Friday, June 27, 2014

Harpsichord Music...and Ultrarunning

The other day I heard The Doors' 60s tune People are Strange, in which I could have sworn I detected a harpsichord.  Turns out I was wrong...but the group's keyboardist Ray Manzerek did in fact use the harpsichord here, in Love me Two Times, courtesy of YouTube:

Which brought me to the point as to where--if one were so inclined--one would even purchase a harpsichord?

Turns out that there is a place called the Harpsichord Clearing House in Massachusetts:

The Harpsichord Clearing House specializes in the global sale, restoration and repair of new and used harpsichords, virginals, clavichords, positive organs and early pianos. In addition we offer consultation services for any of these instruments. Our harpsichords, virginals and clavichords are available in the full range of historical styles and prices. Our work with positive organs and early pianos has led to an expanding market for these instruments both in the Americas and Europe. We are US representatives for Henk Klop of the Netherlands, and offer our own instruments -- including the Bennett/Giuttari continuo organ-as well as instruments from European and American builders.

No need to thank me for this public service I just performed.

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning?   Although I will never use a iPod or the like on the trails, that doesn't mean that music is unimportant to me when I'm out there.  I frequently have tunes blazing in my head, such as from The Doors.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Roosevelt was a Smart Man...and Ultrarunning

Posting's been light here due to illness of family members, but here's a gem from the beautiful Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial in Washington, DC.  We visited there in April with our niece to (finally) see the famous cherry blossoms.

The FDR Memorial is right beside the tidal basin where the cherry trees are.

[image credit Gary...please excuse the shadows]

The link to Ultrarunning, of course, is our love for nature.  We could run anywhere, I suppose, but we choose to run trails.

Why is that, I wonder?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cats in Art: The Hermitage Court Moor in Casual Uniform (Zakirov)

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 shaking things up a bit: instead of looking to the past, for the next couple weeks I'm featuring a series of contemporary digital art by Eldar Zakirov (whose website is here).  I found Zakirov via the always-great site Boing Boing (link here).

Image credit here.  The Hermitage Court Moor in Casual Uniform, Eldar Zakirov, 2013, media and size information unavailable.

Like last week, the image just seems so funny (in the sense of incongruous) compared with how cats really are.  I mean, a cat wouldn't be caught dead in a casual 
uniform--they always are nattily attired.

As I previously commented, I like the idea of including some contemporary art in my Cats in Art series, although the old paintings are where my heart is.

At any rate, enjoy--or at least bear with me for a couple weeks--my Eldar Zakirov side trip!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Without a Trace of Irony....

Update: being a nonviolent person, I do not actually endorse The Rude Pundit's solution at the bottom.  It does sound quite satisfying, however.

Earlier this week, former vice president Dick Cheney and his daughter, Liz, had an editorial published in The Wall Street Journal.  Talking Points Memo sets the tone:

The Cheneys set a bleak tone right off the bat: "Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many," they wrote. "Too many times to count, Mr. Obama has told us he is 'ending' the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—as though wishing made it so. His rhetoric has now come crashing into reality."

From the editorial itself:
Iraq is at risk of falling to a radical Islamic terror group and Mr. Obama is talking climate change. Terrorists take control of more territory and resources than ever before in history, and he goes golfing. He seems blithely unaware, or indifferent to the fact, that a resurgent al Qaeda presents a clear and present danger to the United States of America. 
When Mr. Obama and his team came into office in 2009, al Qaeda in Iraq had been largely defeated, thanks primarily to the heroic efforts of U.S. armed forces during the surge. Mr. Obama had only to negotiate an agreement to leave behind some residual American forces, training and intelligence capabilities to help secure the peace. Instead, he abandoned Iraq and we are watching American defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. 

My mind, it is boggled.  It is utterly incomprehensible to me why this war criminal, who possibly more than any other Bush administration figure, helped to conjure up a war based on lies and falsehoods, and in which thousands of Americans died or were maimed for life, should have any sort of public forum.  He should be shunned, disavowed, and laughed at for all time.  Oh, and should be emptying bedpans in a VA hospital for the rest of his life.

