakers.

As you might imagine, in a cubicle situation you had to be very cognizant of your sound levels so as not to disturb your co-workers.

Anyway, I was listening to a k. d. lang CD on my PC, needing to play it loud enough to drown out the religious radio station sounds coming from the adjacent cubicle.  The irony of it all still brings a smile to my face.  It was a lesbian versus the religious right.....and, thankfully, the lesbian was winning.

However, I am reminded of one of Kurt Vonnegut's novels (maybe "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" ?), in which he offers the opinion that one cannot share an irony--it simply cannot be done.  Vonnegut maintained that attempts to share ironies only meet with quizzical glances and half-raised eyebrows.....

The connection to Ultrarunning?  The very conservative, super-religious owner of the radio was for a time one of my best running buddies, despite our differences in opinion on the matter of gays.  We all have our blind spots, myself included, and it's wrong to define a life by a single act or attitude.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cats in Art: A Proud Mother (Paton)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. In my first post on 1 July on the artist Frank Paton, I was using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi. In researching Paton, I uncovered several other cat works, so the entire month of Sundays in July will be devoted to him.

Image credit Wkipedia, hereA Proud Mother, Frank Paton, size unspecified, oil on canvas, private collection.

Paton seems to loves tabbies and paints them very well.  This well-executed image captures the essence of cat motherhood.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Good and Evil in Exotic Running Locales

The bride and I plus 2 grandkids just returned from CA, where we visited family and were enthusiastic tourists.

When we were in San Francisco, I remembered several great runs from previous business trips there.  Below is a relevant post I did for the UltraList sometime in the late 1990s, plus or minus a couple years.


Since my job requires fairly frequent trips to various locations all over the U.S., I am always looking for that exotic run in a new place.  It’s so great just to explore on foot the roads and trails in a new location and thereby get that unique pedestrian view of things. I’ve been at running nearly two decades now, and as in all things, one’s taste and interests evolve over time.  The last couple of years I have gravitated more towards long-distance trail running as opposed to shorter road races.  I have had some very memorable runs in the Rockies, the mountains of northern Alabama, thru Civil War battlefields.....

But it’s not always sunshine and roses.  Last August I was in the San Francisco Bay area on business and had hoped to run the Skyline 50K, a trail run in the Castro Valley area.  Well, my travel plans changed and I didn't arrive in the Bay area until several days after the race.  Not to be thwarted from running among the redwoods, I used the maps that had been provided with the race application and ran in Redwood Regional Park on my own.  Unfortunately, when I returned to my rental car I discovered it had been broken into and several hundred dollars worth of my stuff taken.  I dropped a post card to Will Uher, last year's Skyline 50K race director, just to let him know of my experience so he could spread the word among his running group that parking at that particular spot could be risky.

Fast forward to this March.  I was again out to the Bay area on business and called up Will, the first time we had actually spoken.  All I was looking for was advice on a safer parking spot, but Will said, "I'll be free that evening, let's run together."  So I got a guided tour over some of the nicer trails, a delightful running partner, a new friend, and another memorable run to treasure.

Moral of the story:  The setting for this anecdote happened to be San Francisco, but that's irrelevant.  The key issue is that there are good and bad people everywhere, and my experience here showed that the forces of good (Will) overcame the forces of evil (the thief). The sport of running is populated with kind, helpful people, so don't be afraid to invoke a running contact, no matter how tenuous.  Somehow, sometime you'll be a situation where you can return the favor.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Now That's a Fastball!...and Ultrarunning

The geek in me loves articles like this one: what if a baseball were pitched at 90% of the speed of light?

Via the Earthbound Misfit, who links to What If? a weekly physics blog.

After about 70 nanoseconds the ball arrives at home plate. The batter hasn't even seen the pitcher let go of the ball, since the light carrying that information arrives at about the same time the ball does. Collisions with the air have eaten the ball away almost completely, and it is now a bullet-shaped cloud of expanding plasma (mainly carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen) ramming into the air and triggering more fusion as it goes. The shell of x-rays hits the batter first, and a handful of nanoseconds later the debris cloud hits.


Everything within roughly a mile of the park is leveled, and a firestorm engulfs the surrounding city. The baseball diamond is now a sizable crater, centered a few hundred feet behind the former location of the backstop.
mushroom cloud

And then the deadpan punch line:

A careful reading of official Major League Baseball Rule 6.08(b) suggests that in this situation, the batter would be considered "hit by pitch", and would be eligible to advance to first base.

