Monday, December 30, 2013

Where I Run: Mason-Dixon Line Marker (Mile 102)

[Mile Marker 102, image credit Gary]
Another installment in my occasional series about visiting and photographing the mile marker stones set in the mid-1700s by the surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. Super information about The Line and on-the-ground directions may be found here, courtesy of the Mason & Dixon Line Preservation Partnership.
The Mason and Dixon Line (or Mason-Dixon Line) runs for 233 miles along parallel 39°43’ in the eastern United States, marking the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania. The line was surveyed by English astronomers Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in 1763-1768 to settle property disputes between the Penns and the Calverts, proprietors of Pennsylvania and Maryland, respectively.

Well, since the season has turned and the foliage is down, it was high time to scope out another Mason-Dixon Line marker. This one is Mile 102, located just east of the village of State Line, PA.

It's located smack in the middle of a farmer's field, and the land owners--to their everlasting credit--have protected the marker with a couple of old tractor tires.  Not the prettiest of arrangements, but functional enough to preserve this treasure of historic archaeology.

In the photo above, we are looking at the south-facing side of the marker, with the "M" for Maryland clearly visible.  The marker stands about 18" high.  The opposite side's "P" for Pennsylvania is slightly less well preserved.  Unfortunately the photos I took of the "P" side were too dark due to the intense sunshine that day.

This marker was placed on the 4th of November1767 and has remained here since.  Nearby is a a spring where I imagine the crew camped for the few days it took to do their astronomical sightings and land surveying.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cats in Art: Two Grey Cats (Marc)

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 my third post on Franz Marc (1880-1916), a key German painter whose life tragically ended early on the Western Front in 1916. This will be a multi-week series (I am still uncovering his cat works).

Image credit The Atheneum, here.  Two Gray Cats (also known as Study of Cats II), Franz Marc, 1909, oil on canvas, 16" x 20", held in a private collection.
At first glance I originally thought that these kitties were laying in the snow, then I realized that they were on a bedsheet or cover of some sort, from Marc cleverly showing us a glimpse of the underlying surface down there in the lower right.
Both are clearly calico, thus female.  What I really like about this image is while the one in the foreground is napping, so dead to the world that she is sleeping on her forehead, the girl in the back is keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings. 
As previously noted, Marc really know the subtle nuances of cat posture.  Make you wonder who the cats were in his life.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Wolf Cages...and Ultrarunning

[An endangered Mexican gray wolf, image credit here]

Excerpt rom the National Geographic site:

In rural Reserve, New Mexico, children wait for school buses inside boxy, wood-and-mesh structures that look like chicken coops. The "kid cages" are meant as protection from wolves. But are they even necessary?
The issue is part of a long-simmering political debate, which recently came to a boil in the Southwest when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it wants the Endangered Species Act to cover about 75 Mexican wolves in New Mexico and Arizona. That would make it illegal to kill these wolves—a smaller subspecies of gray wolf—and expand the area where they can roam safely.
Conservative groups, which call wolves a threat to humans and livestock alike, say that would be government overreach. Wolf defenders, who cite the fact that no wolf attacks have been documented in New Mexico or Arizona, call the new kid cages a stunt.

Here in southcentral PA, wolves have been toast for over a century, but I am sure that if they were to be reintroduced, it'd create a shitstorm like it is in New Mexico.  At any rate, were I fortunate enough to actually see another wolf in the wild (we saw wolves in Yellowstone in the winter a couple years back) I would die a happy man.

Which brings me to another post, that of our fair Commonwealth of Pennsylvania seeking to establish a bounty for the killing of coyotes.  More coming on that shortly.

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Chilly Snowman...and Ultrarunning

From a bottle gourd I grew, handpainted and photographed:

The light in the upper right, in the tree beside our outdoor hot tub, is a dripping icicle or meteor light (comes is a set of 12).  It gives a really cool effect, the kind of thing where our guests say "What is that?".  I have no financial interest in this but here is the link if you care.
The connection to Ultrarunning is that while I have hiked this winter in the snow, I have not yet dome any snowy trail running...a situation I hope to remedy real soon.  However, that will take 2 ingredients: snow + motivation, so it may be awhile till said run happens.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Carbo Loading...and Ultrarunning

My opinion is that Carbo Loading is something that marathoners do that serves as a placebo to make their minds rest easier the night before a race.  I don't bother do it anymore in prep for an Ultra--I just eat whatever I feel like the night before.

