Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nobel Prize Winner

Via the always-vigilant Digby, we have a follow-on to my post of a couple weeks ago about the bombing proclivities of a certain Nobel Prize winner:

A very select club petitions one of its own members to do the right thing by digby
Hey, remember when President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize? I know, those were heady times.  Check out what his fellow Peace Prize Winners are asking of him today:

Twelve winners of the Nobel Peace Prize asked President Barack Obama late Sunday to make sure that a Senate report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of harsh interrogation tactics is released so the U.S. can put an end to a practice condemned by many as torture.
The release of the report, which is the most detailed account of the CIA’s interrogation practices in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, would be an opportunity for the U.S. and the world to come to terms with interrogation techniques that went too far, the laureates said in an open letter and petition. The release of the report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has stalled as the Obama Administration the CIA, and lawmakers clashed over how much of it should be redacted.

Why not just release the report?  Oh, I guess it might make us look maybe that tells us that what we did wasn't so good.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Hunting"...and Ultrarunning

Seems that "hunting" news is, well, in the news, both in my home state of Pennsylvania as well as in Maine.  I am loosely summarizing from a couple of recent pieces in the Chambersburg Public Opinion newspaper:

PA Fails Again to End Cruel Pigeon Shoots:  Legislation in the PA House of Representatives failed to be brought out of committee and thus will not be voted on this session.  The law would have ended the practice of allowing live-target shooting of pigeons, something that is legal in no other state.  Supporters of the bill believe it represents the success of gun advocacy groups to keep the measure from a vote, for fear of starting what they perceive to be a slippery slope that could limiting gun and hunting rights.

Maine Proposed Black Bear Hunting Restrictions: And in Maine, a vote is coming up dealing with some controversial practices currently legal in bear hunting.  The bill would ban the use of bait, pursuit by dogs, and use of leg traps.  Believers in these practices point to an increasing level of human-bear encounters and the need to keep the bear population low; folks who want the bans point to the logical fallacy that baiting bears with donuts, among other things, can only serve to draw bears closer to people and thereby increase potential interactions.

For me, the pro-hunting position (and I use the term "hunting" very loosely) are symptomatic of something broken in these people, that they somehow could look at these practices and think they're OK and sporting.  Reminds me of previous posts (here and here) where I think that something must have happened to these people as children that extinguished their empathy.

The link to Ultrarunning?  When I'm in the backcountry--or even along my local roads--the sighting of a critter fills me with joy and wonder.  The last thing that comes to mind is "Man, I'd really like to shoot me one of those!"

Monday, October 27, 2014

Natural History in Rome...and Ultrarunning

I must confess that the notion of Ultrarunning seldom crossed my mind while on our Europe excursion.  But two events come to mind: first, in the fabled Black Forest of Germany where I saw a trail snaking suggestively and alluringly into, well, the black forest (lower case).

Next was in Amsterdam where we found ourselves in the city on the very day of the Amsterdam Marathon with 40,000 of our closest running comrades.  More on both of these points later in a separate post.

No, today I want to discuss natural history.  My first love is biology (I do have a MS in the field that I never used professionally) so whenever I run, I am always ion the lookout for unusual plants and animals.

In Rome I was absoutely dumbfounded by what I believe are called Umbrella Pines, ubiquitous in Rome.  It's a tree that looks deciduous up its trunk, to the branching crown...but then the branches end in needles, not leaves.  My only experience with coniferous trees is that they grow straight up with small, regular lateral branches.

So, couple photos. In the first we see the trees in daylight; if you enlarge it you can probably see the needles, but can't quite make out the branching structure.

Image credit Gary, near the Vatican

In this daybreak shot from the window of our apartment, scope out the Umbrella Pines on the left, where you will see the branching effect quite clearly:

Image credit Gary, looking north from Via Babuino

That crazy Mother Nature!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cats in Art: The Fall of Man (van Haarlem)

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.  

