Monday, December 31, 2012

America's Gun Fetish...85 Bullets, and Ultrarunning

[image credit here]

Via the always interesting Echidne, we see a statistic that absolutely boggles the mind:

According to Germany's Der Spiegel, German police shot only 85 bullets in all of 2011, a stark reminder that not every country is as gun-crazy as the U.S. of A.  As Boing Boing translates, most of those shots weren't even aimed at anyone: "49 warning shots, 36 shots on suspects. 15 persons were injured, 6 were killed."

Meanwhile, in the U.S., where the population is little less than four times the size of Germany's, well, we can get to 85 in just one sitting, thank you very much. 84 shots fired at one murder suspect in Harlem, another 90 shot at one fleeing unarmed man in Los Angeles. And that was just April. So we bring you Germany's shot total in case you forgot about America shoots itself in the foot with its manic love of guns.

And, yes, I did some surfing and the data was reported by numerous major news outlets (May 2012), so this factoid of 85 bullets is indeed accurate.

The link to Ultrarunning?  The backcountry is a peaceful place, where I feel safe and serene.  Unlike, well, civilization.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cats in Art: Portrait of Pierre Loti (Rousseau)

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

Image credit Wikipaintings, Portrait of Pierre Loti, Henri Rousseau, 1891, oil on canvas, 24" x 20", held by Kunsthaus, Zurich, Switzerland.
Zuffi's words?
With his unmistakably clear, simple line, which made him a pioneer among the naive or primitive artists, Rousseau brings his personage close to the viewer, combining exotic elements such as the fez and the turned-up moustache with an ordinary, middle class appearance.  The tabby cat, captured in an attitude of noble detachment, is almost a "quotation" of the affectionate words that the writer dedicated to his inseparable but also inscrutable feline friend.

My take?  The kitty is waiting for some milk, and wondering why it's taking so long.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Confused Bluebird

Here at Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 4 year old human being) it's been dark for a couple of days as the bride and I have been enjoying some family time.

Below is a shot the bride took this morning, as one of a trio of bluebirds scoped out the frozen birdbath, with what I can only assume was bird-like dismay.  These guys should have bugged out to the south weeks ago...why they still are here is anyone's guess.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Out of This World Christmas Gift

Gentlemen of the world, take note for Christmas 2013, of a gift that was just quite well received by the bride:

A set of earrings and a pendant made from pieces of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite that crashed into Siberia in 1947:

[photos by Gary]

If interested, Google it.  Several craftspeople sell these, and I have no financial interest. 

I guarantee the jewelry will be a hit, plus you get to get your inner geek off.  Win-win.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Story

Regardless of your religious persuasion, this is a beautiful story.  It brings back happy memories from my childhood.

Courtesy of some guy name Luke, from some centuries ago....

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cats in Art: Nativity (Gauguin)

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.  Last week I also did a Gauguin entitled Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? 

Image credit Wikipaintings. Navitity, Paul Gauguin, 1896, oil on canvas, 37" x 50", held by Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.
Zuffi calls this one of Gauguin's great masterpieces,
"...perhaps the high point of his very personal form of mysticism, which fused Christian traditions with the exotic settings of the Pacific islands.  The scene takes place in a Polynesian hut, where a young woman has just given birth to her child: the faint haloes around the heads of the very young mother and the newborn call to mind the iconography of the Virgin Mary and Jesus.  The simplicity of the Tahitian house is comparable to that of the hut in Bethlehem, and the stable in the background is a further homage to the history of sacred painting.  On the bed we can see the outline of a white cat, which makes its presence felt by gently brushing its soft fur against the smooth, dark skin of the girl's legs."

Leave it to Gauguin--the only way to improve the nativity story would be to add a cat and move the setting to a tropical paradise. 

As he merges the theme of the kitty with the birth of Christ, we have a perfect post for this Christmas season.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Beach Bubbles

Via Boing Boing (and if you have even the slightest geek tendencies and you don't read it regularly, you're missing out), I can see what I'll be doing at the beach next summer.

This is a great post called How to Make Giant Bubbles, complete with a brief video (embedded below), plus a set of clear, step-by-step instructions on how to make the super-sized wand.  As we all know by now from Harry Potter, the wand is the key (in this case, to giant bubbles).

See, right about now is when we pay the up-front half of the rental for our 2013 beach house at North Carolina's Outer BanksSo things like this are quite germane, even in mid-winter. 