Cheney and his cohorts basically sh*t the bed in Iraq.  And now he has the audacity to criticize Obama's actions, when Obama's options range from bad to worse to worst.  See, you can't unsh*t the bed, no matter how much Cheney tries to deflect blame onto his successor.  Iraq--just like Afghanistan--was never going to have a happy ending.  Never.  It was only a matter of when it would unravel.

Earlier this week, The Rude Pundit's head was also spinning about the Sunday news shows.  These featured an array of former Bush administration war though the same people who started those wars should now be listened to about what to do now.  

The Rude Pundit's idea was a good one, and a simple one.  Whenever any of them (Paul Wolfowitz; Richard Pearle; Paul Bremer; columnist William Kristol)  tried to sell the idea of heading back to Iraq to stave off disaster, they should have immediately been punched in the nuts.  Not listened to, not respected, just punched in the nuts.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Update on the Ironmaster's Trail Runs

Several weeks ago I posted here about running the Ironmaster's 25K at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in southcentral PA.

During the run a number of us went off course, so I never bothered checking the results.  Turns out, however, that ALL the 25K runners went off course--either by poor signage, or tampered-with signage, or runner error--with a net effect of a loss of perhaps 1K of distance.   

So....turns out that I did place second in my age group, and since we all screwed up, the 
results--though relative--do in fact count for something.

That something is my age group award, a Performance Race Visor by SweatVac (I have no financial interest).  It's a lightweight, washable, reflective visor and I will wear it proudly.  See, at my age you have to grab for all the accolades you can, when you can!

[image credit Gary]

Monday, June 16, 2014

Faceplants...and Ultrarunning

The notion of doing a faceplant is a common theme throughout the Ultrarunning community, as we often trip on roots or rocks and pitch headfirst onto the trail, with some greater or lesser degree of injury to pride and body.

I've taken plenty of spills, thankfully none of which resulted in serious harm. So for me, faceplants were a quaint notion, a funny side of the sport, one that I gave little thought to other than in a tongue-in-cheek way.  

But, no more.

Seems that the great geeky/sciency site Boing Boing recently did a piece called The Science of Faceplanting:

The epic faceplant GIF is the Mom’s apple pie of online culture. Representative of all that the Internet stands for, it is reliable and true blue. Many things will change. You will age. Life will be irrevocably altered. But there will always be some poor soul--or idiot--falling flat on their face, over and over and over.
The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery recently published a clinical study analyzing the forces at work on the face of one such young man. Titled “Video Analysis of the Biomechanics of a Bicycle Accident Resulting in Significant Facial Fractures”, the paper claims to be the first analysis of an actual recorded faceplant trauma. That may be true for bicycle accidents, but it’s not the only time scientists have used video of an impact to understand what happens to the faces involved in that collision. In fact, the most interesting takeaway here isn’t from this paper, itself, but from the window it provides into a scientific field — injury biomechanics, the study of how we hurt ourselves. 

So, if you were expecting a funny post about faceplants you've come to the wrong place.  Go ahead and click over to the article, it's fascinating.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cats in Art: The Hermitage Court Confectioner Apprentice Cat (Zakirov)

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 shaking things up a bit: instead of looking to the past, for the next couple weeks I'm featuring a series of contemporary digital art by Eldar Zakirov (whose website is here).  I found Zakirov via the always-great site Boing Boing (link here).

Image credit here.  The Hermitage Court Confectioner Apprentice Cat, Eldar Zakirov, 2013, media and size information unavailable.

This image, with its deadpan title 
The Hermitage Court Confectioner Apprentice Cat, cracks me up.  First off, what cat is an apprentice?  They all are fully suave and competent from the get go.  Second, cats don't really go much for sweets, so for a cat to be a confectioner is an interesting career choice.

As I wrote last week, I like the idea of including some contemporary art in my Cats in Art series, although the old paintings are where my heart is.

