Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cats in Art: Woman and Cat (Foujita)

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 the ninth and possibly final post in a series of posts of the cat art of Leonard Foujita.

Image credit WikiArt, here.  Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita,  Woman and Cat, undated, media and size unspecified, held in a private collection.

This post is specifically selected for the occasion and dedicated to my lovely bride, who so loves male orange tabby cats.  Today is our 40th wedding anniversary.  And the photo below is our cat Sammy, who died at age 19 a couple years ago, and who (according to the bride) was very nearly the greatest cat ever:

image credit Gary

Anyway, not much to add to the Foujita comments other than his orange kitty seems young, a juvenile, so hopefully Foujita had him (I assume male because that's my model) for many a year.  The kitty seems fascinated by the painter, while the woman seems aloof and bored...even a tad hostile or angry about something.  All she would have to do is to reach down and pet the tabby and her problems would immediately seem smaller.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Janis Joplin Stamps...and Ultrarunning

A few weeks back I posted about the upcoming Janis Joplin stamp to be issued by the USPS in August.

Well, we like JJ, although the bride and I are certainly not groupies, so I guess it was more the idea of honoring an era in classic rock: since we need stamps anyway, we went ahead and bought $200 worth.

That's about 400 stamps, thusly:

[image credit Gary]

They come in sheets of 16, with a photo of JJ on the back, with the sheet designed to look like an 45 in its sleeve.

The link to Ultrarunning is that probably JJ's most beloved song is Piece of my Heart.  Sometimes when I'm struggling along the trail this tune comes unbidden to my mind...and stays there.  Although it's a song of love gone bad, I focus on the word heart, as in my heart pounding in the effort of the run.

Listen to it here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

More VERY EASY Trickle-Down Theory

On the heels of yesterday's post where the pope recognizes and calls out simple economic reality, I dug around in my archives for a post that I knew I did on this same topic, which at length I finally found here (I had labelled it poorly).

Here's what I wrote 3 years ago in a post called Debunking The Myth Of The Wealthy Job Creator: 

The conservatives keep reciting--to me, reminiscent of the mob of zombies chanting "Imhotep" in the first Mummy movie--that tax cuts for the wealthy are the best way to create jobs and stimulate the economy.  In fact, I think they actually believe it.

But it makes no sense.  The cart is not only before the horse, there seems to be no horse.  Let's try this for some logic:

The way jobs are created is through demand for goods and services.  I need my car worked on, so I take it to a garage.  If enough additional people like that particular garage, eventually the owner will need to hire another mechanic to meet the increased demand.  Merely giving more money to the owner via tax cuts--in the absence of increased demand--will not cause him suddenly to say "Aha!  Now I can hire that mechanic!" The new mechanic will be sitting on his hands because the cars are not lining up outside.  Why? People in a fiscal crunch are doing more of their own auto maintenance or deferring it.

Nope, it's D-E-M-A-N-D, in the form of spendable money in people's pockets, that will create jobs.  It's always been a bottom-driven process, never a top-down, trickle-down effect, despite all the lockstep chanting.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pope Francis Gets it Right

This quote is from nearly a year ago but I just ran across it recently.  Links here and here.

Despite the fact that this pope is the head of a male-dominated and privileged colossus that has ruled virtually unchanged for centuries, he is slowly but surely making inroads in the right direction.

Read what he says about current economic theory:

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” Francis wrote in the papal statement. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacra­lized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
“Meanwhile,” he added, “the excluded are still waiting.” 

Then read this, from the pope's same statement last November.  The bolding is mine:

In his most authoritative writings as pontiff, Francis decried an “idolatry of money” in secular culture and warned that it would lead to “a new tyranny.” But he reserved a large part of his critique for what he sees as an excessively top-down Catholic Church hierarchy, calling for more local governance and greater inclusiveness — including “broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church.” 

Why, it's almost enough to make a Roman Catholic out of me.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Missing Charlie...and Ultrarunning

I posed last week how my father-in-law died suddenly about a week ago.

Each instance of grief and loss is unique, and may run the gamut from constant, distraught weepiness to acceptance and even happiness in celebrating the life of the departed.

At the age I am, I've seen my share of deaths of grandparents, parents, the near death of a child and grandchild, and friends, but I can't say yet whether I'll be motivated to remember Charlie frequently here at Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 6 year old human being) or whether this post might be the last.  Just don't know.

But I will tell a short tale that epitomized Charlie and how he always had a kind word or a funny story to put people at their ease. As they say in Pennsylvania Dutch country, "He liked to devil people."

