Saturday, January 31, 2015

Vatican Seagull

Today here in south-central PA is a rather unpleasant day: certainly, it is pretty enough with its bright blue skies and a beautiful mantle of snow covering everything.  It's unpleasant in that the wind is howling at 20+ MPH and the actual air temp is  in the teens, yielding a wind chill of, I don't know, perhaps zero?

At any rate, my mind goes back a couple months to a much milder day in Rome, where we saw this seagull perched on one of the ramparts of the Vatican:

Image credit Gary

Think warm thoughts!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Good Day of Snowblowing

image credit Gary

The big storm affecting the northeast was more of a coastal even, thus we here in south-central PA got brushed.  My accumulation was perhaps 5" max.

So, being retired, I can pick and choose when I clear my driveway: gone are the days of getting up at 0-dark-thirty to get the driveway open before work, so that it could finish melting during the day.  See, we're on a hill and partly shaded, so I need to maximize whatever solar benefits I can get.

Back to this snowfall.  I call it "a good day of snowblowing" because I went out there with 9 fingers and came back with 9.  The background story is here if you care to read it.

Also, 2 of our kitties went out in the snow, but when only one came back right way I went tracking (otherwise she was likely to sneak into the attached shed when I got the snowblower out, from which she is hard to coax out).

I followed her tracks from her exit point of the house, around the house clockwise, with a pit stop in a flower bed.  She meandered back and forth but stayed in very close proximity to the house.  In a matter of a couple minutes I saw her at the end of the tracks I was following and called softly, whereupon she came running to be "rescued" from the snow.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Me, the Ultrarunnning Poseur

I recently sent the following email to a cousin with whom I gotten close in the past couple years.  Our respective families were pretty much antisocial or asocial, so we missed out upon decades of potential relationship.  

Actually, since my cousin's dad and mine were identical twins, he pointed out that in essence we are genetically the equivalent of half-brothers.  That's kinda something to think about.

Anyway, I post this just to provide some personal background on MY running journey in case it may resonate with you and your experiences.  But of course--and I just can't help myself--your mileage may vary....

Hope all is well with the doc. We go for our annual physicals next week, and hopefully we'll get a clean bill of health, although at our age (62, with me turning 63 in March) we take NOTHING for granted.  Life has been a wonderful gift thus far, but things can certainly change in a literal heartbeat.

I'm so cognizant of my dad's heart issues, plus those of my brother xxxxx. I kinda stumbled into running as a sport and as a health enhancement when I was 27 when I changed jobs and had a life milestone and a fitness opportunity, and it stuck...and I've now been a regular runner since for 35 years. Marathons, 50 milers, and even three 100 mile races. I do think based upon medical research that running does convey some measure of heart health immunity, but we are all an experiment of one.  Keeping fingers crossed.

People say to me how much they admire my dedication to running, but I feel like a poseur. I actually have grown to love running for the solitude and the time to think my thoughts--as much or as little as I wish--and I think I'd be a runner even if it were bad for me.

As I've said before, please don't stress about repairing my mom's clock. If you get it done or not, it's all good. I know that you are trying your best, and that's all that matters.  I truly value our reconnection these past couple years.

Monday, January 26, 2015

From The Earth Bound Misfit, a gloomy observation (complete with graphic language) that I increasingly share:

As for this, I'm pretty much convinced that humanity has fucked things over past fixing. If you ever saw the beginning to the movie Serenity, it mentioned that humanity fled Earth, pretty much after fucking things up beyond all repair. The reality is that we'll probably fuck up the planetary ecosystem past the point of no return long before we develop the technology to flee the planet.

Which, in a way, may explain why we've not found any hints of intelligent life. For any species that develops to that point probably fouls its own nest and dies off. Just like bacteria in a Petri dish does and just like we're doing.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cats in Art: The Virgin and Child with the Cat and Snake (Rembrandt)

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.  I'm returning to Rembrandt since I just posted about him (a non-kitty picture) yesterday.  That post dealt with missing the bigger picture, so to speak....

Image credit EPPH (Every Painter Paints Himself), here.  The Virgin and Child with the Cat and Snake, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1654, etched copper printing plate, size unspecified, held by V+A Museum, Amsterdam.

Analysis from Wikipedia:

This print shows a homely scene of maternal affection but it is also a powerful piece of Christian symbolism. While the cat on the left is playing with the Virgin's hem, a snake can be seen slithering out from under her skirt. The Virgin is treading on the snake, symbolising her role as the new Eve, who will triumph over original sinJoseph looks in from outside the window, symbolising his closeness to, but also his separation from, the Virgin and Child. The pattern of the window's glazing creates the impression of a halo around the Virgin's head.