At any rate, enjoy--or at least bear with me for a couple weeks--my Eldar Zakirov side trip!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

More Trail Work...and Ultrarunning

On Monday I headed up Alice Trail to its junction with the Tuscarora Trail for some serious weed whacking of briars.  This is in southern PA, just south of where the Tuscarora crosses PA Rt 16 between Mercersburg and McConnellsburg, and heading south from there.

But first, the installation of a signpost I had made to mark that junction.  Up there on the narrow Pennsylvania ridgetop there is a scant covering of dirt, then the underlying rock.  I had hauled up a digging iron to try to make a hole...the best I could get was about  12" deep after several test holes, so I resorted to piling stones around the post as in a cairn.

At the bottom of the buried end of the post I had inserted a 12" piece of re-bar laterally through the post.  When the dirt and small rocks are firmly tamped down around the post, the re-bar serves as a physical deterrent to someone (or some bear, seriously) trying to pull out the signpost.

The signpost is quite stable and should last awhile.  Of course, in the backcountry, if someone wants to destroy a trail sign with bullets or brute force, they'll do it.  I hope that the remote location weeds out the idiot faction, and only serious hunters and hikers will pass by here.

The weed whacking went slowly.  Very slowly.  As in forward progress of about 1/2 mile in 90 minutes slowly.

I was assisting my trail buddy Peter, who's is the overseer for that portion of the Tuscarora.  The briars in some places had rendered the trail  almost impassable in a practical sense.  The technique we resorted to in a few areas of particularly heinous briars was to bring the weedwhacker down from about 6' up, chewing up the briars from top to bottom.

This section, to my knowledge, had not been cut in 2013, so this was 2 years of growth.  My hope is that with the briars now cut back to a 6' trail width, future weed whacking efforts will be more akin to maintenance than (virtually) cutting new trail.

The link to Ultrarunning?  I love trail running.  Somebody has to maintain those trails.  It's pretty simple.

Oh, and another reason:

Box turtle on the Alice Trail.  All photos by Gary.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Claire Danes Running, and Sexism

A link to a cool pictorial article here at the blog Buzzfeed, originally from the feminist blog called Vagenda, which dismantles 13 media headlines/captions that demean women....and offers an improved version of the offending headline.

Caution.  If drinking coffee, you are likely to blow it out your nose.

I like all the items--well, not actually like, but rather, am amused while at the same time being infuriated.  It was #13 particularly tickled me, as a fan of Claire Danes in the TV show Homeland.  The Vagenda comment:
Is she ‘displaying her fit figure’, or is she just running?

[image credit Buzzfeed]

If the image and captions are a bit to too small to see, the original stupid caption on the left says:

Catch Carrie if you can! Homeland star Claire Danes displays her fit figure in tight exercise gear as she sweats it out during a grueling run.

The improved caption on the right says:

Woman runs in appropriate exercise clothing.

I can't add anything to this, other than this public service announcement:

Guys, despite photos and captions like that above, reminder that woman do not exist upon the earth to only serve as your eye candy.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Cats in Art: The Hermitage Court Chamber Herald Cat (Zakirov)

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 shaking things up a bit: instead of looking to the past, for the next couple weeks I'm featuring a series of contemporary digital art by Eldar Zakirov (whose website is here).  I found Zakirov via the always-great site Boing Boing (link here).

Image credit here.  The Hermitage Court Chamber Herald Cat, Eldar Zakirov, 2012, media and size information unavailable.

This image epitomizes the pedestal upon which many of us place our cats.  These pets are at once regal, haughty, imperial, you name it.  Or at least treated as such, even if not having those actual characteristics.

The realism of the kitty is nearly photo-like.  And the over-the-top tail, poking out of the back of the scarlet coat, truly adds the whipped cream and cherry to this image.

I like the idea of including some contemporary art in my Cats in Art series, although the old paintings are where my heart is.

At any rate, enjoy--or at least bear with me for a couple weeks--my Eldar Zakirov side trip!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Why Am I Not Surprised About Cat Treats?...and Ultrarunning

We currently have 3 cats, down from 5 as a brother-sister pair of 19 year olds went to the great kitty beyond within the past few months.

