Friday, February 28, 2014

Tales From the Perimeter: Hammers

Perimeter meaning the 6 mile patrol road inside the fence of the military installation on which I formerly worked, where some half a dozen of us comprise a pool of running “talent” and strive to show up for a noontime run a couple times a week if we can escape our desks. We share a lot and these guys are one of the core pillars of my sanity.

[Image credit Hurley Auctions]

It's been far too long since I put up a Tales From the Perimeter post, but since I retired my running frequency with the group has plummeted.  At any rate, though, I'm sure our next run will feature this recent email as a discussion topic:


Saw this photo among items in a on-line tool auction I was recently bidding on (JH bids on-line for tools ALL the time).  Of course, I thought immediately of PH, our local rocket scientist and the classic analogy: Dumb as a box of hammers.  Although in fairness to PH, me cutting off part of my finger in a snowblower may move me past him on the smartness scale, in the negative direction.

Where are all you vacationers now?  I’m thinking about coming up for a run by the Ides of March.  Will have to be finger-dependent, however.  I see the doc this afternoon to get stitches out…but an infection has developed in the finger that may set things back awhile.

And no email from me would be complete without a Chuck Norris quote, since you all are clamoring so desperately for more.  In deference to JH, who inexplicably is NOT a fan, I’ll put it at the end.


--Where there is a will, there is a way. Where there is Chuck Norris, there is no other way.

I continue to love these guys as brothers, from having shared--literally--blood, sweat and tears over the years and over the miles.  I hope that you are fortunate enough to have some similar running compadres.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Karma. Fracking. More Karma.

Karma's a bitch, Mister 1%.

This from Dependable Renegade, who points us to ThinkProgress:

Exxon CEO Comes Out Against Fracking Project Because It Will Affect His Property Values

As ExxonMobil’s CEO, it’s Rex Tillerson’s job to promote the hydraulic fracturing enabling the recent oil and gas boom, and fight regulatory oversight. The oil company is the biggest natural gas producer in the U.S., relying on the controversial drilling technology to extract it.
The exception is when Tillerson’s $5 million property value might be harmed. Tillerson has joined a lawsuit that cites fracking’s consequences in order to block the construction of a 160-foot water tower next to his and his wife’s Texas home.
The Wall Street Journal reports the tower would supply water to a nearby fracking site, and the plaintiffs argue the project would cause too much noise and traffic from hauling the water from the tower to the drilling site. The water tower, owned by Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation, “will sell water to oil and gas explorers for fracing [sic] shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,” the suit says.

While the complaint deals with noise and traffic issues, it's still quite ironic that Tillerson has been mighty dismissive of the more significant issues associated with fracking encountered by other homeowners:
When he is acting as Exxon CEO, not a homeowner, Tillerson has lashed out at fracking critics and proponents of regulation. “This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness,” he said in 2012. Natural gas production “is an old technology just being applied, integrated with some new technologies,” he said in another interview. “So the risks are very manageable.”
In shale regions, less wealthy residents have protested fracking development for impacts more consequential than noise, including water contamination and cancer risk. Exxon’s oil and gas operations and the resulting spills not only sinks property values, but the spills have leveled homes and destroyed regions.

Karma.  Think about it, Mr. Tillerson.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bobsledding Vs. Ultrarunning

[image credit Wikipedia]

I heard this quote while I was watching some Swiss bobsledder during the just-concluded Winter Olympics.  Evidently he was expected to do well at these games.

I wrote it down, it tickled me so:

"He's got the weight of a great sledding nation on his shoulders."

Wow.  Makes me really glad that all I do is trudge or slog or mosey through the backcountry trails, just me and no other responsibilities to others or to my country.

Please note that I am in no way making fun of this guy, the Swiss, or the sport of bobsledding.  We all--myself included--specialize in some pursuits that others think to be odd. 

It just struck me as a peculiar comment, one that I cannot ever imagine being applied to me or to Ultrarunning.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Last Post on Gun Culture and Stand Your Ground

No, not because the problem is resolved.

