Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is taking precedence over other stuff, including blogging...which is as it should be.  I am pleased and fortunate to have such a large and wonderful extended family to share these special days with.

And remember (whether you are a parent yourself or not, you were once a child) that the best gifts in the world come from children.

Erratic, limited, or no posting till after 2016 commences. All the best from Mister Tristan (the blog AND the 7 year old human being)!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cats in Art: the Real Picasso with a Real Cat

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  The last 6 weeks I have focused on the cat art of Pablo Picasso.

So today--to complete the series--I provide a photographic image of Picasso himself...with cat.  

Image credit The Great Cat, which tells us:

One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Picasso was known to have loved cats and was photographed with kittens or cats throughout his lifetime.

To be a great cat artist, you need to know cats.  Period.  Picasso certainly knew his kitties, to the great benefit of art lovers everywhere.

Gary note: With my Cats in Arts posts, I encourage you to scope out the art appreciation site Artsy (I have no financial interest in the site, I just like it), where you can explore many aspects of the world of art.  You'll certainly be entertained and enlightened!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Powerless to Resist

Cardboard boxes exert an irresistible attraction to cats.  Ca Beere succumbs to the spell:

Image credit Gary

This holiday season, life is being well lived and blogging is a somewhat lesser priority than it once was.  Thus a somewhat more erratic and sporadic schedule.  Hope you do not feel too deprived.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Cats in Art: Jacqueline Sitting With Her Cat (Picasso)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  This is the 6th of 6 posts on the cat art of Pablo Picasso. 

Image credit WikiArt. Jacqueline Sitting With Her Cat, Pablo Picasso, 1964, medium and size unspecified; holder also unspecified.

As an aside, despite this being a known Picasso image, I was totally unable to find out its dimensions, medium, or even who owns it.  The Internet is a strange and wonderful place, and we tend to take for granted the almost instantaneous ability to derive information.  So when we can't, we feel somewhat cheated.  Sorry!

The site The Great Cat offered this observation.  The reference to Dora Maar refers to my previous Cats in Art post Dora Maar With Cat, here:

In the 1960a, Picasso painted his wife Jacqueline Roque with cats as well.  In this painting Jacqueline sits with a small black cat on her lap.  The cat's eyes are so round and large that they reflect an innocence and beauty that matches Jacqueline's.  Picasso perhaps hints that even though she is a cat, she is a kind one.  Her hands are placed on the arms of the chair just as Dora Marr's are.  However, her hands are much different than Maar's, short, stubby and almost mannish; they are not predatory like Maar's.  

I really like this painting, especially the cat's reminiscent of our kitty Ca Beere, a petite little black cat with a bob tail and the sweetest personality ever.

Gary note: With my Cats in Arts posts, I encourage you to scope out the art appreciation site Artsy (I have no financial interest in the site, I just like it), where you can explore many aspects of the world of art.  You'll certainly be entertained and enlightened!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Seems that the 2016 slate of candidates for possible induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame consists of the following:

Nine Inch Nails
The Smiths
Deep Purple
Janet Jackson
Steve Miller
Chaka Khan
The Spinners
Cheap Trick
the Cars 
the J.B.'s
Los Lobos 

I think that voting just closed, and I'm too lazy to Google to find out who actually wound up getting nominated.  Usually 5 or 6 artists make the cut each year.

That said, the purpose of this post is to relate an anecdote about this year's nominees.  A few weeks back, while listening to the Classic Vinyl channel on Sirius XM radio in the car, the deejay mentioned that Nine Inch Nails was a nominee.

I remarked to the bride, "I couldn't name a single Nine Inch Nails song if my life depended on it"

Just then a guy pedaled by in one of those recumbent bikes.  Like one of these:

Image credit here

I'm not a biker, but whenever I see one of these bikes, I think, that's not a real bike (though I'm sure I'll get plenty of emails correcting me.  That's OK, I deserve it for being a smug Ultrarunner who looks down his nose at mere bikers).  

So, half under my breath, I comment "Pussy bike!"

And the bride says, "I thought you didn't know any of their songs?"