My take?  The kitty is over there on the left edge, in relative obscurity, doing what cats do (playing).  Oblivious to all the religious symbolism swirling around it, Rembrandt's cat just is.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Night Watch...and Ultrarunning

The bride and I traveled to Europe in October, and were fortunate enough to be able to spend 3 days in Amsterdam, Kingdom of the Netherlands (the official name for what the world knows unofficially as Holland).

While there we had some delightful time in the city's wonderful museums, to include the Rijksmuseum.  Perhaps the museum's most famous piece of art is the magnificent The Night Watch, by Rembrandt.

Here is The Night Watch from the Kahn Academy site.  It's huge, some 12' x 14':

And below is The Night Watch in a tourist's photo, showing some of the visitors in the foreground.  Evidently this photo has made the rounds on the Internet, but I saw it at the blog Gin and Tacos:

I am guilty of a similar offense to what the girls are doing above.  They are right there, in front of one of the finest paintings ever created on this planet...yet have their noses buried in their phones.

My story?  We went to the Rijksmuseum on a Sunday--in fact, it was the very day of the Amsterdam Marathon and we had a tough time navigating, what with rolling closures of streets and transit across various sections of the city.  At length we found ourselves across the street from the museum, but it was a major street and the marathoners were pouring through along it.  Impenetrable mass of runners'  bodies, plus barrier fencing.

But...those imaginative Dutch!  There was a traffic island in the center of this boulevard.  So as the runners approached the island, course officials blocked the near side, shunting runners over to the left side--and importantly for us pedestrians--allowing us to reach the traffic island in the center.

You can imagine the next move.  The course officials then blocked the left side, funneling runners back onto the right side...and allowing the pedestrians to exit from the island in the middle across the left side of the boulevard to reach the museum.  Repeat every 10 minutes.

As my friend Steve likes to say, "A low-tech solution to a high-tech problem."  By the way, I looked at the marathoners and thought, "These people look pretty beat," estimating that they must have been around Mile 20 or so. was Mile 5, and what I took for fatigue was just focus and concentration.  

I have not run an official marathon race since Harrisburg, PA in 1993, when I wanted to proved to myself that I was healed from knee surgery resulting from a toboggan accident (I succeeded).  Though I must say that in the ensuing 21 years I have covered the marathon distance too many times to count in 50 mile and 100 mile trail races and in training when I'm having a casual conversation about running with someone new and they ask how many marathons I have run, the answer requires some 'splaining.  

Anyway, back to the the museum.  We found ourselves in the big room with The Night Watch dominating one entire wall.  Since it was the weekend, the museum was crowded and I found it hard to get close.  I became focused upon taking some photos of the painting over the heads of the crowd, while trying to move closer.  Finally my turn came to get to the front row and I confess that I still was in photography mode.

Rather than just stand there in jaw-dropping admiration, I fiddled with my camera and lost the opportunity to immerse myself in the presence of great art.  It was only later that I realized that I didn't really look at The Night Watch; my experience was largely vicarious and electronic rather than personal.  At the time it seemed like no big deal, but in hindsight I wished I had never carried the camera in there.  I should just have enjoyed the painting.


Lesson learned for the next art museum we experience.
If you wish to read more of the painting's history, etc., check this out from Wikipedia

The painting is renowned for three characteristics: its colossal size (363 cm × 437 cm (11.91 ft × 14.34 ft)), the effective use of light and shadow (chiaroscuro), and the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a static military portrait.
The painting was completed in 1642, at the peak of the Dutch Golden Age. It depicts the eponymous company moving out, led by Captain Frans Banning Cocq (dressed in black, with a red sash) and his lieutenant, Willem van Ruytenburch (dressed in yellow, with a white sash). With effective use of sunlight and shade, Rembrandt leads the eye to the three most important characters among the crowd, the two gentlemen in the centre (from whom the painting gets its original title), and the small girl in the centre left background. Behind them, the company's colours are carried by the ensign, Jan Visscher Cornelissen.
Rembrandt has displayed the traditional emblem of the Arquebusiers in the painting in a natural way: the girl in yellow dress in the background is carrying the main symbols. She is a kind-of mascot herself: the claws of a dead chicken on her belt represent the clauweniers (arquebusiers); the pistol behind the chicken stands for 'clover'; and, she is holding the militia's goblet. The man in front of her is wearing a helmet with an oak leaf, a traditional motif of the Arquebusiers. The dead chicken is also meant to represent a defeated adversary. The colour yellow is often associated with victory.
Another interpretation proposes that Rembrandt designed this painting with several layers of meaning, as was common among the most talented artists. Thus, the Night Watch is symmetrically divided, firstly to illustrate the union between the Dutch Protestants and the Dutch Catholics, and secondly to evoke the war effort against the Spaniards. For instance, accordingly to Rembrandt's multilayered design, the taller Captain (in black) symbolizes the Dutch Protestant leadership, loyally supported by the Dutch Catholics (represented by the shorter Lieutenant, in yellow). Moreover, all characters of this painting were conceived to present double readings.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Our National Priorities

