Thursday, February 28, 2013

Another Golf Ball...and Ultrarunning

[image credit Gary]

Well, it's been about 10 weeks since I found a golf ball while running, last reported on here.  On this run on Monday I also found a dollar bill, at a separate location, so I was very blessed indeed.

For a caption, I can employ the very same text I used in December, only changing the day of the week and the name of the road:

Found on Tuesday Monday along the Clay Hill Road Antrim Church 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.

Again, the proliferation of lost golf balls mystifies me...yet I get a strange tingle, a sort of manly surge, whenever I find one.  I look around furtively to see if anyone's watching before I pocket my prize; I put it in my breast pocket, close to my heart.  I wonder how a golf club would feel in my hands, how it'd feel to tee off.  How I would speed across the course in my golf cart, passing sand traps and trees as though they were standing still.  I'd get out of my cart at the green, and walk reverently across the smooth, silky, luxurious living carpet.  Then I'd putt, and putt again and again, until I just didn't want to putt anymore.

Then I shake my head to clear the delirium and resume my Ultrarunning training.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Downside of Drones...and Ultrarunning

Via the Huffington Post and others last week, we see where Senator Lindsay Graham has made the first numeric statement by a government official regarding drone strikes:

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) estimated that the United States has killed 4,700 people in drone strikes, saying he supported the Obama administration's program.  
"We've killed 4,700," Graham told the Easley Rotary Club in South Carolina on Tuesday afternoon. "Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we're at war, and we've taken out some very senior members of al Qaeda.”   
His comments were first reported by Easley Patch.

Besides the secrecy and the total lack of oversight or transparency established around the drone program by the Obama administration, you know what I have trouble with?

It's the same thing that troubled me mightily in the run-up to the Iraq war back in 2003. 

Specifically, that in pursuit of our military and political objectives, what if our actions were themselves creating more "terrorists" than before?  Do you think, maybe, that of the tens of thousands of dead we left behind, there just might be family members who forever would carry a massive chip on their shoulders against the good old U.S. of A?

One of our former commanders in the region recently made a comment along the lines of "What if we are creating terrorists faster than we are killing them?" (it may have been Petraeus).

The Earth-Bound Misfit also sees the downside:

But it seems to me that one of the consequences of the Drone War will be to push the enemy into hiding out in urban areas...So Achmed moves into an apartment building. His apartment gets hit by a missile. Achmed is killed and the apartments around his are destroyed.

Several families are killed, maybe a few survivors. Likely none of them knew that Achmed was a terrorist. It's not as though they were living next to a ball-bearing plant. And their country isn't at war with anyone.

How do you think the survivors of those families, hell, everyone else in the neighborhood are going to react? Who do you think they will blame? We should have some idea, for after all, we've some experience with that.

And again, here:
This current president doesn't have the excuse that he was a dumb-ass student who got through school on family connections and who was lead around the West Wing by his vice-president. He taught constitutional law. So the fact that he has arrogated to himself the right to order summary executions of Americans is rather incredible. 
This is how it works: A nameless drone, supposedly a "high-ranking informed official," says: "That guy is a bad guy. Kill him." Then targeting information is given to another nameless drone, sitting in an air-conditioned trailer in Nevada, who then uses an armed drone to kill the guy. There is no review of the decision. All the "high-ranking" drone has to say is that the guy to be whacked is associated, somehow, however tenuously, with al-Qaeda and that is enough.
[image credit FotoSearch, here]

The link to Ultrarunning?  I've made this point before, but the end state of the moral low ground staked out by the Obama administration is that you--an American citizen, or your running buddy beside you--could be suddenly vaporized into atoms by a drone strike. 

Without a trial, without due process, without recourse for your loved ones, just because you've been deemed to be a very bad guy.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tales from the Perimeter: Self-Endorsement

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.

Have you ever had a running bond, with either an individual or a group, that was important to you?  If so, you know what I'm talking about.  I used to totally get into the so-called loneliness of the long-distance runner thing and spend mots of my miles solo, but the older I get, I increasingly appreciate me some camaraderie.