Of course I did Carbo Loading when marathoning was my thing, and since I believed it helped me, it did help me.  I'm just not convinced now that there was really any physiological benefit to the ordinary runner.  I'll allow that maybe an elite runner might gain a smidgen of benefit.

All that said, I love to bake, and here was my carbo loading contribution for this morning, a holiday bread I bake every year:

[image credit Gary: Cardamom Bread]

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Fish Chimes...and Ultrarunning

Yesterday, Christmas Eve, is the day our family traditionally exchanges our gifts.

For one of the bride's gifts I created a set of fish wind chimes using some old silver teaspoons that were my mother's:

[image credit Gary]
Here are the basic steps:
  1. Pound the spoon part flat
  2. Cut off the handle, leaving about an inch attached to the flattened spoon to be the tail
  3. Split the tail using a metal cutting blade on a Dremel tool
  4. Bend the two tail parts into curves using pliers
  5. Cut mouth notch using Dremel tool
  6. Drill hole for the eye
  7. Drill a smaller hole for the monofilament string (first use a piece of string and duct tape to ascertain where the balance point is)
  8. Attach string to fish and hang 5 chimes from cut stick
The link to Ultrarunning is a memory I have of running along the C+O Canal near Dam # 4.  A rewatered section was just full of huge carp, up to say 2' long, just languidly rolling near the surface.  Their day looked a bit more relaxing than my day was going to be.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Truce, 1914

In 1914, as the reality of the awfulness of the First World War was setting in, young soldiers on the Western Front put aside their weapons for a brief time (click to enlarge):

One of the stories that emerged from the event was that, in the quiet of Christmas Eve night, some young German started singing "Stille Nacht". Soon the British, French and Scots on the other side of No Man's Land (oftentimes measuring only a hundred yards wide) joined in in their own tongues. Before long, the spirit of peace and "goodwill towards men" prevailed over the demonic spirit of war, and the troops on both sides sensed their common humanity. The natural human aversion to killing broke through to consciousness and overcame the patriotic fervor and brain-washing to which they had been subjected.
Once the spirit of peace was felt, soldiers on both sides dropped their weapons and came out of their trenches to meet their former foes face-to-face. To get through to the other side they had to step around shell holes and over frozen corpses (which were soon given respectful burials, soldiers from both sides helping one another with the gruesome task).
The spirit of retaliation had dissipated and the desire for peace on earth emerged. New friends shared chocolate bars, cigarettes, beer, wine, schnapps, soccer games and pictures from home. Addresses were exchanged, photos were taken and every soldier who genuinely experienced the emotional drama was forever changed - and the generals and the gung-ho politicians were appalled.

Then the boys went back to fighting for another 4 years, in the War to End All Wars (how did that work out?).

My great-grandfather, a German soldier, in all likelihood was not present for this truce.  He was killed on the last day of the war in 1918, so the odds of him having been a part of the truce, and surviving the next 4 years, would have been astronomical.  I've posted that family story here.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Just in Time: Gingerbread House Secret Tip

[image credit Gary]
There it is in the right foreground: a hot glue gun.
Use it to glue the pieces of the house together instead of trying--and failing--to set the sides, ends, and roof panels using the white icing that comes with the kit.  You will use the icing only to stick on the little decorative candies, where structural strength is not an issue.
So instead of flailing around for a couple hours (only, probably, to have your house slowly sag apart as you helplessly watch), you'll be decorating it within 15 minutes.
You're not gonna eat it anyway, are you?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cats in Art: Two Cats (Marc)