Anyway, the remaining 3 seem to have divided their preference for cat treats.  Of course, all 3 cannot possibly like the same treat at the same time, so we have to have more than one treat:

image credit Gary

One treat is hard and crunchy (Whisker Lickin's, on the left, with the awkward apostrophe that makes you think "typo" until you realize the word is missing a "g") and the other is soft (Pounce, on the right).

Just shaking the appropriate bottle brings the appropriate cat running.

Speaking of running--or more properly, Ultrarunning--there are some treats I especially love on the trail.  My all-time fav is peanut M+Ms, followed closely by chocolate covered coffee beans.  

These are for my pack.  When I run an organized event with aid stations, I tend to hit the cookies and pretzels early on, followed by "real food," meaning sandwiches and protein stuff later in a longer race.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Even More Stupid Laws

Blogging is an interesting pursuit.

My story?  I have all these voices and ideas in my head that I believe are meant to be shared.  And, I must share them or else my brain might well explode.  An outlet, pressure release, whatever...although I am not so naive that I can realistically conjure up an large blog audience breathlessly awaiting the next installment of Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 6-year-old human being).  So I write, assuming that it is largely a one-way street, since this blog is small and with little readership.

Enter Ella M, whom I have never met save thru eletcrons...and the one-way street suddenly becomes a two-way street.  A couple years ago I posted this, a casual post about 17 bizarre laws, and recently it was discovered by Ella.  She then contacted me about a series of three articles she has written on the very same topic, covering strange laws in the U.S., U.K., and Australia.

Please click over and read all three articles--they are fairly short and quite entertaining. 

Here's what jumped out at me from the three articles as I read them.  I'll pull out 2 of Ella's items from each country--I love her dry wit as she writes about these strange laws that still reside on the books:

United States:

--You can't take a bath without doctor's orders
Keeping clean is a serious business in many parts of the US. You can't just take a bath whenever you want.
Unless you're ready to risk being arrested for it, you will need to get a prescription from your doctor before you have a bath in Colorado, while in Florida, you will have to keep your clothes on.
You can bathe once a month during the winter if you are in Lander Wyoming, if you're an adult, but children there aren't legally allowed to take baths at all during the cold weather.
--You can't carry an ice cream cone in your pocket
A law prohibiting the eating of ice cream on Sundays inspired the creation of ice cream sundaes in Ohio, which hid the offending treat under some respectable fruit in order to get around the restrictions, but this isn't the only crazy dessert-based law in the US.
In Lexington, Kentucky, it was apparently thought necessary to outlaw the carrying of ice cream cones in pockets, so think carefully before you decide to free up your hands.

United Kingdom:

--You can't fire a cannon within 300 yards of a house
The UK still has a law in effect that makes it illegal to fire a canon within 300 yards of someone's home, but there is no word on how kindly the police might look upon anyone firing one further away.
If you are planning an old fashioned war, you might also need to know that it is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing armour.
--You can't carry a plank on the pavement
If you're planning to put up some shelves, you might need to think about how you are going to get the supplies home, since there is a law in the UK that specifically prohibits the carrying of planks down the pavement. 
While it's unlikely you'd ever actually been thrown in jail for this unless you caused some major issue or obstruction, technically it could happen - so, home delivery could be worth considering as a way of saving yourself the bother of negotiating the streets and the law! 
It is just one of the activities banned in the streets by a law that also makes kite flying, annoying games and sliding on ice illegal.


--You can't wear a strapless dress, if you're a man
Men in Melbourne are specifically prohibited from wearing a dress that doesn't have any straps, although apparently the person who wrote this law had no problem with either women in strapless dresses, or men whose dresses had straps.
The absurdly specific nature of this law seems to suggest that it might have been a fashion statement rather than a moral stance. Clearly, someone had strong opinions about how men should wear dresses.
That said, if you're a man that's planning on dressing up down under, saving your strapless number for back home could be worth it just in case...
--You can't crush a beer can between your breasts
Exercising your muscles as you recycle might get you in trouble if you are a woman with the unusual talent of being able to crush beer cans with your breasts.
It is illegal to do this in Western Australia, and it can actually lead to arrest.
A barmaid in Pinjarra was arrested, tried and find a thousand dollars for showing off this trick in public.
If she'd inspired a meme by putting it online, she could have turned a lot of other people into criminals too.