Charlie was giving his grandson advice once, how since he (Charlie) was such a handsome man in his younger years, he had the problem of dealing with persistent, pesty females.

Charlie's solution: "I had to shit in my pants to keep the girls away."

Guess I'll go take a run.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cats in Art: Cat and Girl (Foujita)

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 the eighth in a series of posts of the cat art of Leonard Foujita.

Image credit WikiArt, here.  Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita,  Cat and Girl, 1956, media and size unspecified, held in a private collection.

Foujita's cat in this painting, which comes quite late in his painting career, is almost cartoonish in its facial expression.  Not that this is a bad thing; cats (and dogs) undoubtedly have quite an array of distinct facial expressions.  This kitty looks inquisitive and fascinated by something...yet the body language to me seems like it is not ready to bolt.  It's more of a stationary curiosity if there is such a thing in the kitty world, while not yet ready to get too close to whatever it is out there.

And the girl: she, too, is looking intently in the same direction as the cat, off  to the painter's right.  Her expression is the human equivalent of the cat's: total absorption.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Offline Briefly

We'll be dark here at Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 6 year old human being) until my Sunday Cats in Art post.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On the Death of a Loved One...and Lonesome Dove

We are in the process of burying the bride's father.  He was in failing health, yet there was no inkling that he would suddenly collapse and die (although he likely would have said, "That's a good way to go.").

So, shock, sadness, regrets, laughter, tears...all the emotions that wash over you when a loved one dies.  The funny stories and the tearful ones, all part of a life well lived.

You readers--the handful that will stick through reading this homily, which is, after all, about a complete stranger--of course didn't know my father-in-law (FIL), since I keep my family stuff fairly anonymous and generic here at Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 6 year old human being).  

But there are many things we could say about FIL.  He was 87, a WWII veteran, a farmer and mechanic, but mostly I think FIL would like to be remembered as a family man: husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, friend, and role model/mentor to many young people in his family and community.  

In his robust years, FIL was kinda the go-to guy for broken stuff and when you simply needed a hand or some advice.  Or just wanted to bullshit with someone.  In his later years, the favors were returned when his abilities to cope with his home and property became too much, and many family members and friends would cheerfully pitch in to help FIL with his tasks. get back to the blog, one of my all-time favorite novels and film productions is Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove.  This story has it all: love, friendship, family, loyalty, bravery.  I am convinced that EVERY lesson you need to learn about life, you can find in Lonesome Dove.

I can't get into all the character background here, so please read on, but for you aficionados, today I especially recall the part of the story where the scout Deets was killed.  Whenever anyone dies, the ones left behind always have some kind of self-recriminations:

Woodrow Call: I guess it's our fault, we should've shot sooner.
Gus McCrae: I don't want to start thinking, Woodrow, of all the things we should have done for this good man.

And the epitaph on Deets' headboard, carved by Woodrow Call...which with some changed words could have been FIL's:
Pea Eye Parker: What's it read, Gus? 
Gus McCrae: It says, "Josh Deets. Served with me 30 years. Fought In 21 engagements with the Comanche and the Kiowa. Cheerful in all weathers. Never shirked a task. Splendid behavior." That's what it says. 
Pea Eye Parker: My lord. Old Deets is gone. My lord. 

And finally, Gus McCrae's philosophy of life, which could have been FIL's:
Gus McCrae: Lorie darlin', life in San Francisco, you see, is still just life. If you want any one thing too badly, it's likely to turn out to be a disappointment. The only healthy way to live life is to learn to like all the little everyday things, like a sip of good whiskey in the evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk, or a feisty gentleman like myself.

Rest in peace, Charlie.  I loved you.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Snot Rockets...and Ultrarunning

Mister Tristan (the 6 year old human being, not the blog), learned a valuable Ultrarunning-related skill this weekend. 

When we were out in the hot tub, his nose was running, and no tissues available, I taught him how to blow a snot rocket. 

That's where you hold one nostril shut while you blow vigorously, launching a blob of snot--the snot rocket. Then you do the other nostril. Naturally, there is an important component of directionality that must be well considered.

It's gross but effective, and extremely useful when the traditional nose blow with tissues is not an option.  

As when you're running in the backcountry.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cats in Art: Les Deux Chats (Foujita)

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 the seventh in a series of posts of the cat art of Leonard Foujita.

Image credit WikiArt, here.  Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita,  Les Deux Chats, date uncertain (1960s, perhaps), media and size unspecified, held in a private collection.

