Thursday, May 29, 2014

"Chambersburg Chamber Opposes Minimum Wage Hike"

This week I read an infuriating article in my local paper (Chambersburg Public Opinion).  The article seems not to be posted in their on-line version, but here's the link to the site anyway.  You can get the gist of it pretty well without actually reading the whole piece.

According to a poll of local Chamber of Commerce members, president Dave Sciamanna stated opposition to raising the minimum wage thusly:

They're very concerned because when you talk about an increase of 30 percent, there's no way they can absorb the cost...they're going to reduce hours. It's going to impact people, particularly younger people trying to get into the workforce. 

The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. The proposal is to raise it to $10.10. Here in Franklin County, PA, the article tells us the some 14,000 workers would benefit.

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce has opposed the proposals, claiming that a minimum wage hike would force employers to reduce hours, halt hiring, and cut jobs.

Do you see the option that's missing?  Every time I read an article like this, where it's local or national, it's always "businesses will have to cut hours and reduce employees."

What about the option of you just raise the price of your goods and services?  This is not rocket science, people.  Over time, as the costs of production rise, the price of your product must also necessarily follow.  Duh!

For some reason, you never hear of that option from the's always scare-mongering where the only option is only to cut jobs and reduce hours.  In the meanwhile, millions of people toil away in poverty.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Battle of the Somme...and Ultrarunning

From this month's Smithsonian Magazine, a photographic essay about WWI.

Image credit: Michael St. Maur Sheil and Smithsonian Magazine

Even today, a century after the start of the Great War, the countryside still bears scars. In this image by Irish landscape photographer Michael St. Maur Sheil at the site of the Battle of the Somme, in northern France, you can trace grass-covered trenches and pockmarks from exploded bombshells. More than a million men were wounded or killed in the battle, the first major British offensive of the war.

Stuff like this just boggles the mind.  Human destruction on the scale of WWI is still incomprehensible to me today, and images like this just fill me with an almost inexpressible void for all the lives affected by mankind's stupidity.

I've blogged before here about my great grandfather, Julius Brinkmann, a common soldier on the Western Front, who happened to wear the uniform of Germany.  You can read more here if you wish.

Ultrarunning offers me some solace to this vast sadness.  You get to pick your antidote.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sneaking In and Out of Afghanistan

This weekend--to his credit--President Obama paid a surprise visit to the troops in Afghanistan.  As Commander in Chief, his visit to those we have put in harm's way is very appropriate on this Memorial Day weekend.

But--and you knew there was a but coming--her we are some dozen or more years removed from the start of our Middle East military adventures, and the President still has to sneak in and out of the country. It's just not safe to plan and schedule a public visit.  This situation has been the case for the whole time since things started back in 2001 for Afghanistan and 2003 for Iraq.

Doesn't say much for our military success, does it?

Please see Talking Points Memo for some nice photos of the visit. I can't easily embed photos using this iPad.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cats in Art: Paris Through the Window (Chagall)

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.

Image credit the Guggenheim Museum, Paris Through the Window, Marc Chagall, 1913, oil on canvas, 52" x 55", held by the Guggenheim Museau, New York.

This image is multifaceted, and the more you look at it, the more you see.

My initial impression--from a distance--was that the cat held center stage (naturally!).  But closer up, the cat clearly has a human face.  But then you note the Eiffel Tower, and the very large window pane on the left.  

And what about the two-faced individual on the right?  Two-faced--it's almost too easy of a stereotype.  And the disturbing pair of bodies floating above the two-faced guy could be the focal point of the cat's attention.