Here's a strong endorsement of our little noontime perimeter running group that made my eyes glisten just a bit, from the esteemed member "Horse":

Damn good run, and many thanks to you boyz, who ran, rain, shine, hot, cold, thunder brothers, we were there.......enjoyed that camaraderie....


Monday, February 25, 2013

Dolphins are Self-Aware and Use Names

[image credit here]

Unlike many of the people I meet, who, while they do use names, are notoriously non-self-aware.

From Discovery dot com:

Bottlenose dolphins call out the specific names of loved ones when they become separated, a study finds.   
Other than humans, the dolphins are the only animals known to do this, according to the study, published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The big difference with bottlenose dolphins is that these communications consist of whistles, not words. 
Earlier research found that bottlenose dolphins name themselves, with dolphins having a “signature whistle” that encodes other information. It would be somewhat like a human shouting, “Hey everybody! I’m an adult healthy male named George, and I mean you no harm!”

I can't tell you how much this makes me smile inside.  See, we vacation every year at an oceanfront home along the fabled Outer Banks of North Carolina.  We have been doing that annually since 1976, save for one year when pregnancy dictated otheriwse.

And each year, seeing dolphins swimming by just offshore becomes an annual totem, a sign that this family and the earth have successfully passed another year, and that everything is OK.

Now that I know the dolphins swimming by are sentient self-aware beings with names--with names!--I can't help but place even more significance to their passage. 


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cats in Art: Squatted Woman Offering of Milk to a Cat (Vallotton)

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.

This month I am currently featuring 2 more installments of the art of Felix Vallotton--this is 2 of 2. In Dec 2010 I had previously done a Vallotton image entitled Laziness, featuring (what else?) a naked woman and a cat, which may be found here.

Image credit The Athenaeum, Squatted Woman Offering of Milk to a Cat, Felix Vallotton, 1918, oil on canvas, 100 cm x 80 cm.
Another nude, another cat.  In fact, I have examined all the Vallotton images I could find on the net, and while there were plenty of nudes, there were only a couple of cats...always accompanied by naked women. 
Seems Vallotton was quite interested in that combination.
In the image above from the Zuffi book, there seems to be a wordless bond between the woman and the placid black cat.  Both the nude and the cat are timeless themes in art, although the woman above seems awkwardly perched and imbalanced.  The model must have had a devil of a time holding that pose.
Just another example of the things we do for our cats!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

More Incisive Coverage of "POSTED" Signs...and Ultrarunning

Well, I happened to have my camera when yet another abuse of the concept of No Trespassing hove into view.

My previous rants about using the word "POSTED" on a sign to denote "KEEP OUT" or "NO TRESPASSING" are here and here

Another prime example:
From a distance, all this sign means is that the property has signs on it.
It's the fine print carries the real intent:
But the way I read this sign, running would be OK.  See, I get the prohibition on hunting, fishing, and trapping...but then  the sign goes on to also include "...TRESPASSING FOR ANY PURPOSE...."
Since we all know that Ultrarunning--which mostly is running long distances in the woods--is a sport inherently without purpose, then it must be OK to do it on property otherwise closed to other activities.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Where I Run: To the Garage

Not my garage; that's attached to the north end of my house (it'd be a rather short run).  But running to and from the garage that works on my vehicles, which is situated some 10 miles away--what I'd call a perfect "destination run."

My truck was in for its annual PA state inspection, and picking it up was presenting some logistical difficulties.  So after dropping Mister Tristan (the 5-year-old human being, not the blog) off at preschool, I had about 2:15 before I again had to be back for pick-up. 

So I ran down for the truck.  I say "down" just because the direction is south.  I know it's no more down than it is up--much like it seems like the Nile River cannot possibly flow's uphill, for crying out loud!--but nevertheless that's the way it feels.

Along the way I snapped a shot of the Whitetail Ski Resort (Mercersburg, PA), as viewed from near my house across the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks:

Then the local school district's environmental center, where a large limestone spring rises, forms a pool, then eventually exits via a very cold 5' diameter water wheel:


Thursday, February 21, 2013

"La-la-la-la-la...I can't hear you!"

