Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Carrying Stuff...and Ultrarunning

I've owned this SPIBELT for a couple of years now and love it:  

Image credit Gary

I believe the acronym stands for "Small Personal Items."

Normally on backcountry runs I use a 1 or 2 bottle pack, with a compartment that can also carry some food, Epipen, matches, etc.  But on very short trail runs, or on road runs, this SPIBELT fits the bill perfectly.

It is made of some stretchy material that'll easily hold my iPhone 5, my Epipen, money, and even some keys.  The waist sizing is fully adjustable so that you can crank it as tight as is required to eliminate the weight-dependent bouncing of the contents.

By the way, I have no financial interest in endorsing this product.  It simply works, and works extremely well.  It is easily found online.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Where I Run: Swamp Fox Road

Well, here in south-central PA we're going to see some more snow today, right about when our 38" monster snow from January is finally just about melted.

Oh, well, it's winter in the northeast.  It snows.  Get over it.

And now for some shots I took of one of my favorite local routes.  Note the road names!

I've posted before about this road and this route, here.  You ought to click over and scope it out.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Cats in Art: The Madonna of the Cat (Romano)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art.  Having moved on from Stefano Zuffi's marvelous work, The Cat in ArtI am now using some ideas from Caroline Bugler's equally impressive book, The Cat/3500 Years of the Cat in Art.

Since last week's post was The Madonna of the Cat, I figure it'd only be fitting to make this week's post also The Madonna of the Cat.

I guess there was a shortage of unique titles back in the 1500s.  See, last week's painting was by Federico Barroci (1575), and today's is by Guilio Romano (1520).  Same title...although if you do enough looking around at museum web sites as I do, you will quickly see that titles can be kinda soft.  Unless the artist wrote down his/her actual title, it fell to future generations to develop the name for the image.  Thus both of these have been called The Madonna of the Cat...or something else.

Turns out I previously used the Romano image for a Cats in Art post back in 2011, so here is that post again:

The Madonna of the Cat: image credit here, Giulio Pippi (known as Giulio Romano), 1520, oil on wood, 171 x 143 cm, held by Capodimonte National Museum and Galleries, Naples, Italy.

And here is the kitty, cropped and close up:

The figures in the painting are Mary and Jesus, and Elizabeth and John (the Baptist).  Zuffi points out that the only figure in the painting that looks directly at the viewer is the cat, "...crouching vigilantly to the right."  He goes on:

The magnetism of this animal--only apparently marginal and extraneous to the overall design of the composition--justifies the title by which the painting is traditionally known.

If it were one of my cats, it would have bitten my toes by now.  The Madonna's surely are at risk, especially if Baby Jesus were to crawl over and pull the cat's tail.

[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, February 6, 2016

Great News from Arizona...and Ultrarunning

Of course, we cannot know what this cat calls himself, but humans have dubbed him "El Jefe."

From the Center for Biological Diversity on 3 Feb 2016:

Conservation CATalyst and the Center for Biological Diversity released new video today of the only known wild jaguar currently in the United States. Captured on remote sensor cameras in the Santa Rita Mountains just outside Tucson, the dramatic footage provides a glimpse of the secretive life of one of nature’s most majestic and charismatic creatures. This is the first ever publicly released video of the jaguar, and it comes at a critical point in this cat’s conservation.

The camera project is part of ongoing efforts to monitor mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona for endangered jaguar and ocelot. Chris Bugbee, a biologist with Conservation CATalyst, has been collecting data on the Santa Rita jaguar for the past three years.

“These glimpses into his behavior offer the keys to unlocking the mysteries of these cryptic cats” said Aletris Neils, executive director of Conservation CATalyst. “We are able to determinehe is an adult male jaguar, currently in prime condition. Every new piece of information is important for conserving northern jaguars and we look forward to building upon on these data so that we can collectively make better decisions on how to manage these fascinating and endangered cats.”  