So back to the kitty.  The poor creature seems sad or in distress.  In a location where Paris is spread out before you, distress seems to be the last emotion one would want to have.  Perhaps the kitty knows it's a house cat, forever inside-bound, fated only to ever see Paris through the window...and thus the title.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Pennsylvania has joined the ranks of those on the right side of history (link here):

Gov. Corbett on Wednesday announced he would not appeal the federal court ruling that struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriages.
In a statement, the governor repeated his personal opposition to same-sex marriage but said his administration lawyers had concluded that an appeal of Tuesday's historic decision was "extremely unlikely" to succeed.
"As a Roman Catholic, the traditional teaching of my faith has not wavered. I continue to maintain the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman," Corbett said. But, he added, "My duties as governor require that I follow the laws as interpreted by the Courts and make a judgment as to the likelihood of a successful appeal. It is my hope that as the important issue of same-sex relationships continues to be addressed in our society, that all involved be treated with respect."
The decision all but ends a years-long legal battle in Pennsylvania and moved the Commonwealth into the growing column of states giving recognition and legal protection to gay and lesbian marriages. It also could extinguish an fight that was poised to become a central campaign issue as the Republican governor seeks re-election in November.

As one who has family members who may be affected by this historic ruling, all I can say is "Yay!"

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Water Garden, Iris...and Ultrarunning

Here is a shot of the Yellow Iris that are currently blooming in my water garden (image credit Gary):

I built this water garden some 15 years or so ago, and it still is a continuing source of wonder and joy.  At the time a junior family member was being a total shit--big time--and digging the BIG hole was so totally therapeutic.   The physical labor was the outlet for my psychological frustrations.

(NOTE: the family member in question is a wonderful, responsible adult now, so all's well that ends well).

There actually is a connection to Ultrarunning.  When I worked for the Defense Department before I retired, I often would have meetings at the Pentagon or at Crystal City nearby.  When overnight stays were required, I would stay in Crystal City (adjacent to Reagan National Airport) and would run along the Mount Vernon Trail, which parallels the Potomac River.  I would run upstream along the Mount Vernon Trail to Theodore Roosevelt Island opposite Rosslyn and Georgetown.

Once on the island, there are a number of trails to run on.  One in particular is along the boggy lowlands near river level, and I vividly recall one spring seeing a ton of wild iris blooming, just like in my water garden.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Cats in Art: A Kind of Cat (Klee)

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.

Image credit WikiPaintings, here.  A Kind of Cat, Paul Klee, 1937, 21 cm x 27 cm, other info unavailable.

This is the second of the Klee paintings I was able to uncover.  It looks more cat-like the further back you view the image.  The kitty is subtle, seemingly partly hidden, and an interesting blend of pastel blues, greens, oranges and grays.  Definitely not a mainstream feline.

But all in all, I guess you could call it "A Kind of Cat," which is the title conferred by Klee.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

At the Very Lengthy Meeting...and Ultrarunninng

Yes, indeed, I'm going to throw some more poetry at you.  As I always say, whenever many of us see poetry we can't hit that DELETE key fast enough.

But, read this one, just read it, and see if it resonates with you:

At the Very Lengthy Meeting

by Kevin McCaffrey

At the very lengthy meeting
I actually felt my soul leave my body
and rush toward the ceiling—
and fly around the walls and flare
toward daylight, toward the windows—
to throw silently its impetuous emptiness
against the glass in vain.
It could not go anywhere, the clear moth.

Then it lay on the rug, not exhausted
but bored and so inert that it almost—
though nothing—
took on a hue, stained with all the breaths
and words and thoughts that filled the room:
the yellow-green color of old teeth.

Credit to The Writer's Almanac for 14 May, here.  My coping technique for deadly meetings was to plan my backcountry runs--routes, water sources, timing, etc.  I'd be able  to lay it all out in incredible detail while seemingly taking notes on the meeting.

Also, The Writer's Almanac tells us that on this date in 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition took off from St. Louis, heading west into that vast, unknown wilderness.  Talk about courage--those guys were incredibly brave and adventurous.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Do You Want to Laugh and Cry and Cheer?

[image credit Gary]

Yesterday several members of our extended family attended the Franklin County, PA Special Olympics events held in at Chambersburg High School.  We have a family member who competed, our sweet and lovely Doody Bug (that's not her real name, in case you wondered!).

We who run vast distances in the backcountry scarcely give a second thought to how much of a gift that is--the physical health, the mental ability, the societal and family circumstances that enable us to pursue our passion for trail running.

Well, yesterday I knew that I would never again take it for granted, as I saw literally hundreds of Special Olympics athletes competing their hearts out to the limits of their abilities.  I saw them laugh and cry and cheer, and I did plenty of all three myself, as did all the other friends and families of the athletes.