I'm pretty confident that Mister Tristan (the then-5 year old human being, not the blog) will be enthralled.  As will I....


Friday, December 21, 2012

The Wizard's Concubine...and Ultrarunning

A timely post, given the holiday film references.

From a Sadly, No, post which was about how some Master of the Universe financial type would have been rooting for Mr. Potter rather than George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life.  One comment:

Contrary to what liberals think, Mr. Potter is the real hero, and George Bailey the true villain, of “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

As for me, I can't help but imagine that both guys on the 2012 Republican ticket shared that sentiment, secretly thinking that Bailey was a wuss and Potter was the real man, or that Robin Hood was stealing from the wrong folks.

But back to the original Sadly, No, post, where there was another sentence that I was particularly smitten with:

It would be the equivalent, say, of someone hoping that Scrooge would tell the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future to sod off or that Spielberg would leave E.T. to die alone in a ditch in Southern California or that Dorothy would be stranded in Oz for the rest of her life as the Wizard's concubine.

You just gotta love the last image.  I blew coffee out my nose.  Bummer, Dorothy, sorry about that whole Kansas thingy.

As for the nexus to Ultrarunning?  Ultrarunners seem "normal" to me, in the sense that our physical endeavors somehow are linked to a certain type of life view.  We are grounded, rooted, realistic and tend to be somewhat more liberal in our thoughts and deeds (as compared to the rest of America).  Meaning that mostly we get it.

Now, it's arguably a toss-up as to whether our world view has some sort of causation from the physical activities in which we engage....or it's simply a case that we folk who have these types of liberal-leaning traits then tend to gravitate into a sport that epitomizes self-reliance and individuality.

Regardless, today--as is every day--is a great day for trail running.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tales From the Perimeter: My Running Buddies

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.

As I look over that things I've posted over the years, I see where this is my 24th installment of Tales From the Perimeter.  If you scroll down to the SEARCH box at the lower right and hit perimeter you will be able to access that treasure-trove of literary brilliance.

The reason for today's post is that I made the trek from Chambersburg north to Mechanicsburg to run with my running buddies on Wednesday.   God, I don't miss that commute!

As always, the weeks and the distance fell away and I was left with the feeling of secure camaraderie.  I could go a year without seeing these guys but I know, I know, that if I picked up the phone and said "I need a favor" the answer would be "YES" even before I said what the favor was.

As I previously posted, here:

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

As usual, we laughed, over anything and everything, from Survivor and Amazing Race, to football (a sport), baseball (another sport), NASCAR (not a sport), and golf (also not a sport).  We talked about children and grandchildren, model trains, home improvement projects, trail maintenance, God, Sandy Hook, guns and gun violence, and, yes, about sex as well.
I came away recharged and refreshed and ready to return to the world.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Wider Implications of Sandy Hook Elementary School

I blogged on Monday with some thoughts about the dead children in Connecticut.  Children.  I remain stunned and saddened, along with the nation.

Since then I ran across a couple other viewpoints that are definitely worth sharing.  This is a long post, and please forgive me for asking you to read it all.

From The Rude Pundit (on 17 Dec), who talks about cultural influences, including violent video games and movies:

And as far as cultural influences, I would say that a nation that sanctions capital punishment, use of extreme force by the police in many situations that don't call for it, and the murder of people overseas by drones is a nation that has stated, in a quite official way, that violence is the answer to one's problems. I would say that as far as unintended effects go, those things have done more damage to the American psyche than all the versions of Grand Theft Auto we could play.
The first descriptions of Lanza have talked about his mental illness, but they have also talked about the video games that he played. You could lock yourself in a room and get into Resident Evil 6 until your hands were bloody from pushing buttons. Let's say it warps your brain in some way that it wasn't warped before. It's not likely, but let's say it made you bloodthirsty for real, not zombie or creature, blood. If you don't have access to guns and large magazines, you are not going to do what Lanza did. It's that simple. No, really, it's that simple. Bottom line. Ask any cop, any member of the military, any responsible gun owner. Secure the weapons. Always secure the weapons.

Next up: A Boing Boing post (15 Dec) featuring Roger Ebert's thoughts in 2003 on the Columbine shootings:

Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. "Wouldn't you say," she asked, "that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?" No, I said, I wouldn't say that. "But what about 'Basketball Diaries'?" she asked. "Doesn't that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?" The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it's unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.