And the link to Ultrarunning?  I often run at speeds approaching that of light, but then I back it way down so as not to create any inconvenient incidents like that described above.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Global Warming

Rolling Stone magazine is way ahead of the rest of the so-called mainstream media.  Bill McKibbin's sobering article, Global Warming's Terrifying New Math, tells me that we, our children, our grandchildren, etc., are pretty much doomed:

...here are some hard numbers about climate change: June [2012] broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world's nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn't even attend. It was "a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago," the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls "once thronged by multitudes." Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I've spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we're losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

McKibbin's article focuses on three numbers:

  • The +2 degree Celsius consensus that is far too lenient.
  • 565 Gigatons of carbon dioxide: the amount that we can pour into the atmosphere and still--maybe--keep under the magic +2 degree figure.
  • 2,796 Gigatons of carbon dioxide: what will result from the fossil fuels we already plan to burn.

I cannot do the article justice here--it's a meticulously researched, well-written, lengthy piece.  I am stunned and sobered by how gloomy a picture it paints.  Please just hop over there and take a look for yourself.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Unalienable Rights...and Ultrarunning

Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast on 22 July linked to a great post by blogger physioprof in which he masterfully points out the existence of the important but oft-overlooked 9th amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

physioprof builds a strong case for the concept of unalienable rights being totally misinterpreted to further the conservative agenda:

Conservative legal theorists spend a lot of time talking about how the text of the Constitution should be construed only as it was understood at the time of the Founding and Ratification. Building on this idea, they rail against “judicial activism” and the “creation of new rights” that are not “found in the text” of the Constitution. This provides a theoretical basis for conservative claims that there is no Constitutionally protected right to many things they despise: gay marriage, abortion, health care, housing, food, etc.

The fundamental problem with textual originalism is that it considers individual rights to be things that are created by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Once you accept this, it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that any rights not explicitly enumerated in the text of the Constitution and Bill of Rights do not exist. But this interpretation of the origin of individual rights is total nonsense.

The Founders were children of the Enlightenment, disciples of Locke, who manifestly believed in a natural law origin for individual rights. They considered individual rights arising out of natural law to be prior to, and independent of, any government. Indeed, they considered any government that did not respect and defer to the natural rights of individuals to be illegitimate.

This conception of natural rights is embodied in the most famous line of the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Unalienable rights are those rights that exist independently of any government, and that must be respected by any government, or that government is illegitimate and deserves to be overthrown.

This line also foreshadows the arguments over the drafting and ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, where it prepends “among these” to the enumerated unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. While the existence or non-existence of any particular unalienable natural right does not depend on enumeration, or lack of enumeration, in any founding document, the addition of “among these” was meant to clearly and explicitly emphasize that there may be other unalienable rights besides those mentioned, and the list was not meant to be exhaustive, only illustrative.

Madison argued strenuously in the Convention against the inclusion of any Bill of Rights in the Constitution. His concern was exactly that illustrative enumeration of particular individual rights would be misconstrued as being exhaustive, and thus allow illegitimate incursions by the Federal Government on the unalienable natural rights of the individual. He believed that there was no need to specifically address the existence of natural rights of the individual, precisely because they are prior to any government, and any government that didn’t respect them automatically rendered itself illegitimate. And there was, of course, no Bill of Rights in the Constitution as presented for ratification.

Go ahead and read the whole thing. It's not constitutional law, it's a common-sense essay that's pretty darned easy to follow.

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning? I like to think of myself as a born Ultrarunner who was lucky enough to discover that fact. It's me, it's part of my makeup. And thankfully the conservative powers that be have no problem with that activity.

But, playing devil's advocate...since the Constitution does not specifically mention Ultrarunning, this type of conservative reasoning would say that it'd be OK to not recognize a right to pursue Ultrarunning.

Not to belabor the point too much, but what if I were gay, or believe that a woman's right to bodily autonomy always trumps the rights of a fetus, or that "the people," embodied in the federal government, have a moral obligation to help those in our midst who need help (housing, health care, etc.). Those things are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

Suddenly the lack of specific enumeration of unalienable rights bites us. That's the connection.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Shooting Yourself in the Foot

Image credit from Hecate, here.

