Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cats in Art: Leopard Tapestry in the Vatican

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 recently 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 is from  the Vatican.  One of their museums is basically a long hall whose walls are covered with magnificent tapestries from antiquity.

image credit Gary, tapestry in the Vatican, no information available as to artist and date

If I recall correctly, this tapestry was about 2' x 4', or perhaps a notch larger at 3' x 5'.  It is of a spotted cat, which would have to be a leopard, as jaguars from the New World would not yet have been known in the Roman Empire.

This poor kitty looks beat: the eyes are sad, the head downcast, the tail drooping.  Maybe it was captured in some far-ranging African expedition, brought back to Europe, and caged for sport (the Coliseum, perhaps?).

At any rate, this poor guy deserved better, but at least his/her image has been preserved for posterity in Rome, to be seen annually by literally millions of humans.  But somehow, we know that this cat just wanted to be home, so hats off to that unknown artist who so faithfully saw and managed to convey the emotions of this long-ago leopard.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Why I Love My Marx Trains

image credit Gary

I am a Marxist.  

No, no, not that type of Marxist.  I am a Marx Train enthusiast, dating back to my early childhood when my brother got a Marx toy train for Christmas.  Those days were magical: the Christmas tree, the lights, the presents, the Marx train...our family didn't have much but we as kids didn't know that and were quite happy.  Think Ralphie in A Christmas Story and you kinda get the picture of that time in America.

I'll do a Marx post today then another on Monday, as I think about things Christmas....

On Fri, Oct 24, 2014 at 9:32 PM, Pete M, one of my as-yet-unmet-in-person friends from my Marx train group on Yahoo, wrote the following.  It exactly captures my sentiments:
If it wasn't for Louis Marx, a whole lot of Kids would not have had the chance to have a train set.  Truth be told...Marx trains were TOYS.  Marx trains were never manufactured to compete with "The big boys".  The niche that Marx sold to was the affordable, lower cost, market where any boy (or girl hypothetically) could own their own train set and have fun with it at a cost that their parents could afford.  Marx built tough, durable, and great running trains for every young "set it up and run it" child. That legacy alone, is the one thing we, who as children, who had nothing, will always remember and appreciate.  

And, by the way, that very Marx train from our youth still runs like a champ around my Christmas tree today, some 60 years later.  They truly were virtually bulletproof.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

False Summits...and Ultrarunning

Once, back in 1998, my buddy Bill and I were in training for the Massanutten 100 Mile run near Front Royal Virginia.

That winter we ran the Wild Oak Trail 50 Mile run near Harrisonburg, VA as a training run.  The course was a couple of 25 mile loops: you'd go out all the way around back to the start, then reverse and run the 25 miles in the opposite direction from originally.

Well, around the middle of the first 25 mile loop the elevation ranged up to over 4,000' and, being February, there was substantial snow on the tops of the ridges.  We called it "postholing" as you'd sink knee-deep into the snow with each step.  Needless to say, the course ran pretty slow.

Shortly before the 25 mile turn-around point we were ascending one last climb that seemingly  went on and on and on, false summit after false summit.  Every time you thought you'd reached the top, the trail merely leveled for a moment then resumed its uphill orientation.  Only you couldn't see that until you reached the tiny plateau.

Which gave rise to Gary's Theorem:

"Seeing daylight through the trees only tells you that you are probably approaching the first false summit."

By the way, Bill and I bailed at 25 miles.  The thought of trudging back through that trail and doing the postholing again--this time after dark--held absolutely NO appeal to either of us.  It was a smart move.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Praying for Gold...and Ultrarunning

I admit that I like to watch Gold Rush on the Discovery Channel (although why that's discovery, I'm not sure, other than a long tradition of pillaging the earth for minerals).

I guess I'm kinda obsessed with the show, cause here's what I wrote back in 2012, and again in 2013:

Another example--I've been watching Gold Rush on the Discovery Channel.  There's something arresting and compelling about these naive miners trying to strike it rich in Alaska.  Anyway, what really strikes me is how they literally have to excavate and wash TONS of gravel just to get a couple of flakes of gold.  The scale of rape-and-pillage-the-environment is absolutely stunning.
I've quite familiar with strip mining sites here in my home state of Pennsylvania, and it's awful.  What is happening in Alaska to extract gold is worse.
And the link to Ultrarunning?  Better enjoy the back country now, because when push comes to shove in a few years or decades, when wilderness is weighed against the precious minerals or oil or gas it contains, guess what'll  come out second best?