This is a lot like sticking your fingers in your ears and saying "La-la-la-la-la...I can't hear you!":

Missouri state Rep. Mike Leara (R) loves the Second Amendment so much he wants to make it a felony for state lawmakers to propose legislation he thinks would violate it.

On Sunday, Leara offered up this addition to Missouri law:

"Any member of the general assembly who proposes a piece of legislation that further restricts the right of an individual to bear arms, as set forth under the second amendment of the Constitution of the United States, shall be guilty of a class D felony," Leara's bill reads in its entirety.

Leara's bill comes amidst a flurry of red state legislation aimed at nullifying any new firearms regulations coming out of Washington in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. (The White House and other supporters of new gun control have said over and over their proposals do not violate the Constitutional right to bear arms.)
Thanks to Talking Points Memo for the link.

Rep. Leara says he doesn't expect his bill to pass, he's just making a point.  Trouble is, the point he's making probably isn't the one he intended.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Appalachian Trail Run...and Being a Good Animal

[photo by Gary]

You kinda had to be there for this rollicking run over hill and dale for some 19+ miles, from Pine Grove Furnace State Park south to Caledonia State Park, in southern PA. 

The weather was wintry, in the upper teens at the start, dropping some as we gained altitude on the ridgetops, and with up to 3" of snow in spots.  The snow was fairly trampled, as the AT had obviously been recently well traveled despite it being mid-winter.

Besides my companionable companions, the highlights of the day for me were just covering some beautiful trail miles, drinking from a couple spring-fed streams, the brilliantly deep blue sky.  But mostly, I guess, the satisfaction that comes from the words of Dr. George Sheehan (the running philosopher from the initial boom of the 1970s), who challenged us: "First being a good animal."

On the trail on Monday, I was a good animal.  My mind was sharp, my feet sure, and I felt full of the possible.  It doesn't get any better than that.

With this run under my belt, the Seneca Trail 50K in 2 weeks is well within my comfort range at my present level of training.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"What is it, Girl?"

[image credit Wikipedia]
When I was a kid, I grew up in the 1950s with the black-and-white (then normal) Lassie TV show.  The show had a number of iterations; I’m specifically thinking about the version with Jon Provost as Timmy Martin and June Lockhart as his mom.  And of course, Lassie playing herself.
A sappy trailer follows, but it's truly worth 64 seconds of your time if you are a child of the 1950s:


My impressions of this show now, as an adult, are these:

--The Martin Farm was a strange and wondrous place, everything from deciduous forests to rocky deserts.

--Timmy was a very bad kid who did whatever he wanted with limited parental discipline (“Oh, Timmy!” they would sigh).

--Lassie was a smart dog, much smarter than any of the humans.  Except she had paws, not hands, and could not speak ordinary English.

Why do I blog about a 1950s TV show today?  The reason is an aha! or déjà vu moment I just experienced. 

The moment is reminiscent of another recollection from the show: whenever there was an emergency, Lassie would return to somebody who could effect a rescue and begin barking furiously.  The human would somehow understand the barking and say something like “What is it, girl? Timmy is trapped in a mineshaft?  Good dog!” then go rescue Timmy from the mineshaft. 

And they say Ronald Reagan was the Great Communicator.

Fast forward to today.  I love cats—we have 4—but to be honest, they are pretty stupid.  Or their evidence of intelligence does not translate well into human experience.  Or something. 

[Image credit Gary: the cat we call Tizzy.  Of course, no human can know what she calls herself]

Anyway, the cat, Tizzy, that we are “watching” for our son (for some 4 years now, so she’s officially OURS) yesterday exhibited some Lassie-like intelligence. Every time I walked by the head of the stairway to the basement she went kinda nuts—running halfway down, meowing furiously, running back up, meowing even more furiously…as though she were trying to tell me something.

I literally said, "What is it, girl?"  and followed the cat downstairs.  The moment Tizzy saw me start down the stairs she immediately turned and ran down the stairs and thru the cat door over to the unfinished part of the basement,  where the cat litter boxes--and more importantly, the dry food feeder--are located.