This week has been replete with many articles about Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the anniversary of his birth.

The one that really struck me was how Rev. King articulated decades ago what I see happening today.  Indeed, it seemingly has always been this way.  From a great blog post by Richard Eskow::

“Congress appropriates military funds with alacrity and generosity. It appropriates poverty funds with miserliness and grudging reluctance. The government is emotionally committed to the war.  It is emotionally hostile to the needs of the poor.” 

We "can't afford" stuff, not because it's intrinsically too expensive, but because we prioritize our spending towards other things, i.e., the military.  To the extent that our military spending alone equals that of the next 9 countries...combined (link here).

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Snowdrift...and Ultrarunning

It's been a chilly winter so far here in south-central PA, but the snow has largely been on the lighter side.  But once the snow has landed it has remained with us due to the persistent cold weather.

Anyway, the prevailing wind is typically from the west, and I noted the other day how loose soil from the winter wheat field across from us has been picked up by the strong winds.  It has tainted the white snowdrifts along our driveway:

Image credit Gary

Over the weekend I took Mister Tristan (the 7-year-old human being, not the blog) up on the Appalachian Trail for a short hike to Bailey Spring just north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  I was really surprised at just how much snow was on the ground: it made for some slightly slippery going over some rocky sections.  I should have realized that if snow remains in my yard in the valley, surely there would be more snow up at 1800' elevation.

Trail running would have been unpleasant with iffy footing like that.  But we got to drink some mighty fine spring water, which is always a treat!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

PA Considers Hiking Ban in Hunting Seasons...and Ultrarunning

If you hike or run on State Game Lands in Pennsylvania, this affects you!

The text in blue below comes from an Associated Press article by LYNN OLANOFF, The (Easton) Express-Times.

A rule change is under consideration by the PA Game Commission that would affect hiker use of State Game Lands.  The two items of major concern are:

--Totally banning hiking on State Game Lands during the principal hunting seasons

--Requiring that hikers obtain a permit for State Game Lands hiking during the rest of the year.  Of course, "hiking" would include trail running, so this might affect YOU.

Here is a link to the proposed rule.  You definitely should click over there to actually read the language yourself before reacting.

After the end of the AP article I'll include a copy of my emailed comments back to the PA Game Commission (PGC).  Feel free to borrow or steal any of my words.  You may email comments to the PGC here.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) — Fall foliage season is a popular time for hiking in Pennsylvania.
But fall hiking on state game lands might be prohibited if a new regulation under consideration by the Pennsylvania Game Commission is approved.
The commission is scheduled to consider a new rule Jan. 27 that would forbid hiking and other non-hunting activities on state game lands during fall and spring hunting seasons, which total more than 130 days. Hiking would still be permitted on Sundays, when hunting is disallowed.
The new rule would affect hiking along Blue Mountain in the Lehigh Valley and also nearby popular spots such as Glen Onoko Falls in Jim Thorpe and Top Rock Trail on state game land in Haycock Township, Bucks County, said Mark Zakutansky, Mid-Atlantic policy manager for the Appalachian Mountain Club, based in Bethlehem.
"Fall foliage is such a draw," Zakutansky said. "Hikers have always been respectful in wearing orange and staying on trails — it seems a little knee-jerk."
The Appalachian Trail and other long-distance trails that go through state game lands would be exempt, but Zakutansky said hiking advocates worry access paths to those trails through state game lands would be restricted.
"That's a concern that people will be limited in their access to the Appalachian Trail because a lot of the access trails will be off-limits," he said.
Bethlehem resident Marty Desilets likes to hike — but even more so, he likes to take photographs.
"There's definitely a huge interest in Glen Onoko, as well as a lot of area up by Ricketts Glen that would be effectively shut down by this," Desilets said. "It seems a little heavy handed to me that they would go to the length that they're going."
The Pennsylvania Game Commission has previously proposed other restrictions on hikers, such as requiring a permit, which also is again up for consideration Jan. 27, Zakutansky said. But the total ban during the spring and fall hunting seasons is a new idea that was only made public Jan. 12, he said.
"What is being proposed is dramatically different than what has been proposed in the past," he said.
The spring hunting season goes from the second Saturday in April through Memorial Day, while the fall season goes from the last Saturday in September until the third Saturday in January.
Biking, horseback riding and snowmobiling is already prohibited on state game land during those two seasons, and hiking also is considered a secondary use on the property, said Travis Lau, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Much of the land was purchased through hunting permit sales and taxes on hunting equipment especially for hunting, Lau said.
"You're not talking about tracts of land purchased with public money," he said.
Lau said he's inquired if Glen Onoko Falls would be covered by the proposed restriction but hasn't heard back. He said he believes access trails through state game land to the Appalachian Trail would be restricted.
The permit rule also being considered Jan. 27 would require hikers to get a free permit from Harrisburg or a regional game commission office to hike on state game land at any time. A permit issued in 2015 would be good through 2018, Lau said.

