Monday, May 4, 2015

Blog Quiet for a Few Days

Life is rearing its beautiful head, so blogging is taking a backseat for a few days.

Stony Valley, PA, near Tower City 
(image credit Gary)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Mowing Strip

This has been a busy week, largely away from blogging.  On Tuesday I was all excited about spring, picturing an Eastern Redbud tree and a wren house, saying:

Well, the three essential ingredients of spring have hit here: the Eastern Redbuds are in full bloom, and I think the House Wrens have returned from their winter down south somewhere.  Oh, and number 3 is spring work projects, not pictured here.

Well, here's one of many spring projects:

Image credits Gary

I do a lot of dry stone walls on our estate, owing  to an abundance of both limestone and slope.  Another application is what I call a "mowing strip," pictured above, in which I edge a flower bed with flat stones sunk to ground level.  The stones are 4" to 6" wide, and the depth doesn't matter since you sink them flat.  

You could use bricks, too (or anything flat) if you have them.  The objective is to create a barrier so your grass cannot creep into the flower bed.  In the bed pictured above, the grass could not execute a vertical leap of a couple feet to reach the bed, but I do mowing strips around all my ground-level beds as well, with good results.

When cutting grass you simply put the wheels of the mower on the mowing strip and can largely avoid having to weedwhack the edges.  I weedwhack perhaps once a month during the summer, and occasionally do a judicious application of Roundup to suppress any weeds that do creep into the mowing strip.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spring Harbingers...and Ultrarunnning

Image credit Gary

Well, the three essential ingredients of spring have hit here: the Eastern Redbuds are in full bloom, and I think the House Wrens have returned from their winter down south somewhere.  Oh, and number 3 is spring work projects, not pictured here.

I thought I heard one (a house wren) singing yesterday but have not confirmed that today...yet.  If not today, any day now.  We have a number of houses like the one pictured scattered around the estate, so they'll have their pick.  I like this one because the license plate roof came from my dear departed co-worker Dottie, and I always think of here whenever I walk by this particular wren house.

I wonder how they compete with the Carolina Wren, which we had overwinter here in 2014-15?

The connection to Ultrarunning is that I gotta get out for a backcountry run soon to see how the woodland flora are coming on.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Uh-Oh, Brian

Seems that Brian Williams' exaggerations are continuing to be rooted out, the latest catch pertaining to his presence at the Arab Spring protests in Egypt's Tahir Square back in 2011.

Actually, the details don't matter too much, it's the bigger picture that matters, so I really appreciated this analysis over at First Draft:

Again, this isn’t nothing. Brian Williams had a very big chair with a very big microphone in front of it. But the stories we’ve heard about aren’t exaggerations on the facts of the story as they related to the story or anyone in it. They’re exaggerations on how fucking cool and badass Brian Williams is, and about all the crazy shit he’s seen, man. They’re basically a guy in a bar, telling war stories, only he’s on TV.
That’s not okay, but it’s not the UVA rape story. It’s not Judith Miller’s Iraq reporting. Nobody died. And more attention is being paid to these fabrications than the ones that did lead to deaths. To wars
So we are arguing about who fucked up the color of the bunting on the runaway train. Yeah, let’s fire that guy, because he screwed up. But let’s also find out why the brakes failed and the cargo’s flying off and oh, up ahead, is that a hole? A big one? Well, shit. Guess we’re going straight in.
All lies are lies and all lies on this scale are wrong and should be rooted out. But not all lies lead to the same place.

Seems that the hapless Brian is the only one being held accountable for lies pertaining to Iraq (yes, I realize this story is about Egypt) but it does certainly beg the question as to why "the media" isn't conducting a massive analysis of how the war in Iraq was sold and prosecuted.  Sure, President Obama made quite the point about looking forward, not backward, when it came to war crimes...but I think that he was trying to set a self-serving precedent for when his actions might later be scrutinized.  

In other words, rather than do the right things as president and thus NOT be at risk for crimes, he instead chose to tee up an established precedent for future presidents to have a get-out-of-jail-free card.  Think about the drone war and how that'll look in hindsight.  Oh wait!  Hopefully the next president won't want to look back either!

The bride and I (in truth, me much more than her) used to be news junkies, but of late we've pulled back.  And you know what?  The world keeps on going, minus some of our outrage.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cats in Art: Patrick Steen's Cat on a Radiator (Hockney)

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.  We'll continue with a third and probably final post from David Hockney.

 Image credit The Great Cat, here.  Patrick Steen's Cat on a Radiator, David Hockney; date, medium, size, and holder unknown.

Now this is a mystery image.  I found it only on the site The Great Cat, attributed to David Hockney, yet a thorough search of the web reveals no other information about the existence of this image.  So it might not even be a Hockney work.

So let's just focus on the image.  Although my reading tells me that British artist Hockney was much more of a dog person, he really captures the essence of a blissful cat sleeping.  Perched up off the floor, totally relaxed, paw dangling, warmed from below (cats are true connoisseurs of heat), what strikes me most is the kitty's facial expression.  

The cat just looks happy, and Hockney nails it so well.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Flannery's Pub Half Marathon

This past weekend I ran a road half marathon with an old trail buddy, Jody.  We were running with his brother-in-law, whose pace was a tad slower, so the race for us was largely a leisurely stroll for 13 miles.

I must confess that it was a very fun day, in a race situation yet not feeling the need to press or accelerate.  We cracked the 2:30 barrier, which was a goal of brother-in-law.  And despite the slower pace (just over 11:00 per mile) , I managed to snag an age group trophy.

In all honesty, this was more a testament to the dearth of 60+ runners than to my speed, but I'll take it anyway with pride:

Finishers' medal plus 60-64 age group 3rd place trophy

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Moon and Venus Tues 21 Apr 2014...and Ultrarunning

Just stepped out front to try to summon our outside cats, and was dumbstruck by the sight of the waning cresent moon and Venus in the western sky.

This is an iPhone 5 photo (image credit Gary) and the moon looks more like a circle than a crescent, but the photo is pretty cool nonetheless:

The skies, they are wonderful!  

This sky reminds me of the memorable night back in 1998 when Bill Ladieu and I were training for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run.  We picked a night for an overnight training run in southern PA when the moon was largely full and ran the Appalachian Trail south from Pine Grove Furnace to Caledonia Park...and back, some 38 miles or so.

The moon was full and during many parts of the run we could turn off our lights and just run by moonlight.

Think about that for a moment.  If you've run 100 miles, you've run overnight.  How many people in  your circle of friends, relatives, and acquaintances have run on trails in the moonlight?

We are an elite group--not in the sense of special or better but rather in the sense of doing something way cool that very few people will ever experience.