It's because the problem isn't resolved, and won't be, and writing about it just makes my head hurt.  If the nation didn't take any meaningful action after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, if the bottom line essentially was "Tough break about those kids, but we have this much more important gun fetish to consider," then it's game over for reason and sanity.

So to preserve my sanity I'm gonna stop writing about guns etc. after this post...but not before turning to the Rude Pundit for his unique way with words.  As I have mentioned before, the Rude Pundit uses crude over-the-top language and hyperbole to make his points in a unique way.  And I almost always find myself in total agreement.

Link is here; you'll need to scroll down to his post of 20 Feb 2014, entitled "Jordan Davis Killer Michael Dunn Was Just Another White Coward with a Gun":

Take the gun out of the hands of Michael Dunn, and he backs the fuck up and drives away. See, if you have time to reach in your glove compartment and get your semi-automatic pistol out, you have time to shift into "reverse." If the semi-automatic pistol ain't there, all you got is a car that moves in various directions. Without his gun, George Zimmerman sits in his fuckin' car and waits for the cops. Without his gun, Curtis Reeves goes back to his fucking seat and watches a shitty movie. Because these men, and so many others, are pussies who would never push things to a confrontation without having the gun readily available.
You should be able to defend yourself when you're being attacked. But you should also have the balls to fucking suck it up and walk away or call a cop. Instead, we have states that are filthy with racists who have been told they don't have to back down for anyone, least of all that scary-looking nigger. Well, that racist is gonna think, what the fuck is the gun for anyway?

Think about it.

Monday, February 24, 2014

French Quarter Kitty...and Ultrarunning

The bride was just in New Orleans this past weekend, on her way to a western Caribbean cruise with the ladies, when she snapped this image:

[image credit The Bride]
It's a good life, darlin'.

The Ultrarunning part?  I ran 10 miles a couple days ago with no ill effects from or on my finger.  Next milestone--that I am truly dreading--is getting the stitches out on Tuesday.  Just thinking about it makes me cringe.  It's not that I've ever had a history of terrible experiences with removal of medial sutures, it's just that the end of my newly-truncated finger is just so sensitive to the touch.

I plan to ask for Novocaine to prep me.  The marvels of modern medicine, and all that, right?  This is the era of not needing to suffer needlessly.  Better living through pharmaceuticals! 


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cats in Art: Three Animals (Dog, Fox and Cat) (Marc)

[Late update 1030 Sunday: I just took another look at this image.  Now I see a horse head, eye closed, facing right and parallel with the dog's head, with the horse's nose almost touching the nose of the dog.  The head of the horse is integrated into the cat like 2 pieces of a puzzle, with the horse's mane being the chest/shoulder stripes of the cat's fur.]
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 my tenth post on Franz Marc (1880-1916), a key German painter whose life tragically ended early on the Western Front in 1916. Maybe he even knew my great-grandfather. This will be a multi-week series (I am still uncovering his cat works).

Image credit The Atheneum, here. Three Animals (Dog, Fox and Cat), Franz Marc, 1912, oil on canvas, 31" x 41", held by Kunsthalle Mannheim (Germany).
OK, this painting takes a bit of staring at to get it to register.  The pale gray dog in the center is obvious, as is the red fox in upper right.  But what's that under the dog's belly?  Or what looks to be a single eye (in a feline head?) to the right of the dog's face?
When I initially tried to find the kitty I just could not see it at all--then it practically leaped from the painting, over on the right edge.  Maybe you saw it immediately, but I had a temporary visual or mental block.
While the dog and fox are bold and obvious, almost forceful in their strong lines and strong colors, the kitty is an interesting counterpoint: muted, demure, and melting into the shadows. 
But seemingly unconcerned about the close presence of the canid brutes.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Yeah, That'll Work...and Ultrarunning

Via our friends at Boing Boing, this bit of insanity:

A Kansas lawmaker has introduced a bill allowing parents, caregivers, and school officials to give harder spankings. The Sunflower State is already one of 20 (mostly Southern) states in which children can be hit as long as no mark or bruise remains afterward, but this proposed law would protect adults who strike kids forcefully enough to cause redness or discoloration. The woman behind the measure is Wichita’s Gail Finney, a Democrat and mother of three sons. She outlined her objectives for the Wichita Eagle: to define corporal punishment for the judicial system, to restore parental rights, and to shield old-school disciplinarians from child abuse charges. “What’s happening is there are some children that are very defiant and they’re not minding their parents, they’re not minding school personnel,” Finney said. Even with “a small amount of a bruise, a parent could still be charged with child abuse when it wasn’t anything serious.”