Since we are runners--and not just any old runners, we cover vast distances that "normal" people cannot fathom--this image is somewhat relevant.

Now, I'm not talking about literally shooting yourself in the foot.  I'm talking about figuratively doing so.  As in failing to hydrate properly, or not carrying enough calories along on a long run.  Or not dressing properly for the worst weather that you are likely to encounter.  Or getting off course...you get the idea.

Most horror stories of unpleasant backcountry running experiences deal with lack of preparation or planning.  Everyone gets complacent at times, gets casual about checking and double-checking your gear and your plans, and AHA!  You run into a problem that woulda/coulda/shoulda been avoided entirely.

When that happens, you, my friend, have shot yourself in the foot.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Non-Running Vacation

The bride and I just got back from a 10 day trip to California.  We had a couple of the grandchildren along, and every day was a new adventure.

Although I took my running duds, I ran nary a single step.  And what's more, I didn't (and don't) fell guilty about my hiatus.  One of the key lessons I have learned over the years is that one must have guilt-free leisure time; otherwise there's always something you should be doing. 

It's perfectly OK to not run.  One must eat, sleep, etc., but running--however good it is for us--is not strictly a must-do.  Reminds me of an interview I once saw with Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy, who had lost 3 straight Super Bowls, and was soon to play in a 4th.  The reporter asked Levy whether this one was "must-win."  Levy commented something like "World War II was must-win.  This is only a football game."

Running will resume this week, albeit gingerly.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cats in Art: Puss in Boots (Paton)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. In my first post on 1 July on the artist Frank Paton, I was using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi. In researching Paton, I uncovered several other cat works, so the entire month of Sundays in July will be devoted to him.

Image credit The Plate Lady.  This 1880 Frank Paton painting was exhibited by the Royal Academy, and is referenced in numerous places as being one of Paton's premiere works, along with Fairest of them All

Yet here comes the big mystery--the sole image I could locate was from a collectible plate seller.  This painting must exist somewhere, in somebody's collection, yet an image seems impossible to secure.  My work remains cut out for me.

Again, Paton's painting of a cute cat is a warm, compelling image.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

More Immortality

Ran across this reference to Merv Griffin (1925-2007), whose birthday was earlier this month.  He was an entertainer, talk show host, game show producer (Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune), and overall media mogul.

He was buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery and his headstone epitaph (even though in his book "Merv", written with David Bender in 2003, states it would be "Stay Tuned") reads "I will not be right back after this message."

The second theme is a bit darker and less hopeful than the first...but is the more realistic.  What comes after really is the big question, isn't it?  But since we just don't know, the only sensible approach is to simply live each day to its fullest--to include a hearty dose of trail running--and thereby brighten our trek towards immortality. 


Friday, July 20, 2012

Potomac Appalachian Trail Club

I’m a member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, which maintains the Appalachian Trail and other trails in Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and southern Pennsylvania.  The July issue of their monthly newsletter—although they are focused on hiking rather than trail running--contained a couple of gems that are relevant to the Ultrarunning world:

First, an excerpt from a list called the “Ten Essentials” dealing with adequate preparation for backcountry exploration, that deals with the important question of how to dress:

Extra clothing should be selected according to the season.  Ask the question: What is needed to survive the worst conditions that could be realistically encountered on this trip? 

You can’t cover every single contingency, otherwise you’d be burdened with an expedition’s worth of gear and clothing. Be realistic and dress/carry accordingly. If you're way out in the backcountry, better safe than sorry; if nearer to shelter/car/home, obviously your clothing choices are of less significance.

Second, just a brief note from the minutes of the last meeting of the governing council:

Tom Johnson reported on the May 5 event for blind hikers.  45 blind hikers and 12 sighted hikers participated in what turned out to be a 2.2 mile hike.  PATC naturalist Bob Pickett provided descriptions of the surroundings.  The group smelled honeysuckle, felt a box turtle and enjoyed feeling tree bark.

Now, stop complaining.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Running an Ultra This Fall?

Back in Jan 2010 when I was 2 months away from toeing the line at the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Race, I posted about the need to commit and embrace the challenge.

Well, it's late July and if you are running an ultra this fall--be it 50K, 50 miles, 100K, or 100 miles--right now is pretty much do or die time.  Either you are in or you are out, and the watershed moment facing you is that of commitment.

