Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cats in Art: My Companions (Bonnard)

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

This is part 8 of 8 of a multiweek study of the cat art of Pierre Bonnard, a French painter (1867-1947). In this series I've moved beyond the two pieces featured by Zuffi and am now studying the rest of Bonnard's cat paintings in chronological order.

It is fitting, perhaps, that as we wrap up our Bonnard study we are looking at a painting done shortly before his death, that by its very title seems to imply an ending, a shrinking life as evidenced by the fact that Bonnard's companions are critters rather than people.

Image credit WikiPaintings, My Companions, Pierre Bonnard, 1940s, sketch, no other information

Knowing how our cats just seem to love hanging out on the desk and computer table when I work, I can well imagine the antics of some cats in an art studio when the primary human is at work.
Reminds me of the story about Renoir that I previously blogged about here, and how much he loved his kitties.  In fact, the presence of cat hair in his paint is one of the proofs of authenticity.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

I Am Not Reassured

When in doubt, I never go wrong in referring to a post from the Earth-Bound Misfit.  Especially when it deals with government overreach--in this case, warrantless surveillance:

"You Can Trust Us to Do the Right Thing." When you drill down through the bullshit, rationales and rhetoric defending the NSA's hoovering of essentially everything that goes across the telecommunications networks, that's what they are saying: That we can trust them not to overstep the boundaries between what is legal and what is not.
First, I question the premise for that. The NSA may be adhering to what is legal, but only because the Congress expanded the definition of what was legal for them to do. The NSA gets wiretapping authorization from a court which has turned down less than a dozen requests out of 30,000. You're eight times more likely to catch a ball during a major league baseball game than the government is to get a warrant request denied by the FISA court. Congressional oversight, at least until the current brouhaha erupted, has apparently been about as effectual as scolding a clowder of feral cats.
Second, the "trust us" advocates are, in my view, deliberately ignoring the bedrock principle of the Constitution and our entire system of government, which is this: Government cannot be trusted to do the right thing.
The Founders were some of the smartest and well-educated men and women[1] in the American Colonies. They had a far deeper understanding of human history and abuse of power than 98% of the people in Congress today. They understood the truth that power corrupts. Hell, they lived through it. They were well aware that Prime Minister Pitt said as much in 1770. They were aware that politicians, in particular, grow to regard their perquisites of power as their just due. They were well aware that powerful people tend to conflate their wants and desires with what is proper for their office.
So when it came time for them to design a government, they did not choose the "trust us" form. They wrote a Constitution of limited powers. After pushback from the states, they immediately passed the Bill of Rights to protect citizens from an intrusive government.
Our government has been pushing to limit the rights and liberties of Americans ever since.

But hey, if you don't have anything to hide, right?


Friday, June 28, 2013

First PhD Conferred to a Woman

The bride and I have 5 college degrees between us, and my brother has a PhD and is a college professor, so I kinda know formal education.

Nevertheless, I was astounded to read today on my homepage, REFDESK, an article about the first woman to be conferred a PhD.

It was Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, pictured at left, an Italian; the year was _____. The institution was the University of Padua.

[See link for answer--if you can get the century right, you're pretty smart.]



I am partially prompted to write this as a loved one struggles with balancing college, full time work, and motherhood.  Plus a wonderful dog that is in failing health, a lifelong companion that quite literally saved her life.

Every time I see the dog I whisper in its ear, "Thanks for saving her life."  And he gives me a glance that says, "I know, and she saved mine, too."


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Route Mapping Tool: gmap pedometer

I've previously at least mentioned this handy tool, but for ANY runner, I'd view it as indispensable:  gmap pedometer.

It's a free website where you can plan a running (or biking) route and it will calculate distances for you.  You add one way point at a time and can undo them easily if you want to change your route, say, to add or decrease distance.  You can view map, terrain, or topo versions of your route.  The default mode is to follow roads, but you can turn that off and plot straight lines if you are going cross-country.