The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. "Events like this," I said, "if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn't have messed with me. I'll go out in a blaze of glory."

In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of "explaining" them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.
And about the timing of trying to fix this problem for the future, for the children, we have Skippy (14 Dec):

the right will tell you that now is not the time to discuss gun regulations.
if 4 or 5 nuclear reactors melted down in the period of 3 months, killing dozens of people, would they say "now is not the time to discuss nuclear regulation"?
if a brand of automobiles began exploding for no reason, killing several families in a space of a few weeks, would they say "now is not the time to examine this brand of automobile"?
if 20 children died from tainted peanut butter, would they say "now is not the time to regulate peanut butter"?
now is the time.
And a personal fav of mine, Mike The Mad Biologist, whose cutting wit slices and dices before you know what hit you:

Someday, I will live in a country where birth control pills can be bought freely over the counter, and you will have to speak to a medical professional to buy ammunition for high-powered rifles. Imagine if you did need a prescription to buy ammo. You might have to answer a couple of questions about why you want 6,000 rounds. Perhaps the doctor might decide it’s in your best interest to discuss all options. If a doctor became a ‘bullet mill’, we could shut him down.  
Admittedly, you might run into a medical professional who refuses to let you buy bullets and demands a religious exemption. Could be a problem, but you can always just find another ammunition provider.
Make love, not homicide, baby.

Now on to Garry Wills (15 Dec) at the New York Review of Books, on our gun-worshiping culture:

Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains—“besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).
The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?
Last, to emphasize my long-held contention that our actions in the Middle East will have adverse international and generational influences, there's Whiskey Fire on the day of the killings (14 Dec), tying what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School to what we did in Iraq:

If you're a normal person or close to it, hearing about what happened in Connecticut is horrifying, even if you're nowhere near Connecticut and you don't know anyone involved personally. And if something like this does happen near you, even if you don't know anyone involved, that sense of horror is amplified. And the trauma of course is amplified catastrophically if you do know anyone affected, or involved. It's awfulness that never really goes away.

Whole generations of Iraqis are going to be incredibly messed up. I'd be surprised if there are any Iraqis unaffected by violent trauma. And the US went to war so... blithely, would be the best possible adverb to use right there.

I'm sure all of us will continue to be hugging our kids a lot more in the days to come, but we need to follow our hearts in the direction of informed action.  You know: For. The. Children.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More Beer, Litter...and Ultrarunning

I posted a few weeks back about "Beer in the Morning."  This post continues that theme.

Today's run beer can count, along a mere 6 mile run, was as follows:

3  Natural Light
2  Keystone Light
2  Busch Light
1  Budweiser Ice
1  Budweiser (regular)

The Keystone is from the Coors product line, but the rest are in the Anheuser-Busch family of beers.

I should not be surprised, I suppose.  Anyone who would deliberately choose one of these beers (all of which taste like a word that rhymes with "miss") clearly possesses the warped kind of mentality that thinks it's OK to litter. 

The obvious connection to Ultrarunning is that although I blog about it here in a public space, when we pick up litter, whether along roads or on a backcountry trail, it's really an unremarkable event.  It's just the right thing to do to.

Monday, December 17, 2012

School Shooting Thoughts

I have many thoughts, as we all do, and I know I'm mine are not unique enough to warrant sharing.

But I did run across a very cogent post at Lawyers, Guns, and Money that I will share.  It addressed the predictable conservative call for arming the nation's teachers as a measure to protect kids.  This crazy idea fills me with revulsion and fear, and I think I'm giving it too much credit to only use go so far as to describe it using the word "crazy"...just so you know what side of the issue I'm on as you read this.

One of the especially sane comments to the basic post (from a teacher called Sly--you'll have to scroll down a ways) dealt with the absurdity of the whole arming notion, from a political theory standpoint:

So I’m a teacher. According to conservative orthodoxy, I’m a parasite on the public’s dime who is only interested in indoctrinating the precious children of America into communism or atheism or whatever. I can’t be trusted to have any control over the curriculum I teach. I can’t be trusted to fairly and impartially evaluate my students, let alone my colleagues. I can’t be trusted to have collective bargaining rights. I can’t be trusted to have an objective view of governmental policy when it comes to my own profession.

But they’ll trust me to keep a gun in a room filled with children.