But anyway, what gets my goat today about Gold Rush is this: the kindly grandfather, who reminds me of a cross between Popeye and Santa Claus, is quite religious.  In fact, the guys in the mining operation wear shirts with 316 on the back, a biblical reference.  I suppose they are taking literally the Old Testament mantra, what Also Leopold called the "Abrahamic concept of land":

Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. 

So...after that very long-winded intro, here's what the kindly grandfather actually said in 2014 Episode 5, in praying for this season's success:

Heavenly Father,
We ask that the gold will just pop out of the ground.
Lord that you would show us the good spots.
Bless us and we pray it in your name.

All said without even a trace of irony.  If God really cared enough about gold mining to entertain a prayer about it, He would smite these jokers.  Just because.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cats in Art: Last Supper (Rosselli)

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 recently 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 is from the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, a place that figuratively knocked my artistic socks off.  
Of the large crew of artists who were commissioned to liven up the place with their art, Michaelangelo's frescos on the ceiling get a lot of attention. deservedly so, but the wall art also is mind-numbing beautiful.  That's where you'll find Last Supper by Rosselli.

In the image below I cropped out some of the edges that were painted to look like the framing of a traditional painting, just to focus on the core image:

Image credit WikipediaThe Last Supper, Cosimo Rosselli, 1482, fresco (oil on plaster), 11' x 18', held by the Vatican as part of the Sistine Chapel.  The cat is in the right center foreground, scrapping with a dog, but pretty small in this huge fresco, so here's the close-up of the kitty:

Wiki explains the symbology:

The scene is part of the Stories of Jesus cycle and, like the others, shows more than an episode at the same time. The frieze has the inscription REPLICATIO LEGISEVANGELICAEA CHRISTO. The supper is set in a semi-circular apse, with a horseshoe-shaped table at whose center sits Jesus, sided by the apostles. Judas, as usual, is depicted on the side, from behind: the fighting cat and dog are elements which further stress his negative connotation. The scene shows the moment immediately after Jesus' annunciation that one apostle would betray him. His hearers' reactions include touching their own chest, or mumbling one with each other.

I wonder if Rosselli had a particular cat that served as the model for this painting, or if it was just a compilation of felines?  I like to think that there was this one kitty, who hung out at the Vatican, and who Rosselli befriended and painted into art immortality.

Note: I posted about this piece previously back in 2011, here.  But now I've seen it with my own eyes....

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Owls...and Ultrarunning

Of all the critters Ive seen over the years along trails and roads, surely the most fascinating has been the owl.

Perhaps because they are quite elusive, I just have a fascination with this bird family, and have blogged about owls before at Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 6 year old human being) here and here.

Image credit Gary

This owl statue above, among several which grace our humble property, is our latest acquisition and marks the occasion of our 40th anniversary in August.  It is a beast of a carved river stone, standing about 24" high, and is just past the limit of what I can lift in terms of weight.  I had help loading it and was able to let it down from the seat in my minivan to the ground...barely.  Thence I wheeled it around the yard on a hand dolly.

I hope to run down on the C+O Canal here in a few days and would like nothing more than to repeat the owl experience I had there in which I stopped to pee at a tree--unbeknownst to me--that just happened to have a pair of large owls resting in it.  They, of course, took off and I was treated to a rare sight.

One final owl tale.  A couple of weeks ago, the bride and I attended an evening owl walk at Renfrew Park in nearby Waynesboro, PA.  The leader gave us a talk first, then we headed out into the woods where she played owl calls to try to lure in a live owl.  Things were simply not happening that night--perhaps due to a persistent wind--until all of a sudden a tiny screech owl showed up in response to the recorded call.

This owl landed nearly directly above the bride's head, only some 20' away, and oblivious to the 30 some people standing quietly there in the dark, proceeded to answer the recorded call.  The screech owl has an array of calls, and this one sounded most like a horse's whinny.

Wow!  So if you ever get a chance to go on a naturalist-led owl walk, by all means do it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Introverts...and Ultrarunning

I am an introvert.

I prefer the company of myself to that of others.

And I run Ultras, meaning any race beyond the traditional marathon distance of 26.2 miles.  And while I have run with others, including official pacers at the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run, I really am OK with running alone.