From the gmaps website:

This is a Web app designed to let you track the precise distance of your workouts, and track and log your activity. It started life as a little hack that uses Google's superb mapping application to help record distances traveled during a running or walking workout, and has grown since then.

As a runner training for a marathon for the first time, I found myself wishing I had an easy way to know the exact distance a certain course is, without having to drag a GPS or pedometer around on my runs. Looking at Google Maps, and knowing there was a vibrant community of geeks hacking it, I knew there had to be a way. So here it is. I placed the a link to my Web app on a couple of running message boards, and the rest was history.

Following Eric Raymond's first law, I proceeded to add features designed to scratch all the personal itches I felt over the years. Features have included: an Openstreetmap overlay, the ability to follow roads as you create routes, create an elevation graph, and log and chart your workouts. The site continues to be under active (if not always rapid!) development.

Give it a try, you will not be disappointed:


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Firepit at Reese Hollow Shelter...and Ultrarunning

[image credit Gary]

We'll be heading up there to the shelter in a couple days for some fun and some minor work, but it'll be nothing like the effort that went into the firepit at the shelter, shown above.  The sun and shade makes for a poor photo, but you kinda get the idea.  These were some BIG rocks, about the limit of manageability in a wheelbarrow (provided we could lift it into the wheelbarrow).

The firepit really doesn't figure into Ultrarunning, but the shelter and its spring do.  It's about a mile downhill from the dry Tuscarora Trail to reach the water source...then the trudge back up to the ridge top.

But the water is mighty sweet and pure....


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Home for a Soldier--A Different Take on a Heartwarming Story

 From my local newspaper, the Chambersburg Public Opinion:

GUILFORD TOWNSHIP -- Saturday's groundbreaking ceremony didn't just mark the beginning of a new home for Marine Sgt. Zachary Stinson, but also a new life post-injury for he and his family in a community that has rallied to support them.
While life for Stinson, his wife, Tesa, and their daughter, Olivia, has been forever changed since he lost both his legs on Nov. 9, 2010, to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, they've been thankful for all the love and support they've received from family, friends and even people they've never met as they continue the move forward.
"It's completely amazing to see all these faces," Stinson said at Saturday's groundbreaking. "This has been incredible. I couldn't ask for a better place to call home."
Their next step forward includes a new specialized home with the help of Homes For Our Troops, a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 to help severely-injured veterans and their immediate families.
Since 2010, the family has mostly lived in hospitals and temporary homes, Stinson said. A home in North Carolina where they lived right after he got out of the hospital just didn't fit their needs. And while their current townhouse in the Shippensburg area is better, Homes For Our Troops will build one that provides more freedom and independence.
With the help of local volunteers, including Stinson's mother-in-law Tracy Burk, who organized many fundraisers, Homes For Our Troops hopes to have everything completed in three to four months.

"Today, we are surrounded by heroes," said spokeswoman Ashley Twigg. "Homes For Our Troops at its heart is a grassroots organization. It's our boots on the ground in every project that determines its success."

In this country, there are more than 50,000 members of the military who have received a Purple Heart, said Homes For Our Troops President Tim McHale. For the 15,000 recipients who have been classified as severely wounded though, life is never truly the same.

"That's why we are here today," McHale said. "He's sacrificed so much. Every day of his life Zach Stinson knows what Afghanistan is like and it will never be in his rearview mirror."

This story is being played out all across these United States, in communities large and small.  It will be taken by many as proof that people do care, that there is genuine concern and support for our soldiers and their sacrifices.

With that thought I do not disagree--it shows the best in all of us.

But I take another message from this: that our government, who was quite willing to place troops in harm's way, has dropped the ball on then taking care of those troops.  Bottom line is that if we put troops in harm's way, and they get harmed, then we have the moral obligation to take care of them. Forever. No brainer. I've previously blogged here about the Earth-Bound Misfit's common-sense take on this:

If we, as a nation, are unwilling to shoulder the financial burden of caring for our military retirees and veterans, then this is what we should do: Stop making so many veterans by getting into wars. When the shooting starts, there are going to be maimed veterans who will need care for the next eighty years. If that cost is unacceptable to the politicians, then stop sending men and women off to fight. No fighting, no combat veterans to care for-- that should be a simple enough equation for even most politicians to grasp.