The title in English, not surprisingly, is The Two Cats.  These guys look like a real pair of troublemakers (don't be fooled for one minute by the placid sleepiness of the kitty on the right).  The one on the left is so ready to bolt or play or chase.

Again we see the realism with which Foujita creates these felines.  I am particularly struck with the detail and realistic rendering of the left cat's torso.  Capturing that mottled tortoise-like pattern of fur coloration is far from easy.  

It is quite obvious to me, from looking over his numerous cat paintings from various times of his life, that Foujita must have been a dedicated cat lover as well as an excellent painter of the kitty form.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

In the Shadow of....Great Blue Herons?

I posted here about a year ago about how frequently it has happened to me that I've been in the shadow of Turkey Vultures.  Usually it happens when I'm on a sunny ridge top, and all of a sudden a big shadow passes over: a Turkey Vulture.

Well, last week I did some canoeing with a friend along the Conococheague Creek north of Greencastle, PA, and we we so fortunate in that we saw too many Great Blue Herons to count.  In most of the cases we would paddle downstream and startle a heron, which would flap away, mostly in the downstream direction.  Of course, in a couple minutes we'd flush the bird again.

After a couple times, the heron would usually wise up and instead of fleeing away downstream, it'd turn either left or right and circle around, getting behind us on the upstream side, probably muttering to itself in heron about those damn canoeists.

At any rate, there was one instance where we didn't see the heron, but all of a sudden a large shadow swept over us on an otherwise open and sunny stretch of water. I immediately looked up towards the sun, and sure enough, there was a Great Blue Heron sailing overhead.

I smiled, having been party to an uncommon treat, being in the shadow of a heron.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Cure for Anything is Salt...and Ultrarunning

I may have heard this on Public Radio, but I'm not sure or I would give credit, but the topic was salt, where I heard this:

The cure for anything is salt, whether it be sweat, tears, or the sea.

So much wisdom packed in there.  When I run in the backcountry it always involves sweat, and not infrequently involves tears.  Not necessarily tears of physical pain, but I can recall many runs with companions--particularly in a race situation--where in the deep talk about stuff that seems to be invoked by the camaraderie, I have gotten moved to tears by the emotions of the tale.

Sometimes it's my tale, sometimes it's the other person's, but I've blogged before about how perfect strangers on the trail can open up about the most personal things so quickly, in a post I called "Sharing Secrets With Strangers on the Trail," here.

Needless to say, salt also looms large in our hydration scheme.  Just like we sweat copious quantities of water, we also lose salt and other electrolytes that needs replenished as well.  Many Ultrarunners use Succeed capsules during hot weather (I have no financial interest, Google it if you want more info), or make sure they ingest salty stuff along the trail.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Golf...Which is SO Not a Sport, in a Pickle...and Ultrarunning

I ran across this article back in April and stashed it till now:

GREENSBORO, Ga. — Golf holes the size of pizzas. Soccer balls on the back nine. A mulligan on every hole.
These are some of the measures — some would say gimmicks — that golf courses across the country have experimented with to stop people from quitting the game.
Golf has always reveled in its standards and rich tradition. But increasingly a victim of its own image and hidebound ways, golf has lost five million players in the last decade, according to the National Golf Foundation, with 20 percent of the existing 25 million golfers apt to quit in the next few years.
People under 35 have especially spurned the game, saying it takes too long to play, is too difficult to learn and has too many tiresome rules.
Go ahead and read the rest at the link; it's a pretty in-depth and decent article.  I guess my main complaint, if you will, about golf is that it takes too much time, that's the main reason it never appealed to me.

But...and that's a BIG but...instead I do a sport where the mileage is measured in tens of miles and the time is measured in hours, or even days?  What kind of sense does that make?

Well, I never said that Ultrarunning makes sense.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Seen in a Cardiologist's Office

Something about this cover bothers me.

[image credit Gary...and Angina magazine]

This is one of those skinny medical periodicals that one finds in various doctors' offices.  So I suppose I should not be surprised to find the periodical Angina in a cardiologist's office.  After all, I see diabetes and thyroid disease mags in my endocrinologist's office (I am under long-term care for hyperthyroidism).

Naturally, the purpose of the cover is to remind folks that the heart condition Angina is no respecter of persons, and in fact can happen to practically anyone, including young, pretty women.