Even the cynicism-producing neurons of my prefrontal cortex can’t wrap themselves around this kind of stupid bullshit.

I love irony and calling out of hypocrisy; thus I cannot improve on this gem of a thought.

Oh, and in the interests of full disclosure, my spouse is a public school teacher.  She--as well as the overwhelming majority of her colleagues--agrees with the sentiments of the commenter, Sly, above--and cannot imagine how arming the nation's teachers is anything but a vigilante fantasy.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cats in Art: Where Do We Come From? (Gauguin)

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.

First the global view:

Image credit WikipaintingsWhere Do We Come From? What Are We?  Where Are We Going?  Paul Gauguin, 1897, oil on canvas, 4.5' x 12.3' (that's HUGE!), held by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

Then the detail from the center foreground, with the kitties, of course:

Zuffi sets the historic stage:

This monumental painting is considered the painter's true spiritual testament.  Unbound, unconventional, and a lover of travel and adventure, Gauguin was approaching the end of his life--in the remote islands of the Pacific, far from the modern world that he disliked....In this consummate masterpiece--the deep and very sincere reflection of a man who never sought out abstruse philosophies, to the point that he described himself as a "dabbler"--it is a great comfort to find the familiar outline of a cat, our slightly mysterious but not unfaithful companion on life's journey.

Who better to journey with than a pair of cats?  Who care nothing for the big questions of life (Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?) but rather just want to be petted and to purr.

Indeed, if one our life goals is to make each of our cats purr daily, and if our leaders all did the same, I can't help but think that our global problems would certainly be fewer. 

For example, if President Obama was being pressed by the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, to offer moral and military support for Israel's military actions in Gaza, now that's a tough question, full of life-and-death implications and possible unintended consequences.

Suppose the President, said, "You know, Ben, let me get back to you on that.  I have a kitty to pet first."

I can't help but think better decisions are more likely to result.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where I Run: Mason-Dixon Line Marker (Mile105)

I posted about a month ago on the Mile 100 Mason-Dixon Line marker that I had just visited and photographed.  Here's another one, Mile 105.

[photo by Gary]

This is a "crown stone" placed every 5 miles, meaning that bears the crests of the Calverts and the Penns in lieu of the usual "M" and "P", respectively.  The north-facing crest visible here is that of the Penn family of Pennsylvania.  For scale, the stone is about knee-high.

Immediately behind the stone (this view is facing south) the pasture in inhabited by...llamas, unknown in these parts in the 1760s:

This is a great site for on-the-ground stone location information. I've found it very useful and specific.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Another Stupid Fire

I have previously blogged twice about local stupid fire stories, which surely will garner a Pulitzer Prize for the Chambersburg Public Opinion, my local newspaper.

In case you failed to bookmark those great posts, those stories were "Flaming Boxer Shorts Used to Start Fire" and "Blowing Up a Car With Flaming Tampons."

Anyway, from the 9 Dec edition of the Public Opinion, a third landmark story: "Drunk, Bored, Tired Man Admits to Car Arson":

A Waynesboro man who admitted to setting a woman's car on fire when he was "drunk, bored and tired" is set for a preliminary hearing in Franklin County Court Tuesday.
 Vito Anthony Marchese, 57, reportedly told police he was jealous of a man he thinks "may have a thing going" with the woman who owns the car. He communicated with police by writing notes because he is deaf and mute.
Waynesboro Police Sgt. Michael W. Bock, a certified fire and explosive investigator, was asked to investigate the vehicle fire on 23 N. Church St., Waynesboro Aug. 22.
The vehicle - a 2006 Dodge Stratus - had a rag hanging out of the fuel fill on the driver's side of the vehicle. Firefighters put out the fire with a small amount of water to preserve any evidence, Bock said.
Upon investigation, Bock suspected that someone intentionally started the fire.

Emphasis was mine in the final para above. Do ya think? Or did a flaming rag just kinda innocently make its way into the gas fill pipe?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Sadly Feel-Good Story...and Ultrarunning

[Image credit here.  School children posing on the Fieldbrook Stump, a huge coast redwood outside McKinleyville, Calif., sometime in the 1890s.]

