Friday, July 25, 2014

Blue Mouse Ear Hosta

The bride and I have a pretty good collection of Hostas scattered among our many flower beds, and in fact we even have an entire bed devoted to the species.

Here is one variety, called the Blue Mouse Ear hosta, that I just fell in love with last year.  It resprouted this spring vigorously, and bloomed last week:

[image credit Gary]

What I love about this plant is the strong blueish hue coupled with the small, delicate leaves, which are about the size a playing card...cut in half.

I have this one planted in my tiny "moss garden" as it seems to be a perfect fit.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Where I Run: A Very Angular Shady Cow

As I ran near my home a couple days ago, I was struck by the near-perfect right angles found on this cow:


[image credit Gary]

That's it, no hidden meanings or philosophical insights.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Democrat I Could Believe In

Courtesy of the great science blog Pharyngula, we find the list of points that Elizabeth Warren made when she recently spoke at the progressive bloggers' conference Netroots Nation.

I would LOVE to see her challenge the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton:

We have to talk about what does it mean to be a progressive, an American.
We believe Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we’re willing to fight for it.
We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth, and we’re willing to fight for it.
We believe that the Internet shouldn’t be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality, and we will fight for it.
We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage, and we will fight for it.
We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them.
We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt, and we will fight for it.
We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions, and we will fight for it.
We believe — and I can’t believe I have to say this in 2014 — we believe in equal pay for equal work, and we will fight for it.
We believe that equal means equal, and that’s true in marriage, it’s true in the workplace, it’s true in all of America, and we will fight for it.
We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform, and we will fight for it.
And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!


Monday, July 21, 2014

45 Years Years Ago...



I'll let Phil Plait from Bad Astronomy tell you this story:
45 years ago today — and for the first time in human history — human beings set foot upon another world.
It was one of the proudest moments in America’s history, arguably the proudest. Despite being initially motivated by small-minded territoriality, it ironically brought our planet together, with people all over the world watching breathlessly as Neil Armstrong placed his boot on the desolate surface of the Moon.

  
 
And yet here we are. It’s been 45 years since we put men on the Moon and 42 years since the last men left it. We’ve not gone back since, at least, not with humans. Sure, we’ve made a lot of progress about living and working in space: We’ve launched several space stations, put over 500 people into space, and built countless satellites and space probes. I’m fully aware of the awe-inspiring achievements we’ve made, and how much they mean.

Phil, and I, lament that those first halting steps have never been followed by other human tracks.
But still, there is a hole in that picture. All of those people we’ve launched into orbit haven’t gone more than a few hundred kilometers above the Earth’s surface. The yawning chasm between the Earth and Moon hasn’t seen a human in it for over four decades.
When I look back over the time that’s elapsed since 1969, I wonder what we’re doing. I remember the dreams of NASA, and they were too the dreams of a nation: Huge space stations, mighty rockets plying the solar system, bases and colonies on the Moon, Mars, and asteroids. Those weren’t just the fantasies of science fiction. We could’ve done them. Right now, today, those dreams could have been reality.                                                                 
Instead, we let those small-minded human traits flourish. We’ve let politics, greed, bureaucracy, and short-sightedness rule our actions, and we’ve let them trap us here on the surface of our planet.

You should read the entire post, here.  That night in 1969 as a 17 year old kid, I was at my girlfriend's house watching those grainy black and white images on the TV.  I recall needing to beat feet to get home by my curfew but not wanting to miss a moment of the coverage.  That night I fell in love with astronomy.

Today, looking up at night at the moon and beyond inspires me to dream about space travel and what it would represent for our species.  

Instead, we remain here on an increasingly overcrowded planet that we are poisoning to death while politicians pretty much are sticking their fingers in their ears and saying "La la la la..."  

Just think about last week's main news stories--Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and Israel's invasion of Gaza--and tell me that we humans are getting it  right.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cats in Art: Cat Fight (Foujita)

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 is the third in a series of posts of the cat art of Leonard Foujita.


Image credit WikiArt, here.  

LĂ©onard Tsuguharu Foujita, Cat Fight, 1940, media and size unspecified, held in a private collection.

As we saw last week, WikiArt calls this genre of painting "Magic Realism."  To me, the true magic of this painting is that some 15 cats--plus or minus--are to be found therein, all in one place.  