But my first impression of this medical magazine was that the woman's name is Angina, and I couldn't help wondering whether her loved ones call her Angie for short.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

An Astonishing Statistic...and Ultrarunning

According to this recent article by Reuters, many teens are using human growth hormone:

U.S. teenagers' reported use of synthetic human growth hormone more than doubled between 2012 to 2013 as they sought to improve athletic performance and appearance, a survey by anti-drug advocates found.
Eleven percent of 3,705 teenagers in grades 9 to 12 polled by the non-profit Partnership for Drug-Free Kids said they had used synthetic human growth hormone at least once without a prescription, up from 5 percent in 2012.
Use of synthetic human growth hormone (HGH) was higher among blacks and Hispanics, at 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Caucasians were at 9 percent, according to the group's annual survey released on Tuesday.

Twelve percent of boys said they had used synthetic HGH compared with 9 percent of teenage girls.

These data are absolutely astonishing to me!  Are you kidding?  One in ten high school aged kids have used HGH?
Now I love me some Ultrarunning, and I am not above using coffee and Mountain Dew in the latter stages of a race to perk me up, but injecting HGH as part of a deliberate strategy to improve performance?  I cannot imagine the pressure that these kids must feel to resort to that solution, nor can I imagine the type of rationalizing mindset that would pass that off as something OK to do.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Perfect Summer Meal...and Ultrarunning

The tomatoes and zucchini came from my garden.  I brushed the lengthwise-quartered zucchini lightly with olive oil,  sprinkled with fresh grated Parmesan cheese, and grilled them.  The tomatoes were also grilled, after receiving a generous dollop of pesto sauce.

The sweet corn came from a farm stand just down the road and was grown within a couple miles of my place.  The avocados, the one non-local item, likely came from California.  I cooked the corn in water, while the avocado was grilled (again with a light brushing of olive oil).

[image credit Gary]

The connection to Ultrarunning is that sometimes I crave a vegetarian meal (while both the bride and I are happy carnivores) after a long effort.  Intuitively that seems backwards--I'd think that meaty protein would be the preferred menu choice.  But sometimes a big effort suppresses my appetite for some hours, and a lighter, veggie meal is more in keeping with my druthers at that time.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cats in Art: Self-Portrait With Cat (Foujita)

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 the sixth in a series of posts of the cat art of Leonard Foujita.

Image credit Wikiart, here.

Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, Self-Portrait With a Cat, 1928, media and size unspecified, held in a private collection.

First off, note the subtle difference in title between this image and the one from last week.  Last week's painting was called "Self-Portrait With a Cat" while this one omits the article a (is the term indeed article?--I never paid much attention to the formal parts of speech), going with "Self-Portrait With Cat."

Beyond the word play, in this image we have a much sparser, almost black-and-white image as compared to last week's full color rendering. Actually, while both images date from 1928, this one may have come first; I cannot tell for sure.

But I'd venture to say that the kitty is the same in both images, what I would call a gray tabby.  And while the cat here is serene and snuggling, recall that last week the cat was the very image of a "bad kitty."  

Saturday, August 9, 2014

I Guess I'm Being Sanctimonious

About a week ago, President Obama made some remarks about the torture program of the US during the previous administration. I've had some days to mull this topic over, then today I read a post, here, by William Rivers Pitt, that absolutely articulated my thoughts so much better than I ever could.

So here's an excerpt.  You should really go and read the whole thing.

"Even before I came into office," said the President on Friday, "I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values."
"I understand why it happened," the President continued. "I think it's important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the twin towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this.".
By citing the fear that came after the attacks of 9/11 - a moment when defending the Constitution and holding to that oath was very, very hard - as a free pass for those who instituted and practiced this program of torture, the president betrayed his oath, just as those who practiced torture betrayed theirs. No one was prosecuted for these crimes, and the "investigations" conducted by this administration into that torture were so piddly and toothless as to be utterly meaningless.
Beyond that oath is the Geneva Convention Against Torture, of which the United States is a signatory, and is therefore bound to its edicts. Article Two, Section One of the Convention reads, "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." In other words, no excuses, period, end of file. "Afraid" is not an excuse.
The Constitution was violated, the Geneva Convention was violated, and still everyone walked, and on Friday, the president said that was fine, because we were "afraid." The moral failure in this is so vast as to be bottomless...but Mr. Obama wasn't quite finished twisting the knife.
"And, you know," he continued, "it's important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots, but having said all that, we did some things that were wrong." 

There's more; the whole post is worth  reading if you want to be disgusted.  Unless, of course, I'm being sanctimonious.

Friday, August 8, 2014

World War I: A Grim Statistic

This week marked the 100 year anniversary of the start of WWI.