I am married, to a woman whom for the purposes of this blog I call "the bride," for some 40 years.  She is compatible with me, and I with her.  Actually, I am happy to accommodate my idiosyncrasies with her, and she with me.  We are a very good couple.

So....on with the post after this background.  I postulate that the default personality of Ultrarunners is Introvert.  Sure, there are Ultrarunners who are social animals, but my default position is that Ultrarunners are--by and large--introverts.

My evidence?  I can think of nothing so exciting as running 100 miles alone.  Alone.  In my lifetime I have attempted this a grand total of 3 times, with 3 finishes.  Just me and my thoughts.  Starting before daybreak on a Saturday, seeing the sun come up, running all day, seeing the sun go down, running all night, seeing the sun come up on the second day (Sunday), and finishing sometime that second morning.  Now that's a good time!

I have no empirical data, just my gut feelings after 35 years of running Ultras.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

An Interesting Fiscal Proposal

Ran across this by the always-good David Swanson.  You should read the whole piece, but here's an excerpt:

What would our lives be like if college were as free and unquestionable as military spending is now, but military spending arrived as an optional bill?

Those who didn't want it could choose not to pay. Those who wanted a coast guard, a national guard, and some anti-aircraft weapons could chip in a few bucks. Those who wanted a bit more than that could pay a bit more.

And those who wanted troops in 175 nations, aircraft carriers in every sea, enough nuclear weapons to destroy life on several planets, and fleets of drones with which to traumatize and antagonize several nations at once -- well, they could pay their $3,822, plus of course another $3,822 for anybody opting out.

What a naive proposal! Left to individual choice, the commons would be destroyed, and our national defense would crumble!

Really? People in the United States give over $300 billion to charity each year. Nobody forces them to. If they believed weapons and wars were the most important cause to donate their dollars to, they'd do it. No nation on earth spends $300 billion or anywhere close to it on its military, other than the United States.

And with the government no longer funding the military in its socialistic manner, it might choose instead to fund many of the humanitarian causes to which private charity is now largely devoted. Private giving could take care of the Pentagon.

But if wisdom about the counter-productive results of militarism spread, if nonviolent alternatives were learned, if free college had a positive impact on our collective intellect, and if the fact that we could end global poverty or halt global warming for a fraction of current military spending leaked out, who knows? Maybe militarism would fail in the free market.

I just love the last statement.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Another Post About the Dead

If you are a history sort of person--and I think that most people of sound mind surely must be--then this tale may be familiar.

Seems that a number of years ago, a certain country was involved in a war.  Now, having a long history of being a warlike people in that country, I suppose this is not especially remarkable.  

This particular war (indeed, all wars) certainly could and should have been avoided, yet it began like most wars do.  There was macho posturing on both sides by politicians who should have known better, and agitation for war by the young men who, frankly, wanted a glorious, heroic adventure.   

These young men thought they were indestructible, invincible, and bulletproof...until the real bullets began flying.  Then they died or were maimed forever by the tens of thousands.  And the politicians hardened their hearts and their political positions and the war dragged on.

During this time period most people died at home and were soon buried nearby.  But the scale of deaths in this war, and the lack of funeral practices such as we know today dictated that the dead soldiers, by the thousands, needed to be buried essentially where they fell.  There was no practical alternative.

Now, the politicians of this country were not totally insensitive.  Perhaps, knowing how royally they had screwed up, they wanted to memorialize the dead from a particularly grisly battle that had occurred a few months previous.  The remains of dead had been disinterred from their hastily dug battlefield graves, collected, and reburied about a mile away in what would become a national cemetery.

The politicians wanted to say a few flowery words over the dead when then cemetery was dedicated; this, I suspect, was more to assuage their hearts than those of the dead.  The chief politician was invited to speak, and he spoke for only a couple of minutes.

But in those couple of minutes, he ceased being a mere politician and became a human being.  One who knew, finally, the vast toll that the war was costing the very soul of the nation.  And so he said:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

If you are like me, you learned this speech in elementary school and have seen it countless times since.  But I ask something of you right now as your eyes rest on this page: today, don't blow by it.  Scroll back up and take 2 minutes to actually read it as though you were seeing it for the first time.  Assume you will be tested on it, or whatever it takes, to focus on what Mr. Lincoln actually said...but in context.