This guy is doing some forward-thinking:

A Michigan nurseryman and his team of tree climbers and horticulturists have cloned the world's biggest redwoods and giant sequoias, bringing some of them back from stumps cut more than 100 years ago.
With the winter rains has come the time to plant them. Two hundred and fifty clones carrying an exact genetic copy from 18 different trees — many of them bigger when they lived than anything left standing today — will start going into the ground Tuesday on a ranch along the southern Oregon Coast.
David Milarch, co-founder of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive and the Champion Tree Project, hopes the small plantation south of Port Orford, Ore., will give the ancient giants a leg up on moving north to cooler climes as the climate changes and be the start of a campaign to plant some of the world's fastest-growing trees all around the globe.

Read the whole article here.  I say in the title "A Sadly Feel-Good Story..." in that it is a shame that these magnificent trees were ever cut in the first place, and that now climate change is threatening the survivors.  Of course, the Feel-Good part is that we have some one who is doing something positive to improve the future, despite the mistakes of the past.

Hope translated into action is a great force.

The connection to Ultrarunning is that although I am an east-coaster, my work has taken me many times to the west coast, where I was able to do some trail running among these giant trees.

It's like being in the presence of the eternal.  Or like being in a cathedral, where, if you must speak, you use your shushed library voice.  My heart is so envious of runners who can do this every day.

We traveled to CA this past summer to visit relatives, and took Mister Tristan (the 4-year-old human being, not the blog) and his 8-year old cousin on the trip.  Our objective, besides the family time, was to expose these young people to things they might not otherwise get a chance to see...among them, the largest trees on the planet.

Our hope is that something of the majesty of these trees will stick in those young minds and produce fruit later.

Here's one of my photos from our trip:



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Still Another Golf Ball Found While Running

[photo by Gary]

Found on Tuesday along the Clay Hill Road, just inside the fence line of a cattle pasture. A couple homes semi-close but nothing right there...other than the road and the pasture.  No proximate back yard that could have served as a practice tee.  And no golf courses within 5 miles.

At any rate, I am again pleased to have the opportunity to continue with my insightful, hard-hitting series about golf balls found while running.  Previous installments are here, here, here, here, and here.

Couple theories: Perhaps golf balls are actually living entities that escape and make their way into rural areas to try to, well, blend in or something.  Or maybe teenagers stock up on golf balls and toss them from moving vehicles at road signs.  Maybe cows have taken up the sport.

I eagerly await the next find.  For one thing is certain: there will be a next found golf ball.  Of that I am certain.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Blitz of London...and Ultrarunning

Some 72 years ago, the Nazis pounded London with bombers, in preparation for a land invasion that never occurred.

That aerial assault was called The Blitz, which lasted nearly a year, from July 1940 until June 1941.  By that point the Royal Air Force had regained air superiority and was able to banish the German bombers from British skies.

I just ran across this link to Bomb Sight, which is a project to provide data on the approximately 50,000 bombs that fell on London during the period of The Blitz.  An interactive map provides clickable, graphic data on just where the bombs landed, and also links to eyewitness accounts.

50,000 bombs.  It boggles the mind.  And when I clicked on the interactive map, zooming out, the city of London was a virtually continuous mass of overlapping, individually indistinguishable red dots.  Drilling down to more magnification then shows the individual impact locations.

50,000 bombs.  It's a sobering factual presentation of mechanized death, 1940s style.  It's hard to believe that "civilized" nations resorted to such warfare to try to gain their desired objectives.

Previously I have blogged about the other side of the coin in a post I called "The Bombers Won't Come", where Allied bombers pounded German cities, including Frankfurt, where my mother and her family were bombed out, but survived.

Oh, and the link to Ultarunning?  Just this: again I am reminded of just how lucky we are to have this sport that can uplift our psyches, promote the health of our bodies, and simply provide an antidote to the wretched craziness that pervades our world.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Trail Overseer

Well, I finally did it.  After years of using trails that are built and maintained by others, I have volunteered with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) to be a trail overseer for the Reese Hollow Trail, and for the Reese Hollow Shelter.

This trail is a side trail off the Tuscarora Trail between Mercersburg and McConnellsburg, PA.  It was designed for overnight backpackers who want to use the shelter, or to come off the dry ridgetop for water from the spring located at the shelter.

I went over to the trail last week on a rainy day and was quite impressed with the location and the quality of the shelter.  Since the mid-winter months are not typically your prime trail maintenance period, it'll be a couple months until I actually get my gloves and boots dirty, but I can't wait.