Says Boing Boing:  
The research on hitting children is pretty clear: it doesn't work. The bill would allow teachers and administrators to hit children, even those over 18, with permission from their parents -- legalizing the restraint and violent assault of a legal adult by a government agent. 
So, if I get this right, the "thinking" is that if you hit a defiant kid--harder now than formerly--that'll somehow make them less defiant.  Yeah, that'll work.  Instilling the fear o' God and all that stuff.
What might work better would be to take said defiant child and challenge him or her to work out their aggression and angst on the trails.  It certainly works for me whenever I am feeling anti-social.
And while we are bashing on Kansas, another legislator has come up with this equally hateful idea under the guise of "protecting the institution of marriage."  But making hate lawful by cloaking it in religious terms is still hate:
The bill passed by the Kansas House of Representatives today has a bland title-"An act concerning religious freedoms with respect to marriage." But the language cannot conceal the vicious discrimination it's intended to protect. The bill would allow not only private businesses but, quite remarkably, state officials to withhold services from gays and lesbians as long as it is motivated by a "sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender." This reprehensible proposed law would render gays and lesbians second-class citizens in Kansas and deprives them of rights most people have long taken for granted. 
The law allows private business to deny gays and lesbians "services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges" based on their sexual orientation. By granting immunity to anyone who denies services to gays and lesbians based on an asserted religious belief, it would prevent gays and lesbians from suing even based on common-law rights that require public accommodations to accept all comers on equal terms. The law is not even limited to same-sex couples, but permits the denial of services to anyone "related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement." Rather than extending civil-rights protections to gays and lesbians, the Kansas law would move the state in the opposite direction, diminishing the civil rights of gays and lesbians (and, possibly, straight people with gay and lesbian friends as well).

You should go read the entire article.  And maybe avoid Kansas if you can.


Friday, February 21, 2014

I Awoke This Morning, Full of the Possible

I needed some inspiration today for getting back into the swing of Ultrarunning. 

The past 6 weeks have been fraught with health issues: a nasty case of bronchitis that took me down for 3 weeks, followed closely by a careless accident where I severed the last joint of my ring finger in my snowblower.  While one joint of a ring finger might not seem like much, it's been quite uncomfortable and is in fact a big deal.

I should note that I have been able to resume running...I was concerned that the act of running would induce a case of too-painful throbbing in my newly-truncated finger.  Actually, not a problem.

With that as a preface, today I stood in back of my minivan and took courage from this:

I splurged a couple years ago after the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run on this vanity plate.  And that's exactly what it is: a testament to my vanity at being able to run 100 miles.

It's not bragging if you can do it, right?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Leaving a lasting Legacy...and Ultrarunning

On the evening of 19 February--channel surfing versus the Sochi Olympics--I watched a PBS show about Easter Island in the South Pacific.  You've all seen the images of the carved heads:


[image credit PBS]

Well, we as Ultrarunners have the very same motivation: to leave something of ourselves behind for our descendants.  Whether it's a 100 miler buckle or the tales of races raced, we all want to achieve some form of immortality.  As I get older I think the answer is not in physical objects--Easter Island monoliths or Umstead buckles--but rather in the stories, in the lore of our existence.

For example, I can see my grandchildren talking about how Pappy ran 100 mile races (maybe the tale would be accompanied by a belt buckle, maybe not), much like the descendants of the Easter Island heads would talk about their ancestors).  I tell them tales of the run, the details about eating, drinking, repetitive loops, running and spilling your guts to strangers on the trail, of sunrises and sunsets, of headlamps, of low spots and high points, of all the collected experience that is trail running.