Turns out the dry cat food feeder was empty.  Tizzy was milling furiously around the empty feeder, meowing earnestly.

So next time Tizzy tries to get my attention I will obey sooner.

[By the way, had a stunning long winter run on the Appalachian Trail yesterday with some fine running companions...more on that on Wed]


Monday, February 18, 2013

Where I Run: The Patriarchy

Do you see anything worng with this picture?

Image by Gary (click to enlarge enough to read the names and dates, then ESC to return here), taken at a farm along Guitner Road in southern Franklin County, PA.

Gotta love the pride that comes from a farm being continually in a single family for nearly 300 years.  That is indeed exceptional and noteworthy.  The farm is tidy and prosperous-looking, sitting as it does among well-tended fields and farm buildings on the low bluffs above the Conococheague Creek.

However....something is missing.  Through some 10 generations of Kings, this sign depicts not even one woman.  Surely all those generations of men did not adopt their children; undoubtedly there were wives and mothers to fuel the reproductive engine that perpetuated the proud lineage.

Yet not a single mention of a woman.  You don't have to be a feminist to notice the omission and if upon reflection you don't feel, well, a bit uncomfortable about it, you should.

For families like the Kings consist of partners who produced and raised the children over those 10 generations.  The unknown and unmentioned mothers were there every step of the way to birth and raise not only the listed male heirs but their sisters and younger brothers.

Being a male, I believe I have been accustomed since birth to a subtle or no-so-subtle worldview that men are better, smarter, dominant, etc.  It takes an enlightenment followed by continual self-awareness and self-monitoring to ensure that equal credit goes to the women of our world.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cats in Art: Naked Women to Cats (Vallotton)

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.

This month I am currently featuring 2 more installments of the art of Felix Vallotton--this is 1 of 2.  In Dec 2010 I had previously done a Vallotton image entitled Laziness, featuring (what else?) a naked woman and a cat, which may be found here.

The Vallotton image below also continues that theme:

Image credit WikiPaintings. Naked Women to Cats, Felix Vallotton, 1898, oil on canvas, 41 cm x 52 cm.

Zuffi talks about the rise of the cat in art around 1900:

Part of the credit, at least, must go to the Symbolist movement, which was fascinated by the cat's elusive dual nature, and the possibility of contradictory, mysterious interpretations.  A sinuous, bewitching shape, glittering eyes, and ever-changing positions: during the first quarter of the 20th century, the cat experienced an extraordinary series of representations in painting--perhaps without precedent throughout the history of art until then.

My hat is certainly off to Mssr. Zuffi, who in the paragraph above just nailed it in talking about "...the cat's elusive dual nature...."

Some of my cats, however, seemingly have triple, quadruple, or even more natures.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Business as Usual, After a Pause

Via Melissa McEwan at Shakesville on 11 Feb, with her "Quote of the Day:

"We have a strong agenda coming up for next year, but of course a lot of that's going to be delayed as the Connecticut Effect has to go through the process."—NRA Lobbyist and former Wisconsin state senator Bob Welch (R), explaining at the NRA's Wisconsin State Convention this weekend that the NRA will "resume its push to weaken the nation's gun laws" just as soon as everyone gets over the Newtown school shooting.
20 dead kids = mere collateral damage associated with the nation's gun fetish. 
As a friend--who should know since he has lost a child (to an accident, not gun violence)--recently observed on the Newtown shootings:

"Why would you not want to do everything you could to perhaps save a child's life?"