My comments to the Game Commission (email link here):
I’m a long-time hiker, and volunteer trail maintainer with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).   I am the overseer of the Reese Hollow Shelter and Trail—open to the hiking public--which are part of PATC’s  Little Cove Cabin tract west of Mercersburg, PA.

I’m really concerned about this proposal for permits being required, because at Little Cove, the PATC property is literally surrounded by State Games Lands # 124.  We maintain multiple trails cross our property, and by agreement with PGC even maintain an adjacent Hunter Access Trail totally on State Game Lands.  But half a mile in any direction will take you from PATC property to SGL property.  This would be a major issue for our cabin users, who go there to hike and to experience Penn’s Woods.  

I focus on this property because it’s where I volunteer, but my concerns are valid throughout the entire state.  Here are my principal concerns:

1.  What exactly is the problem that PGC is trying to solve?  In other words, what specifically is wrong with the status quo that necessitates PGC considering this action?  I don’t see that articulated in the PGC proposal.  If, for example, PGC perceives a safety concern with non-hunters being in the woods during hunting season without wearing orange blazing, that solution would seem to be a totally different issue than requiring permits.

2.  The Tuscarora Trail should be added to the list of major through hiking trails.

3.  If this permitting comes to pass, how will the target population of non-hunters become aware of these rules?  There is no mention of penalties if a hiker fails to have the proper permit.  What about enforcement—does PGC have a handle on how much workload this might add to its conservation officers?  For example, I recently called the PGC about a dead hawk I found in a cardboard box beside the road.  It took a week for an officer to even make telephone contact with me.  I think they already have plenty of duties.

4.  And here’s another possible unintended consequence: it seems that PGC would have to invest a ton of money in signage and boundary notifications to ensure that people would know that they are entering State Game Lands where hiking permits are required.  Also the costs of the permitting process itself would seem to be non-trivial.

Gary ______

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Winery Cat

Went with some friends on Sunday to the Adams County Winery near Orrtanna, PA.  It's less than an hour from my home.  They had an event where they served soup and bread--along with, of course, a glass of wine!

Anyway, outside the main entrance I was struck by this ceramic cat, that stood approximately 3' tall:

Image credit Gary

Now all they need are some live kitties to wander amongst the guests inside!

By the way, the winery features a pair of wines called Tears of Gettysburg (white) and Rebel Red, which I think are the staples of their wine list.  But both the bride and I just loved a newer offering called Stray Cat Strut (white), which we sampled simply because of the name.

It was wonderful--meaning very fruity and intense with a strong grape flavor--so of course some came home with us.  The winery describes it thusly:

A refreshingly crisp, fruity Catawba wine with hints of grapefruit. A perfect wine for any occasion.     

If you're in the neighborhood you should make a stop, by all means.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Rev. Martin Luther King...and Ultrarunning

Here's a repost of a short post I previously did to commemorate this day:

Simple words, appropriate for the day, that have gotten me through many a rough patch in ultra races across these United States:

We have the right to walk to Montgomery if our feet will take us there. -- Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I had the good fortune during my working career of traveling to Atlanta numerous times.  Whenever possible I would work in a run in the city, for it was downtown where I usually stayed.  On one trip I ran over to the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the National Park Service site that commemorate Dr. King.