After we got done laughing, we went on to imagine what other songs Nine Inch Nails may have done and came up with this fictitious list:

Ratchet Girl
Barbed Wire
Chrome Wheels
Twisted Fence Posts

In the meanwhile, Jethro Tull, Bad Company, and the Moody Blues remain solidly as non-members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, while vastly inferior groups such Nine Inch Nails--to cite but one example--are considered.  Go figure. this post I've managed to insult bikers and certain music fans.  Sorry!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Diabetes...and Ultrarunning

Please imagine a simple graph.

The Y axis runs vertically up, from non-smoker to smoker.

The X axis runs horizontally across, from actively managing your diabetes seriously, to not managing it seriously (talking here about meds and lifestyle).

You DON'T want to be in the upper right quadrant.  That's the perfectly bad storm, where a loved one is, and it's a bad, pretty much irreversible place.  This loved one has been lying in a hospital bed for about half a year, and is now legless.

Think about that when you take your Ultrarunning for granted.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Cats in Art: Lobster and Cat (Picasso)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  This is the 5th of 6 posts on the cat art of Pablo Picasso.  

Image credit Guggenheim Museum, Lobster and Cat, Pablo Picasso, 1965, oil on canvas, 28" x 66", held by Guggenheim Museum, New York.

From the museum web site:
The latest of Pablo Picasso’s works in the Guggenheim’s Thannhauser Collection, Lobster and Cat attests to the artist’s unbroken creative energy during the last years of his life. The painting demonstrates Picasso’s ability to derive serious implications from what is essentially humorous. The subject of the lobster and cat refers to one of the most beloved paintings of French art, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin’s The Ray (1728, Musée du Louvre, Paris). In both paintings, a cat is aroused to vicious hissing by the menacing aspect of an item of seafood that is as delicious to the palate as it is horrendous to the eye.

What is so astonishing in Picasso’s painting is that he is able to retain the humorously anecdotal premise of the eighteenth-century genre painting while simultaneously heightening the encounter between cat and lobster into a miniature but extremely effective metaphor of aggression aroused by fear. It is a theme that preoccupied Picasso. If one makes all due allowances for the differences between the categories of miniature and monumental expression, it is a theme that also occurs in Picasso’s great mural Guernica (1937, Reina Sofía, Madrid). The comparison strikes an absurd note until one remembers Picasso’s frequent shifts from monumental to miniature, from trifling to significant and back again. These ostensibly erratic whimsicalities aim at an ironic demonstration of the artificial conventions of our thought and of our feelings. Here again, as in Lobster and Cat and in so much of Picasso’s work, it is impossible to think of Guernica’s bull or horse as being either all good or all evil, so is it impossible (on quite a different level of seriousness, of course) to come to a clear decision regarding the lobster and the cat in the Thannhauser painting. Both animals are potentially as innocent as they are dangerous.

Once you get past the striking blue lobster--for that's where your eye inevitably goes first--you are left with a very disturbing kitty.  Just look at its eye: apparently frightened out of its wits, the cat is hissing, hackles all raised, claws out.  Pure fight or flight reflex going on.

While the museum's analysis talks about the"...extremely effective metaphor of aggression aroused by fear," I don't see it that way.  I don't see any feline aggression, just a pathetic scared kitty.

Gary note: With my Cats in Arts posts, I encourage you to scope out the art appreciation site Artsy (I have no financial interest in the site, I just like it), where you can explore many aspects of the world of art.  You'll certainly be entertained and enlightened!

Friday, December 4, 2015

More Rambling...and Ultrarunning

Can't believe it's been 4 years since I posted about Rock Music, Rambling...and Ultrarunning, here.

Here's the lead-in to that post, which you really, really should go read right now.

As I continue to love my car's Sirius XM Radio, I've noticed a recurring theme for some some rockers from the period/genre of Classic Rock (60s and 70s).  They tend to romanticize the stereotypical artistic, footloose antihero, imbued with wanderlust so as not to dilute the power of their music.  

That post featured Free Bird, Rambling Man, Heard it in a Love Song, and Ramblin' Gamblin' Man.  Well, diligent detective work had uncovered two more classic rock songs about Rambling:

Ramble On (Led Zepplin)
Ramble On, And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song
I'm goin' 'round the world, I got to find my girl, on my way. 
I've been this way ten years to the day, Ramble On, 
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams.