The bride and I just returned from a couple weeks in Europe, the trip of a lifetime.  We first took a Rhine River cruise downstream from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands.  Then we remained 3 more days each in Amsterdam and Rome.  While in Europe, my Cats in Art became a sort of quest for us and the others of our group, so the next few weeks here on Sundays will be focused on our kitty discoveries in the Old World.

Today's subject comes from the magnificent Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, in the Kingdom of the Netherlands (AKA Holland):

Image credit Rijks Museum, The Fall of Man, Corneleus van Haarlem, 1592, oil on canvas, approx 116" x 88", held in the Ricks Museum, Amsterdam.

The museum website tells us:

In the left background we see God (a cloud with a human face and hands) cautioning Adam and Eve. They may eat the fruit of all of the trees, except the tree of ‘the knowledge of good and evil’. Tempted by the serpent (with a human torso), Adam and Eve nevertheless eat the forbidden fruit, for which they were driven from Paradise.

Couple of points: first, this painting is huge, some 9' high and 8' wide.  It is centrally placed in, and dominates, the long gallery.  

As for content, unfortunately, the Rijks Museum tells us nothing about what for me is the central point of this image: the cat seated between Adam and Eve, being held--inexplicably--by a monkey (I did take a close up image of this kitty/monkey partnership but it's still in my camera... will post it at a later time).

Really?  A monkey??  Although the two critters certainly seem to be buddies, it is beyond me why van Haarlem would have chosen to include this unlikely pair in the image about the fall of Adam and Eve from grace.

Perhaps the animal duo were blamed for the fall, although they certainly seem benign and non-threatening.  

Of course, you can never trust a monkey.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cats and Sundays

Stolen (shamelessly, but with attribution!) from the always-good Earth Bound Misfit:

Think about this cartoon tomorrow.  The bride says that the best thing about being retired is this leisurely Sunday night feeling that we now can enjoy.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

When You Shoot, You've Lost

Now this is kinda a sobering observation, recently made by Glenn Greenwald:

Syria becomes the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by the 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate.

Which again causes me to turn to Duncan Black, who blogs at Eschaton:

Wars Are Bad
And if for some reason the people who run the United States feel the need to start one, it means they've failed. It means they should all resign in shame and let someone else clean up their mess. This country has immense power - military, economic, political - and if you can't use the latter two, along with the implicit threat of the first one, to make war unnecessary then you've fucked up and it's time to go home.

I still cannot fathom the nearly headlong rush to make war on ISIS.  Congress rattles its sabers yet steadfastly refuses to even discuss a declaration of war as called for in our Constitution.  To hear the talking heads tell it, ISIS is the devil incarnate and Must.  Be.  Stopped.  Now.  At any and all costs.

Perhaps a better, saner approach might be this one, as I posted a couple years ago, where we'd take war dollars and use them for humanitarian purposes instead:

We're declaring a unilateral cease-fire.  And in lieu of fighting we are taking those combat dollars to dig wells, immunize children, and build roads and bridges.

Perhaps I am naive but I do speak from the knowledge base of decades of work for the DOD, and say as I hold a grandchild on my lap, by God, we can do better than this.  We have to do better than this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Macho Campers...and Ultrarunning

A couple weeks back the bride and I took a road trip to visit a dear old friend in the St. Louis area.

While cruising along I-70 somewhere in Indiana, we passed this camper on the interstate.  I just had to snap a picture:

[image credit Gary]

I found the model name, Avenger, to be extremely odd.  I mean, who thinks this can possibly be an appropriate name for a travel camper??????

Or maybe I just have it all wrong.  Perhaps camping is really a blood sport.  And maybe, too, I've gotten it all wrong with Ultrarunning.  I'm thinking I should rename my 2-bottle pack The Terminator, and my water bottles Smith, and Wesson.