I found myself just sitting there crying over the stupidity and fear and hatred that deprived the world of this visionary man.

Image credit

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cats in Art: Hercules, plus Dead Monkey on a Dish (Freud)

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 will be last of 4 posts dealing with the artist Lucien Freud.

Wikipedia tells us:
Lucian Michael Freud1922 – 2011) was a German-born British painter. Known chiefly for his thickly impastoed portrait and figure paintings, he was widely considered the pre-eminent British artist of his time. His works are noted for their psychological penetration, and for their often discomforting examination of the relationship between artist and model.

And, I might add, for his obsession with--and unflattering portrayals of--nudes in all genders, shapes and sizes.  

Image credit Bridgeman ImagesHercules, 1948 (pen + ink on paper), 9" x 5", held in a private collection

Well, what can we say about the bizarre image above?  If this is to be the Hercules of mythology, why portray him as a boy?  And moreover, as a boy with a lion cape on his head?  

While perhaps there is not mythological connection--the boy's name might well real be Hercules--the image is vaguely disturbing in an almost pedophilic way.  And the lion's facial expression looks as though he knows exactly what is going on...and isn't saying.  All in all, Freud has created what for me is an uncomfortable image.

Which brings me to the end of Freud's cat art.  But I cannot leave Freud without throwing in a bonus image--not of a kitty--but of a monkey.  This drawing was so odd that I had to share it with you, as some sort of proof of just how strange Lucien Freud must have been:

Image credit Bridgeman ImagesDead Monkey on a Dish, 1943 (ink + crayon on paper), 9" x 13",  held in a private collection

You are reading this post because (probably) you kinda like art and I present some offbeat amusement.  Well, I bet in your wildest art dreams you never imagined that you'd be looking at an image called Dead Monkey on a Dish.

Next week?  An oil painting by Balthus....

Friday, January 16, 2015

Time for Some Beach Running

The Internet is a strange and wondrous place.  Ran across a goofy photo site where I found this image.  No idea whether it's real, or where it was taken, just enjoy it for what it is:

Just beware the faceplant if you become inattentive to your running, either due to the nudity or from the waffles.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Terrorist Attacks

Most of us have followed with horror and sadness the terrorist attacks in France.  I cannot imagine me personally feeling so strongly about a cause that I would murder strangers.

Anyway, these attacks garner huge amounts of attention, which is what the perps want.  Ion the meanwhile, here in the U.S., we have a rampant gun culture in which similar numbers of innocents are gunned down with frightening regularity by our own crazies...and yet we don't rise up and demand action (think of the Sandy Hook elementary school murders in CT, and how NOTHING has changed in the way of gun control).

Anyway, I defer to the always-good Digby who just wrote this:

I'm getting that strange feeling I had after 9/11 again when I nervously observed people I admired getting hysterical over the fact that religious extremists had launched a terrorist attack and conflated that act with something like World War II. That was an epic attack to be sure, but even so, it did not represent an existential threat to the most powerful nation on earth and the shrieking about the Clash of Civilizations was overwrought and destructive. Still, considering the events of the last few days it's understandable that people would be afraid. And unfortunately, it's entirely predictable that liberals who have tried to find a way these last few years to condemn extremism without alienating the vast majority of Muslims are being held up as appeasers who are selling out our Western values. That's just the way these things work. 

Our society is soaked in bloody mass violence. And yet each time it happens we go about our daily lives without succumbing to fear. This is not to say that intent doesn't matter, it does. Some people are crazy, some people are zealots, some people are misguided and some are just cruel and homicidal. But I would guess those designations apply just as well to the Islamic extremists who perpetrated that horrific mass killing in France as they do to our homegrown variety of mass killers. They are not super-villains with extraordinary power. They are weak, marginalized misfits who found a reason to act out their violent impulses. Rationally, the threat they pose is little different than the workplace killer who comes into an office and mows down his co-workers --- something that happens with frequency in America.

Again, the point of terrorism is to make us defeat ourselves. If we can deal with the fact that heavily armed lunatics walk America's streets every day ready to mow down strangers for any reason at all without losing our grip, we should be able to keep our heads about us when a bunch of misfit religious fanatics do the same thing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Apparently Deer are Now Predators!...and Ultrarunning

....A plea for scientific accuracy from Gary, owner of Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 7-year-old human being).