Midnight Rambler (Rolling Stones)
Did you hear about the midnight rambler
Everybody got to go?
Did you hear about the midnight rambler
The one that shut the kitchen door?

The link to Ultrarunning?  As I previously posted, it is simply this: maybe we get our vicarious rambling jones out of the way via trail running, so we can be happy and secure in our personal relationships and not feel the need to roam.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Johnny Blaze vs. Mister Cuddles Kitty

A few weeks back I did a post entitled Most Original Cat Name EVER! about one Mister Kitty, whose official name, as I came to find out, is actually Mister Cuddles Kitty.

The vet techs at the practice were so impressed with this cat's sweet demeanor and personality that they added the "Cuddles" part to differentiate him from any other "Mister Kitty" also seen at that veterinary office.

Well...turns out another extremely sweet and friendly stray cat has entered the picture and was taken to the same vet for a checkup, neutering, and shots.  For whatever reason, this yellow and white kitty has been given the name Johnny Blaze.  These two kitties were adopted by siblings in my family, so this human brother and sister certainly will be comparing notes on their cats.

The staff at the vet practice were besides themselves imagining the first face-to-face meeting between these two cats:

"Hi!  I'm Johnny Blaze."

"And I'm Mister Cuddles Kitty."

Sounds pretty one-sided, doesn't it?  Game over, Johnny Blaze wins without even firing a shot.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

New Hat Decor

Well, I've got my official certificate and patch, so I'm now an accredited sawyer.  I'm approved to work on downed trees along the Appalachian Trail, Tuscarora Trail, and other trails maintained by my Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC):

It was also necessary to pass a CPR, First Aid, and AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) class....all of which are useful skills in personal (non-trail) life.

Looking forward to (carefully) working on my first official blowdown....

Monday, November 30, 2015

When You Go Off into the Backcountry...and Ultrarunning

Short post today, but please take heed:

The bride worries about me going off into the hinterlands alone, so please do these two things for backcountry running this time of year:

1.  Always tell someone, as specifically as you can, where you are going, when you expect to be back, and if possible, the name of a contact person who knows the area.  For example, if I am doing trail work, it'd be helpful to the potential rescuers if a knowledgeable person can be contacted without delay.

2.  If you keel over for any reason you're going to be out there hours until help arrives. In the winter, you could freeze, literally.  So in my belt pack I always carry a space blanket (virtually no weight) plus a candle/matches with which to start a fire (assuming I am conscious!).

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cats in Art: Dora Maar au Chat (Picasso)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  This is the fourth of several posts on the cat art of Pablo Picasso.

Image credit Totally History.   Dora Maar au Chat (Dora Maar With Cat), Pablo Picasso, 1941, oil on canvas, 50" x 37", held in a private collection.

Per the website:

The painting itself is not excessively large, measuring 50.5” by 37.5″ and shows Dora Maher in a three-quarter length pose, sitting regally in a wooden chair. There is a small black cat on her shoulders which some have described as looking like a combination of menacing and amusing. Picasso has used faceted planes to depict her body and has also used brushstrokes which have been layered richly, in order to project a sculptured quality. He has also used brilliant colors as well as thick and complicated patterns on her dress. The effect is powerful, as is the setting which is described as both dramatic, yet simple.

Dora Maar au Chat by Pablo Picasso has been described as one of the least hostile portraits of Maar, which seems to have been the norm, and this particular portrait has been depicted as one of Picasso’s most brilliant and provocative portraits of his weeping woman. The presence a cat in the same painting presents an allusion to the timeless combination of sexual aggression and feminine wiles. Picasso once described his lover’s temperament in terms of an Afghan cat, which is a significant illusory comment, considering the nature of their relationship. 

In keeping with the reference to cats, it should be noted that Picasso has painted long fingers and long nails into the portrait and this closely resembles the reportedly well-manicured nails and hands that Maar was known to have. In fact, her hands were said to be her most distinctive and beautiful features, however Picasso has painted them in such a way as to depict them as possessing certain violence, like a cat’s claws. 