Friday, February 15, 2013

Ultrarunners Aren't the Only Tough Athletes

Lest we smugly think we have cornered the market on true grit in pursuit of our athletic goals, check this out.  Via the Bleacher Report this week:

Daniela Holmqvist is a rookie golfer on the Ladies European Tour, and also happens to be a cross between Chuck Norris and Bear Grylls.
Holmqvist was on the fourth hole at the Royal Canberra Golf Club on Tuesday during a pre-qualifier for the LPGA Tour's ISPS Handa Australian Open in Yarralumla, Australia.
She felt a sharp pain in her ankle. She looked down and noticed a spider with the markings of a Black Widow.
As Holmqvist's leg started to swell and the pain became intense, she made the quick decision to take matters into her own hands (she'd just been informed that a Black Widow bite can kill a child in as little as 30 minutes). She pulled a tee out of her pocket ("it was the only thing I had handy," she told Svensk Golf) and used it to cut open the wound so she could squeeze out the venom and keep it from spreading inside her body.
"A clear fluid came out," she said. "It wasn't the prettiest thing I've ever done, but I had to get as much of it out of me as possible."
Without skipping a beat, she then proceeded to finish her round, shooting a 74.

Our running group has an ongoing debate about whether golf and NASCAR are real sports.  Maybe they are and maybe they aren't, but what isn't debatable is Ms. Holmqvist's commitment to her sport (or "sport, if you will) and toughness in the face of adversity.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentines in Space

I can't improve upon this post from a year ago, so here you go again.

Sure, Valentine's Day has become a crass commercial holiday, but even so, I think it's better NOT to boycott.  Just enjoy the day, and remember to make your loved ones feel special today. 

Credit to Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy, which never disappoints and should be on your blogroll:

Happy Valentine's Day from Spitzer Space Telescope! This image is of a region called W5, part of a bigger complex of gas and dust shining 6000 light years away in the constellation of Cassiopeia. The resemblance to a Valentine is remarkable!

What you're actually seeing here is an enormous star-forming factory 150 light years across. Deep in its (haha) heart, massive, hot, and bright stars are being born. When they switch on for the first time, they blast out a flood of ultraviolet light as well as a fierce wind of subatomic particles. These eat away at the cloud from the inside-out, forming an enormous cavity. It's the edges of this cavity that form the cosmic valentine.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tales from the Perimeter: Downton Abbey

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 25th 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.

Well, seems the Pope resigned this week, to be effective the end of the month.  One of our running group (Pete) is quite religious--though NOT obnoxiously so--thus he naturally became an easy target.

Here's the email string that resulted, with me first stirring the pot by imagining Pete as the Pope:

From: Gary
To: Running Buds
Sent: Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:46 AM

Subject: Holy Quit!

In thinking about Pete as Pontiff, despite his sincere religious convictions, I think he'd be a wretched choice, simply dreadful.  A rubbish bin would make a more suitable Pope.  You chaps will no doubt agree.

Now I'll begin dressing for lunch.

(who this weekend joined the bride for a Season 1 and 2 marathon of Downton Abbey--some 16 episodes but maybe I just lost count)

From: Michael
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 8:52 AM
To: Gary and Running Buds

Subject: RE: Holy Quit!

Downtown Abbey???? You're really "Living the Dream"!!
 From: Gary
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 8:56 AM
To: Mike and Running Buds
Subject: RE: Holy Quit!

Actually the show is very good, and I'm kinda hooked.

Kevin...defend me also like British drama.


From: Jack
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 9:52 AM
To: Running Buds
Subject: Re: Holy Quit!

I think Gary has officially turned in his man card!

 From: Gary
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 10:05 AM
To: Running Buds

Subject: RE: Holy Quit!

My Man Card?  Oh, that was surrendered long ago. 

And in honor of the occasion:

Jesus, Chuck Norris, and a Pope are stranded in the middle of the ocean in a boat. Jesus gets out and walks on the water to shore. Chuck Norris watches and does the same. The Pope tries and drowns. After seeing this, Jesus turns to Chuck Norris and says, "Do you think we should have told him about the rocks?" and Chuck Norris smiles and says, "What rocks?"

Or this:

The Pope confesses to Chuck Norris.


From: Kevin
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 10:10 AM
To: Running Buds
Subject: RE: Holy Quit! [also addresses our ongoing raging debate over what topics are appropriate for discussion during the run]

Gary, tempting to throw you under the bus, but since my sons' troop is hiking on your trail this year, I'll cut you some slack.