Here's what I wrote back then, and the words are pretty relevant today for a fall event:

The race is in 2 months. That sounds like a decent interval from now, but then when I think of it instead as being 8 weeks away, suddenly I feel a great sense of urgency. At any rate, I am now formally committed. Before--when I was on the wait list--I kept up my training but it had an air of unreality, that I was just going through the motions, that in the end I may have invested a lot of training effort, only to be told, sorry, maybe next year. But now I'm Committed with a capital C.

As usual, whenever I think about inspiration I turn to other people who have already said something better, stronger, more succinctly, etc., and a quote attributed to Goethe comes to mind, one that I once had posted on my desk:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

In the immortal words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise:

  Make it so.



Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On the Eve of Battle

Came across this haunting excerpt of a letter.

Can you guess the war?  The battle?  The author? 

Never mind if you cannot...the sentiments in the letter are timelessly sad and poignant, and could pretty much apply to any conflict since "civilized" societies began fighting.

“It is the night before a battle.  The enemy, [city name], and its mighty entrenchments lie before us, the river between—at tomorrow’s dawn our troops will assay to cross, and the guns of the enemy will sweep those frail bridges at every breath….I thought I could almost hear the slow flap of the grim messenger’s wings, as one by one he sought and selected his victims for the morning.  Sleep weary one, sleep and rest for tomorrow toil.”

--Clara Barton, 12 Dec 1862, writing to her cousin Vira, the night before the American Civil War battle of Fredericksburg (VA).  She pioneered the notion of volunteer medical field work at Civil war battles, the forerunner of today’s Red Cross.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tales from the Perimeter: An Order of Magnitude

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

Just exchanged some email with my retired running buddy, Steve.  I see him a couple times a year when all of us get together for a memorial run to the good old days.

I guess I blew him away once when I was talking about some Ultra training run or another.  The distances we run, once incredible to imagine, have become routine.  It's all a matter of training.

Here's what he just wrote:

And Gary,,,,,,the best Gary story I tell to my other workout bud's.....when we would say goin out for a long run this weekend, 7-10 mile....you said "gonna go out for 6.....hours, that is"......you are incredible......


Monday, July 16, 2012

Do Dogs Feel Guilty?

From Scientific American, an empirical study of this perennial question.  About 3/4 of dog owners believe that their pet can feel guilty and can act guilty.

Go read the whole article--because they describe some experiments used to test this guilty dog hypothesis--and it may not be as clear cut as it seems:

Given that so many dog owners report that they believe that dogs who have broken a rule act guilty even before the dog’s transgression is discovered, and given that owners report that they are likely to scold their dogs less following the display of guilty behaviors, it stands to reason that dogs’ “guilty look” may just be a learned response. If scolded, a guilty look might simply serve to reduce the duration of the negative social interaction.
The problem is that the display of the associated behaviors of guilt are not, themselves, evidence of the capacity to emotionally experience guilt. Do guilty behaviors follow from transgressions? If so, that would provide evidence that dogs may be aware of the violation. Or do guilty behaviors instead follow from scolding? This is a reasonable speculation, given that owners tend to scold their dogs less if their dogs “act guilty.” If this was the case, guilty behaviors could simply be the result of a learned association between a stimulus (such as crap on the carpet) and impending punishment – not so different from Clever Hans, the famous horse who relied on subtle behavioral clues from his owner in order to “succeed” at mental arithmetic problems. This is an empirical question that can be answered with a clever enough experiment. 

The researchers do provide a soft conclusion:

Taken together, these results both support the common anecdote, that dogs act guilty prior to their owners’ awareness of the violation, as well as the earlier scientific findings that, regardless of transgression, dogs act guilty in response to being scolded by their owners.

But with a big caveat...

Future research, according to the researchers, ought to investigate these questions in a familiar environment rather than in a laboratory, and should examine a social rule that has already been established between an owner and a dog. It may still be some time before we can know for certain whether dogs can experience guilt, or whether people can determine if a dog has violated a rule prior to finding concrete evidence of it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cats in Art: A Hidden Feast (Paton)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. In my first post on 1 July on the artist Frank Paton, I was using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi. In researching Paton I uncovered several other cat works, so the entire month of Sundays in July will be devoted to him.

Image credit artnet galleries, here [click to enlarge].   A Hidden Feast, Frank Paton, 1881, oil on canvas, 38" x 34", private collection.