This is a very interesting painting, in that the real kitty is quite tiny--and only a mere silhouette on the woman's right shoulder--while the real woman, Dora Maar, is rendered in a distinctly cat-like manner.  

Gary note: With my Cats in Arts posts, I encourage you to scope out the art appreciation site Artsy (I have no financial interest in the site, I just like it), where you can explore many aspects of the world of art.  You'll certainly be entertained and enlightened!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

More Newsspeak

Image credit Clipart, here.

I've previously posted a couple of times (here and here) about how our news readers (as they would say in the UK) talk.

I am forced to again pick up my figurative blogging pen.  All the bad news from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia causes me to make an observation about the reporting, without even dealing with the awful content.

For example, when did the a's change to o's, making the country of Pakistan change from "Pack-i-stan" to "Pock-i-ston"?

And when did the religion Muslim change from "Muzz-lim" to "Moose-lim"?

And a 14 year old peeve: don't even get me started on the whole notion of Qatar, whether it be "Cutter," "Gutter," or "Kah-tarr."  Good thing that unfortunate state is not currently in the news, after its 15 minutes of fame during the George W. Bush adventures in the Middle East.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Cats in Art: Crazy Woman With Cats (Picasso)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  This is the third of several posts on the cat art of Pablo Picasso.

Image credit Art Institute Chicago.   Crazy Woman with Cats, Pablo Picasso, 1901, oil on pulp board, 17" x 16", held by Art Institute Chicago. 

I really like this image, and of course wonder how and why Picasso came to paint this?  Was this a real scene from his life, or just a thought that popped into his head to paint?  

Regardless, even crazy people need kitties. Maybe especially crazy people.  And speaking of crazy, it seems that the Art Institute Chicago inexplicably does not currently have this painting on display.  What's up with that?

To me, the cats seem indistinct and perhaps painted thus to represent the concept of catness rather than a discrete image of a cat. 

Gary note: With my Cats in Arts posts, I encourage you to scope out the art appreciation site Artsy (I have no financial interest in the site, I just like it), where you can explore many aspects of the world of art.  You'll certainly be entertained and enlightened!

Friday, November 20, 2015

It Has Now Been Done

Image credit Gary

Yes, we all now have another reason to go on living: "they" have built a better mousetrap. This killing machine is the Victor Quick-Kill.

After having mice raiding our cold cellar crawl space and hitting our sweet potatoes, I set some traps I already had on hand. Unfortunately, the critters were  smarter than the existing traps, stealing bait with impunity.

So I spent about $5 for a pair of these babies, with swift and lethal results.

The main improvement is that the trigger is preset, with no variability. When the little rodent presses his nose into the opening of the covered bait compartment (I used peanut butter), the lid lifts juuuust a tiny bit, the trigger is tripped, and WHAM!  The mouse is toast and heads to to gigantic cheese wheel in the sky.

This literally IS a better mousetrap.

By the way, we have 3 indoor cats. Those kitties are absolutely worthless as predators. So much for the supposed ancestral feline-human symbiotic partnership and co-evolution. They've dropped the ball, big time, in ridding our house of rodents.

One more lapse and they're gone. GONE, I tell you!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Without a Trace of Irony

From Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo on Wednesday:

Texas GOPer Warns Refugees Could Carry Out Attacks Thanks To Lax Gun Laws

Yes, that's the headline.  Then there's the detail:

In a two-page letter sent to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on Monday, Dale asked state officials to reject the resettlement of more Syrian refugees within the Lone Star State’s borders after Friday's terror attacks in Paris. He argued that immigration documents granted to refugees would allow them to obtain Texas drivers' licenses, which in turn would allow them to procure firearms.
“While the Paris attackers used suicide vests and grenades it is clear that firearms also killed a large number of innocent victims," Dale wrote. "Can you imagine a scenario were [sic] a refugees [sic] is admitted to the United States, is provided federal cash payments and other assistance, obtains a drivers license and purchases a weapon and executes an attack?”

Meanwhile, regular American crazy people, who over the years have demonstrated a frightening recurring propensity for committing mass shootings, are not even mentioned.  I guess we only need to keep weapons out of the hands of foreign terrorists.  If they're domestic, then the 2nd Amendment applies.