Mike, first of all it's Downton Abbey, not Downtown Abbey.  And it is getting rave reviews for its authenticity in 1910's and 1920's England.

xxxxx [his bride] watches it, as the first two seasons are on Netflix. 

Anyone who watches Survivor or Amazing Race doesn't have a man card to begin with.  However, those that take charge of 7,500 of their little workers who can easily sting someone to death, now that person has a mancard!  And just for you Jack.  I mailed a birdhouse (in the shape of a church) to my mother for her birthday.  It involved using woodworking tools and equipment, and will house some fluffy little bird family.

I've got building plans for butterfly houses if you're interested?

Boy Scouts - check; bees - check; woodworking - check; butterflies - check; ragging on worthless reality television shows - check; new topic, British shows - check.
Gary here: God, I miss these guys!  Our perimeter runs are always just filled with laughter, in short supply these days.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

First World Problems...and Ultrarunning

Via Southern Beale on 8 Feb 2013, "First world problems read by Third World people. Kinda made me feel like an asshole after I watched it."

Me too.  This short video is worth the 61 seconds it takes to play.

If the embed does not work, try this link.

I don't know anything about the sponsor of the video, Water is Life, other than their mission seems to be the provision of clean, safe, drinking water for the Third World.

I've previously blogged about this in the global sense, observing that if we had invested all of our war-making dollars from Iraq and Afghanistan into providing safe water sources for those countries, we would have not only made the planet much safer, but also done incalculable good...including cleaning up our trashed reputation across the planet.

Here's some of what I wrote.  Actually, as I re-read it, it's a pretty good post, and you oughta check it out:

And we'd be helping the least of these, my brethren. Rather than soldiers and tanks and Humvees and Strykers and Predator drones invading a country and slaying its people, it'd be a convoy of drilling rigs or trucks of solar panels and windmills and pipes rolling across the landscape. The result would be clean water supplies and millions of averted deaths. And at least an attempt to erase our global black eye.

The link to Ultrarunning is that safe drinking water in the backcountry is one of our priorities.  Indeed, probably more than any other group in this country, Ultrarunners think about water more than just turning on the tap.  We know about our personal water requirements, gear up to carry it, scope out potential water sources, plan for treating those sources if necessary, etc. 

In short, we don't take water for granted.

The spring at Tumbling Run Shelter along the Appalachian Trail in southern PA--possibly the best water in the world. 
[Photo by Gary]

Monday, February 11, 2013

Menacing Dogs

I just got back from running 10, as I also did yesterday and will do again tomorrow.  Three 10s on successive days will serve as a means of stress training in prep for the Seneca Creek 50K (Maryland) on 2 March. 
Today as I neared the end of the run, a BIG German Shepherd and his smaller friend, a herding-type breed, came screaming out of a farm lane and encircled me.  Initially I was scared--and actually pulled out the flat folding knife I always carry for dog protection--but it soon became apparent that these dogs were just playing the territorial game and were not a serious threat.  The initial frenzied barking changed in character; they became playful and seemingly just wanted a human buddy.
Nevertheless I kept talking to them in what I hoped was a soothing voice, made no sudden moves, and kept on walking slowly down the road.  Eventually I was able to trot slowly and reached a point where I figured the dogs would back off and return to base.
Except they didn't.  Although the smaller herding dog did stop, the German Shepherd followed me for over a mile.   I finally gave up and ran back with him to the farm and dropped him off with the farmer…but when I exited the farm (this time going cross-country across the fields to reach my house about ½ mile away as the crow flies) he followed me again right to my house.

I gave up and went inside, trusting that he’d be smart enough to re-cross the fields to get back home.
I don't want to be mean to these dogs, but am uncertain on how to handle them next time I run by the farm.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cats in Art: The Blue Cat (Steinlen)

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 am currently featuring 4 installments of the art of Theophile Alexandre Steinlen--this is 4 of 4:

Image credit WikiGallery. The Blue Cat, T. A. Steinlen, ca. 1900, oil on canvas.

