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!