Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What a Horrid Human Being

As reported in various outlets, to include Talking Points Memo, despicable words of "wisdom" from Sarah Palin: "Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists."

I am so speechless that all I can do is to use British invectives to describe her, such as vile, horrid, abominable, and dreadful:

During her speech, Palin criticized the Obama administration's national security policy, which she said pokes, "our allies in the eye, calling them adversaries, instead of putting the fear of God in our enemies" according to CBS News.
The rally, held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, was part of the NRA's annual meeting.
Palin also warned the crowd that there are increased efforts to strip their gun rights. She said that Obama is trying to use gun control policy to control Americans.
"If you control oil, you control an economy. If you control money, you control commerce," she said. "But if you control arms, you control the people, and that is what they're trying to do."

The United States of America cannot torture.  Ever.  We are better than that, plus there is a practical reason not to torture (as if the moral reason is not enough).  See, what the Sarah Palins of the world--along with all the other hawks--are doing is to set our citizens up for torture should they be captured.  Pretty simple, actually.

Next time you see Ms. Palin on TV, besides wondering why she still remains a national figure, ponder her words one more time:

"Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ironmaster's Trail Runs

[image credit Gary...more on this photo later]

On Sunday I did something I've never done: deliberately registered for and ran a 25K trail race instead of the 50K, in recognition of the fact that my training was insufficient to comfortably finish the 50K.  

In other words, where formerly I would have programmed for success and run "up" instead of running "down," I opted for the common sense version.  

The event was a series of simultaneous trails runs/walks (50K, 25K and 15K) at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in south-central PA, called the Ironmaster's Challenge.  See, this area was a major iron-making site in America's early days, triggered by a fortuitous combination of iron-bearing ore and plenty of trees for charcoal-making.

I must say that this race was great--I loved it and definitely will come back.  Lots of good people, superior post-race food and drink, and a fantastic location.  My advice for anyone in driving range: DO THIS RACE NEXT YEAR!

My general goal was simply to spend a pleasant morning running for about 4 hours in the woods.  Goal accomplished.  However...along the way--either by poor signage, or tampered-with signage, or runner error--the group of about 20 runners of whom I was a part, went off course on the 25K race.  We kept seeing 15K and 50K signage but none for our race, the 25K.  I've been "lost" on a trail before, but this was my first instance of being off-course and being so far past the last known point that it was smarter to proceed than to backtrack.  Net effect was a loss of perhaps 1K.  

I'm eagerly awaiting the results and any explanation from the RD.  But since I knew I was off course and probably ran short, I didn't even bother with checking the results board since I knew my time was tainted.

Which brings me to the photo above: this was taken along PA Rt 233 on the way to the race.  Little did I know how prophetic it would be, imagining that the 3 "babes in the woods" were actually rookie Ultrarunners.  Turns out the real story was infinitely more tragic: three murdered children 80 years ago.  Link here.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cats in Art: Quilt

The bride and I attended a quilt show in Hagerstown, MD, this weekend.  I know this may be a stretch, but here is your Cats in Art post for this Sunday:

[image credit Gary, sorry I did not record the quilter's name]

Friday, April 25, 2014

Arbor Day Foundation Quotes

Probably from having attended an American Chestnut seminar last year, I've landed on the mailing list of the Arbor Day Foundation (link here).  They have a variety of worthy programs, all centered around the notion that "We inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees."

While I will unable to financially support them at this time, I loved the cards that were enclosed in the fundraising materials:

Going to the woods is going home.  --  John Muir

In wilderness is the preservation of the world.  --  Henry David Thoreau

He who plants a tree plants a hope.  --  Lucy Larcom

Monday, April 21, 2014

More Fracking in PA?...and Ultrarunning

Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett continues to be an anti-environmental corporate stooge for the natural gas industry (AKA Fracking Central):

A recent quote from him in the Sierra Club newsletter:

When reporter Matt Paul asked for a response to the Sierra Club's statement that we should be protecting public lands and not exploiting them, Corbett responded: "...there is a huge source of natural gas underneath the state parks, that is the state's.  I don't believe in just leaving it there."