That's more than magic; some would call it a miracle. Along those lines, note that the cats are gravity-defying (truly a potential miracle) and largely following a clockwise fighting pattern (another potential miracle...will they never cease?).

Another observation: none of the kitties are solid colored.  In my home, 2 of our 3 cats are solid (a gray and a black), so that's a bit unusual, but likely not miraculous.

That's it for Foujita this week, but the whole discussion of miracles, conveniently, reminds me of one of my very favorite posts.  From the fall of 2013, I called this post A Miracle at my House: Should I Call the "Miracle Commission"?  (you really should click over and come back).  

When it comes to miracles, thank goodness, it seems that the Vatican has this area under control, as I previously posted in the link above:

I have a call in to the Vatican.  But it turns out that while they are on top of this type of thing, and actually have a "Miracle Commission," it only investigates healing type miracles.  They do not, unfortunately, investigate physical phenomena such as mine since it is NOT medically-related. 
 
The miracle commission only investigates miracles associated with healing.  The Vatican does not study phenomena such as weeping Madonna statues and bleeding palms. These phenomena are only studied by the Church’s local people. If they don’t find any evidence of cheating, they can believe in the phenomena if they wish.


Maybe I should call the local priest instead.  Provided he is comfortable dealing with cats in art.




Friday, July 18, 2014

Snake Gourds...and Ultrarunning

Last summer we planted a package of Snake Gourds, and grew the vining plants up on a trellis.

We harvested 4 or 5 gourds, and let them dry over the winter in the attic, where they were protected from wet weather but were subject to temperature extremes.  The gourds all dried and you could hear the seeds inside when you shook  them; the outsides dried and got a mottled,  almost moldy appearance.

Following advice on the Internet, I scrubbed the gourds in the shower using a stainless steel Brillo-Pad-like product, let them dry, then applied paint.  Results:

[image credit Gary]


This guy is about 30" long.  For the paint, first I spray painted it black color.  Then I slipped a nylon mesh bag over the gourd and spray painted it with a tan or clay colored paint, which left the appearance of scales where the underlying black paint was not covered.  Next I sprayed a darker brown through a diamond-shaped stencil to create the diamond shaped splotches.  Finally, with a brush, I painted the face and rattles.

It is not artistic and almost looks a tad cartoonish, but our guests on the patio certainly do a double-take when they see it.

I'm thinking of leaving one on the picnic table of the Reese Hollow Shelter (where I am the overseer), but the bride think that'd be cruel.  However, I think it'd be obvious that it's NOT alive and would engender the "Oh, how cute!" reaction.

Besides, to get to "my" shelter any hiker or Ultrarunner has to pass through prime Timber Rattlesnake territory, so they oughta be prepared, right?


Thursday, July 17, 2014

What a Vile Human Being

Saw this on the news earlier this week, and here's a link from the Huffington Post.


WASHINGTON -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that President Barack Obama is "devastating" the U.S. military and needs to divert more resources away from domestic priorities such as rebuilding roads and making sure low-income people can get food.
"That ought to be our top priority for spending. Not food stamps, not highways or anything else," Cheney said. "Your No. 1 responsibility as president is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. [Obama] is the commander-in-chief and he's absolutely devastating the United States military today.”

Disclaimer: in my title for this post I'm using the term "human being" advisedly.

I haven't used or seen the phrase "guns versus butter" of late. It's time to bust it back out, I suppose.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Destroying Ferns Just Seems Wrong

I was up at Reese Hollow Trail and Shelter, where I am the volunteer overseer for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, to do some routine maintenance today.  It was not supper hot--about 80F--but the humidity was killer.  Within  half an hour I was as soaked from sweat as if I had jumped into a swimming pool.  See, I have to wear long pants, long sleeves, and gloves, which kinda runs counter to the whole coolness thing.

The shelter was fine, no issues there, so I turned my attention to weedwhacking the mile-long Reese Hollow Trail.  It connects the ridge-top Tuscarora Trail with the shelter down off the ridge where hikers can camp overnight and have good water access.

Here's a shot I took:

[image credit Gary]

Imagine waist-high ferns...indeed, the entire area is a veritable sea of ferns...and the trail running smack dab through the middle.  To keep the trail open I must destroy a ton of ferns.  Sure, there are many tons of ferns there, but somehow it just doesn't feel right to wipe out even a single fern.

Another one of life's trade-offs, I guess.