So never mind the dead, that's just the price we pay for our 2nd Amendment freedom.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Winter is Coming..and Ultrarunning

The bride recently told me, "You know, your blog doesn't really have much Ultrarunning stuff, does it?"

True that.  I started this blog off some 5 years ago focused upon Ultrarunning, then over the years I found my attention being diverted more and more to "philosophy...politics...other stuff" as I say on my masthead.

So...I do plan to include a return to a bit more Ultrarunning.

What better way than to do a post about layering up for winter running?

But before I do, you MUST watch this clip of the Jon Snow character from Games of Thrones from a recent appearance on Seth Meyers late night show.  Link is here if the embedded video playeth not.

OK, back to Ultrarunning...seriously.

I definitely am not a masochist, but I do confess to a warm, fuzzy--OK, smug--feeling when I'm out there and the other runners aren't.  Some of my greatest runs have occurred, when by any objective standard, the weather stinks. In a certain sense, there's no such thing as bad weather, only weather for which you are unprepared.

Here in south-central PA we get our share of cold weather, though not as severe as other areas. But regardless of the absolute temperature, we all know the standard advice is that you gotta go in layers. That's correct, but what you don't really hear emphasized very much is the flip side--that you also gotta be willing to peel off those layers as you warm up and with temperature/wind changes.

For example, in say 0-20 degree F weather I wear a long sleeve polypro type turtleneck under a windproof jacket. Given those temps that outfit generally remains static during the run.

However...what if the temp is a bit warmer, say in the 20s or lower 30s?  I often find I am a just a tad too layered up with the outfit above.  So if I sense that I'm sweating a little too much I'll unzip the shell or even take it off, tying it around my waist.  It is important to do that prior to getting your base layer long sleeve top all sweated up.

If the temp is in the upper 30s or above, I typically wear the long sleeve turtleneck base layer, as above, with a sleeveless vest rather than a full windproof jacket.

In any case, regardless of temperature, I'm always tinkering with my hat, gloves, whether I push my sleeves up, etc.  In other words, you must actively manage your personal microclimate. Sure, it's a minor hassle to peel clothes off/on. You can't avoid getting damp from sweat but you definitely want to avoid getting wet.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Still a Hippie at Heart

From the always good Professor Black:

No simple cause and effect with these things, ever, but we've been blowing people up and arming other people to blow people up and toppling governments and siding with the "moderate rebels" and then siding with the new moderate rebels and then the new new moderate rebels and then sometimes reconsidering and siding with the people the new new moderate rebels were attacking because those moderate rebels suddenly didn't seem too moderate anymore. Hey, where did all of those weapons go? Better send some more! Also, too, more training.

It's horrible when a lot of people get killed. Sometimes we see that, sometimes we don't.

As for what the hippies would do? Probably not quite so much blowing up. Might not work, but the blowing up isn't working too well either.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cats in Art: Woman With Cat (Picasso)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  This is the second of several posts on the cat art of Pablo Picasso.

Note that last week I could not develop my promised Picasso post, so I went with a rerun of a Gauguin.  Picasso returns today!!

Image credit WikiArt.   Woman with Cat, Pablo Picasso, 1900, pastel on paper, size unspecified, held in a private collection.

This unknown woman obviously loves her kitty.  While the woman is much larger in the frame, the cat actually occupies the dead center and is where my eyes are drawn.  The cat seems relaxed and quite content to be enveloped in the loving arms of the woman--after all, what's not to like: laying on the covers of a bed, being petted?

Gary note: With my Cats in Arts posts, I encourage you to scope out the art appreciation site Artsy (I have no financial interest in the site, I just like it), where you can explore many aspects of the world of art.  You'll certainly be entertained and enlightened!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Chainsaw Class: Applied Skills

Last weekend I took a chain saw safety class to get certified as a sawyer with my trail maintenance group, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).  Now I can safely and legally use a chainsaw on the Appalachian Trail (and all other PATC-maintained trails) to remove blowdown trees, etc. to keep the trail clear.