For the kids, it was their day for a change, a day of not always being the slowest. A day of smiles and achievements and high fives, from the mentally challenged kids who could run like the wind, to the wheelchair bound kids whose minds work just fine in a failing body.

Seeing these hundred of kids, from all the school districts in an ordinary Pennsylvania county, made me realize how many kids are challenged physically and/or mentally, just how fragile life and health are, and how any family is just the luck of the draw away from being on that football field.

I've been a financial supporter of Special Olympics for years, and now know that this cause will remain on my giving list forever.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Cats in Art: Cat and Bird (Klee)

NOTE: I know, I am a day late in posting Cats in Art.  But my excuse is a good one--spending the day with the bride and her mother (and father), both in their 80s and in relatively good health.  My mother, unfortunately, passed several years ago.


This is what I posted last week, on Paul Klee's famous painting:

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.

Image credit Wikipaintings, hereCat and Bird (Katze und Vogel), Paul Klee, 1928, oil and ink on gessoed canvas, mounted on wood, 15" x 21", held Museum of Modern Art, New York City.  

Well--and please bear with me--in researching Mr. Klee for another possible post yesterday, I uncovered exactly none--zero--nada--other cat paintings.  Bit I did discover a gem that deserves its own Cats in Art post.  Turns out that the Swiss painter was a cat lover.  You should click on the link to see a photo of Klee and his cat (some some reason I cannot copy paste it here):

In the third instalment of our curator’s A–Z guide to the great Swiss modernist, Matthew Gale explains what to do if a cat walks across your work – according to Paul Klee.

Throughout Klee’s life cats were part of the family. They appear in his letters and his photographs, and even as subjects of his works. Fritzi the cat was ever-present in the 1920s, whilst Bimbo was central to the later Bauhaus years, followed by a second Bimbo who moved with them to Switzerland.
As Nicholas Fox Weber explains in this month’s Tate Etc., one particular anecdote of the painter’s feline-fondness came from the American art collector, EdwardM.M. Warburg, who visited Klee (and his cat) to look at some works on paper. He recalled seeing the cat start to walk across a still-wet watercolour and tried to stop him, afraid that he would leave a paw-print. But Klee is said to have simply laughed, and told him to let the cat wander as he liked. ‘Many years from now, one of your art connoisseurs will wonder how in the world I ever got that effect’, he explained. Whether or not this account is true, it shows Klee’s openness to unexpected developments.

Kinda reminds me of the Renoir story where real Renoirs can be distinguished from fakes by the presence of cat hair in the paint.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Rain Barrel...and Ultrarunning

Finally got the base built for my new rain barrel, and installed the barrel under a downspout:

[image credit Gary]

I attempted to purchase locally but could not find the exact one I wanted, so I got this one on line from Good Ideas, Inc.  They are in Lake City, PA, so at least it did not have to travel far to reach me.  It's the Rain Wizard 50 (note that I have no financial interest).

The back is flat, and from reader comments the plastic is sturdy enough that this model is not plagued with the complaint that when full of water the weight causes the back to bow out.

The purpose of the base I built from landscape timbers stacked 3 high is simply to raise the barrel enough so that you can easily get a watering can or small bucket under the spigot.

The link to Ultrarunning is admittedly tenuous--it's just that with the advent of an early hot spell here in south-central PA, I am reminded again of the importance of hydration when we run in the backcountry.  On a warm day I find I need about a bottle an hour (20 oz or so) and even then I am still drinking the rest of the day to catch up.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bluebells Along the C+O Canal

The bride and I took a bike ride on Tuesday along the C+O Canal upstream of Williamsport, MD.  Ultrarunners will no doubt be aware that the C+O hosts a portion (26 miles) of the venerable JFK 50 Miler, held in November each year.  The JFK stretch is downstream of Williamsport, and the finish line is in the small town.

Anyway....Williamsport is at Mile 99.5 of the canal; upstream between Mile 103 and 104 is a great display of Virginia Bluebells:

[image credits Gary]

These guys bloom in early May each year, and it's a sight well worth seeing.  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Where I Run: Zarger Road

This rural road where I frequently run recently saw the addition of a grain processing business, with a new storage bin.