I heard a shocking, actually stunning, statistic on the news the other night, so compelling that I had to look it up and get independent corroboration of it.  My eyes welled up with tears.  NBC Nightly News stated that approximately 17 million human beings--some 2% of the world's population--died due to to WWI (**see NOTE below**).

I cannot fathom the scope of that tragedy, even now, 100 years later.  That we as a species are still firm proponents of the knuckle sandwich school of problem-solving, wherein we fight about our issues rather than solving them through discussion and negotiation.

That's it, I've got nothing more.  Other than a profound weariness and resignation about the future of the human race.

After some lazy Googling here and here (so while these data may not be authoritative I suspect they are essentially correct for our purposes) it seems that the 17 million deaths figure is correct.  However, there were an additional 20 million wounded, yielding a rough total casualty figure of 37 million...which is what equates to the NBC figure of 2% of the world's population.  So NBC did some fuzzy math.

Deaths, if taken alone, equate to just under 1% rather than 2% of the world's population at that time.

Regardless, a stunning statistic.  But statistics are but proxies for real, live, breathing human beings: one of the dead was my great-grandfather, an ordinary German soldier.  My blog post on that is here.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pheasants...and Ultrarunning

Ring Neck Pheasant, image credit Wikipedia

From an editorial on 29 July 2014, in my local paper, the Chambersburg Public Opinion:

Rural south-central PA residents who grew up in the sixties and seventies may remember seeing ringnecked pheasant hens leading their chicks across a country road. Or the colorful sight and crowing of a just-flushed male pheasant.
A staple of small-game season, pheasants also helped stretch many a family food budget.
But in subsequent decades, with the decline in farmland, changes in farming practices and other factors, pheasants quietly declined to the point of virtually disappearing in the wild.
Nobody thought much about them, unless an occasional — and short-lived — farm-raised pheasant wandered into view, providing a fleeting glimpse of what we lost.
It's welcome news, then, that the Pennsylvania Game Commission's reintroduction of wild pheasants in southwestern Franklin County, appears to have gotten off to a good start.

The newspaper's editorial (as well an an article the day before) is strongly in favor of the Pennsylvania Game Commission devoting resources to try to get pheasants reestablished in Pennsylvania...yet nowhere in the article or the editorial does it ever mention that ring neck pheasants are not even native to the United States.

They were imported from Asia in the late 1800s as a game bird, and for a century did well enough in the wild in Pennsylvania.  But now that they are declining, I don't see the sense of trying to support a non-native species for the sole purpose of having another animal for hunters to hunt.  That just seems wrong to me.

My most treasured wildlife experiences come in the backcountry, not with a gun or even a camera, but in the memories I have of seeing a indigenous critter such as a deer, or a bear, or even just a common songbird, acting naturally in their native environment.  

I feel so lucky to have had too many experiences like that to count.  I once read a thoughtful essay years back that has always stuck with me: that when we are on our deathbeds, we don't think about the first time we bought stock or opened a checking account.  No, we remember sunrises and beaches and trails...those priceless moments when Nature revealed herself to us.

So we Ultrarunners should be set in terms of fond memories when the grim reaper comes calling.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Roadside Flowers...and Ultrarunning

I'm not fortunate enough to do all my running on trails; in fact, I only get out to a trail to run perhaps twice a month or so.  Most of the time I log my miles on the rural roads around my home north of Greencastle, PA.

Two of my favorite summer flowers are going crazy right now: Chicory and Queen Ann's Lace.  Here's a typical scene (all images by Gary):

Imagine waist-high blue (Chicory) and white (Queen Ann's Lace) flowers, mere feet away from the runner on the road, stretching literally off and on for miles.  And these guys are flowers that you just gotta admire for their pluckiness and toughness: they seem to do well in roadside ditches, in gravelly, wasted areas that bake in the sun in summer and get dosed with road salt in the winter.  

Nevertheless, the Chicory and Queen Ann's Lace seem to not only merely hang on, but to thrive where other plants cannot.  And up close each of these flowers are stunningly beautiful:

Actually, this roadside running can be nearly as satisfying as trail running...provided you have sights such as these posies.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Dipper at Reese Hollow

Since the first day I set eyes on the spring at the Reese Hollow Shelter, after volunteering to be the overseer of the shelter and Reese Hollow Trail back in Dec 2012, I've been smitten with it (Reese Hollow is a newer shelter west of Mercersburg, PA, and supports the Tuscarora Trail).