Monday, October 20, 2014

A Bizarre Warning Along the Appalachian Trail

While visiting the in-laws recently in Tower City, PA, I took a short run over in Stony Valley.  There is a rails-to-trails path off Gold Mine Road which intersects the Appalachian Trail some 3.5 miles in.

Anyway, an interesting warning sign appears at the trailhead, warning of possible unexploded ordnance from an Army base nearby:

Hope you can enlarge sufficiently to read the warning poster.  I don't know about you, but the last thing that I want to think about while I'm running trails is military activity and the possibility--even if extremely remote--of getting blown up.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cats in Art: Unknown Kitty With Charlie

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. 

In this case, I'm stretching the concept of Cats in Art and using a real-life photo to honor my recently departed father-in-law, Charlie:

[image credit Gary]

Charlie acted tough at times but in his heart was a pussycat, a real cat lover.  And there's nothing cuter than a black and white farm kitty.  I always call them Holstein cats, after the black and white dairy cow that predominates the local farms.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Yes, They Watch TV....

....or else Batman has done a home invasion here:

[image credit Mister Tristan, the 6-year-old human being, not the blog]

Mister Tristan loves to take photos.  He, being only 6, takes a lot of junk shots, but fairly frequently he gets a good one, as in the one above.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Turtles

This post is inspired by mine of yesterday.

Some months earlier in 2014, the bride and I and several other Baby Boomer couples went to the Luhr Center at nearby Shippensburg State University to see the Turtles.

Yes, the Turtles.  You can scope out Wikipedia for their history and play list.

The name sounds, well, stupid is the only word that comes to mind today in 2014, but in the 1960s, this group was the bomb.  Rivaled the Beatles.  They had a variety of hits, but the one that always arrested me so was the 1967 song "You Showed Me," a tune that was at once haunting, mysterious, and full of longing:

Wonder what the Reese Hollow turtles might think of this?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Another Golf Ball Find; Now Apparently Breeding

In looking back through the archives of Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 6-year-old human being), I see where it's been a year since my last incisive and insightful blog post on the phenomenon of golf balls found while running at places that made no sense.  

And here in another post I floated the theory that these misplaced gold balls are actually alien eggs:

The ubiquitousness of finding golf balls in unlikely places now leads me to consider some formerly outlandish theories.  I'm beginning to suspect that they are alien eggs, prepositioned, awaiting a hidden signal, and when they all hatch en masse there will be hell to pay for mankind.

Well, here's the latest find, a pair of golf balls that appear to be breeding:

[image credit Gary]

I found these balls immediately adjacent to one of my favorite 10 mile training routes (OK, I found them in the nearby Concocheague Creek while canoeing, but for sake of this blog post just go with it).

The pair of golf balls--perhaps one male and one female--appear to be linked via what can only be some sort of sex organ.   If this does not constitute irrefutable proof, I don't know what would.

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Paying for the War on ISIS

Kevin Drum and Andrew Sullivan raise an uncomfortable question:

The ISIS campaign is utterly amorphous and open-ended at this point — exactly the kind of potentially crippling government program Republicans usually want to slash. It could last more than three years (and that’s what they’re saying at the outset); the cost is estimated by some to be around $15 billion a year, but no one really knows. The last phase of the same war cost, when all was said and done, something close to $1.5 trillion – and our current travails prove that this was one government program that clearly failed to achieve its core original objectives, and vastly exceeded its original projected costs.
If this were a massive $1.5 trillion infrastructure project for the homeland, we’d be having hearing after hearing on how ineffective and crony-ridden it is; there would be government reports on its cost-benefit balance; there would be calls to end it tout court. But a massive government program that can be seen as a form of welfare dependency for the actual countries — Turkey, Iran, Jordan, Kurdistan — facing the crisis gets almost no scrutiny at all.

Don't worry, there's always money for war.  Schools, health care, infrastructure, Social Security, not so much.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cats in Art: Cat Portrait (Warhol)

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 ModernCat.  Cat Portrait, Andy Warhol, 1970s.  No other information available.