Anyway, one of the benefits of the class is a set of safety gear.  So my fancy new sawyer Personal Protection Equipment just arrived (strangely, it was in a Star Wars theme, but that’s OK I guess), so I took this photo to demonstrate the skills I learned in class.

[Image credit Bored Panda

Friday, November 13, 2015

Raindrops on Cat Whiskers

Right beside our hot tub--which the bride and I use most days, especially the colder it gets--sits a wrought iron cat sculpture, with a crepe myrtle tree immediately behind it.

I was out there a couple of days ago, warming up after having done a rainy day run, when I noticed the droplets on the cat whiskers:

And the close up:

So I ask you: what self-respecting real cat would stand for actual raindrops on its whiskers?  It's just not done!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Railroading...and Ultrarunning

I am a big fan of both real railroads and model railroads.  In the latter category I run a small layout in my basement of the old tinplate Marx trains that I had as a youth.  The heirs to the Gary estate love the model trains as well, so I hope it sticks with them as they get older.

Anyway, as for real trains, in southern California is the Tehachapi Loop, where east bound Union Pacific Railroad trains gain elevation through the Tehachapi Pass.  It's quite an engineering marvel, made particularly interesting in the fact that from a particular vantage point a single long train can be seen to double back upon itself such that three pieces of it are in view simultaneously.  Three!

Hard to explain, so here's a YouTube video.  You should take a few minutes to watch from the beginning, but if you are impatient, skip ahead to around 3:35 and watch the lead engine come in from the left side:

If the embedded video playeth not, here's the link.

There connection to Ultrarunning?  Many of our favorite running places are rails-to-trails. And some of my most interesting running has been along active rail lines, a practice which I must severely discourage.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Armistice Day...Every Family has a Story

Armistice Day...Every Family has a Story

I am reposting the same post I have put up for the past 45years 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.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Politics and Evolution

Dr. Ben Carson has a loyal and enthusiastic following for the Republication presidential nomination.  I kinda get his appeal for many people.

That said, he seems, well, incurious and naive when it comes to science, despite being a neurosurgeon.  Of all his missteps and verbal blunders, to me this one stands out as the most egregious.  This came out in late September (I saw it on the blog Talking Points Memo):

Carson spoke on "creation vs. evolution" and the "flaws in the evolutionary theory," according to the description on the YouTube video uploaded by user Three Angels Messages, which has uploaded a variety of news and political videos. 

The video was flagged on Tuesday by the website BuzzFeed News. "According to the creation model, in which we have an adversary, it’s very easy to explain why people act that way. It’s because they have choice and because there is an adversary out there," Carson told the crowd.

So basically Charles Darwin was encouraged by Satan to come up with the theory of evolution.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Planets and Chainsaws...and Ultrarunning

Both days this weekend I attended a chain saw certification class for my Appalachian Trail maintenance club, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).

I had to be in Luray, VA early so I left in the dark.  Along the way on Sunday morning I saw this scene in the eastern pre-dawn sky and snapped this iPhone picture:

Heading up in line from the horizon: the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter.

As for the chainsaw certification class, I really think it was worthwhile.   I'm just a self-taught ordinary chain saw use, who like many of us over the years had developed some unsafe practices and shortcuts.  Working one-on-one with an experienced trainer was good to enable me to change a few things on the safety side, and to enhance my skills. 

Plus another class requirement was first aid/CPR/AED training (after all, you're using a machine that can literally kill you).  In my private life, I will feel safer now being around the kids and older family members, in case of health emergency. 

These machines are pretty tough and bulletproof; nevertheless, there is a LOT of care and feeding that goes into keeping a chain saw working well.  So it's not like a Toyota that you can just hop into and drive for 100,000 miles without doing a thing to it!

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning?  Next time you go barreling down a trail, give some thought to the fact that somebody probably goes there on a regular basis to keep that trail clear of weeds and downed trees.  I ran trails for years--and continue to do so--before I came to the point in my life when my situation permitted me to carve out the time to work as a maintainer.    

Now I get to carry another heavy piece of gear!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Cats in Art: Eiaha Ohipa (Gauguin)

Life is interfering with blogging, so I am rerunning a Cats in Art post that I originally ran some 5 years ago.  Enjoy!