See, the war had begun as a sectional war, but Mr. Lincoln was among the first, being President and all, to steer the rationale away from the vague principle of "state's rights" and hone in on the ultimate cause: slavery.  No slavery, no American Civil War.  

So, while the speech above does not mention human bondage, Mr. Lincoln somehow knew that"these honored dead" would in fact have died in vain...unless a higher order principle was at stake that would be decided by the war.  

In other words, after a couple years of war, if the Confederate States of America and the United States of America had made peace, in which either the rebels would come back into the fold or split off to form a new country--but slavery still persisted--then those thousands of deaths were absolutely meaningless.  

And you realize that Mr. Lincoln got it right.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Trail Work in the Black Forest of Germany

While on our recent European adventure we paused in Germany's fabled Black Forest, site of fairy tales, legends, and lore.

Perhaps it's the brothers Grimm tales, maybe it's life living up to expectations, or whatever, but the forest really is, well, black is really the only word that comes to mind. It truly seems "deep and dark and dangerous," to borrow the title from a Mary Downing Hahn book.

I peered down the trail, and the bride and I even ventured a few hundred meters in.  I wanted nothing so badly as to gulp hard, lace up my running shoes, and head into the forest to face the demons that I felt sure would be there...abut alas, the tour bus beckoned.

I did take a photo of this trail sign, and felt comforted that over in Germany, right this moment, there are volunteers just like us who look out for their beloved trails:

Image credit Gary

Monday, November 17, 2014

Another Armistice Day Post

The bride and I stopped at her dad's gravesite last week and took some photos. The cemetery was decorated with many flags for Armistice Day.

If by the phrase "his was a life well lived" you mean that Charlie was a regular guy who worked, paid his dues to his country, loved and provided for his family, and had a positive effect on everyone he touched, then yes, his WAS a life well lived.

We miss him.

All image credits Gary

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cats in Art: Lions at Heidelberg Castle

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 recently 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 is from  the ruins of the famous castle on the hill in Heidelberg, Germany:

Image credit Gary

Like last week's post from Amsterdam, this pair of lions has been guarding this gate for a number of centuries (from the 1500s, I believe).  A plaque or coat of arms used to be between the kitties. but the French swiped it when they pillaged through the Rhine country in the 1600s.

These life-sized statues are unique (not mirror images of each other), and have great detail--especially the faces--if you enlarge the image.  It is hard for me to imagine that these sorts of stone carving skills were somewhat commonplace back in the Middle Ages.

And for those of you who are not so partial to statues....I'll get back to paintings soon, I promise.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Guess I'll Never be Michael Buble...and Ultrarunning

The other day, the bride purchased a Michael Buble CD of Christmas music.  I've seen him numerous times on the Today Show, Christmas specials, etc., and he's a very entertaining singer whom we enjoy.  He kinda croons, reminiscent of Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby.

Oh, and he snaps his fingers when he sings, if the song calls for it.  That act makes me envious.

Why?  Since my snowblower accident last winter where I messed up the ring finger of my right (dominant) hand, I cannot snap my fingers.**  So my possible career as a Michael Buble wanna-be is forever closed to me.

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning?  There is none.  I wracked my brain for some sort of connection that I could draw, and came up completely empty.  Oh well.

**Note that I could not snap my fingers before the accident, either.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Rare Bit of Honesty

Ran across this gem over at Lawyers, Guns and Money, here.  Lindsey Graham, the seemingly mild-mannered senator from South Carolina--who has to be the biggest hawk in the Congress--has a way of annoying me every time I see him on TV or read about him.  He really is a vile human being.

Which was proven a couple of weeks ago.  Remember when Mitt Romney was caught on a secret video made at a private function, talking dismissively about the "47 percent"?

Well, Mr. Graham was similarly speaking at a private event:
According to the CNN report Wednesday, Graham confirmed the veracity of the recordings. Graham was speaking to the Hibernian Society of Charleston, a charitable group with an all-male membership.
In the recording according to CNN, Graham is heard saying: “I’m trying to help you with your tax status. I’m sorry the government’s so f——- up. If I get to be president, white men in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.”

Author of the post Erik Loomis then observed:

And if there’s one thing we know, it’s that this is Lindsey Graham speaking from his heart, such as it is. I have no doubt a Lindsey Graham presidency would be excellent for elite white men. And horrible for everyone else.