At once dignified and mysterious, this kitty is winning a staring contest with something off to the right.  One can well imagine those little kitty wheels turning in that kitty brain, deciding whether physical motion is called for to resolve the situation.

In contrast to last week's almost cartoonish painting of the orange cat Sam, in this one Warhol strives for and achieves realism.  Much of Warhol's fame is due to his iconic pop art image of a soup can, such that many people have no idea what a really good artist he actually was.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Ooooh That Smell...and Ultrarunning

Yesterday I just ran a local 5 miler along the rural roads that surround my home.  Suddenly my nostrils were assailed by the unmistakable smell of death, in the form of a road-killed groundhog.

Any of us who run roads knows that odor, and of course immediately the Lynyrd Skynyrd tune "That Smell" came to mind:


And the lyrics:
Ooooh that smell 

Can't you smell that smell 

Ooooh that smell 

The smell of death surrounds you

So, me of the active mind, began to think of death.  Within 3 miles of my home, I can think of the violent deaths of 5 people within the past few years: a double murder; 2 traffic fatalities, and a suicide in the woods beside the road.

Plus the grave of Janet Christiansen, murder victim down in NC, buried nearby.  I did not know her, but somehow the circumstances of her life and death touched a nerve with me to the extent that I have blogged several times about her (most recently about a year ago, here, and you can work backwards from that post).

And yet, Ultrarunning is an affirmation of life, of physicality, of going beyond, of venturing into the zone of mental and physical extremes that the rest of the world will never know.  So let's laugh in the face of death--for now--and go about our lives.  Time to ponder immortality later.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Oner More Water Garden Post

Before I cleaned and winterized the water garden--see yesterday's post--a couple weeks back I needed to top off the pond with water.

I put the hose on a timer (I have a bad habit of turning on a hose and forgetting about it!) and directed its spray onto a leaf of a handy water lily plant.  Just as a I did this I noticed that there was a juvenile frog on that leaf, seemingly enjoying the water and not bailing out:

And a close-up of the trusting amphibian:

[image credits Gary]

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

This Year's End of the Water Garden

Now is the time when I put our water garden to bed for the year.  The main tasks are to bring all the pots to the surface, and:

--Cut off all the green growth from this season

--Divide the root ball, reducing it to approx 1/3 of  its size

--Repot the smaller root ball, adding dirt as needed

--Cover the pot with small gravel to keep the dirt in and fish out

--Sink the pots to the bottom of the pond for the winter

Oh, and also to muck out the bottom from a year's worth of dead leaves, vegetation, fish poop, etc.  In my water garden this amounts to about 2 pretty full wheelbarrows of the best "soil" you could imagine.

Below is one of our favorite plants: water hyacinth.  In the spring I buy a couple pieces of this floating plant and by the end of the season they have reproduced many times.

What I always find interesting is that the hyacinth growing close to the flowing water inlet (top of photo) gets MUCH bigger than that which grows in calm water (foreground of photo).  Note that I have put these plants together for the photo, this is not where they grew:

[image credit Gary]

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Outer Banks of NC...and Ultrarunning

The bride and I and the various heirs to our estate have been vacationing every year at the Outer Banks of North Carolina since 1976 (save for a single year that a baby was imminently due and travel was not advised).

When we were just there in Aug 2014, the Bodie Island Lighthouse, a National Park Service site, had been refurbished and was now reopened to the public for tours.

If you are adventuresome, you can walk to the top and get a great 360 degree view:

Or, look down the cool wrought iron spiral staircase that resembles the inside of a seashell:

The link to Ultrarunning is that there actually is a 100 miler along the Outer Banks in the spring, the Graveyard 100.  It's been held the past couple or 3 years, but seems fraught with weather-related difficulties.

The race always appealed to me but it's road rather than trail, and its early spring date (7 March 2015) never suited.  But I can still be intrigued by it....