Awesome as Homes For Our Troops is, it is an organization that should not exist.  ALL OF US--via the Veterans Administration--should be paying for and administering this program.  Injured vets should never have to rely upon the goodwill and charity of others.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Clapping...and Ultrarunning

For some odd reason I was just thinking about the very first race I ever ran--it was a road 10K in Frederick, MD, held in conjunction with a half and full marathon.  This would have been in 1980 or so.

When I crossed the finish line there were a ton of spectators who clapped and cheered enthusiastically.  For. Me.

Never having run a race, I was dumbfounded and felt overcome with emotion.  I was hooked.

Fast forward more than a quarter century and I still get a thrill from the cheers of the finish line crowd at an Ultra.  I tend to think that more than a road race crowd, attendees at an Ultra race are a tad more knowledgeable about what it takes to do an Ultra...thus their applause means more.

Ironically, in today's REFDESK--my homepage--is an article about applause as a "social contagion" that can be started and stopped by the actions of just a couple audience members. 

The quality of a performance does not drive the amount of applause an audience gives, a study suggests.

Instead scientists have found that clapping is contagious, and the length of an ovation is influenced by how other members of the crowd behave.

They say it takes a few people to start clapping for applause to spread through a group, and then just one or two individuals to stop for it to die out.
It's a good read, here. By the way, I've posted about "Why the Race".  Check it out, here.



Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cats in Art: Child and Cats (Bonnard)

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

This is part 7 of 8 of a multiweek study of the cat art of Pierre Bonnard, a French painter (1867-1947). In this series I've moved beyond the two pieces featured by Zuffi and am now studying the rest of Bonnard's cat paintings in chronological order.

Image credit WikiPaintings, Child and Cats, Pierre Bonnard, 1940s, oil on canvas, no other information

Just like last week's post, we have the theme of a kitty trying to share a meal with a little girl....except different girl, different cat.  Plus there are two cats in this painting: the second one is lying in the girl's lap, being stroked.
And the kitty on the left is clearly annoyed; its ears are quite flattened.  At first glance one would think that the issue is probably over not being the one petted.  However, look at the gray cat's and the girl's eyes: they are focused on something across the table from them and to the viewer's right.
And the lap cat is about ready to bolt, although seemingly oblivious to whatever has riveted the attention of the others.
Plenty to wonder about in what first glance seems to be a fairly "normal" painting.  Once again, Bonnard adds some drama and keeps the viewer guessing a bit.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Good Wilderness News for Ultrarunners

Per the Wilderness Society:

The Wilderness Society tonight applauded the passage of five wilderness and conservation bills in the U.S. Senate. We are hopeful that the passage is a sign of things to come in the House, as the previous Congress – the 112th – was the first since 1966 to not designate a single new acre of wilderness.

The states involved include Oregon, Michigan, and Washington.  Now, the measures will still have to obtain approval in the House:

All five have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, and The Wilderness Society is hopeful that they will also become law this year. To see a full list of wilderness bills in the 113th Congress, visit:


Friday, June 21, 2013

Spotting the International Space Station

If you are an astronomy geek like me, things in the sky are totally fascinating, even if they are manmade.

NASA has this way cool feature that enables you to get a notification email, localized for your area, for when the International Space Station (ISS) will be visible from your location.

From the NASA site:

See the International Space Station! As the third brightest object in the sky the space station is easy to see if you know when to look up.
NASA’s Spot The Station service gives you a list of upcoming sighting opportunities for thousands of locations worldwide, and will let you sign up to receive notices of opportunities in your email inbox or cell phone. The space station looks like a fast-moving plane in the sky, but it is dozens of times higher than any airplane and traveling thousands of miles an hour faster. It is bright enough that it can even be seen from the middle of a city! To learn more about the space station, its international crew, and how they live and working in space, please visit the space station mission pages.