Read the main headline of this ad from a gadget catalog that showed up in my mailbox a couple days ago.  I was totally unaware that deer are predators.  And I have a BS and an MS in Biology!

Maybe it's a man-made climate change phenomenon?

Most animals fit fairly cleanly into the categories of herbivore (plant eater) or carnivore (meat eater).  I do realize that many animals swing both ways; i.e., are omnivores, meaning they eat whatever they can, be it plants or meat.

But deer are NOT predators--they are as herbivorous as an animal can be!

Back to the ad--deer certainly can be nighttime pests, but not by virtue of being predators.

However, let's err on the side of caution and take the ad at face value: better be careful out there in the backcountry.  Never know when you might jump a vicious predatory deer that has YOU in his sights for dinner!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Reply to Tony...and Ultrarunning

Just got a notification of my high school class reunion, from Tony L, this year's coordinator (I won't tell you the number of the reunion, but it does start with a 4).  We exchanged a couple catching-up emails, in which I mentioned doing trail maintenance, and Tony expressed an interest in learning a bit more.

So here is what I wrote back:


The Appalachian Trail is only 20 min from my house so over the years I spent a lot of time there hiking, and trail running. See, I began recreational running in my late 20s and have been at it since.  When I began to slow down  in my mid-40s I discovered trail running, where you walk most uphills and rough footing areas (roots + rocks), and run the flats and the downhills.  Typically for me that means I run about 3/4 of a given distance and walk 1/4. 

I found there was a whole community of runners who largely stuck to trails. I also found that I could run a 50 mile trail race with no more effort than I used to put into a marathon. Plus I had the added bonus of being in the woods for 10-12 hours! 

Knowing that hiking trails don't magically appear and maintain themselves, after I retired I finally had the time to volunteer as a trail maintainer with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.  PATC is responsible for maintaining some 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail plus several hundred additional miles of other trails, to include the Tuscarora Trail (a wilder and more remote experience than the AT). I do some work on the AT but my main "assignment" is as overseer of a backpacker shelter and trail called Reese Hollow, which is a feeder trail to the Tuscarora Trail. 

Each PATC trail is divided into logical chunks of say 2-5 miles, and a volunteer overseer is responsible for that section. We also put together crews for big projects where an individual overseer would be overwhelmed. 

Between April and September I go to my trail about once a month to work for a day. In the summer there's lots of weedwhacking to do to keep it open. Plus any time of the year there are fallen trees across the trail that must be removed. 

Anyway, I do enjoy this work quite a bit. I think that all over PA and indeed the U.S. there are public-private partnerships between say a state park (e.g., Moraine, McConnell's Mill, Raccoon Creek in your area) and a volunteer hiking or mountain biking club to handle trail maintenance. Government budgets for parks keep getting whacked so they are happy to have volunteers come in and contribute labor. 

Anyway...that's probably much more than you wanted to know, but I wanted to give you a thorough answer!  

Take care,

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cats in Art: Cats Eyes (Freud)

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 will be 3rd of 4 posts dealing with the artist Lucien Freud.

Wikipedia tells us:

Lucian Michael Freud1922 – 2011) was a German-born British painter. Known chiefly for his thickly impastoed portrait and figure paintings, he was widely considered the pre-eminent British artist of his time. His works are noted for their psychological penetration, and for their often discomforting examination of the relationship between artist and model.

And, I might add, for his obsession with--and unflattering portrayals of--nudes in all genders, shapes and sizes.  

Image credit Bridgeman ImagesCats Eyes, 1949 (pencil + black ink on paper), 3" x 7", held in a private collection.

Maybe it's just me, but the cat eye on the left (the cat's right) looks rather human-like, while the cat eye to the right looks, well, cat-like.  Regardless, the extremely careful stippling to represent the kitty's short facial fur is spot-on, as is the "M" pattern--characteristic of the American Shorthair breed--between the eyebrows.

All in all, fine attention to detail in an approximately life-size rendering.  The cat seems OK with posing--at least for the moment--but appears open to bolting if a better opportunity offers.  Makes me wonder if Freud had a kitty of his own, or if he was using a kitty model?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Another Gold Rush Prayer

Image credit Discovery Channel

I have a love-hate  (but mostly hate) relationship to the TV show Gold Rush.  I most recently posted about it here, wherein I am incredulous about the shameless manner in which the otherwise kindly old Grandfather Jack cravenly prays for gold, with the following prayer:

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.