I guess the title comes from the fact that the dogs are swiping food from a vendor`s cart while he is chatting with another man.  Cats, of course, NEVER steal food.  Never.

Besides the cat in the foreground, who hopes to cash in on the dogs' bad behavior, we see two other cats in the background with the men.  These must be the good kitties.

As for the art, Paton again demonstrates his great skill at depicting animals accurately and with warm realism.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Candle Label FAIL

I was just at the vet's office, and they had a candle burning on the counter.  I looked closer to see what scent it was, and was astonished to note that the scent was "Pet Odor."

Not really...the actual scent is "Clothesline Fresh"...but that font is way smaller than the "Pet Odor" font, which are the first words you can make out from a distance.

  Image credit here, where you can buy this wonderful fragrance...if you wish.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Yet Another Golf Ball...and Ultrarunning

[photo by Gary]

Regular readers have no doubt been impressed by my superb coverage of the subject of finding golf balls along my running routes.  See here, here, here and here for previous in-depth reporting.

Not near any golf courses, or houses, mind you; rather, these spheres are found basically in the middle of nowhere (i.e., along lightly traveled rural roads.

Well, here's yet another installment.  The golf ball pictured here came from a corn field along Hades Church Road (I love that name!).  No houses near, certainly no golf courses or driving ranges within 10 miles.  Just laying there on the edge of a muddy field.

The ball appears to have originally come from a golf establishment such as a driving range.  The name imprinted on the ball is unfortunate in that it immediately conjures up scatological images.  In the interests of science I actually did test the golf ball to see if it floated (no, I used a coffee cup, NOT the toilet!).

It did in fact float, but just barely, as its mass was just a smidge less than the specific gravity of water.  I would have to think that this floating ball would have very different driving characteristics than "normal" golf balls, which sink in water.

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning?  We back country runners do admittedly have gear and technologies apropos to our sport, but I gotta believe that it's a LOT more simple that golf technology.  Plus more fun!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

More Drone Stuff and Targeted Killings

Compliments to The Rude Pundit (on 30 May) , whose profane prose is always right on the money:

Right now, Obama has placed himself and his judgment as the ultimate arbiter of who can and will have the fuck target-bombed out of them, with collateral damage being hidden or written off as guilt-by-association and thus counted as more terrorists killed. The whole program is based on a belief that Obama is doing good, with a list that has included and more than likely still includes American citizens, who, the White House has declared, got their "due process" when people talked about whether or not to kill them.
Forget for a moment the idea that we're just outright murdering people in foreign countries. Forget for a moment that if, say, China decided to send a drone to take out Chen Guangcheng in New York City, we'd be hypocritical pricks for having a problem with that (not that it would stop us). Forget that. The reason to be angry, very angry about the drone program is right there. A unilateral, unchecked power over the life and death of individual, everyday people now rests with the President. And we're supposed to be fine with it because it's Obama, and, boy, trust him because he's so fucking smart. But even if you do, would you trust President Romney to rain robot doom in a rational way? Or President Christie? Or President Jeb Bush? Or some unknown who isn't as smart and good and wise and Nobel Peace Prize-winning as the current kill list decider?

How can a Constitutional scholar think it's OK to take short-cuts on due process in life-or-death matters, just because it's the War on Terror or whatever we call it now?


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cow # 529 (Esta)

Stock image of Holstein (not Esta), credit to Copyright-Free Images

The other day as I ran near Clay Hill (PA) near my home, I passed a pasture in which a bunch of young Holstein females were grazing.

Suddenly one of them took off running, and I caught a flash of white tail in the tall grass in front of the cow, with the cow in hot pursuit.  My immediate thought was "fox!" but as I kept watching it was actually a large yellow and white cat.

Evidently the cow took exception to the kitty being in the pasture and ran it right out of there.

I stood at the fence and applauded.  Curious, all the cows looked at me and immediately wandered over, standing a respectfully cautious 5 feet back from the fence.  The cat-chaser herself came over, and could see from the tag in her right ear that her number was 529, and in addition she wore a second tag in her left ear that bore the name "Esta."

Well, much as I love cats, my hat's off to Esta for being, well, a cow that heeded a different drummer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Where I Run: Barn Decor

[photo by Gary]

This found along PA 16 just east of Greencastle, PA.  I've only ever run past here once, as it is at the limit of my range from the house, but have always been smitten with this artistic spin on simple barn ventilation.