For those interested in shorter distances, I see a 50K to be held on the Outer Banks on 2 May 2015.  Check out the OBX Ultramarathon here.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Cats in Art: 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy (Warhol)

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 Wisdom Portal, here.  Image from 25 Cats Name [sic] Sam and One Blue Pussy, Andy Warhol. 1954, offset lithograph, watercolor, and pen-and-ink on paper, 9" x 6", held by The Andy Warhol Foundation, New York.

I just love this eager little orange face and the earnest eyes.  Warhol obviously knew kitties, but moreover, knew how to depict them.  A few simple lines, a splash of orange color, a very simple painting, actually...but magnificent.  This cat Sam has clearly thrown his lot in with humans, and is just itching for some kind of interaction: a pet, a stroke, some play....

The bride ands I "owned" two cats with variations of this name.  The first was a gray and white tabby--a perfect starter cat--that served as a child substitute for the first 8 years of our marriage.  He lived from 1974-1988 and is buried in our yard.

We called him Sam.  See, I maintain that we can never really know the names of our that's why I always phrase the question this way: "What do you call your cat?"

Our second similarly-named kitty was Sammy, 1997-2013 (likewise planted in the yard), who in fact looked a lot like Andy Warhol's kitty above.  Our Sammy was an orange tabby--no white at all--and was the sweetest buddy in the world.  See my post of a few weeks back wherein I have a photo of Sammy, here.

And just to show that Mr. Warhol was a kitty person, photographic proof:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tom Tomorrow Cartoons...and Ultrarunning

Whenever I see a Tom Tomorrow cartoon, I am amazed at how well he nails it:

I can't add anything else to  that.

Now, on a lighter note, a Star Trek cartoon:

I can't help but imagine how Star Trek would treat the sport of Ultrarunning.  Captain Kirk would solemnly intone, as he seemed to ponder the issue deeply:

"Spock, I can't people...can far!  They must have some kind... of underlying pathology...that causes think...that running 50 or 100 fun.  What...must have children?"

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Reese Hollow Trail and Shelter ATTABOY!...and Ultrarunning

From Facebook, comments from a northbound hiker on the Tuscarora Trail:

After passing the Hell’s Hill Trail the trail got a lot better. We were following the ridgeline and the rocks became a lot easier to cross. There were fewer boulder fields and the trail seemed to be in a lot better shape. By 3:30 we reached the long trail down to Reese Hollow Shelter and began our descent.
Initially the descent was relatively steep, but after a few hundred feet the grade lessened and the yellow-blazed trail made its descent into the shelter. We crossed two side trails before dropping down into a heavily wooded glade where we found the shelter. Johnny B and I both remarked that this was the furthest that we had ever hiked off the main trail to get into a shelter for the night.
However, the long descent was worth it! Reese Hollow Shelter is a wonderful site. It is a large, single decked shelter with a large overhanging porch covering a picnic table. Although we generally aren’t into campfires there is a really nice enclosed fire pit at the shelter. The shelter maintainers have done a wonderful job with this site! The piped spring is about 150’ from the shelter. The privy is above the shelter and it is a nice one…and the maintainer even provides toilet paper! This is a Hilton among shelters!
We settled in for the night. It cooled off nicely and because of the shelter’s easterly location in a deep hollow it got dark early. By 6:30 we were already using our headlamps. It was an early night – we were exhausted. I tried to stay awake, laying on my sleeping bag and listening to the sounds of the evening. 

Comments like this make trail and shelter overseers like me glow with pride.  I am proud of my work at Reese Hollow for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) and am happy to be able to enhance the outdoor experiences of other hikers.

And I must put in a plug for volunteerism: these trails do not maintain themselves!  Whenever you go for a trail run, there's a whole organization--largely invisible--that supports trail construction and maintenance.  An organization comprised of individuals like you and me, who enjoy having trails and want to give back by working on said trails.

So...if you are an Ultrarunner, you should also be a trail maintainer.