 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 my second post (first was here) on Franz Marc (1880-1916), a key German painter whose life tragically ended early on the Western Front in 1916. This will be a multi-week series (I am still uncovering his cat works).
This one--like last last week's from 3 years later--is also entitled Two Cats.
Image credit Wikipaintings, here. Two Cats, Franz Marc, 1909, oil on canvas, size and location not available.
Here we have two very different cats than the pair last week.  The one in this foreground is obviously a calico, thus is female; the  orange and white cat in the back could be either male or female.  Regardless, check out the tails, which reveal the deference of the calico to the orange and white.
Stylistically this painting is quite realistic, and the cat images are very authentic.  Marc captures so well the essence of catness: power and grace, especially in the proud orange and white.

Friday, December 20, 2013

More Good News, Bad News

Yesterday I posted from the Sierra Club magazine.  Here's more:

1.  China rents 5 percent of Ukraine for 50 years to raise crops and pigs for its growing population.

2.  After a major earthquake in Pakistan, a new seven-acre island appears offshore. Within days, visitors find it littered.

3.  In Nova Scotia, a white moose sacred to the Mikmaq people is shot by nonindigenous hunters, who post photographs of their kill on Facebook.

4.  Kolkata, India, where bicycles outnumber cars, bans the bikes to ease passage for the cars.

5.  In an attempt to protect endangered condors from being poisoned, California bans lead ammunition.

Of the above, I guess I am most offended--but least surprised--by # 2 (although 3 is very close).  As my boss once told me at the restaurant where I worked back in high school, "The public is the messiest people in the world."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Good News, Bad News...and Ultrarunning

I'm a card-carrying tree-hugger and long time Sierra Club member.

They have a page in their monthly magazine giving some quick facts about our planet and its people.  I'm jammed up today so will only post 2 quick items, but hope to post more shortly:

+++France bans fracking+++

---For the first time in 150 years, a gray wolf is sighted in Kentucky.  It is promptly shot.---

The connection to Ultrarunning?  You gotta care about such stuff, for the sake of the backcountry.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Trail Maintenance...and Ultrarunning

Was up on Monday to "my" Reese Hollow Shelter and Trail where I am the volunteer overseer for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).  There were several inches of snow on the ground, which made for slow going, but all in all it was a fun trip.

It was part winter hike and part work trip.  The primary purpose was to install some trail marker signs and to clear a couple blowdown trees that I had noted on my last trip a few weeks back.

For those of you anal about signs, here's the progression of work:

Info carved with Dremel tool into pressure-treated decking board

Next, painted Rustoleum brown

Letters painted white
Installed on sign post

Note that I don't have a router but the Dremel tool makes a pretty decent substitute...with a bit of practice.

Oh, the connection to Ultrarunning is obvious: trail construction and ongoing maintenance don't just happen.  I obliviously ran for many years on trails all over the country without thinking too hard about their origins and ongoing existence.  But over time awareness dawned and I began to think about how I could give back once I had more time.  With retirement, I had no more excuses so I signed up with PATC and truly enjoy the volunteer work.

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's Official: We're Number 2

China has just soft-landed a rover on the Moon.

Seen on the My Way news feed on Sunday:

BEIJING (AP) - China's first moon rover has touched the lunar surface and left deep traces on its loose soil, state media reported Sunday, several hours after the country successfully carried out the world's first soft landing of a space probe on the moon in nearly four decades.
The 140-kilogram (300-pound) "Jade Rabbit" rover separated from the much larger landing vehicle early Sunday, around seven hours after the unmanned Chang'e 3 space probe touched down on a fairly flat, Earth-facing part of the moon.
State broadcaster China Central Television showed images taken from the lander's camera of the rover and its shadow moving down a sloping ladder and touching the surface, setting off applause in the Beijing control center. It said the lander and rover, both bearing Chinese flags, would take photos of each other Sunday evening.
Later, the six-wheeled rover will survey the moon's geological structure and surface and look for natural resources for three months, while the lander will carry out scientific explorations at the landing site for one year.

I recall vividly the images from 20 July 1969 when Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon.  I was at a girlfriend's house, was due home on curfew, but didn't want to miss a moment of the historic event as it was broadcast on live TV (I stayed late and got in trouble).