The property is threatened by development and may not survive much longer.  Hopefully the barn will be preserved as a wonderful example of form not always following function.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Shirt off My Back...and Ultrarunning

For some odd reason, today I thought of some running gear that I gave away a couple years ago at the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run. I ran this race in 2010, and had the race of my life, clocking a 22:35, placing 56 of 133 finishers (yay, me!).

So I have some very fond memories of this race.  The format is eight 12.5 loops, so you pass the start/finish line every loop.  For me, this was not as psychologically difficult as one might think it would be.  Actually, I think the multi-loop format was easier on me mentally--I got to know the course, got more and more familiar with it each pass, knowing what to expect, etc.

As I was getting ready in my cabin before the race, one of my cabin mates swore and said he'd forgotten to pack gloves.  Now it was in the upper 30s as I recall, definitely glove weather.  I always overpack, so I tossed him a spare pair and told him he could get them back to me after the race when we were packing up.  As it turned out, I forget whether he or I finished first, but for whatever reason our paths did not cross afterwards, so my gloves went home with him.

After I finished and was collecting my drop bags, I saw a young guy--mid 20s--who still had another loop to go.  He was inside the large race HQ building, trying to gather his will and his gear to run the last 12.5 miles.  He was cold and was looking for his tights.  I don't recall if he didn't pack them intentionally, or forgot them.  Regardless, he needed a pair, and I had a spare unused pair in my bag. 

So I handed them over to him and told him good luck.  He asked how he'd get them back to me; given the situation, I knew it'd be tough to delay him further right then to exchange contact info, so I just told him it was no big deal, just keep the tights.

So a couple of my running things wound up elsewhere.  I hope they served well and continue to be part of a runner's gear, wherever they are.  The point of the story is not that I was a nice guy (although that's true!).  Rather, it's the spirit of camraderie that pervades this sport.  I have no doubt that if I were short some item, somebody there would have fixed me up.  It's just the nature of Ultrarunners.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cats in Art: The Folly of Innocence (Paton)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art.  In my first post on 1 July on the artist Frank Paton, I was using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  In researching Paton I uncovered several other cat works, so the entire month of Sundays in July will be devoted to him.

Image credit artnet galleries, here [click to enlarge].   The Folly of Innocence, Frank Paton, 1881, oil on canvas, 17" x 14", private collection.

The poor kitty above is about to traffic with some bees, with a likely unfortunate outcome.  We once had a cat we called Charlotte (because I maintain that humans never really know what a cat's name is, only what we decide to call them) who liked to bat at bumblebees as they visited low flowers.

Once day poor Charlotte came limping home with a paw swollen to twice its normal size.  Not knowing what was wrong, we made the the trip to the vet.  After ruling out broken bones or wounds, the vet diagnosed bee sting, and the swelling went away in a couple of days.

We never again saw Charlotte batting at bumblebees.

As for the painting, Paton again demonstrates his mastery of the sweet feline face.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chuck Norris Has Been Playing With Trains Again

Photo by Gary

Photo by Gary

Photo by Mister Tristan (the 4-year old human being, not the blog)

Shots taken just north of Greencastle, PA.  I didn't know Chuck was in the area, or that he was pissed.  Of course, ill-tempered is probably his normal state of mind.

The link to Ultrarunning is that many of my preferred routes, either locally or when I travel, involve either real trains or rails-to-trails routes.  One of Norfolk Southern's main lines thru southern PA into Maryland/points south lays 1/2 mile from my home (it's the line shown here).  I have to cross it to get anywhere to the west.

Growing up as I did in western PA, railroads were an integral part of my childhood.  I remain fascinated with them, retaining the wonder I felt as a boy.  And anytime I can integrate a run with a railroad, I'm happy.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Things Gardening...and Ultrarunning

Photo by Gary

Some of the fruits of my garden labors this year: 10 gallons--some 55-60 lbs--of new red potatoes (unfortunately, I forget the exact variety).  These came from approximately 28' linear feet of planted row.

I posted last summer about "Raising Potatoes," which is the local phrase used for harvesting one's potato crop.  Well, these were raised on the 4th of July.  I got them planted quite early, in our abnormally warm March of 2012.

The bride and I grilled some rib eye steaks and a few of these potatoes, cut into chunks and tossed with some olive oil and tarragon wine vinegar to coat them for the grill.  Oh, and some of our sugar snap peas and fresh tomatoes, also from the garden.  Quite the feast!