Senator Graham really is a vile human being.  Maybe if I write that sentence enough times he'll see the light and change.  Nope, if we lefties are annoyed he'll merely feel vindicated that he's doing it "right."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Armistice Day...Every Family has a Story

I am reposting the same post I have put up for the past 4 years on 11 Nov, commemorating the end of World War I.


For Veteran's Armistice Day (as it was originally called)....

Every family has a story. My mother told me of my great-grandfather, Julius (or Jules?) Brinkmann, who was killed on this date in 1918 in World War I on the Western Front.

Word of the armistice, which took effect the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, did not reach all the lines in real time. He was killed sometime later that day, AFTER the armistice.

He would have been one of the very last casualties of the Great War. You know, the war that was supposed to end all wars.

Oh, and he was a German. Funny, that really doesn't seem to matter, does it?

What is your family story? Please comment.

This is a generic photo, not of Julius--because my Mom's family lost ALL their possessions, including family photos, when they were bombed out in Frankfurt in WW II--but it could have been.

Photo credit here.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Focus on Bifocals...and Ultrarunning

A few weeks back I got a new pair of glasses.  Of course, I can't get the ones from Sears or someplace where you get an exam and a complete pair of lenses and frames, out the door, for the incredibly low price of $89 or something like that.

Nope, even with insurance (admittedly, quite minimal) it was several hundred more than that.  But I do get the super duper titanium (bendable) frame, transition lenses so I don't need sunglasses, UV and scratch coat protection, and lightweight progressive lenses.

It's this latter feature, where the distance vision sweet spot transitions into the close-up vision sweet spot, that has me aggravated.  I've had bifocals with progressive lenses for years (and if you don't yet,  don't worry, sometime you will),  and never recall having had so much trouble getting used to them.

If you wear glasses, you know all about this initial break-in period.  But with this pair, the problem I'm having is with the bifocal part.  I was running the other day on an uneven sidewalk; when I looked down to make sure of my footing I was still looking through the lowest "reading" section of the lens.  I and found that I had to consciously tilt my head waaaay down to bring the upper part of the lens to bear (the "distance" or top section of the lens).

It was decidedly uncomfortable, and seemingly far beyond my previous "running with bifocals" experience.

I'm sure I will adjust and the new normal will ultimately be OK, but I'm concerned over my first trail run using these guys.  It should be quite the experience.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Cats in Art: Street Scene in Amsterdam (Olsperger Hof)

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 recently 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 is simply a street scene in Amsterdam, in the Kingdom of the Netherlands (AKA Holland):

Image credit Gary

I cannot recall the street, but the name of the building is the Olsperger Hof (House).  It was not far from the Anne Frank house.  These statues were above the entrance door on the ground floor, perhaps 20' above street level.  A couple things struck me about this outdoor art:

First, the age, dating from 1389.  We could quibble about dates, but history in the U.S. (well, European history, anyway) starts from the first successful colonies in the early 1600s at Jamestown, VA and Plymouth, MA.  That's a couple hundred years after some successful Dutch businessman (or woman, but I doubt it) decided to adorn his doorway.

Second, outdoor ornamentation was not unusual in Amsterdam.  People took great pride in spiffying up their exteriors.

Last, but not least, the kitties--they are what look to be leopards (since jaguars were as yet unknown in Holland)...which means that Mr. Olsberger may have been a seafaring guy.  The cats are close to life size, as near as I could tell from their perch above the door, very muscular, powerful, and fierce, and are unique from each other (not mirror images).  They have been faithfully guarding that door for over 600 years, so bring that up next time you get into it with a dog lover about how cats just don't care.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Picking Up Turtles...and Ultrarunning

I recently posted about the musical Turtles, here, and thought I'd better recognize the real thing:

Eastern Box Turtle along the Reese Hollow Trail
Image credit Gary

Since the first time I ever encountered a turtle along the trail, decades ago, I've picked it up.  That's just what you do.

But on this day back in August, I decided that I would not.  I imagine that getting picked up might be a tad stressful for a wild animal.  So I simply got down to turtle level and just scoped out the critter from several feet away without actually touching it.  Took a couple photos of this artfully constructed and adapted critter, then backed off and watched it slowly relax, stretch out its legs, and speed off (well, it actually ambled or moseyed, but you get the idea).