Fervently hoping that he will be only a one-term train wreck instead of getting reelected this year and continuing the damage.

The link to Ultrarunning comes of course from the risks of despoiling our beloved backcountry.  It would be wise to remember the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964 which established the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The bill passed the House with only 1 Nay vote, and the Senate 78-8, and was signed by President Johnson.  The first few words of the Act--even more true today than 50 years ago--read:

In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.

Enough said.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cats in Art: Two Wild Cats (Marc)

Happy Easter!

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 sixteenth and probably final post on Franz Marc (1880-1916), a key German painter whose life tragically ended early on the Western Front in 1916. Maybe he even knew my great-grandfather. 

Image credit The Atheneum, hereTwo Wild CatsFranz Marc, 1913, watercolor and pencil on postcard,  5.5" x  3.5", held in a private collection.

As we saw the past two weeks, here's a third tiny image--again postcard sized--this time of a couple of spotted kitties.  Are they lynx?  Leopards?  Or does "wild" in the title merely mean that they are feral domestic kitties?

In any case, working from a smaller image, I initially had trouble figuring out how the cat on the right is posed.  Turns out its head is pointed straight down (its face actually pointing into its own belly) so as to be quite close to the head of the kitty on the left.  And what's not to like about a cat with blue spots?

Marc gets it completely right here in capturing the essence of catness: they seem relaxed, comfortable with each other, and seeming saying, "Today is a fine day to be a cat!"

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Henry David Thoreau...and Ultrarunning

The Quote of the Day on 16 April, from REFDESK:

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. - Henry David Thoreau

Yeah, I'd say on the trail one certainly should "...advance confidently in the direction of his dreams..."  In so doing you are likely to meet with success.

The Thoreau quote--while not written about Ultrarunning but appropriate nevertheless--reminded me of an Ayn Rand quote from Atlas Shrugged that I once used as part of my signature block:

He knew that he felt an odd, joyous, light-hearted self confidence.  He knew that these were the right steps down the trail he had glimpsed.

This was a great novel from the standpoint of the craft of writing....though Rand's political and economic philosophies are totally abhorrent to me.  But under the concept that even a blind squirrel will occasionally find an acorn, even Rand can turn a phrase that will resonate with someone for a totally different reason than the original intent.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bloodroot is Blooming

[Bloodroot, image credit Gary]

Today I had the bride drop me off a few miles to the east, from which point I ran home, taking full advantage of a nice tailwind.

Along the way I passed a farmer's woodlot, a rocky knob that can't be cultivated, as the forest floor was just covered with clumps of bloodroot.  I have a bunch in my own yard in similar habitat, but mine are lagging this area by a few days due to its differing sun exposure.

The plant gets its name from its deep red roots, and is one of the early wildflowers here in south-central PA.  The leaves are deeply lobed and kinda reminiscent of watermelon leaves.  When I see it I know that spring is truly here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cats in Art: Two Reclining Black 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 fifteenth post on Franz Marc (1880-1916), a key German painter whose life tragically ended early on the Western Front in 1916. Maybe he even knew my great-grandfather. This will be a multi-week series (I am still uncovering his cat works)

Image credit The Atheneum, hereTwo Reclining Black CatsFranz Marc, 1913, India ink and opaque colors on postcard,  3.5" x  5.5", held in a private collection.

As we saw last week, here's another tiny image--postcard sized--this time of a couple of black kitties.  And covered with gray triangles that to me resemble nothing so much as cat ears (or shark's teeth, if you prefer).

These guys are alert and ready for whatever the painter may have in mind...but for now, just laying there is good enough.

Friday, April 11, 2014

DC's Cherry Blossoms...and Ultrarunning

Finally--after living within 100 miles of Washington DC for some 40 years now--the bride and I made it to see the legendary cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin:

[image credits Gary]

We had a great time being tourists, and the floral display was indeed stunningly beautiful.