The nexus to Ultrarunning?  Healthy eating, of course!  I know that over the years I have tended to think that my fitness from running conveys some sort of immunity from the normal laws of cause and effect that rule the rest of the world.  That despite family history, running gave me a bye on eating and drinking whatever I choose.

Well, nobody gets out of here alive.  My remaining years are far fewer than the years I've already put in, so whatever I can do to ensure the quality and duration of my life is, well, pretty darn important.

So eat and drink wisely, my friends.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Crosby, Stills, and Nash...Live

[Note: this post was to have run on the 4th, but I messed up my scheduling]
Photo by Gary

Monday night in Baltimore was quite memorable--the bride and I went to a Crosby, Stills and Nash concert on Pier 6.  CSN was one of the bands of our college years and stuck with us.

When we were young and poor, my wedding present to the bride was the hand carved board shown above.  It still hangs proudly in our home, 38 years later.

The band did all their old standbys and a few new tunes as well.  My personal favorite tunes performed that night were Carry On and—of course--Our House.

The guys' voices were still strong and moreover, they just looked like they were having fun.  And the harmonies were still as sweet as ever.

Steven Stills did some serious guitar jamming, especially on the finale in the curtain call, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.  Graham Nash (and this was surprising to me, having never seen them perform live before) was the obvious band and stage leader and was so versatile in playing multiple instruments.  David Crosby just kinda stood there and sang…beautifully.

The crowd was mellow and loving life.  All except the two younger ladies nearby who got into a beer tossing scuffle. Really? At a CSN concert?

Speaking of the crowd—they were largely baby boomers: 60-ish might be a good average guesstimate.  I mentioned to the bride that wouldn't it be awesome if the guys buried the hatchet and Neil Young would happen to "drop in", as former band mates sometimes do? 

She said that if he did probably half the men in the audience would have coronaries.  From the shock, you see.

Anyway, leaving you with this. Try here if the embed fails.  Enjoy.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Lightning Bugs...or Fireflies

Take your pick on the name here in PA, but this post from a couple summers ago is still timely.  The lightning bugs are in full force here as we swing into July.  Mister Tristan (the 4.5 year old human being, not the blog) still loves these critters!

"Flashing Lights!"

Photo credit here.

Mister Tristan (the human being, not the blog) loves lightning bugs, or fireflies.

At age two and a half, he amazes me at what he knows, thinks about, and is able to articulate. Back in June when the lightning bugs started here in south-central PA, he looked out his window from where he was laying in his crib and said, “Flashing lights!”

So we went outside, where he tooled around the yard, catching and releasing them. He was very gentle, almost reverent, with the critters. And that became our daily evening event.

Now with August upon us and a hot dry summer in progress, the lightning bugs are about gone, save for a couple strays. I can’t wait until next June when his childlike sense of wonder will again be displayed.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Daylight Calculation Tool for Ultrarunning

Last Wednesday I posted about gmaps pedometer, a distance calculation tool that I use probably weekly.

Here's another tool from the US Naval Observatory for when you travel that will tell you local sunrise and sunset information.  This tool may well save your bacon from getting stuck in the woods after dark.

It also has moon information as well for us astronomical types.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cats in Art: Fairest of Them All (Paton)

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.

I've discovered several other cat paintings by Paton, so the month of Sundays in July will be devoted entirely to him.

Image credit artnet galleries, here [click to enlarge].  Who's the Fairest of Them All?, Frank Paton, 1883, oil on canvas, 24" x 20", private collection. And, as it so happens, the original is actually for sale as you read this, here.

Zuffi's analysis:
This charming painting by Paton bears witness to the proliferation of images of cats--some clumsy and verging on caricature--during the second half of the 19th century.
Not that I want to rain on this painting's parade--because I happen to love it--but I must quibble with the physics, or more properly, with the optics depicted here.  It's a simple convention often used in films and TV, and here in this painting: the subject is shown looking at a mirror such that we see the reflected image.
But think about it: what the subject would actually be seeing is not their reflection but rather the reflection of the detached observer.  In this kitty's case, it would be Frank Paton as he paints.  In film or TV, it would be the camera.  In other words, if the camera "sees" the subject, then the subject sees the camera.  It's a two-way street, simple optics.  Angle of incidence equals angle of reflection and all that stuff.