However, the storage bin company has an unfortunate name as seen in the following images (photo credits Gary):

And a close-up of the name:

Perhaps the name plays better in Russia or Finland or wherever this name is derived from.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Lost Cargo of the Titanic

I'm sorry, but I just can't help myself.  In honor of the day....I send this out each year as a sort of annual ritual.  Enjoy!

Image credit here

Most people don't know that back in 1912, Hellmann's mayonnaise was manufactured in England. In fact, the Titanic was carrying 12,000 jars of the condiment scheduled for delivery in Vera Cruz, Mexico, which was to be the next port of call for the great ship after its stop in New York.

This would have been the largest single shipment of mayonnaise ever delivered to Mexico. But as we know, the great ship did not make it to New York. The ship hit an iceberg and sank, and the cargo was forever lost.

The people of Mexico, who were crazy about mayonnaise, and were eagerly awaiting its delivery, were disconsolate at the loss. Their anguish was so great, that they declared a National Day of Mourning, which they still observe to this day.

The National Day of Mourning occurs each year on May 5th and is known, of course, as Sinko de Mayo.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cats in Art: Cat and Bird (Klee)

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.

Image credit Wikipaintings, hereCat and Bird (Katze und Vogel), Paul Klee, 1928, oil and ink on gessoed canvas, mounted on wood, 15" x 21", held Museum of Modern Art, New York City.  

Zuffi observes, 

Klee's magnificent cat holds its prey on its head!  It is its idee fixe, its obsession: to seize food in order to survive.  With a single ink line, the major Swiss artist has succeeded in capturing the feline lust for succulent prey, capable of reawakening the cat's ancestral and never-suppressed hunter's instincts.  The highly sophisticated range of colors--based on emerald green, ochre, and fuchsia--accentuates, especially in the fixed, concentrated stare and menacing dilated pupils, the sensation of ambush about to happen.  This picture belongs to a particularly rich phase in the art of Klee, who reanimates the motif of childhood creativity with expressiveness and an extraordinary balance of colors.

I agree totally with Zuffi here--the choice and rendering of colors are indeed extraordinary. To me, the bird is really a thought balloon, as though the cat is a cartoon image.  And he captures perfectly the essence of catness: focus, suppressed wildness, instincts ready to emerge.

By the way, I read on the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) web site that this painting is not currently on view.  What the hell!?!?  The only acceptable reason for that would be if the piece is undergoing conservation, not that they have too many paintings and this one had to be cycled to the shelves for awhile.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Race for Equality Continues...and Ultrarunning

Well, it looks like we successfully passed the month of April.  Thus far, the days of 2014 have been a bit more trying than most years, for a variety of reasons. could be so much worse.  So I am thankful for every breath I take.  And I fervently hope that 2014 continues to bring positive changes for the folks who don't exactly love according to society's ideal heterosexual norm.  

Disclaimer: my extended family contains gay people.  They are normal.  I like them.  Get over it.

And the race for equality gathers momentum as more and more high-profile folks disavow discrimination, but mostly as everyday people quietly change their former discriminatory views.  Here's a particularly good graphic comment from pro wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin:

I don't give a shit if two guys, two gals, guy-gal, whatever it is, I believe that any human being in America, or any human being in the goddamn world, that wants to be married, and if it's same-sex, more power to 'em. What also chaps my ass, some of these churches, have the high horse that they get on and say, 'We as a church do not believe in that.' Which one of these motherfuckers talked to God, and God said that same-sex marriage was a no-can-do? Okay, so two cats can't get married if they want to get married, but then a guy can go murder 14 people, molest five kids, then go to fucking prison, and accept God and He's going to let him into heaven? After the fact that he did all that shit? See that's all horseshit to me, that don't jive with me.

The link to Ultrarunning?  You who run the backcountry know this: out there, we are only athletes.  We instantly bond and spill secrets about ourselves and our families as though the runner next to you were not a stranger, but a good friend you have known all your life.  There's an acceptance in the backcountry, that what matters is not who you or your friends or your family members happen to love, but rather the fact that you must be an OK human being to be doing what we do.