The link to Ultrarunning, of course, is seeing posies on the trail.  The flat-out best display ever that I have been sites to is the Virginia Bluebells along Bull Run creek in northern VA (site of the 50 miler of the same name), and the same flower found along the C+O Canal in the vicinity of milepost 103, upstream of Williamsport, MD.

They should be blooming within a couple weeks.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

William Wordsworth....and Ultrarunning

From the Writer's Almanac for 7 April--always a good read, and you can get daily free emails.

We learn here of the English poet William Wordsworth, who was born on 7 April 1770 in the unfortunately-named town of Cockermouth:

He was always a fan of long hikes, and in 1790 he took a break from college at Cambridge to embark on a walking tour of Europe. While hiking through the Alps, he found inspiration in nature, and later said, "Perhaps scarce a day of my life will pass by in which I shall not derive some happiness from those images." After he left the Alps, he spent some time in France during the French Revolution, and through his exposure to it, Wordsworth became interested in the "common man" — mainly his voice and his concerns. 

The connection to Ultrarunning is, of course, Wordsworth's passion for the backcountry, and his ability to capture it in verse.  Here's an example of seeing some beautiful daffodils, which are coming on strong right now here in southern Pennsylvania:

I wandered lonely as a cloud 
That floats on high o'er vales and hills, 
When all at once I saw a crowd, 
A host, of golden daffodils; 
Beside the lake, beneath the trees, 
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Oldie but Goodie

With the arrival of April, for some strange reason a joke from 50 years ago sprang unbidden to my mind:

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?


There. Now try to get that out of your head.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cats in Art: Allegories of Music and Prudence (Grien)

I'm really pressed for time this week so here's a repost of a couple Hans Grien images that garnered a lot of hits here when I posted it 3 years ago.  

As you view this, keep in mind that these were painted in 1525.  Let that sink in a moment: 1525.  That alone boggles the mind.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cats in Art: Allegories of Music and Prudence (Grien)

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.

Image credit here.  Left image: Allegories of Music and Prudence (or Allegory of a Woman with Song Book, Viol, and Cat);  Right image: Allegory of a Woman with Mirror, Snake, and a Pair of Deer.  Hans Balding Grien, 1525, Oil on Wood. 

You must admit that these two images have an interesting assemblage of props, which the titles reflect.  Zuffi tells us that Grien often painted elegant female nudes in the company of symbolic animals.

Personally, I'm of course partial to the left image, as it contains one very large feline.  Grien, unfortunately, did not leave behind information as to what exactly the cat was to symbolize.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

2 Rather Large and Callous D-bags

Today's first winner is former NFL quarterback and now announcer Boomer Esiason, who trashed talked Mets infielder Daniel Murphy for missing opening day of Major League Baseball due to his wife giving birth.

Basically it's not your business, Mr. Esiason.

Second d-bag is Maine governor Paul LePage, who strongly opposes making the anti-overdose medication Naloxone more widely available to first responders and family members of opiate addicts.  Why? Because, as reported in the Huffington Post, "Last year, LePage vetoed a bill expanding access to naloxone because he claimed it would give drug users a feeling of invincibility. Scientists say there is no evidence to support that assertion."  Also cited was the cost...estimated at some $22 a dose. 

That's per life-saving dose.

Mr. LaPage obviously thinks that addicts are not worth saving...better to decrease the surplus population, I suppose.

The mean part of me hopes that both these jerks get enlightened on these issues...knowing that true enlightenment usually only comes from personal experience.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Snot Rockets...and Ultrarunning

Mister Tristan (the 6 year old human being, not the blog), learned a valuable Ultrarunning-related skill this weekend. 

When we were out in the hot tub, his nose was running, and no tissues available, I taught him how to blow a snot rocket. 

That's where you hold one nostril shut while you blow vigorously, launching a blob of snot--the snot rocket. Then you do the other nostril. 

It's gross but effective, as well as being extremely useful. Any Ultrarunner worth his or her salt must master this technique.

Sent from my iPhone