Here is an example of an email I got Wed morning; I used it to view the ISS overhead that evening:

Time: Wed Jun 19/10:15 PM, Visible: 3 min, Max Height: 44 degrees, Appears: NNW, Disappears: E

Give it a shot.  Especially with kids, who will think you are amazing when you can predict the ISS passage.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cutting Off Your Fingers...and Ultrarunning

According to an article in Mother Jones:

Each year, more than 67,000 workers and do-it-yourselfers are injured by table saws, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (PDF), resulting in more than 33,000 emergency room visits and 4,000 amputations. At an average cost of $35,000 each, these accidents lead to more than $2.3 billion in societal costs annually including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

However, there is a fix: a company called SawStop has invented a device that senses minute electrical changes--as when a saw blade touches flesh rather than wood--and can instantly stop the blade before an injury can occur

As a regular table saw user I can see how dangerous these tools can be.  But it seems that the power saw industry is resisting implementation of this safety device.

Read about it yourself  (I will note that I could not discern the additional cost associated with the SawStop technology).  The Mother Jones article offers this observation:

The SawStop story is about an industry's ability to resist a major safety advance that could have prevented countless disfiguring injuries, but might have been bad for business. It also highlights the bureaucratic obstacles that make it virtually impossible for regulators to enact safety measures over the unified objections of industry.

Seems to me that this is pretty reminiscent of the auto industry's early resistance to air bags.  Now air bags are ubiquitous and completely accepted as a proven lifesaver.  Perhaps the same model applies here.

The link to Ultrarunning is that while the loss of a finger would not impact your running much, I can't help but think about, say, lawn mower injuries to your feet.  I always wear steel-toed work boots when I mow, because I value my toes more than the flip-flop wearing grass cutters that I frequently see.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Straight Outta the Box

...the box.
Ahhh!  Like they personally were made for my feet.
I've always had great luck with Asics shoes (and I have no financial interest in promoting them).  I've worn out too many pairs to even count anymore.
It's just that they fit well, run well, and never, ever feel like a new shoe.
My only knock on Asics is that they have a bewildering array of models--far too many in my opinion.  I stick with the ones with numbers (these are the GT 2170).  And I've used both their trail and road shoes.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Security Machine

Via well-respected economist Duncan Black thinks the whole NSA spying scandal  is too firmly entrenched into Washington politics to dislodge: basic belief is that aside from civil liberties issues, the security/surveillance state industry is just a giant grift, a big scam there to enrich certain communities in Northern Virginia. That it is a net good is bullshit, that it makes us "safe" is bullshit, and that "making us safe," as opposed to perpetuating its own existence and fattening the wallets of its members and those that play along, has much to with anything that goes on is bullshit.
I'm sure the Men in Black could pay me a visit and convince me otherwise. What do I know? There are known unknowns and unknown unknowns, and I can't claim knowledge of any of them. Much of what is "intelligence work" is boring, and stuff produced from that work is probably useful and the people who do it are probably doing good work for good reasons. But the unholy alliances with big businesses and third party contractors and the empire of well-paid informants and agents is just bullshit in which everyone takes their cut of your money.

Mr. Black's post was followed later by this one, called Deep Thought, which really gives me pause:

There's no reason to be concerned about an agency with a director who feels free to lie under oath.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cats, Water Gardens, and Frogs