Since then, things space have always fasincated me...I think it's an absolute travesty that the U.S. has so scaled back our manned space efforts.  The effort is expensive, sure, but we could easily squeeze it out of our bloated military budget.

Plus as the reality of man-made climate change sinks in, there may be immediate short-range benefits to mankind as this planet slowly sinks below the waves.  Translated: we may need an escape plan after we've finished trashing this pale blue dot.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cats in Art: Two Cats (Marc)

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 my first post on Franz Marc (1880-1916), a key German painter whose life tragically ended early on the Western Front in 1916.  This will be a multi-week series (I am still uncovering his cat works).  

Image credit Wikipaintings, hereTwo Cats, Franz Marc, 1912, oil on canvas, 38" x 29", held by Offentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel, Switzerland.
Zuffi is clearly a fan:
Perhaps the greatest of all modern animal painters, in 1911 Marc joined Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), and avant-garde Expressionist group formed in Munich...Marc's excessive attraction to nature drove him to depict animals almost exclusively, especially cats and horses; this passion lasted all of his short life, which was brought to a premature end in France during the First World War [Gary note: as was my great-grandfather]....Marc's work is strongly pervaded by a "romantic" sentiment, derived from his early studies of the philosopher Schelling.  With the distinction between subject and background lost, these two cats by Marc are extraordinarily "expressionistic" in their pre-Cubist deconstruction.
I get mostly lost in the art theory above, but I do know this: Marc obviously knew cats and rendered some mighty fine interpretation of them here.  The greenish-yellow cat on the right (I never imagined I would ever write something like that!) looks fiercely and intently focused...on what?  The blueish-black cat that dominates the center, is, well, licking its privates or its back, I can't tell which.  But each kitty is quite realistic, despite being a stylistic painted object.
I particularly love Marc's use of circles and spirals to denote cat anatomy: be sure to check out the rounded hind legs, the chest, the elbow, the face, the paws, and (of course!) the tail.
All are expressionistic representations of real anatomy, representations that truly work in this painting.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Pardon Me, Your End of the Lifeboat is Sinking

Found recently at The Rude Pundit, my guilty pleasure reading blog:

David Simon, creator of The Wire and other stuff, gave a speech last month at the Sydney, Australia, Festival of Dangerous Ideas. In it, he attacks the actions of American capitalists.

The problem with income inequality in this country isn't capitalism - Simon says he's all for it - but how much rich Americans are such dickholes about acquiring ludicrous amounts of wealth. That dickishness is causing the nation to rot at its core.

"A horror show," Simon calls it.  "The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile. It's a juvenile notion and it's still being argued in my country passionately and we're going down the tubes.  And it terrifies me because I'm astonished at how comfortable we are in absolving ourselves of what is basically a moral choice. Are we all in this together or are we all not?"

This point is one that I literally lose sleep over, as I ponder the futures of my kids and grandkids.  The free market, left alone, will basically practice unfettered extraction philosophy until whatever resource is consumed.  Then--given the previous rabbit-in-the-hat miracles of technology--the successor extraction candidate will be consumed, because so far there's always been a technological fix.  And so on.

Except that the planet has pretty much reached its carrying capacity, and man-made climate change is teetering on the edge of irreversibility.  While the capitalists wring their hands about how we can't afford to fix it, our lifeboat is coming ever closer to quietly slipping beneath the waves.

To make you feel even better, from a quick post over at Rising Hegemon:

"The coldest years now are warmer than the hottest years before 1998." Those are the words of World Meteorological Organization secretary-general Michel Jarraud at the presentation of their latest report.
The WMO report says that, looking at the data from January to September, 2013 will be the seventh warmest year in recorded climate history.

         But fortunately we've got just the people you want to handle this kind of problem.