Well, in the episode that aired a week ago (2 January 2014, Episode 11 of Season 5), Grandfather Jack is praying away yet again.  See, in a classic case of cutting corners, the dirt road--over which the rock truck drivers had to haul the gravel to feed the wash plant--was built too narrowly, and was posing a hazard to the drivers.

In addition, the hauling operation was undersized (i.e., needing more trucks for more throughput).  Thus in addition to driving on a poorly designed and unsafe road, the hapless drivers were expected to go balls-to-the-wall to get the pay dirt from the load point to the wash plant FAST...lest the wash plant would be running at less than full capacity.

After a near sideswipe on the too-narrow road, the drivers rightfully complained.  Unsurprisingly, the Hoffman crew management didn't even listen, basically telling them to stop being such babies.  Finally, after the drivers threatened to walk off the job, one of the bosses, Dave, took a good look at the situation (of expecting too much throughput over a shitty pipeline) and saw the light.   Perhaps God opened Dave's eyes to the problem?

At any rate, with the road improved and operations resumed, Grandfather Jack offered another prayer:

Give our rock truck drivers safety and help them to speedily get back to the plant.
Lord, help the plant to just gobble it up and put the gold in the box here.

I like the part where Jack helpfully directs the Supreme Being as to where to deposit the gold.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Shoe is on the Other Foot

Since I just posted yesterday about footwear, I may as well continue the thread today.  Of course, today's post is not about literal footwear.

Via Digby (back in April 2014), a novel twist by the religious left of putting the shoe on the other foot, or some such analogy.  I love this:

In a novel legal attack on a state’s same-sex marriage ban, a liberal Protestant denomination on Monday filed a lawsuit arguing that North Carolina is unconstitutionally restricting religious freedom by barring clergy members from blessing gay and lesbian couples.

Digby's analysis: You mean to say that Christian clergy who support gay marriage believe they have a right to exercise their religious freedom too? Well now, that’s a conundrum, isn’t it? After all, nobody has ever said that conservative Christians should be compelled to go against their beliefs and legally marry gay couples. But these laws are very definitely telling these liberal Christians that they cannot. Indeed, in North Carolina they criminalized it, holding clergy legally liable for performing the ceremonies.

See, religious freedom cuts both ways.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Now That Must Have Been Some Hike!

Over the course of my Ultrarunning career I have worn out a bunch of running shoes.  But in each and every case, the wear-out was uniform and gradual: the sole would begin to show substantial wear, the uppers would get thin along the flex points where the forefoot bends when you push off with your toes, the inside would begin to get threadbare.

But never, never, has one of my running shoes had an epic, catastrophic fail like my Columbia hiking boots did a few weeks ago:

 (image credit Gary)

After Thanksgiving I convinced or coerced my adult son and a buddy to accompany me on a short hike up to Reese Hollow, on the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's Little Cove Cabin tract (I’m the overseer for the Reese Hollow Shelter and Trail, which feeds the Tuscarora Trail just west of Mercersburg, PA). We planned to do an easy 2 mile loop, nothing heroic, just to show off the trails and shelter that I have grown to love. 
We parked the truck above the cabin and hiked up to the shelter, where we appreciated the fruits of PATC’s labor.  After exploring around the shelter awhile--and of course enjoying cold dippers full of the sweet spring water--we then headed up Reese Hollow Trail along the gentle grade from the shelter up to the “saddle."  Here the trail levels for a moment before 1) either making a steep climb up to the ridge top and the Tuscarora Trail, or 2) intersecting with the Hunter Access Trail heading back downhill to the right.  That trail ultimately ends at PA Rt 456, but along the way it junctions with a jeep road--flat and direct—whereby one can return to the cabin.  

That was our intended loop—just a pleasant, easy walk in the woods.  But a flat tire interfered: I began noticing as we headed up towards the saddle that my left foot felt cold and wet.  And that I could feel the sole of my boot flopping a bit.  So I sat down to examine my boots, and when I lifted up that foot, the sole of the boot just fell clean off.  It literally bounced.  “Hmm,” I thought, “You don’t see that every day.  I guess that explains the wet foot.”  I called the boys over and displayed my mangled boot; amidst much laughing and teasing, I did a temporary repair with parachute cord to hold the severed sole back onto the bottom of the boot.  I managed to limp back the half mile to the truck.  