Cats in Art: Eiaha Ohipa

Continuing my Sunday tradition of Cats in Art.

Photo and text credit here.

This painting by Paul Gauguin is sometimes referred to as A Tahitian Interior, but the artist named it Eiaha Ohipa which means "doing nothing" in the language of Tahiti. And is there anyone who can do nothing better than a cat?

[1896, Paul Gauguin, Eiaha Ohipa, painting]

I love Gauguin's notion of "doing nothing" and including a cat.  Well done!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Godmother of Punk...and Ultrarunning

Listening the other day to Public radio, I heard an interview with Patti Smith, who was referred to as the Godmother of Punk.

Hmmmm...didn't know that title existed.

Then that reminded me of a post I did a couple years back, and in searching through my archives, it seems that the post actually ran 5 years ago.  I've come to the realization that when you get older, your time perception gets all hosed up.  So if I think something happened about 2 or 3 years ago, i should double that and make my guess at 5 years, and I'd probably be right.  That would have been the case here.

But, back to music.  In that old post I discussed various music royalty, to which I must now add Patti Smith (I should tell you that the original discussion 5 years ago took place at a wine tasting at the Adams County Winery in PA, so perhaps the talk was somewhat propelled by the fruit of the vine).

Here's the 5 year old list, now with Ms. Smith added at the top:

Godmother of Punk:  Patti Smith
Godfather of Punk:  ??

Queen of Soul:  Aretha Franklin
King of Soul:  ??

Godmother of Soul:  ??
Godfather of Soul:  James Brown

Queen of Pop:  ??
King of Pop:  Michael Jackson

Queen of Rock:  ??
King of Rock:  Elvis Presley

Queen of Blues:  ??
King of Blues:  BB King (maybe?)

The Queen:  ??
The King:  Elvis Presley

Looks like we need more queens.  Somebody brought up Queen Latifah, but we just didn't know how to categorize her.  Ditto for Prince, since his (current) name is itself a royal moniker.

Note also that in the radio interview much was made of the fact that Patti Smith had guts as a pioneering woman in the music industry.  Hmmmm--and that's the second Hmmmm in this post--guts.  Guts.  GUTS.

My mind leaped elsewhere with that word, which normally does not come up very often in conversation.  I, of course, immediately thought of the 70s runner Steve Prefontaine, about whom Runners World set the stage:

In 1975, at the age of 24, Steve Roland Prefontaine died in a single-car accident. At the time of his death, he held every American record from 2,000 to 10,000 meters and was a favorite to win at least one gold medal in the 1976 Olympics

But back to the subject of guts, about which Pre once famously said:

A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.

 One final note from the University of Oregon web site, so you contemporary runners may know just how big a deal Pre was back in the day:

He owned every (8) American record between 2,000 and 10,000 meters and between two miles and six miles. He also held eight collegiate records while at Oregon, with his three-mile (12:53.4) and six-mile (27:09.4) still standing. During his career, he broke his own or other American records 14 different times, broke the four-minute barrier nine times, ran 25 two-mile races under 8:40 and 10 5K races faster than 13:30.

Monday, November 2, 2015

"My Work Here is Done"

[image credit Gary]

We have a black cat that we call Ca Beere (that name is a whole 'nuther story for a different time).

The salient point is she is entirely black...the ideal Halloween kitty.

It's been a long, busy season for Ca Beere, and it was with visible relief that she awakened on Sunday--with Halloween now safely and successfully behind her--and actually spoke, saying, "My work here is done."

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Cats in Art: Cat Devouring a Bird (Picasso)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  This will be the first of several posts on the cat art of Pablo Picasso.

Today I'll present a couple of versions, from 1939, of the same subject:

Image credit WikiArt, Cat Catching a Bird, Pablo Picasso, 1939, oil on canvas, 32" x 40", held by Musee Picasso, Paris, France.sée Picasso, Paris, France

Image credit WikiArt, Cat Devouring a Bird, Pablo Picasso, 1939, oil on canvas, 38" x 50", held by Victor W. Ganz Collection, New York, NY.