Today, real world, as I talk to these grandbabies, I focus on the magic of the race, how the physical challenge--well trained for--offers an opportunity unique in modern life, to go to the edge and see what you are made of physically and mentally.  How the race tests you, how the struggle lifts you, how the challenge elevates you a level that everyday people never see in everyday life.

Ultrarunning is a means of compressing a lifetime into 30 hours: a dawn, a day, a night, and another dawn.  A block of time that transcends time, that compresses and boils down the human experience into a discrete event.

An event that will change you forever, that will offer you insights into the real stuff of which you are made.

And coming through that constructed event will alter your mind-set, will forever change the way in which you regard the world.  For those miles of foot placed after foot, of roots and rocks and water. of struggles and effortless cruising, will prove to you that you are indeed alive.

And that you are a hero, in some small way, but a hero nonetheless.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bible Math...and Ultrarunning

Thanks once again to the ever-interesting Boing Boing--a wonderfully cool and geeky site, which you MUST check out a couple times a week--a great cartoon about the pitfalls of using the Bible as a literal science text:

[click to enlarge]
Faith and science need not be incompatible, you just have to be sensible about the domains and scope of each.
I really ought to check out Biblical distances to see whether I can gain any advantage in Ultrarunning...say, only covering 28 miles and calling it a 50K.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Stand Your Ground" Causing MORE Killing

From the always thought-provoking David Adkins, here, another example of the law of unintended consequences:

Since first-degree murder is apparently legal in Florida as long as the victims are black, it's important to look at the overall impact of the ALEC-funded evil Stand Your Ground laws. The upshot is: more death, more shooting, huge racial disparities in who is killed, and no decrease in crime. Not only do they allow racist killers to get away with murder, they don't provide even the least bit of deterrent to crime. In fact, it's likely quite the opposite:
For any given case, these questions are impossible to answer, and you can make arguments either way. But it is possible to say something more definitive about whether these laws have led to a greater number of total homicides. That is the question my coauthor Cheng Cheng and I addressed in our recent study in the Journal of Human Resources. We asked what happened to homicide rates in states that passed these laws between 2000 and 2010, compared to other states over the same time period. We found that homicide rates in states with a version of the Stand Your Ground law increased by an average of 8 percent over states without it — which translates to roughly 600 additional homicides per year. These homicides are classified by police as criminal homicides, not as justifiable homicides.

 I've always thought that the handy presence of a gun serves to too easily escalate situations from serious to deadly, and it seems that the data is becoming robust enough to support that conclusion. 

Far from making us all safer, the more people packing heat, the more we all are at risk.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Women in the Olympics: Separate and Unequal...and Ultrarunning

This is worse than I thought.  It's morally and physically egregious, and is solely a sad and disgusting legacy of our male-dominated society.  Via Slate, here:

On Tuesday [11 Feb 2014], Germany's Carina Vogt became the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in ski jumping. Ninety years after men jumped at the inaugural Winter Games in Chamonix—and five years after female jumpers unsuccessfully sued the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the right to join them—women were finally allowed to jump from the same hill that men do. Except that the men are also allowed to jump from a bigger hill. And then teams of four men can all jump off the big hill together. Women still aren’t allowed to do that stuff.

Now that ski jumping has gone (partially) co-ed, only one winter Olympic sport still completely bars women from competition. (That’s the Nordic Combined, which incorporates both a ski jump and a 10 kilometer cross-country race.) But across Sochi,women are still skiing shorter distances, launching from more diminutive hills, and competing on teams of smaller sizes. In cross-country skiing, men can race up to 50 km, but the female courses top out at 30 km. The women’s long-track speedskating event is 5,000 meters, half that of the men’s race. Distances in the women’s biathlon are similarly stunted. Though female bobsledders made their Olympic debut in 2002, they’re still limited to a two-person contest, while male bobsledders compete in a four-man race as well. And while women have been luging in the Olympics since 1964, there’s still no doubles event to match the men’s.
Let me pull out one quote above--and, by the way, PLEASE go and read the whole Slate article:

In cross-country skiing, men can race up to 50 km, but the female courses top out at 30 km.