Upon return home, I examined the dead boot more closely.  It simply seemed to have dry rotted around its perimeter, and the flexing of my foot just broke the sole off (I should note that the other boot is absolutely fine).  Of course Columbia only has a 1-year limited warranty on their footwear, so these 15-year old boots were long since my problem.  

Later, my son and I were talking  about the day and he said with perfect seriousness, “Dad, that was some hike!  I had no idea that trail was gonna be so tough that it’d shred a boot right off your foot.  I really admire all the trail work you do up there, as bad as it is.”

You know, that WAS some hike.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Pathetic Mermaid

I had planned on heading over to "my" Reese Hollow Trail and Shelter today for some work on improving the trail from the shelter up to the privy.  The privy trail is quite obvious during the day, but for navigation in the dark, I want to edge the trail with rocks and logs to help folks remain on the path.

Certainly not a requirement; just a nice touch.

Unfortunately today we got an unexpected 4" of snow, when only a dusting was called for.  Since the trail and the planned building materials (rocks, logs) are buried, I waved off today's trip and will try next week.  In the meanwhile, I took some photos around my place here in south-central PA.  I LOVE snow photography! (all images credit Gary)

The mermaid is a cast iron statue, maybe 30” from flippers to head.  She’s bent in the middle so she sits, and all summer she enjoys her perch beside the waterfall at the water garden…but come winter, she pays the price!

The snowman gourd is one we grew and then painted.  It’s about 10” tall.  He obviously likes the snow better than the mermaid does.

Lastly is the view out our bedroom window to our bird feeding station.  On the left is the Audubon birdcam pointed at a block of suet on the post in the middle.  The sunflower seed feeder is to the right inside the wrought iron hemispherical piece.

I've been experimenting with the automatic birdcam to ascertain exactly where the sweet spot is on focal distance to get an absolutely clear and sharp image.  I'll run the camera  for a few days, view the photos, move it an inch in or out, then try again.  I'm planning to do a post soon with the best images.

Monday, January 5, 2015

NFL Team Names Sorted by Machismo...and Ultrarunning

Once in an NCAA basketball pool I simply made my picks based upon whose team name was more macho. While I did not come very close to winning, I did go much farther in the pool that year than many who were actually followers of the college game.  For example, the Kentucky Wildcats would beat the Georgetown Hoyas (whatever the hell a Hoya is).

Now my beloved Steelers got whacked in the first round of the NFL playoffs (they were either brilliant or flat all season, and unfortunately were the latter for the playoffs).  To compensate, I must have something football-related to occupy my time.  Since the notion of team names has my interest, I decide to take a look at the NFL.

First, here are all 32 teams alphabetically by geographic name.  I was gonna say "by city" but then we have 5 oddballs.  These include the three with state teams: Arizona, Minnesota, and Tennessee.  Then we have the pair of even geographically bigger teams: Carolina and New England.

Baltimore Ravens  
Buffalo Bills
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Denver Broncos
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Oakland Raiders
Pittsburgh Steelers
San Diego Chargers
Tennessee Titans

Arizona Cardinals  
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
Chicago Bears
Dallas Cowboys
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings
New Orleans Saints
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Washington Redskins

OK, here's how I sorted them out by nickname.  You certainly can disagree but you'd be wrong, because, after all, this is my blog!

There are 3 major groups, Human, Animal, Other:

1. Humans fall into one of 3 groups, Heroes, Antiheroes, and Native Americans:



--49ers (the whole get-rich-quick thing)
--Bills (named after the wanton buffalo slaughterer Bill Cody)

Native Americans
--Washington (I won't use the R word, sorry)

2. Animals fall into about 4 groups, Fierce Birds, Big Kitties, Other Big Macho Critters, and Cute Animals:

Fierce Birds

Big Kitties

Other Big Macho Critters

Cute Animals

3. Other...obviously there has to be an Other:
--Jets (seriously, you named your team after an airplane?)
--Browns (founder's name)
--Chargers (the owner liked the bugle call Charge!)

That's about it.  I was going to discuss how the Hero and Antihero categories are surely point-of-view dependent.  For example, Texans and Cowboys seem all-American...but maybe not if you're a Native American.  And the Patriots seem OK...until you think about the British, who would see them as ruffians.  Saints seem safe, until you consider all the bad stuff that religion has perpetrated over the centuries.

You get the idea.

The link to Ultrarunning is that I still hope to see one of the big kitties while running.  Thus far I've seen nothing larger than a bobcat.  And I surely don't want to see a Viking (think Ragnor Lothbrok) along the trail!