First off, I'm going with the title that Zuffi uses for the second work, Cat Devouring a Bird, although the title Cat Eating a Bird seems to be much more prevalent.  The word "devouring" seems much more powerful and evocative than simply "eating."

Zuffi's analysis:

"This subject obsessed me.  I don't know why," declared Picasso who, though he liked cats, painted very few of them...In the first version of this painting, a large black cat, without whiskers, has just seized its prey, which is trying in vain to struggle free.  The [second] painting further develops this theme: the striped cat is already tearing apart the bird, now dead, holding it firm in its strong claws.  The furious eyes bulging in their sockets, the bristling whiskers, the shreds of flesh torn from the bird, and the overall agitation of the scene cannot fail to remind us how Picasso was profoundly affected by the events of the Spanish Civil War at the time.

If indeed the painting represents Picasso's feelings about the war, he captures quite well the horror, the violence, the insanity.  Just look at the second cat's crazed eyes, leaving me with the message that one must be crazy to embrace war.

Gary note: With my Cats in Arts posts, I encourage you to scope out the art appreciation site Artsy (I have no financial interest in the site, I just like it), where you can explore many aspects of the world of art.  You'll certainly be entertained and enlightened!

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Depressing Thought

So it seems that the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan will be extended until 2017 or so...or until the next president extends it again because we're this close to turning the corner....

So when I read this piece by David Swanson, I realized he'd put his finger on it:

The idea that year 15 or year 16 is going to go better in Afghanistan than the first 14 years have gone is based on no evidence whatsoever, but merely the hope that something will change combined with a misguided and arrogant sense of responsibility to control someone else’s country. As numerous Afghans have been saying for nearly 14 years, Afghanistan will be a disaster when the U.S. occupation ends, but it will be a larger disaster the longer it takes to do so.

Afghanistan need not be “abandoned.” The United States owes Afghanistan reparations in the form of significant actual aid, the cost of which would of course be less than that of continuing the war.

Student of history that I am, I did some cursory Googling of the history of Western involvement in Afghanistan (another good article here). The British originally sent an army there in 1839, in part to thwart perceived Russian influence in the region.  The Afghans rose up, and in 1842 drove the invading army out of Kabul:

On January 6, 1842, the British began their withdrawal from Kabul. Leaving the city were 4,500 British troops and 12,000 civilians who had followed the British Army to Kabul. The plan was to march to Jalalabad, about 90 miles away.
The retreat in the brutally cold weather took an immediate toll, and many died from exposure in the first days. And despite the treaty, the British column came under attack when it reached a mountain pass, the Khurd Kabul. The retreat became a massacre.
Slaughter in the Mountain Passes of Afghanistan
A magazine based in Boston, the North American Review, published a remarkably extensive and timely account titled “The English in Afghanistan” six months later, in July 1842. It contained this vivid description (some antiquated spellings have been left intact):
On the 6th of January, 1842, the Caboul forces commenced their retreat through the dismal pass, destined to be their grave. On the third day they were attacked by the mountaineers from all points, and a fearful slaughter ensued…
The troops kept on, and awful scenes ensued. Without food, mangled and cut to pieces, each one caring only for himself, all subordination had fled; and the soldiers of the forty-fourth English regiment are reported to have knocked down their officers with the butts of their muskets.
On the 13th of January, just seven days after the retreat commenced, one man, bloody and torn, mounted on a miserable pony, and pursued by horsemen, was seen riding furiously across the plains to Jellalabad. That was Dr. Brydon, the sole person to tell the tale of the passage of Khourd Caboul.
More than 16,000 people had set out on the retreat from Kabul, and in the end only one man, Dr. William Brydon, a British Army surgeon, had made it alive to Jalalabad.

The above history lesson is offered without further comment.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Coincidence? I Don't Think So

One of my running buddies just doesn't get Chuck Norris jokes.  He says things like, "Why would I want to read about a washed-up, B-list actor anyway?"

That, my friends, is precisely why such jokes are still funny.

Anyway, I ran across this children's book at a large, major retailer the other day and snapped this photo:

It shows a bearded Jesus holding a happy kid.  The Jesus picture looks exactly like Chuck Norris. 

Coincidence ?  I don't think so.