Over 56 percent — 131 members — of the current Republican caucus in the House of Representatives deny the basic tenets of climate science. 65 percent (30 members) of the Senate Republican caucus also deny climate change. What this means is that they have made public statements indicating that they question or reject that climate change is real, is happening, and is caused by human consumption of fossil fuels.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Running with Wet Feet

Here in the Mid-Atlantic we are locked in a cold snap, perfect weather for doing some wet foot running.

My theory is that in trail races we often have to ford streams or slog through mud puddles, thus having the mental experience of running with wet feet is good.  Moreover, there's the actual physics of it, the hydraulics and friction and skin dynamics of running with wet feet.  I think there's much value in toughening one's feet.

So in yesterday's 10 miler I passed up an opportunity to use this perfectly good bridge over the Conococheague Creek... favor of this:

I know I've blogged about this before, but even in the winter the water is largely out of your shoes within a mile or so, and within 2-3 miles, it's hard to know you even had your feet wet.  So, running with wet feet is not big deal.  Figure, in August when it's 90 F, your feet are pretty  darn wet in your shoes anyway just from sweat, so there's not much difference.
The one lasting effect yesterday when I got home (some 4 miles after the crossing) was frozen shoelaces.  Made it a bit tough to get my shoes off. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Banned in the Bible...and Ultrarunning

If you are the sort of person who takes the Bible literally, and also an Ultrarunner, you might be in trouble.

Via Boing Boing we get pointed to the Tumbler site here, where is found a pretty comprehensive list of some 76 things banned in the Old Testament book of Leviticus.  The site observes:

Here’s chapter and verse on a more-or-less comprehensive list of things banned in the Leviticus book of the bible. A decent number of them are punishable by death.  Unless you’ve never done any of them (and 54 to 56 are particularly tricky), perhaps it’s time to lay off quoting 18:22 for a while?

Rather than list all 76 here, the items that may be problematical for Ultrarunners are these:

8. Carelessly making an oath (5:4) (&%$# I just fell down!)

12. Letting your hair become unkempt (10:6)  (better carry a comb or brush)

13. Tearing your clothes (10:6)  (watch out for those falls)

54. Mixing fabrics in clothing (19:19)  (technical shirts using both lycra and nylon are verboten)

72. Working on the Sabbath (23:3)  (is what we do work...or how about those volunteers?)

Again, the whole list is here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rules for 21st Century War...and Ultrarunning

Ran across and saved this gem at Brilliant at Breakfast, here (you'll need to scroll to 11 Nov 2013).

My fav--in a sad, despairing way--is # 4.

Rules for 21st Century War  

  1. Prevent a free press from learning the truth and it won't need to be censored for trying to report the truth.  
  2. Never reveal who is getting rich from a war. 
  3. The true costs of a war are so mind-boggling high that hardly anyone finds them believable. Don't worry about it. 
  4. When stirring up the populace for a war, in no case predict and include the costs of the aftermath of a war, which are paid for by citizens for 100 years after the war in the form of medical care and survivor's benefits. As of March 2013, two children of Civil War veterans are still receiving very modest amounts.  
  5. Ship bodies of fallen soldiers home quietly and quickly disperse them across the country. Hide the most grievously injured.  
  6. Call veterans "heroes" and keep them so patriotically stirred up by slights both real and imagined that they'll cheer cuts to social service programs without noticing the V.A. is getting screwed too. The vets of WWI and WWII didn't fall for this scam. Know your history.

The link to Ultrarunning?  Time and history have long memories (see # 4 above in case you forgot), kinda like the long distances we run.  People ask us, "How can you run that far?  How long does it take? Do you get bored?"  And I just smile, try to answer, and know something they don't.

(It's time for an actual Ultrarunning post, I know).

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cats in Art: Still Life With Cats (Beckmann)

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.

By the way, the Internet is a strange and incomplete place. At least 2 sites (here and here) purport to show the complete works of Max Beckmann...yet this great image is NOT among them:

Image credit hereStill Life With Cats, Max Beckmann, 1917, oil on canvas, 25" x 39", held by Gallery Pels-Leuden, Berlin, Germany.