I have been a PATC member for some years now, and moving into a hands-on volunteer position was been on my bucket list for some time now.  Now that I am retired from full-time work it'll be easier to give back to the trail community that has given so much to me.

Photos will follow in a future post.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cats in Art: Homage to Cezanne (Denis)

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

[Image credit National gallery of Australia, here.]
Homage to Cezanne, Maurice Denis, 1900, oil on cnavas, 70" x 94", held by Musee D'Orsay, Paris, France.
And for a close-up of the furtive kitty down there at the base of the pedestal:
Zuffi's analysis:
In this picture, a large group of painter friends, dressed in severe black, gather around a small but exquisite till life by the Provencal master [Cezanne] who was notable by his absence from the artistic scene in Paris....Here, in an austere, controlled work, the presence of a tabby cat that has furtively slipped into the picture just below the easel--its eyes flashing like a small, angry wild beast--opens a chink of affectionate imtimacy, a rush of freedom among all these serious, solemn-looking gentlemen.
To me, the angry kitty seems to be saying, "What's with all the black?  Lighten up, people!  And watch out for my tail!"
Also, check out the size of the original painting: it's about 6 feet by 8 feet.  That's huge, and would make the kitty just about life-sized.  I just gotta go to Paris to see the original....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Military Suicides...and Ultrarunning

Via Skippy, here (on 1 Dec), I got rerouted to McClatchy, where I read that 20% of all military deaths last year were from suicide (301 known self-inflicted deaths). 

That's a staggering fact.

That item was an incidental statistic in the article, whose main discussion centered on whether service members who fail in a suicide attempt should then be prosecuted for bringing discredit to the service.

From the article:

Active-duty members of the military who succeed in killing themselves are treated as having died honorably. Active-duty members who try and fail may be prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice if the suicide attempt is deemed conduct that causes “prejudice to good order and discipline” or has a “tendency to bring the service into disrepute.”

Yes, that's the answer: throw the book at somebody who is so desperate that they attempt suicide.  That'll stop the problem.

I am just thankful that my family has never faced this issue personally.  I am thankful that my circumstances and personality are such that suicide never occurred to me as a solution to anything.  And perhaps this is a stretch--but I really think it's not--I credit Ultrarunning for helping keep me grounded and away from the abyss.


Read more here:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pearl Harbor

[Photos by Gary--oil seeping from the sunken USS Arizona]

Well, today is 7 December, the first hour of the Today Show is in the hopper, and there has been nary a mention of the fact that this is the 71st anniversary of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

I guess at some point the remembrance of historical events--even one as momentous as Pearl Harbor, which pushed the U.S. over the edge into WWII--ceases to be a universally observed occasion.  But to me it still seems mighty odd that there was no comment.

My trips to the U.S.S. Arizona memorial rank as one of the most poignant of any historic sites I have ever visited.  The place is literally a shrine, a place of respectful reverence.  To me it symbolizes all the millions of young service members, from countries all over the planet, whose lives have been cut short by the stupidity of war.

The memorial
The top of the USS Arizona

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rocky Knob Trail

A couple days ago--when temps here in Franklin County, south-central PA, reached 70 F in December--I played hooky from household chores and went to explore the Rocky Knob Trail.  I have passed its intersection with the Appalachian Trail many times and always wondered about it:

[photos by Gary, junction with Appalachian Trail.  Segment here is along an old woods road, but 2/3 of the trail is single-track and mostly runnable]

The trail is located in the Michaux State Forest, just a couple miles north of Caledonia State Park.  PA Department of Conservation Natural Resources (DCNR) trail link with map is here.

The trail is like a flattened oval, with a spur trail located at each end to reach, respectively, the Appalachian Trail to the north, and Birch Run Road to the south, as it runs beside Long Pine Run Reservoir.  DCNR lists its length at "approximately 4 miles" but I am not certain whether that includes both spur segments.

The trail has a short segment along a stream, some cool rhododendron "tunnels," plus some good views once you gain the 1900'+ ridgetop.  Enjoy!

Center right = Rocky Knob, which the trail skirts, and is a tempting bushwhack to the summit; Long Pine Run Reservoir also visible

Large white pine (4' diameter trunk)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Climate Change...and Ultrarunning

I forget from whence I found this post (Thinking the Unthinkable: What if America’s Leaders Actually Want Catastrophic Climate Change?), whether it was my own surfing or if I got directed there.  But for the conspiracy theorist in all of us, I find just enough truth here to give me pause.