My water garden, image credit Gary
Red water lily and parrot's feather, image credit Gary
My water garden has existed for some 15 years and been a great source of pleasure for what I consider to be rather minimal work.  The bride and I did it all ourselves.
Of course, the cats have always been fascinated with it.  For example, they typically ignore their water dishes and make a beeline to the water to drink there.
The past couple days has brought something entirely new, however: two of the cats have discovered the frogs that live there.  Specifically, Tizzy was spotted running across the yard with a frog dangling from her mouth.  We captured her and salvaged the apparently dead frog...only to see it swim away when we put it back in the water.
But last night's encounter takes the cake.  We were watching Mad Men when suddenly Ca Beere tore across the great room and pounced on a frog.  Yes, a frog.  In the house. One of the kitties must have captured it, brought it inside, and lost it there...until the Ca Beere (re)capture.
Again, the amphibian was successfully rescued and deposited back into the water garden.
Which also brings to mind the question as to why these two cats did not suddenly become princesses after having kissed a frog.  I guess sometimes a frog is just a frog, not a prince.
Please, no comments about this being an object lesson on why cats should not be permitted to roam.  I get it!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cats in Art: Little Girl With a Cat (Bonnard)

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

This is part 6 of 8 of a multiweek study of the cat art of Pierre Bonnard, a French painter (1867-1947). In this series I've moved beyond the two pieces featured by Zuffi and am now studying the rest of Bonnard's cat paintings in chronological order.

Image credit WikiPaintings, Little Girl With a Cat, Pierre Bonnard, 1899, oil on canvas, held in a private collection

Just at a glance we learn a couple important things about this family due to the skilled work of Bonnard: the cat is female, as it obviously is a calico; it likes and wants to be petted, as evidenced by its "pet me!" head-down posture; the cat clearly trusts humans; and the corollary to the last--the little girl is gentle and loving with cats, as I've seen many families (mine included) where certain cats vanish whenever kids show up.

Bonnard with the strokes of his brush manages to not just render the image faithfully and warmly, he conveys subtle clues about this girl and her kitty to convey important information.  

But moreover, we find ourselves drawn in, thinking, almost involuntarily, and the words spring to mind: "Once upon a time, over a hundred years ago, there was a little girl with a cat...."

Such is the magic of good art.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Lightning Bugs Have Arrived in South-central PA!

Image credit here.

Last night was the first time this summer the lightning bugs have arrived locally, signaling that the world has successfully turned another year.

At dusk, first a couple of strays flashed here and there, then all of a sudden there were many.  And their numbers will continue to swell over the next few weeks.

Mister Tristan (the 5.5 year old human being, not the blog) first noticed these critters 3 years ago as a 2-year-old, looking out his window and saying "Flashing lights!"  I posted about that wondrous event here, in a post I simply called Flashing Lights.

He was out there last night till well after dark, catching and releasing this year's brood.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Animals "Adopting" Other Animals...and Ultrarunning

Light posting this week.

In keeping with my earlier post about the wolf pups at the Catoctin Zoo, via National Geographic we read this fascinating info about animals who may "adopt" other animals, even those of a different species altogether: some cases, an animal will adopt one of its own species, which is instinctual. "Instinctively animals take care of young to help them survive and therefore pass on the family DNA," Holland said. "So I think there's some hard wiring in there that leads them to offer care to another animal in need. If it isn't a relative, there maybe some wires crossed, but I think the behavior comes from the same place."

 Greyhound with owl...image credit Nat Geo, here

I've never seen this phenomenon myself, but I'm waiting for the day when I'm running in the backcountry and see a squirrel riding on the back of a deer....


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Cutest Critter EVER!

Over the weekend we took Mister Tristan (the 5-year-old human being, not the blog) to the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo.

This is a small zoo in Thurmont, MD, ideal for families: large enough to have a decent array of critters both large and small, yet compact enough to be doable for children.

Anyway, they have a litter of gray wolf pups that were born on 22 April, and I can honestly say I have never seen anything cuter.  They were running an wrestling and tumbling, then one of the pups cut loose with a small howl.

You just wanted to scoop them into your arms and eat them up:

[image credit Gary]

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"I Didn't See No Line"...and Surveillance

This post goes back to my post of yesterday.  I suppose the theme could be thought of as the blurring of lines.

Many of my generation loved Seinfeld (the first time through, and now through multiple generations of syndication), finding that in almost any episode one could uncover uncanny parallels between real life and the show.