Now I'm not a strident animal-rights activist (although maybe I should be?), and in the future, say, if I am hiking a trail with Mister Tristan (the 6-year old human being, not the blog), and if we encounter a turtle, chances are I will pick it up to show Mister Tristan the bottom shell and the legs.  You know, a teachable moment.

The link to Ultrarunning, of course is this: we spend more backcountry time, thus we see many more critters than do most of our more sedentary contemporaries  But the default approach for me now is, don't touch.  Kinda like a gesture of respect, live and let live.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

On Being Ashamed

Ran across this great quote here.  The entire post by Jaime O'Neill is worth a read:

Jonathan Swift, who waged war on ignorance, fear, and hate a couple of centuries ago, wrote: “I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.”

As I survey the political landscape I am continually amazed to discover just how shameless, arrogant, tone-deaf, unaware, lying, unapologetic--you name the adjective--that some of our "leaders" are.

For example, Ms. Shelley Moore Capito was just elected to the U.S. Senate from the adjacent state of West Virginia.  Since we are close, we saw on TV some of her ads (too many, actually) prior to the election. Capito ran on an Obama-bashing platform, and one of her principal campaign ads said that Obama was going to kill jobs and take away our freedoms.

Really?  You can say that with a straight face?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

First Frost: About a Month Late

Well, here it is, 5 November 2014, and in south central PA we have yet to have our first frost.  We came close over the weekend, but the cloud cover and breeze sufficed to hold off the white rime. And it looks to be above freezing for the next several days at least.

So in the meanwhile these beauties are on display in our yard for our enjoyment:

Fall iris, image credit Gary

Anemone, image credit Gary

You just gotta love the optimism of fall flowers, hoping to attract bees right up until they are not flying anymore and stay snuggled in their hives.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cats in Art: My Very Own Renaissance Kitty

UPDATED--See bottom of post!

I was sitting on the recliner the other day.  Tizzy, who had been on my chest getting stroked and petted, either got too warm or had had enough cat love, and went to lay at the bottom of the recliner.  She likes the spot where the footrest comes up: it makes a slightly V-shaped "bed" to lay in.

As the sun shone on Tizzy, she looked exactly to me as though she were a Renaissance kitty.  I had my camera within reach and snapped this image:

[image credit Gary]

Why do I refer to her as a Renaissance kitty?  See any parallels with this image?

[image credit Amazon]

This is the cover of the Zuffi book that has served as inspiration for my Cats in Art series of posts that I've been running on Sundays here for a couple of years now.  The book's dust cover is a detail from the Frederico Barocchi painting The Annunciation (1584, oil on wood transferred onto canvas, approx 97" x 67", held in the Vatican Art Gallery collection  Santa Maria Degli Angeli, Assisi, Italy).

Those dimensions above are for the entire painting, which is BIG--about 8 feet high and nearly 6 feet wide.  The kitty is snuggled in the lower left corner and by my reckoning covers a space about the size of an ordinary sheet of paper. 

Just for kicks here's the entire image of The Annunciation, with the marvelous kitty way down there in the lower left corner:

[image credit here]

So...if I ever make it to the Vatican, the Pope will just have to wait until I've scoped out this magnificent painting.

UPDATE: I was wrong about the museum: there painting is actually held at Santa Maria Degli Angeli, Assisi, Italy.  How do I know this?  The bride and I were actually just in Italy--and at the Vatican--a couple of weeks ago, and the painting was nowhere to be found.  My apologies for the error; I had written this post some months back, scheduled it for 2 Nov, and did not review it before it posted.  Oops!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Now That's a Photo Guarantee!...and Ultrarunning

As I was looking through a batch of old photos from my mother, I noted this film processing envelope:

The key quote near the top (caps and italics are in the original):

The Photos in this Envelope are Guaranteed for all Time Not To Fade

Now that's what I call a guarantee.  For All. Time.  Wow.

And it does't even say that the guarantee applies to the photos that Capson's processed.  I don't see why I couldn't place other photos in there and have them last forever, too!

The link to Ultrarunning, of course, is that while I do sometimes carry a camera into the backcountry, by and large it's more trouble than it's worth.  Seldom have I a taken a shot that was an absolute gem...but it does happen.  Enough, I guess, to keep carrying the camera.