Great capture by Steinlen of that magical in-between state that cats maintain between sleep and wakefulness.  The operative term is probably "awareness," whereby the cat can doze but still be cognizant of its surroundings in case something happens.  The eyes are shut but the ears remain on duty.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Proof that the Apocalypse is Upon Us

Via ThinkProgress, what seems to be to be some misplaced priorities:
Students in Missouri have no sexual education requirement, so there’s a good chance they don’t know how to properly protect themselves from STIs or unintended pregnancy. Soon, though, they may be able to protect themselves from guns.
Missouri state Senate is considering a bill that would require all first graders in the state to take a gun safety training course. Using a grant provided by the National Rifle Association, it would put a “National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program” instructor in every first grade classroom.

The irony that there’s no requirement for students to learn about their bodies — but that there is one for deadly weapons — seems lost on the legislators proposing the measure, one of whom lamented, “I hate mandates as much as anyone, but some concerns and conditions rise to the level of needing a mandate.”

As a former career Federal employee, I always thought that the government in general and government workers typically get a bad rap--easy target and all that. 

Actually, the truth is that with government we get civilization.

So I like to always presume the default position that our government officials really do have the common good in mind.  However, along the way it's easy to get wrapped around the axle and lose sight of the bigger picture.


Friday, February 8, 2013

The Contrast of Ultrarunning with Everyday Life

First a quote (info on the author appears at the bottom):

The book was about a fictional small town in Minnesota called Gopher Prairie, a place inhabited by "a savorless people, gulping tasteless food, and sitting afterward, coatless and thoughtless, in rocking-chairs prickly with inane decorations, listening to mechanical music, saying mechanical things about the excellence of Ford automobiles, and viewing themselves as the greatest race in the world."

When I am running in the backcountry, I am the antithesis of the kind of "living" described above.  Also Leopold captured the notion neatly in A Sand County Almanac:

Recreation is valuable in proportion to the degree to which it differs from and contrasts with workaday life.

Yep, being a good animal in the backcountry, pushing one's mind and body to giddy limits, certainly does contrast just a tad with everyday life.  I guess it's much like an addiction, albeit a positive one.

The identity of our author? 
Yesterday, 7 Feb 2013, was the birthday of Sinclair Lewis, born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota in 1885, and author of Main Street, from which the quote above comes.  He was the first American to win the Nobel Prize in literature.

Credit to The Writer's Almanac, always a good read, for the tip on Lewis.  Now I gotta read Main Street, I suppose.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Where I Run: Mason-Dixon Line Marker (Mile 99)

Another installment in my occasional series about visiting and photographing the mile marker stones set in the mid-1700s by the surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.  Super information about The Line and on-the-ground directions may be found here, courtesy of the Mason & Dixon Line Preservation Partnership.
The Mason and Dixon Line (or Mason-Dixon Line) runs for 233 miles along parallel 39°43’ in the eastern United States, marking the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania. The line was surveyed by English astronomers Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in 1763-1768 to settle property disputes between the Penns and the Calverts, proprietors of Pennsylvania and Maryland, respectively. 
 Here are a couple of my shots:
This is the stone at Mile 99, looking north, sitting placidly between the road (Leitersburg Pike) in the foreground, my minivan, and a farm building.

A close-up of the south-facing side, with the "M" of Maryland clearly visible.
I've run by this stone after having been dropped off by the bride on her way to work...but at the time I was totally unaware of its existence.  Now it's a special place.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Getting Ready for Seneca Creek 50K

After not having run any official ultras for some months now, I'm going to join a couple friends to run the Seneca Creek Greenway 50K on 2 March.

This low-key trail run is in Montgomery County, MD, northwest of Washington, DC.  It's amazing that such a nice trail can be found that close to the city.

Anyway, back to the prep work: I finally got a suitably long run in yesterday, along the C+O Canal just south of the Mason-Dixon Line from me.  Parking in Williamsport, MD, I ran about 6 road miles to reach the Canal towpath, then followed it back upstream for 12 more miles to my vehicle (parked at the Cushwa Basin in Williamsport).

