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 ______