The same notion--that a TV representation could have parallels with real life (more about that at the bottom, but first I must set the stage) is true of the 1989 TV miniseries Lonesome Dove, which won some 7 Emmys.  The screen adaptation in turn had evolved from the 1985 Larry McMurtry novel, which captured a Pulitzer Prize.  The miniseries ran in four 2-hour parts.

The main characters were Robert Duvall as Augustus McCrae, Tommy Lee Jones as Woodrow F. Call, Rick Schroder as Newt, Diane Lane as Lorena Wood, Danny Glover as Joshua Deets, Robert Urich as Jake Spoon, Anjelica Huston as Clara Allen, Frederic Forrest as Blue Duck, Chris Cooper as July Johnson, and Barry Corbin as Roscoe Brown.

All of these characters seem as real to me as real life--just as was true of the recent Lincoln movie, I never once thought "That's not really xxxx--it's an actor."

Anyway, I keep circling back to any number of popular new stories, or what we all see in our personal lives, about how you need to listen to that little voice inside of you:  Just Do. The. Right. Thing.

In the clip below, quote below, since YouTube has removed the clip, the morally lazy Jake Spoon (Robert Urich) fell in with some bad guy horse thieves and was caught by his former Texas Ranger buddies, Captain Call (Tommy Lee Jones) and Gus (Robert Duvall).  Spoon tries to explain his deeds:

Jake Spoon: I didn't see no line Gus. I was just trying to get through the territory without getting scalped, that's all.

Gus McCrae: [Call is about to hang Jake] You know how it goes, Jake. You ride with an outlaw, you die with an outlaw. Sorry you crossed the line.

Jake Spoon: I never seen no line, Gus. I was just trying to get through the territory without gettin' scalped.

Gus McCrae: I don't doubt that's true, Jake.

To Jake Spoon I say, Bullsh*t!!  You know, you know, right from wrong.  Then as the noose is around Jake's neck and he's kinda saying goodbye to his buddies:

"Well, hell, boys, damn sight rather be hung by my friends than by a bunch of damn strangers." 

Then he kicked his own horse to initiate the hanging rather than have one of his buddies have to do it.

As I wrote yesterday, the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is pretty unequivocal.  The line has indeed been mightily crossed, and the powers that be are OK with that.  I guess they didn't see no line:

 The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”


Monday, June 10, 2013

If You Don't Have Anyhting To Hide...and Ultrarunning

In all the furor--entirely justified, in my mind--over the just-revealed secret surveillance of U.S. citizens, it is well to hearken back to what the Constitution of the United States of America actually says.  It's the 4th Amendment, to wit:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Seems pretty clear to me: probable cause = specific suspicion = specific warrant.  No sniffing around just in case somebody might be a bad guy.

And definitely no thoughts along the lines of those expressed by the professional d-bag and U.S. Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham (If you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t have anything to worry about):

“I think we should be concerned about terrorists trying to infiltrate our country and attack us and trying to coordinate activities from overseas within inside the country… 
…I’m a Verizon customer. I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government’s going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States. I don’t think you’re talking to terrorists. I know you’re not. I know I’m not. So, we don’t have anything to worry about.”

What seems crystal clear to me seems somehow murky to those in power.  Well, I guess I just figured it out, didn't I? (hint: P-O-W-E-R).

And the link to Ultrarunning?  What if--and stranger things have happened--the super-duper government trolling apparatus happened to flag a suspected terrorist who also was a long distance runner?  And that somehow the term "Ultrarunning" or "Ultrarunner" inadvertently got associated with the "bad guys'?

Then ALL your emails or Internet searches would be fair game for the spooks (just like this post undoubtedly now is being read by the NSA).