Zuffi's comment:

...unlike the 17th century paintings, which chiefly focus on the cat as a "petty thief" of the pantry, this still life provides an opportunity to observe the placid calm of felines in a tranquil domestic environment, letting them pose for the artist amid the fruits and flowers.  The two cats--one black with white paws and neck, and the other dark gray--have lost their mysterious symbolic meaning.  The ordinaryness of the scene is converyed through a clear-cut composition with its curvilinear forms and strong outlines, revealing a broad and sophisticated range of colors.

I agree with the whole theme of oridinary catness.  Kittys just doing kitty stuff, and by the way, an artist just happens to be on hand to capture the moment.  And I love the composition of cats, flowers and colors that Beckmann assembles here, especially the iris in the tall white vase.  And don't you  just love the yellow-eyed cat on the right which appears to have a green vase on its head?

Last, an aside about the artist.  The art site Totally History offers this perspective on Beckmann's work:

When World War 2 broke out, Max Beckmann’s as well as other Expressionists’ paintings were declared to be degenerate by Hitler. In fact his paintings were removed from the galleries by the Nazis and some were displayed as examples of degenerate art in Munich. The Nazi Government referred to Beckmann as a “cultural Bolshevik.”

Thus if Hitler called someone "degenerate" then I gotta go with the theory that this someone was actually, well, NOT degenerate.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mandela: Many Tributes, but Nothing Will Change

Today the world is mourning the death, and celebrating the life, of Nelson Mandela.  Tributes are flowing freely, but what I am hoping for are words that will be backed up by action.

This morning (Friday 6 Dec) as I was watching The Today Show, I was struck by the remarks of Colin Powell.  I have bolded a couple key passages:

[Powell]: Well, he started out as a peacemaker. he believed in nonviolence. he was a lawyer. he believed in the law. but then he realized that wasn't going to work against the regime of apartheid so he took up violence and became on a terrorist list for a long period of life. but then he realized that this was not the answer. and as you noted in your reports and a lot of people have noted, he went for love. he said let's reach out and show love and reconciliation. he kind of reminds me in the experience of the united states, he is our washington and our lincoln and our martin luther king all rolled in one. the founder of his country. somebody that kept the country together and in the spirit of martin luther king and madiba together, why we have to reach out to one another even though we have strong differences. we have to reach out and find compromise in order to get the consensus to move forward. that's what he did. that's the inspiration he has left for the people of south africa and the rest of the world.
[host Savannah Guthrie]: i have to smile when you use the word love. we hear the word forgiveness and inspiration and integrity because these are qualities that are so vanishingly rare in our modern public politics. 

[Powell]: That's true and we need more of it. we shouldn't be afraid to reach out to other people even though we strongly disagree with them. if we don't do that -- particularly here in the united states-- if we don't start listening to one another. if we don't start sharing with one another and sharing our anxieties and dreams and greatest ambitions with one another and try to find ways to move forward we're going to be in trouble. i hope americans will get renewed inspiration from the life and successes of nelson mandela.
It'd be great if words such as Powell's--that we should emulate Mandela--would not simply stop at the personal and individual level.  What if we would use Mandela's words and example as the basis for our foreign policy?
Think Iran.  Think Afghanistan.  Think the Taliban.  What if we said, "You know, our foreign policy regarding what we perceive as these threats has been pretty much the same for decades...what if ditched the weapons and threats and just talked, really talked about peaceful co-existence?"
But I am not optimistic.  Mandela's death and legacy will be paid a great deal of lip service, then the bullying and bombs and bullets will resume.  Because that's what we do best.
Sadly, this is when the change I hope for will occur.
[image credit Dribbleglass, here]

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Short Tale About Love, and Compassion

Via Wonkette, a short tale about love, and compassion.

Let’s have a round of applause for U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Durkin, and a congratulatory toast, plus a few buckets of tears, for Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert, who thanks to Judge Durkin became the first couple to wed under Illinois’ new law allowing same-sex marriage. The law doesn’t officially go into effect until June 1, 2014, but Durkin ordered the Cook County Clerk’s office to issue a marriage license immediately, since Gray has terminal cancer and may not live that long. She wanted to ensure that Ewert will have all of the spousal rights she’s entitled to.