“Jaguars have always occurred in Arizona and yet we know so little about them in the northern portion of their range. Arizona should be poised to harbor and protect both jaguars and ocelots as they continue to disperse out from Sonora,” said Bugbee.  

“Just knowing that this amazing cat is right out there, just 25 miles from downtown Tucson, is a big thrill,” said Randy Serraglio, conservation advocate with the Center. “El Jefe has been living more or less in our backyard for more than three years now. It’s our job to make sure that his home is protected and he can get what he needs to survive.” 

El Jefe, as he has come to be known in Tucson, has been photographed repeatedly by remote sensor cameras in the Santa Ritas over the past few years. He is the only verified jaguar in the United States since Macho B was euthanized as a result of capture-related injuries in March 2009. “Jaguars are solitary cats that only tolerate each other for reproduction,” said Neils.  

But a huge conflict is brewing that threatens to destroy El Jefe’s home. A Canadian mining company is pushing to develop a massive open-pit copper mine right in the middle of the big cat’s territory. The mile-wide open pit and 800-foot-high piles of toxic mine waste would permanently destroy thousands of acres of occupied, federally protected jaguar habitat where this jaguar lives.

Things natural, wild, and free.  Sounds like a great area to take a run.  Live long and prosper, El Jefe!

Friday, February 5, 2016

A State of Permanent War

I recently read a pretty disturbing article by Micah Zenko, here, asking a pretty simple question: "How many bombs did the U.S. drop in 2015?"

Let’s review U.S. counterterrorism bombing for 2015. Last year, the United States dropped an estimated total of 23,144 bombs in six countries. Of these, 22,110 were dropped in Iraq and Syria. This estimate is based on the fact that the United States has conducted 77 percent of all airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, while there were 28,714 U.S.-led coalition munitions dropped in 2015. This overall estimate is probably slightly low, because it also assumes one bomb dropped in each drone strike in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, which is not always the case.  

So, let's accept these data at face value (Zenko's article does cite source data from which he built this estimate).  What is our policy towards ISIS?

“We kill them wherever we find them,” and just this week, Col. Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, claimed, “If you’re part of ISIL, we will kill you. That’s our rule.”

Since our avowed foreign policy seems to be one of destroying ISIS, how are we doing?

Pentagon officials claim that at least 25,000 Islamic State fighters have been killed (an anonymous official said 23,000 in November, while on Wednesday, Warren added “about 2,500” more were killed in December.) Remarkably, they also claim that alongside the 25,000 fighters killed, only 6 civilians have “likely” been killed in the seventeen-month air campaign. At the same time, officials admit that the size of the group has remained wholly unchanged. In 2014, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated the size of the Islamic State to be between 20,000 and 31,000 fighters, while on Wednesday, Warren again repeated the 30,000 estimate. To summarize the anti-Islamic State bombing calculus: 30,000 – 25,000 = 30,000.

So we've killed 25,000 bad guys, but there still seems to be at least as many of them now as when we started:  "At the same time, officials admit that the size of the group has remained wholly unchanged."

Sounds like a recipe for a state of permanent war.  They are replacing themselves faster than we can kill them.

Also sounds like it's time for a different approach.  Zenko's article touches upon the notion of preventing radicalization of young people to becomes terrorists, rather than wait till they actually have crossed the line and then focus on the kill.

You should go read the article, here.  This is not an unexpected result.  Suppose your family was decimated by a drone stoke.  If you're a survivor, wouldn't you bear hatred in your heart forever for the U.S?  We are creating terrorists faster than we can kill them.  It's a failed approach.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Serendipity...and Ultrarunning

Ever have a cool unexpected experience while trail running, that occurred because you were precisely at the right place at the right time, and any number of circumstances, if altered only slightly, would have precluded the occurrence?