Don't think it can't happen.  It can.  I am a retired career Federal employee who has seen the bureaucracy in action for nearly 4 decades.  It has an inertial power of its own that keeps rolling long after reason should have prevailed.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Cats in Art: Sitting Woman With a Cat (Bonnard)

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

This is part 5 of 8 of a multiweek study of the cat art of Pierre Bonnard, a French painter (1867-1947). In this series I've moved beyond the two pieces featured by Zuffi and am now studying the rest of Bonnard's cat paintings in chronological order.

Image credit WikiPaintings, Sitting Woman With a Cat, Pierre Bonnard, 1898, oil on canvas, held in a private collection.

I just love the spare simplicity of this image.  The pensive woman, hands folded carefully on her lap, whose posture seem stiff and unrelaxed, seems to be pondering something with eyes closed.  Or, is observing the cat at play--one cannot tell.

The setting appears to be along a gravel path in a flower garden, but whose plants yield only foliage with no flowers.  I sense a tension between the carefree cat and the woman, whose demeanor seems anything but relaxed.

One has to wonder what restless thoughts she is thinking.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Scary Trail Story

Via Boing Boing (always a great read, and if you don't check it out at least a couple times a week, it's your loss), we see a photo of what they entitle a "Horrifying Clown Statue Deep in the Woods":

Go to the Boing Boing link for more info.  The statue was placed on a trail in Florida.  Can you imagine running along some backcountry trail, doing your Ultrarunning thing, and all of a sudden you look ahead and see that?
I can well imagine simply dropping dead on the spot.  Here's hoping that you or I NEVER encounter such a creepy thing.  May our trail miles and hours be benevolent and healing and fun.  Anything but this.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Trail Dream Come True

[image credit Gary]

A couple days ago I fulfilled a lifetime fantasy--I painted blazes on "my" Reese Hollow Trail, where I recently began volunteering as overseer with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).

I've done other work this spring at the trail and shelter (where I am also overseer), but when I actually wielded the paintbrush and carefully refreshed that very first old and faded yellow blaze mark on that young oak, I felt tears welling up in my eyes.  It was now bona fide and official--I was a real trail volunteer, part of a largely invisible army of other such volunteers, not only here in PA with the PATC, but across the whole length and breadth of these United States.

I've been a trail runner for years and always knew that the trails did not mysteriously appear and then maintain themselves; of course there was a behind-the-scenes organization and individuals who actually did the real work.  It was always my dream to volunteer "sometime," when life and circumstances permitted.  With retirement I finally felt I had the time to give back and be a producer of sorts rather than simply a consumer.

The Reese Hollow Trail is a short feeder trail to the major north-south Tuscarora Trail that runs some 250 miles from Carlisle, PA to Shenandoah National Park in VA.  Since the Tuscarora is largely a ridge top route, water and shelter are a problem.  So the Reese Hollow Trail was developed to serve as an access point to the Tuscarora and to bring hikers down off the ridge to the new shelter and a reliable spring.

[image credit Gary: toad at the base of the recently-installed bear pole at Reese Hollow Shelter--looks like she/he approves.]

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Water Garden 2013...and Ultrarunning

Last post on this topic was a year ago, and featured the water plant called Parrot Feather.

This year just wanted to show one of my 3 Water Lilies.  This one is pink or a light red, and although it came from a big box store (Lowe's) it has consistently bloomed like a workhorse for the past 10 years or so.

[image credit Gary]
The Parrot Feather is peeking out at the upper left, another workhorse plant.
The two plants are quite analogous to Ultrarunning.  See, most of the real work of Ultrarunning comes in training.  The races are the glory events, which are only made possible by all the hard work in preparation.  To stretch the point, in the water garden, all the day to day heavy lifting is done by the everyday plants, the ones we almost take for granted, like the Lilies and the Parrot Feather.
But then when you examine these journeyman plants you see a special beauty that comes from their ordinariness. 
Much like an everyday runner.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Big Lebowski...and Ultrarunning

In a fair world, this 1998 film should have garnered a Best Actor Oscar for Jeff Bridges in his role as "The Dude" as well as a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for John Goodman in his role as "Walter."

However, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards do not go to movies where the F-bomb is dropped, like, 400 times.  Even if said F-bomb drops are completely, thoroughly, believably and appropriately integrated into the fabric of the movie.

See, nudity, torture, rape, violence, whatever, can be tolerated in an "important film" but evidently a film about slackers where the F-bomb runs rampant is over the top.

I am reminded to do this post by one that Melissa McEwan recently put up over at Shakesville.  She is also a BIG fan.

Bottom line: If you have never seen this movie, you really must.  It's a hoot.

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning?  Very tenuous, at best: it's just that I cannot for the life of me possibly imagine The Dude moving at anything faster than a shuffle.  It provides me many moments of comic relief while on the trails.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Game of Thrones, Cat Singing...and Ultrarunning

[If embeddedYouTube video won't play, link is here]

Eternal thanks to our daughter for turning us on to the HBO series Game of Thrones.

Last night's epic episode prompts me to post this cat singing video.  Plus since there's only one remaining episode this season, if I'm going to run this post, today is probably the day.

The link to Ultrarunning is that the characters in Game of Thrones--it being medieval and all--are frequently wet, cold, hungry, bedraggled, exhausted, etc.  You know, like Ultrarunners sometime are.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cats in Art: The Lunch of the Little Ones (Bonnard)

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

This is part 4 of 8 of a multiweek study of the cat art of Pierre Bonnard, a French painter (1867-1947). In this series I've moved beyond the two pieces featured by Zuffi and am now studying the rest of Bonnard's cat paintings in chronological order.

Image credit WikiPaintings, The Lunch of the Little Ones, Pierre Bonnard, 1897, oil on panel, held by The Museum of Fine Arts of Nancy, France

Since this was not an image that Zuffi used, I'm the art critic again.

For me, the absolute best part of this painting is the title: Lunch of the Little Ones.  Which I take to include the feline little one on the right, whose form dominates the image when compared with the two human little ones.

There are some anomalies in the image, though: whose plate is sitting across the table from the cat?  And why the lamp directly in front of the cat, unless the point is to emphasize that the cat is an uninvited guest without a place setting.  And is that indistinct image in the upper left another cat, resting on the square tiles?

I do love this Bonnard painting!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Appalachian Trail Stomach Virus

Seems that some hikers along the Appalachian Trail just south of its midpoint are contracting a severe intestinal bug.  From my local paper, the Chambersburg Public Opinion, on 30 May 2013, "Viral outbreak on Appalachian Trail hikes toward Pennsylvania":

While the worst viral outbreak to strike hikers in Appalachian Trail history is traveling north from Georgia into Pennsylvania, health officials say there is really no reason for area residents to be concerned.
Bob Proudman, director of conservation operations for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, said an outbreak of norovirus among trail hikers began somewhere around the Tennessee-North Carolina border about four weeks ago and is moving north with the hikers.
Norovirus has a 12- to 48-hour incubation period, lasts 24 to 60 hours and may cause severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. 
Signs are being posted along the Appalachian Trail south of Maryland. Signs read "A.T. shelters and privies may have been used by sick hikers" and information includes ways to "help prevent spread of highly contagious 'stomach bug'":
        - Wash hands with soap and water.
        - Treat all water. Use best "leave-no-trace" practices.
        - (Alcohol-based) hand sanitizers may not be effective against the stomach bug.
        - Stomach bug has a 12- to 48-hour incubation period, lasts 24 to 60 hours and may cause severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration.
        - People with stomach bug may be contagious for three days to two weeks after recovery.

I've previously posted about drinking Potomac River water--treated of course--here. The treating agent was bleach, but of course since I am not a public health expert you must take my story for what is is--a personal anecdote, and not definitive advice.

I've never succumbed to any such illnesses but I've had some severe influenza, which kinda gives me the idea.  We all tend to get complacent about basic precautions with our food and drink, so the bottom line is that it's time to assume it could happen to me, and take appropriate precautions.