Again, tell me why the marriage of these two ladies is anyone's business but their own, and how official, legal recognition of their union poses any conceivable threat to "traditional marriage"?
Back to Wonkette:

As we have noted before, the wedding did not cause the city of Chicago to be leveled by earthquakes, tornadoes, flash floods, or rains of frogs. The Chicago Cubs remain cursed; however, this is believed to have less to do with the Lord God Almighty’s displeasure with gay marriage than with man-on-goat relationships.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A (Late) Thanksgiving Post

I know, I know, I am a couple days--well, the better part of a week--late.  But consider this your Thanksgiving message from Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 5-year-old human being).

The message: peaceful co-existence.

See, this image (credit to Wonkette) was just to good to hold for a whole year, till Thanksgiving 2014:

Monday, December 2, 2013

National Radio Quiet Zone...and Ultrarunning

Via AP News this day:

Seemingly off the beaten path, this community of fewer than two hundred residents is the heart of the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile area where state and federal laws discourage the use of everyday devices that emit electromagnetic waves. The quiet zone aims to protect sensitive radio telescopes at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, as well as a nearby Naval research facility, from man-made interference. This silence enables the observatory to detect energy in outer space that is equivalent to the energy emitted by a single snowflake hitting the ground.
This area is largely in a mountainous area of east central West Virginia.  The fact that residents voluntarily consent to a semi-vow of electronic silence is kinda cool.  And here is the radio telescope that requires all that electromagnetic quiet:
[Image credit here]
This area of WV has always been a fav of mine since my high school and early adult years days as a caver and climber (see here for a stunning cave shot of a memorable place I've been).  It's lovely and wild, and, well, just had and still has a mystique that comes from being a special place in my formative years.  All of us--I hope--have places like that.
Anyway, for the railfans, Cass Scenic Railroad is here.  I've been there but it's been years.  More recently this fall the bride and I and two other couples took a tourist rail trip from nearby Elkins on the New Tygart Flyer, where there were waterfalls and wine (image credits Gary).  What's not to like?:


And so, at long last, we get to the Ultrarunning part.  Getting back to the initial premise of the story about radio silence that triggered all this happy reminiscing, the curmudgeon in me feels obliged to point out again his personal opposition to music devices while running.  Many--perhaps most--long distance runners do listen to music while on the trails, but I always take special pleasure from just listening to Nature.
Yeah, I'm a purist, being judgemental, your mileage may vary, and all that, but if you are habituated to music on the trails, try a run music-free.  Just try it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cats in Art: Still Life With Putto and Rabbit (Kokoschka)

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 second post on Oskar Kokoschka, who last week and this showed us some disturbing cats:

Image credit ALMA, hereStill Life With Putto and Rabbit, Oskar Kokoschka, 1914, oil on canvas, size and owner unspecified.
The ALMA site offers the following analysis of this painting, at a time when the artist was reeling from his lover Alma's recent abortion.
In encoded form, Kokoschka attempted to get close to this event: in a mysterious, gloomy landscape, there sits in the foreground a cat, poised ready to pounce. Its head is turned back towards a rabbit sitting behind it, and with its gaze it has the little animal completely under its spell. Aside from this scene, a tiny male child cowers. The similarity between the portrait of the cat and Alma has repeatedly been raised. The identification with the child not carried to term makes the gestures which stress suffering and the oppressive power of the tree trunk become emblems of death. Alma has turned away from him, and her admonishing glance is intended solely for the rabbit. Thus, Still Life with Putto and Rabbit, bathed in an apocalyptic mood, already heralds the imminent end of the relationship.
So, is the aborted boy referred to as "Putto," or is that the name of the cat, or is it an endearing name for Alma?
Regardless, if the kitty is that of Oskar and Alma rather than just an allegorical symbol, I'd be questioning the wisdom of cat ownership.  To me, the cat looks almost malignant, with an evil smile of control and domination, like "I can take you out any time I feel like it." 
All in all, quite a disturbing image.