What if the leaders of the United States -- and by leaders I mean the generals in the Pentagon, the corporate executives of the country’s largest enterprises, and the top officials in government -- have secretly concluded that while world-wide climate change is indeed going to be catastrophic, the US, or more broadly speaking, North America, is fortuitously situated to come out on top in the resulting global struggle for survival?

I’m not by nature a conspiracy theorist, but this horrifying thought came to me yesterday as I batted away yet another round of ignorant rants from people who insist against all logic that climate change is a gigantic fraud being perpetrated, variously, by a conspiracy of the oil companies who allegedly want to benefit from carbon credit trading, the scientific community, which allegedly is collectively selling out and participating in some world-wide system of omerta in order to get grants, or the world socialist conspiracy, which of course, is trying to destroy capitalism), or all the above. (God, whenever I write anything on climate change these people hit me with flame-mail like mayflies spattering a car windshield in mating season!)

What prompted me to this dark speculation about an American conspiracy of inaction was the seemingly incomprehensible failure of the US -- in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Earth is heating up at an accelerating rate, and that we are in danger of soon reaching a point of no return where the process feeds itself -- to do anything to reduce either this country’s annual production of more atmospheric CO2, or to promote some broader international agreement to slow the production of greenhouse gases.

Author Dave Lindorff points out that inaction in the face of global catastrophe makes no sense at all....

....Unless, that is, you consider that in a dog-eat-dog environment of nations struggling to survive in a world that, as the World Bank’s latest report predicts, could be 4°C hotter (7.2°F) by as early as 2060, with mass starvation in Africa, Asia and South America, flooding of critical river deltas and low-elevation population centers like Shanghai, Bangladesh, Holland, etc., and the loss of most of the world’s fish to an acidified ocean, the US could be sitting pretty, at least relatively speaking. Sure low-lying places like Cape Cod, the Outer Banks, the lower Florida peninsula, New Orleans, and the Rockaways and the Manhattan financial district would be gone, but given this nation’s current wealth and military power, its vast natural resources, and its widely varied climate zones, including Alaska, the U.S. could probably come out ahead in such a survival-of-the-fittest struggle.

The rest of the article expounds further on the unthinkable, and is well worth clicking over to read the whole thing.

It always helps, in analyzing motives, to follow the money, or stated another way, to ask the simple question, "Who stands to benefit from this?"

I can truly see the twisted logic that could yield this course of action.  Rather than needing to advocate some bold course of action and convince enough people to get on board, all the proponents would have to do is to promote continuing inaction, an infinitely easier path.

Nevermind that the planet that our "leaders" would then preside over would have become a hellhole.

The link to Ultrarunning, of course, is that we gain our physical and psychological strength from the quality time we spend in the backcountry.  If we are reduced to a world in which mere survival is paramount, there will be no time for leisure pursuits such as running for pleasure.  Or much else, for that matter.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Left and Right Handedness...and Ultrarunning

The other day as the bride dropped me off on her way to work so I could do a run back to the house, I covered a different route that I had not been on for a couple months.  The roadside was replete with litter.  As I usually do, I grab glass bottles from the edges of the farmers' fields and drop them off at the next home's mailbox; the plastic bottles I ignore; and the aluminum cans I smash and carry back with me.

I drop the cans at a neighbor's house, a woman who gathers aluminum for recycling, and donates the proceeds to the American Cancer Society's local Relay for Life.

Well, since I had not been on this route in awhile, I quickly had more smashed cans than I could carry.  I dropped the surplus at a mailbox and brought about half a dozen cans to my neighbor.

Anyway, I got to thinking about carrying things, and handedness.  See, Utrarunners--unlike most road runners--frequently run while carrying stuff.  Usually we are talking water bottles or flashlights, but in my case it was beer cans.

The insight I had was that I noticed I tend to carry things in my non-dominant hand.  Thus, being righthanded, I carried the flattened beer cans in my left hand.  It just feels more natural.  And when I thought about how I carry a flashlight or water  bottle while trail running, it's also in my non-dominant (left) hand.

Perhaps it's an instinctive thing that we tend to leave our dominant hand open for emergencies, or maybe it's just a personal quirk with no greater significance.  But next time I carry something, I will make a concerted effort to change hands.  I have read that it helps in brain health to vary one's routines to establish new neural pathways.