In Ultrarunning, the "women's barrier" was shattered long ago.  I don't know of any sentient Ultrarunner who seriously believes that women are incapable of running the kinds of distances we run.  So why in the Olympics do we still treat women as second class citizens?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Cats in Art: Cat With Kittens (Marc)

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 my ninth post on Franz Marc (1880-1916), a key German painter whose life tragically ended early on the Western Front in 1916.  Maybe he even knew my great-grandfather.  This will be a multi-week series (I am still uncovering his cat works).

Image credit The Atheneum, here. Cat With Kittens, Franz Marc, 1912, oil, gouache and pencil on cardboard, 14" x 12", held by Staatliche Galerie Moritzburg, Germany.
In a painting little more than the size of an ordinary sheet of paper, Marc manages to evoke the essence of cat motherhood.  Nestled on a blanket or cover, Mom seems dead asleep and the two kittens, while possibly also napping, seem just a tad alert to me, just enjoying snuggling with their mother.  But also ready to play if the situation changes.
Just like human children.  Seems we still have a lot to learn from cat love.
And the kitten colors--maybe the symbolism of black and white is a little too obvious and Marc just painted two kitties of those colors, just because.  But I for one can't help but wonder if Marc did this on purpose, to make us think a bit about human lives and how sometimes they seem destined from birth toward a certain path. 
This simple painting, little bigger than a sheet of paper, lovingly created in a German studio a hundred years ago, touches me today.  Kitty or human child, this image makes me wonder what their futures lives will hold, what paths they will choose, what awful and wonderful fates await them....

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Smells of Ultrarunning...Without Leaving the House

No, I'm not talking about sweaty shoes and clothes.  I'm talking about the fresh smells of the outdoors, helpfully brought to us by our friends at Air Wick:

[image credit Gary]

So what if you live on the east coast and can't run at Yosemite?  No problem, just pop open one of these scented oils and voila!  you are transported--in an olfactory sense at least--to enjoy "The rare essence of our National Parks" and specifically the "Wild Strawberry and Mountain Rain" scent, I guess, that represents Yosemite.

I took this photo of a large retail display in Sam's Club, a large discount store along the lines of Costco and BJ's.

I am speechless.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day...From Mars

[image credit Phil Plait at Slate, here]
Mr. Plait tells us:
In general, I would've thought valentine-shaped features on other planets would be rare, but that's because I'm a cold-hearted, calculating scientist. Turns out I'd be wrong, as this collage of pictures from the Mars Global Surveyor shows.
These are all either mesas (raised eroded features) or depressions on Mars. My favorite has to be the perfectly-shaped, light-colored tiny heart mesa at the bottom of the crater in picture R09-02121 at the upper right. It's just adorable … even though it's roughly the same size as a football stadium, and the event that formed it was an impact-generated explosion similar to that of a nuclear bomb!

Anyway, for you and yours, enjoy these celestial images and enjoy your Valentine's Day.  Today (and indeed all days) treat the special loved one in your life, well, specially.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

More Good "Bad Astronomy"...and Ultrarunning

Another gem from Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy, here, in talking about the Mars Curiosity mission:

[don't feel bad, I can't make out the unmagified Earth either]

Plait says, in some memorable prose:

The Universe is terribly vast, hugely distant, cold and indifferent to us.
But remember this: The picture above was taken by a machine made by humans, and it’s sitting on the surface of another world. It took hundreds of people thousands of worker-years to imagine it, lobby for it, create it, loft it, and land it on Mars. You can’t see that in the picture because the camera was turned the other way. But if you can step out of the picture in your mind and simply turn around, you’d see that rover on the Martian dust, a testament to human curiosity, the drive to explore, and the need to leave the nest for parts unknown.
It doesn’t bother me in the least that the Universe doesn’t know or care about me. I know and care about it. And that’s what counts.