I mean, there's just something arresting and compelling about a source of pure, natural water, coming to the surface and being "tamed" via a pipe for human use.  Maybe it's a species memory of the vital requirement for water from humankind's earliest beginnings, maybe it's my geekiness and interest in hydrology and geology and physics and tools....

Who knows?  But I am irresistibly drawn to springs, and adopting the spring at the Reese Hollow Shelter is a dream come true.  I've only been associated with this spring for less than two years, and have not seen how it performs during a serious, prolonged drought, but I kinda think it's reliable and permanent, even in extreme dry conditions.  The water is cold, sweet, and refreshing.  And somehow, well, comforting is the word that comes to mind.

Soon after I fell in love with the spring, I knew that it needed a dipper.  Not only to obviate the need to bend way down to drink from the pipe, but just because a spring just needs a dipper.  And not just any dipper; it had to be vintage and used and even a little banged up from its former life, ready to assume thirst-quenching duties for hikers at Reese Hollow Shelter and Trail.

I perused local flea markets and antique shops, but I wound up buying the dipper on eBay.  It wasn't expensive--only $12--but when I saw the photo online, I just knew it was the right dipper for Reese Hollow:

You really must come up to Reese Hollow and take a drink.  And use the dipper, of course.  It's waiting, hanging on a small post beside the spring.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ultrarunning Races

I have long been of the opinion that if day-to-day running is the meat and potatoes of the sport, then running a race is the dessert.

It's the fun time--and also the anxious time--when all the weeks of training and hard work are put to the test.  It's a day when the clock and the measuring wheel rule, and the truth will out.  You're either adequately prepared, or you will struggle...or worse.

Entering a race has an added benefit, one that I certainly need right now: motivation.  The day you send in that application,, you've officially pulled the trigger.  A threshold has been crossed that has an element of chance, of commitment, of magic.  A date has appeared on your calendar, a hard calendar entity, that now exists in the real world.

You must prepare, for in a sense you've burned a bridge--that of commitment--and there's no going back (of course you can bail, and I have, but by and large you are committed).  Which reminds me of some inspirational words I kept in mind from 2010, and posted about, when I was preparing for the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cats in Art: Self-Portrait With a Cat (Foujita)

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 the fifth in a series of posts of the cat art of Leonard Foujita.

Image crediit Wikiart, here.

Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, Self-Portrait With a Cat, 1928, media and size unspecified, held in a private collection.

Having just watched the kid movie Puss in Boots--again!--with Mister Tristan (the 6 year old human being, not the blog), I can unequivocally state, as does Puss in the film, that if the cat in Foujita's picture could talk, it'd say "I'm just a bad kitty."

Just look at those cat eyes!  And one can imagine that moments after this image was captured, the kitty was gonna take a swipe at his daddy's paintbrush.  I mean, the cat just could not do it.  Too bad that laser pointers would not be available as a consumer item till near the end of the century: Foujita would have a had a great time with one.  And so would have the kitties.

So, I find it interesting that Foujita identifies so much with cats that he uses one in a self-portrait.  And once again, as we have seen over the past several weeks, we see the genius of Foujita at masterfully capturing the essence of catness.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Cutest Babies in the World

I've been a member of the National Wildlife Federation for a number of years now.  Each month their magazine, chock-full of great photos and in-depth articles, never fails to delight.

The August/September issue contained a great article about Red Wolves--with photos, of course:

[Red Wolf pups, image credit National Wildlife Federation]

Never heard of Red Wolves?  Many people have not.  From the NWF website:

Smaller and ruddier in color than their gray wolf cousins, the red wolf is one of the most endangered canids in the world. Though red wolves once ranged across the southeastern United States, years of hunting and habitat loss had driven the species to the brink of extinction by 1970.
As part of an ambitious captive-breeding program, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service captured the 14 remaining red wolves they could find in the wild. These wolves are the ancestors of the 100-120 animals that now live in North Carolina, the first animal to be successfully reintroduced after being declared extinct in the wild.
Within their ecosystem, the wolves play a valuable role in keeping numbers of prey like deer in check. In turn the smaller prey populations are less likely to balloon out of control and consume all available nutrients in their habitat. Additionally, though no studies have conducted to quantify this, the wolves’ preference for nuisance species, like nutria and raccoons, helps to reduce damage to crops and other human activities.

Anyway, before the summer's out our family will be making its annual vacation pilgrimage to North Carolina's Outer Banks.  This summer we plan to make an excursion to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, where these few dozen red wolves run wild and free.  They have a ranger-led red wolf program for visitors that we will attend, upon which I will report back later.