My brain needs all the help it can get.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Death From the Skies

There's nothing like a post on drones to get the week started off right, right?

I guess what gets me is that here we have yet another example of U.S. foreign policy that purports to make us safer, yet in the long run will have precisely the opposite effect. 

You know, like trashing Afghanistan and Iraq.  I said at the time and continue to say today, that whatever short-term objectives may arguably have been accomplished (and actually, I can't name one) get lost in the fact that we have now created an entire generation of people in the Middle East and elsewhere who will hate us forever.  Hate us to the extent that they would be willing to die themselves to get back at us.

That's not a recipe for long-term world peace.

Yesterday I read a drone piece (Obama Breaks the Golden Rule on Drones) that articulated this problem quite well, and couched it in terms that I get.  "Golden Rule" here is not some monetary precept, it's the Biblical Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

When Pakistan's Foreign Minister was asked why so many people in Pakistan hate America, she responded simply, "Drones."

But the reality is Americans really don't have much to fear when it comes to terrorism. Every year for the past decade, more people have died from slipping in their bathtubs just here in the United States than have been killed by Islamic terrorists worldwide...which has to be making bathtub manufacturers a little nervous.

But the greatest tragedy in this drone war is how we've forgotten the most basic moral principle of all: the Golden Rule - "Treat others as you wish to be treated." It applies not just to preschoolers but also to global superpowers.

What if a known terrorist affiliated with Basque Separatists was riding in a car down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and a Spanish drone flying above the city launched a hell-fire missile - obliterating the car, killing and injuring dozens of nearby civilians, and leaving a giant crater in the middle of a busy Manhattan street. Do you really think Americans would say, "Well, those drone things sure are a nice, tidy way to fight terrorists"?

The piece goes on to basically say, you reap what you sow.  As drone technology becomes more ubiquitous, scenarios like that Manhattan one above are not only plausible but likely.

You should read the whole post.  It'll make you, well, sad is probably the best word, about our pursuit of short-term objectives at the expense of the moral high ground in the long-term.  


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cats in Art: Puss in Boots (2 of 2)--Dore

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.
Last week's post featured another illustration from this series.

[Image credit Wikimedia Commons.]

Illustrations for Puss in Boots, 1883 edition, Gustave Dore, held in a private collection.

The engraver Gustave Dore provided the illustrations for Charles Perrault's 17th century swashbuckling cat story. Zuffi tells us:

Naturally, Perrault's tale has tickled the fancy of many illustrators: even the great Gustave Dore, tireless creator of images to accompany tests such as the Bible or the Divine Comedy, could not resist the fascination of one of the world's most famous cats.

In the image above I surmise that the cat is making some point that would seem not to be sitting well with the phlegmatic, corpulent boss.  I use "boss" for lack of a better word--he may be king, or ruler, or owner--but you get the idea.  Regardless of his station in life, the boss is about to traffic with a cat.  And he will certainly come off second best.

See, the cat is undaunted by the human's "power" and will do whatever the hell he wants to anyway, just like any self-respecting cat would do.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The NFL...and Ultrarunning

I have a hyperdeveloped sense of fair play, and never have cared for the New England Patriots (Steeler fan here, having grown up in western PA).  So the cheating scandal in 2007 that swirled around Patriot's head coach Bill Belichick merely reinforced my dislike for the team and the man.
I was just reminded again of the scandal by reading something in my local paper this week.  The sports section of my local paper (Chambersburg Public Opinion) carries a short blurb daily entitled “Say What?”, always humorous or thought-provoking. Here is the entry from a couple days ago, and sums up why the Patriots SUCK, forever and always:

“The longer Bill Belichick goes without winning a Super Bowl after the NFL put an end to his intricate spying operation, the more a case can be made that his championships deserve an asterisk.”  -- Gary Meyers, NY Daily News columnist.

The link to Ultrarunning (as I probably have said here before) is that the sport is relatively pure.  I don't personally know of a single participant who has cheated or would cheat.  And it's not just a matter of there not simply being any incentive for a middle-pack runner to cheat--I sincerely believe that even if there were some financial or other reward, the runners I know still would not do it.

Even if they were the only ones to know.  See, they pay attention to that still, small voice inside that tells you right from wrong (see related post here).