That's why we still need a viable space program.  And in a parallel way, the thoughts expressed here kinda touch upon the why of Ultrarunning--the lure of the unknown, the uncovering of the hidden, the feeling that only you and a select few other hardy souls have invested the effort of psyche and body to reach the edge and find out what you are made of.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Do You Want to Feel Insignificant? The World's 2nd Biggest Tree

Ran across this video linked to from the Kim Komando techy site.  As I watched it I began to maybe get the tiniest inkling that humankind really doesn't matter all that much (except insofar as we have the capacity to destroy all these trees).

If the embedded player does not work, try this YouTube link, here.

I've run among the redwoods, and if that doesn't make you feel insignificant, you have no soul.  I envy our left coast Ultrarunning brothers and sisters and hope they never take for granted treasures such as these.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Backyard Ultrarunner Can Have Fun With This!

For Christmas, the bride got me an Audubon Birdcam that I had picked out.  Here is a link if you want to read more (I have no financial interest).

I'll go ahead and make the obligatory salute to Ultrarunning here by saying that while running in the backcountry, birds are the predominant critter that you will see.  An occasional mammal or reptile, to be sure, but birds are by far the animal that you can count on seeing.  So being handy at bird identification will definitely enhance your running experience.

[image credit Gary...pretty sure it's a Carolina Wren]

[Starling, plus with a ghost-like wing image captured]
My assessment?  If you are wanting something point-and-shoot right out of the box, this probably isn't the right device for you.  It could be more user-friendly, and it requires a fair amount of tweaking to get to adjusted just right for your situation...but I am having a ball with it.
These were some of the first shots I captured and are technically a bit off--underexposed foreground and overexposed background--but I subsequently moved the camera and improved that aspect. 
My next series was just a tad out of focus. An example:

I've since adjusted for the focus, and I'm hoping that the next batch should be pretty well set up.  Keeping fingers crossed!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Olympic Observations...and Ultrarunning

First off, the mandatory joke about the primitive bathroom accommodations in Sochi, Russia (via Southern Beale, here):

Your bowel movement got a "10" from the German judge

I love the Olympics and am glued to the TV.  The drama, the impossibly hard work, the exuberance and, well, the disappointment, all represent a microcosm of life itself, all played out in a few short days.  So here are a few of my thoughts:

--Ultrarunning is not yet an Olympic sport (yes, I realize it'd be a Summer sport) but the longest running event is the marathon.  I'd love to see a 100K.

-- Snowboarders don't just slide down the hill doing tricks--they "throw down" a run.

--I have never yet seen a plain or homely looking Olympian.  I wonder if the process of selecting athletes somehow biases for the good-looking ones.

--The announcers continue to assume that the audience has a higher level of familiarity with a sport than they actually have (I'm thinking about figure skating in particular).

--The announcers also seem almost obsessed with making certain female athletes the darlings of the games or the face of the Olympics.  When Lindsey Vonn had to bail due to injury, the Today Show cast (on NBC) seemed apoplectic beyond all reason...till I realized they had lost their poster child.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cats in Art: Cats, Red and White (Marc) 1912

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 my eighth post on Franz Marc (1880-1916), a key German painter whose life tragically ended early on the Western Front in 1916. This will be a multi-week series (I am still uncovering his cat works).

Image credit The Atheneum, here. Cats, Red and White, Franz Marc, 1912, oil on canvas, 20" x 14", held in a private collection).


I'd call the rightmost kitty orange, not red, but I didn't paint it so I sure don't get to name it.  If I were guessing I'd assume the white cat is female and the red (orange) one is male, just from their postures, body language, and their relative sizes.
The white one seems a bit sad, as though it's trying a tad too hard to buddy up to the red (orange) cat and not getting anywhere.
That's it for now, typing is a bit uncomfortable (due to injury described here, although I am progressing).