Courtesy of The Free Dictionary, Let me introduce the word serendipity, which was invented some 262 years ago:

We are indebted to the English author Horace Walpole for the wordserendipity, which he coined in one of the 3,000 or more letters on which (along withhis novel The Castle of Otranto, considered the first Gothic novel) his literary reputation rests. 

In a letter of January 28, 1754, in which he discusses a certainpainting, Walpole mentions a discovery about the significance of a Venetian coat of arms that he has made while looking at random into an old book—a method by whichhe had apparently made other worthwhile discoveries before: "This discovery I made by a talisman [a procedure achieving results like a charm] ... by which I find everything I want ... wherever I dip for it. This discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word." 

Walpole formed the word on an oldname for Sri Lanka, Serendip. He explained that this name was part of the title of "a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of...."

You can go to this site and read more yourself.  I can come up with a number of ultrarunning experiences that were truly serendipitous.  For example, despite spending many hours on trails and in the backcountry over the course of my lifetime, I'd never seen a bobcat...until one time about 10 years ago when I was on a business trip to Monterey, CA.   

I was running a trail in a park only a couple of miles from the city center, when I decided on a whim to take a turn at a junction.  Moments later a juvenile bobcat scampered right across the trail in front of me.  It stopped, and I stopped, in awe, and enjoyed the moment.  

The bride tells me that when she was a kid, she was told that bobcats are invisible, that's why people don't see them.  Also she revealed how puzzled she was the when she saw a sign advertising "Bobcats For Rent," dumbfounded at the fact that people could actually rent a bobcat (for what purpose is unknown)....then she realized that the ad was for a piece of equipment.

Monday, February 1, 2016

How Far Did I Run?...and Ultrarunning

If you're like me, early in my running career I was pretty anal about distances and times, and understandably so.  When you first start out, the progress comes quickly as you progress from a non-runner to someone who can now run a half mile, a mile, your first 5K, then 5 miles, a half marathon, a full marathon...and, since you have landed on this page, eventually a real Ultra.

That's where this tool can come in very handy to plan out your routes: the Google Map Pedometer.

Knowing your distance and speed is pretty important, but eventually you may reach the point I am at, where I no longer keep a daily running log.  Just seemed to be too much work.

But the Gmaps Pedometer still comes in mighty handy, as I just used it now to plot today's run as the bride drops me off on her way somewhere and I will run home.

Very likely there now is an app for a phone that does the same thing (probably better), but being old-school, I kinda like planning my routes on my desktop.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Cats in Art: The Madonna of the Cat (Barocci)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art.  Having moved on from Stefano Zuffi's marvelous work, The Cat in ArtI am now using some ideas from Caroline Bugler's equally impressive book, The Cat/3500 Years of the Cat in Art.

Image credit The National Gallery, The Madonna of the Cat, Federico Fiori Barocci, ca. 1575, oil on canvas, 44" x 37", held by The National Gallery,, London, UK.

Bugler's analysis: 

The Italian artist Barocci evidently loved cats.  He drew them on a number of occasions, and incorporated them into several finished paintings....At first sight it appears to be a simple image of a family affectionately playing with a pet, but there is a more tragic undercurrent.  John the Baptist is teasing the cat by holding up a goldfinch.  While the bird was once a favorite pet for children, it became a symbolic reminder of Christ's passion because of the legend that it acquired its red spot when it flew down to remove a throne from Christ's brow and was splashed with his blood.  But the viewer knows that the cat will never catch the bird, and that the fate waiting the chubby baby in Mary's lap can never be avoided.

Seems that Barocci painted this image at least twice.  This one is on canvas, and an identical image, but on a panel, is held by the Musee Condi, Chantilly.

The cat is where?  Lower left, of course--that's seemingly where they always are.  Also, I just wish that we could see the kitty's face, for everyone else in the image is quite contented-looking, if not outright happy.  I bet the cat is quite annoyed over having to chase the bird, seeing as how cats are powerless to resist anything with feathers.

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!