Then came the test.  I had some PowerAid drink at the truck, and as I ran the 50 yards or so from the Canal to my truck, manly distractions tried to distract me.  I saw the F150 label for the most popular truck in America ("Ford tough"), the 4x4 Off Road decal, the trailer hitch for pulling manly loads, the large mud and snow tires.

I had to decide whether to pack it in at 18 miles--because I was getting tired--or just hop into my man machine and get my macho kicks that way.

I grabbed the PowerAid and headed back onto the trail for another 4-5 miles.

Interesting run in the sense that I saw virtually no wildlife: only a hawk, a Great Blue Heron, some waterfowl, and some squirrels.  Typically I see numerous deer and usually some wild turkeys, but that was not the case in this run.

But in the light dusting of snow, there was a plethora of tracks, some of which followed the towpath for a considerable distance.  I've keyed them out as raccoon, muskrat, and even a beaver!  The muskrats, especially, seemed at times to be having a party, with the tracks of several individuals all co-mingled with snow tossed about.

Anyway, I had an absolutely wonderful day on the trail and feel ready for the 50K.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wreckage of a Snowman

This is the way I felt after what should have been a slow and easy 10 miler last week.

[photo by Gary, who had nuthin' that particular day]


Monday, February 4, 2013

Someone Else Dislikes "Posted" Signs...and Ultrarunning

I posted last winter about what I called English Language Nitwits and their misuse of the term "posted" to denote a No Trespassing area.  (You should really click over there to read my impeccable logic, but in a nutshell, the shorthand description of a property being posted with signs  (i.e., off-limits) has morphed into the sign itself.)

Well, the stupid continues, except this time some irate viewer (no, it wasn't me) decided to vote with a shotgun:

[photo by Gary]

Of course, I am aware that the shooter really wasn't annoyed with the grammar so much as they were annoyed with the prohibition of trespassing. 

See, for some people, when they have a gun in their hands, it makes it easier to take an annoyance to another level...which, if you think about it, has some implications for the present discussion about guns in society.

The link to Ultrarunning is that we sometimes encounter No Trespassing signs in the backcountry.  By and large I tend to be respectful of such signs and avoid the property, but on occasion I have deliberately trespassed. 

One example that comes to mind is one time I was just plain whupped on a backcountry run and decided I needed to bail by the shortest possible route.  Turns out that after I committed to that bail-out route, I encountered some No Trespassing signs near the end.  Given my physical condition at that point, rerouting was not a viable option so I pushed on through.  Luckily, I encountered no irate property owner.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Cats in Art: Ete, Chat Sur une Balustrade (Steinlen)

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 am currently featuring 4 installments of the art of Theophile Alexandre Steinlen--this is 3 of 4:

Image credit WikiGalleryEte, Chat sur une Balustrade, 1909, [Summer, Cat on a Railing] T. A. Steinlen, 1894, oil on canvas. Held by Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX.

This poor kitty appears annoyed, although that word seems not quite strong enough.  In life, the tail would undoubtedly be swishing vigorously.  Were you dumb enough to venture over to the railing to try to pet said cat, your punishment would be quick and sure.

I like how Steinlen captures the general essence of catness here--I can well imagine this same painting being of a leopard lounging on a tree limb in Africa.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Where I Run: The Southern PA Iron and Railroad Company

A couple of weeks ago I posted about one of my road routes from the house along the appropriately named Stone Bridge Road.

That same route also contains evidence of the former Southern Pennsylvania Iron and Railroad Company right of way, and a bridge that I've blogged about previously, here (where I have a couple additional photos at bridge level). 

This is an abandoned Pratt Through Truss bridge (circa 1896) over Conococheague Creek:

[Image credit: a way cool site called Bridgehunter]
A couple of miles further west the railroad right of way runs through what now is a pasture.  The embankment is largely gone, but the farmer wisely saved a small bridge that carried the railroad across a small stream:
[Image credit Gary]
Last view is just of the abandoned grade of the railroad, right near the Stone Bridge:
[Image credit Gary.  This section, unfortunately, is on private ground that is posted with No Trespassing signs]