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Another Gun Fetish Paradox

My brain hurts.  It hurts real bad:

Virginia State Legislature Bans American Flags On Sticks, But Lets Guns In

What is the bigger risk inside a state capitol building: openly carrying an American flag or an assault rifle? In Virginia, visitors to the state legislature cannot bring American flags and signs affixed to sticks, because capitol security considers sticks a public threat. Firearms, however, are allowed.
A group of gun violence prevention activists discovered this when they arrived on Monday to attend a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event. According to Virginia Capitol Police, the groups were informed beforehand of the restriction barring sticks at permitted rallies, because they can be used as weapons. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America’s Gena Reeder said they were aware of the rules, but “certainly not in our wildest imagination thought that could apply to the American flag.”
While the moms tore out the dowels of their flags, capitol grounds visitors with firearms were ushered through the entrance. That day, Virginia Citizens Defense League and other gun rights groups organized a “Guns Save Lives” day. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that about half of the crowd was armed, packing weapons that ranged from handguns to assault rifles. 


Friday, February 7, 2014

"Inaction of Shoes"...and Ultrarunning

[updated 13 Feb to add an ASICS link]

Now, if that Subject line abo
ve does not reel you in, you obviously have no curiosity whatsoever.  What can this be, the "Inaction of Shoes"?

From The Writer's Almanac for 3 Feb 2014. I know, it's poetry and as I always say here, most people can't hit that DELETE key fast enough. But just read it. It's short.

"Inaction of Shoes" --Ron Padgett
There are many things to be done today
and it's a lovely day to do them in

Each thing a joy to do
and a joy to have done

I can tell because of the calm I feel
when I think about doing them

I can almost hear them say to me
Thank you for doing us

And when evening comes
I'll remove my shoes and place them on the floor

And think how good they look
sitting?... standing?... there

Not doing anything

Our shoes...just sitting?...standing?...there/Not doing anything.  What an image, coming after--to use an Ultrarunning example--a backcountry run of many miles during which thousands of steps are taken, all important, yet all likely taken for granted, along with the shoes that made it all possible.

As long-distance runners, shoes are our lifeblood (I'm setting aside, of course, that segment of the running community that opts for minimized footwear or even barefootedness while running).

I've blogged about this before but seems appropriate to repeat it here.  I have only a couple pairs of dress shoes, and 5 pairs of running shoes:

1. Gnarly trails, rocky, rooty, etc: I have an older pair of Montrail Vitesse that I keep just for this type of running. Perfect example around here is the Appalachian Trail or most of the trails from the Massanutten 100 in VA.

2. Easier trails to dirt roads: I use a pair of Vasque (forget the model). I run in these for the JFK 50 miler in MD.

3. Dirt roads and jeep trails: ASICS 2140 trail, which can also be used just fine on pavement--a great Umstead 100 (NC) shoe.

4. Pavement: Whatever’s on sale, although I have never had a pair of ASICS that I didn’t like.
5. "Ice" shoes, where I've screwed in hex-head screws for traction.  I normally only use these every couple years or so, although this winter has been the exception.  I posted about such shoes in "Modify Your Shoes for Ice".
[image credit Gary]

Thursday, February 6, 2014

An Eventful Week...and No Ultrarunning

[image credit Gary]

The bride and I took our 19-year old kitty, Molly, on her last ride on Monday.  She had a large tumor on her side that had finally gotten big enough to begin to take over all her body resources (food, water) so that she was becoming mere bones + tumor, and was rapidly dehydrating. 

But even on our laps as we waited at the vet's office, and on the table, she purred and seemed not to be afraid.  She was a good kitty and will be missed.  We buried Molly beside her brother Sammy, who made it to to age 18 (see, we believe in people names for our cats--it makes them last a long time).

After getting home from the vet, we tackled clearing the driveway from the 6" of snow that had arrived earlier in the day.  While operating the snowblower, the discharge chute clogged, and I waited like I always do for the auger and second-stage thrower to stop spinning before reaching in to clear the blockage.  Such a slushy mixture does not respond to digging at it with a stick, you have to manually grab it.

Perhaps I was distracted by the cat sadness, or was just plain careless.  In any case, the second-stage thrower was still moving.  Bottom line: I severed the last joint of my right ring finger.  Hello, Emergency Room!

It'll heal up, but I'm realistic enough to know that full recovery will be measured in months rather than days or weeks.  Remains to be seen how this may impact my running, but I feel optimistic that aside from the immediate time off, there (hopefully) will be no long-term impacts.

Mandatory disclaimer: Don't try this at home.  Instead, when you let go of the auger control, ACTUALLY LOOK AT THE MOVING PARTS TO VERIFY THEY HAVE STOPPED MOVING BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT TO CLEAR THE CHUTE!

Typing is tough so blogging may be a bit subdued for awhile.


Monday, February 3, 2014

NSA and Privacy

Yet another take on the NSA spying scandal.  The money quote for me is this one:
The collection of all this mass data amounts to a government dossier on every individual who has a cell phone or a computer.

Here's the entire quote that puts it all in context:

It's the self-censorship, the hesitation, the fear that what you say or write or otherwise express today could be lurking somewhere on what Snowden referred to as your "permanent record" and come back to haunt you in the future. The collection of all this mass data amounts to a government dossier on every individual who has a cell phone or a computer. It's forcing journalists, teachers and political dissidents to be afraid of doing their jobs and exercising their democratic rights. It's making average citizens think twice about even doing silly things like search Amazon for pressure cookers or take a look at a controversial web-site. 

And this is because no matter how much you may trust Barack Obama not to abuse that information it was only a few years ago that a man named Dick Cheney had access to it. Any of us can imagine what he might have done with it in the event of another major terrorist attack --- after all, the man hijacked the presidency and illegally ordered commercial planes to be shot down after the first one. You simply cannot rely on the good will of people like him to resist using that information for nefarious means in the future. And frankly, mere fact that the collection of all this information isn't giving results should make us all very leery about why they want it so badly.

The more power you give them the more they want, the more the bureaucracies need to justify themselves and ultimately the more tempting it will be to use the information for other purposes. It's just a very bad idea in every way. 

 So, let's get back to the 4th Amendment: specific warrants, for probable cause, issued by a judge to focus on a specific individual...not sweeping up massive amounts of data "just in case," just because we can.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Cats in Art: Girl With Cat II (Marc)

(Sorry that this is late, but you'll like this enigmatic painting)
From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I'm using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.

This is my seventh post on Franz Marc (1880-1916), a key German painter whose life tragically ended early on the Western Front in 1916. This will be a multi-week series (I am still uncovering his cat works).

Image credit The Atheneum, here. Girl With Cat II, Franz Marc, 1912, oil on canvas, 28" x 26", held in a private collection).
Again we see Marc's use of simple strokes and bold, primary colors.  And a couple of other details pop out at me:
--The cat is an almost fox-like kitty, given the rusty reddish color and the vaguely canine-contoured face. Be that as it may, the kitty seems 90%relaxed, but the body posture still bears a hint of "I could still bolt if this doesn't work out."
--The enigmatic woman seems very Madonna-like in her posture.  This theme could well have been emulating a classic Renaissance-era painting of Mary with the Christ child.
--And the woman's smile: did Mona Lisa like kitties?  Plus check out her hands: large and pale, yet loving and tender.
--Last, the buttons on her dress: big, bold, many.
All in all, a rich image with much to think about.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Where NOT to Buy Pizza

A year ago, Papa John's boss John Schnatter stepped in it by complaining about Obamacare.  To refresh your memory:

But until he stepped into the politically charged health care debate by answering questions about President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, he was known mostly for his energetic TV spots in which he trades quips with quarterback Peyton Manning and effuses about "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza."

Now pundits and late-night comedians have mocked and vilified him for saying the health care overhaul might add 14 cents to the cost of each pizza — and that some franchisees might cut workers' hours to avoid paying insurance costs.

This weekend many of us will be eating pizza and watching the Super Bowl, but I suggest you consider getting your pizza from anywhere else than Papa John's. 

Think about it in business terms.  Instead of sounding like a quintessential dick representing the 1%, Schnatter lost a golden opportunity to say something like, "Americans need and deserve affordable health care.  So every Papa John's employee, from the full time corporate executive staff down to the newest part-time delivery driver, WILL have employer-provided health care.  Yes, it will add a bit to the cost of each pizza but we ask our loyal customers to do the right thing and vote with their wallets for Papa John's."