Aagin, here are the links to Ella's articles:

5 of the Strangest Laws That Can Get You Locked Up in the U.S.
5 Crazy Laws That Can Get You Arrested in the UK
5 Bizarre Laws That Can Land You in Jail in Australia

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Civil War Skull...the (Near) Triumph of Capitalism

The Civil War is not quite over for this possible soldier....

Image credit local TV station WGAL-TV

From earlier this week, a huge local controversy about the possible auction of a skull purportedly from the battle of Gettysburg (via ABC 27):

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) - The planned auction of a skull reportedly that of a Civil War soldier found at Gettysburg has been cancelled following protests, and officials say the remains have now been donated for burial with honors.
Estate Auction Co. of Hershey had listed the skull for sale at auction Tuesday in Hagerstown, Maryland. That drew protests from the U.S. Park Service in Gettysburg and many other people.
Gettysburg National Military Park and the nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation announced Tuesday that the remains had been donated by the auction company late Monday. After authentication, they are to be buried at the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg with full military honors.
The auctioneer said earlier that the remains were found in 1949 as a garden was being tilled on the Benner Farm in Gettysburg.

When I first heard about this, it was before the auction was called off.  The auctioneer was interviewed on TV and stated how he personally thought and recommended that the skull should be donated to the Gettysburg National Military Park for burial, but the owner wanted to auction it off.

I thought, you craven jerk--we are are talking about human remains, and you'd be OK with being the guy selling them?  I would have hoped he'd have recused himself for moral reasons...but I guess the profits to be made from the auctioneer's cut of the auction proceeds were too attractive to pass up.

Then I thought--as I once blogged about here (in a post called "Staying Buried...and Ultrarunning"), in thinking about the distinction between grave robbery and archaeology--how is that a skull can even be in the possession of a private individual?  Surely that should be illegal?

At any rate, the skull will now be tested by the Gettysburg folks to see if it is indeed Civil War era, and then reburied.

Rest in peace, I guess.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Now This is a Wine I Can Believe In...and Ultrarunning

Purchased just the other day, and it tastes good:

Foxes, wine...a match made in heaven (or in Australia).

The link, of course, to Ultrarunning is that we frequently see critters in the backcountry.  In particular, I often see foxes ("often" meaning a couple times a year) on the roads around my home.

These definitely are NOT creatures of the deep woods.  They like edges, treelines, meadows, stream beds, etc.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Cats in Art: Paris Through the Window (Chagall, 1928)

[Sorry this is a day a day-long graduation party yesterday for a loved one]

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.

Last week's post was titled identically....but was a much larger image created in 1913 vice this one from 1928.  The 1913 version is the "famous one" that you find in art history books and on the Internet, but the 1928 version is what Zuffi put in his book.

Image credit Zuffi, Paris Through the Window, Marc Chagall, 1928, watercolor on paper, 15" x 22", held by National Gallery, Prague.

For purpose of comparison, here again is the 1913 version from last week (image credit here):

Differences I noted, other than content: 
  • 1913 oil on canvas; 1928 watercolor on paper
  • 1913 held by Guggenheim Museum, New York; 1928 held by National Museum, Prague
  • 1913 size 52" x 55"; 1928 size 15" x 22"

The images are quite similar but some differences are obvious.  First of, the later version just seems brighter and happier--the Eiffel Tower is a cheery yellow, the kitty seems not so woeful.  Even the two-faced men seem a tad less gloomy.

The later version has Paris depicted in a more muted fashion, less harsh, less stark.  Plus I like the curtains, rather than the panels of light Chagall used in 1913.

All in all, the 1928 version is more pleasing to my eye...yet its fame is less.  Probably because the 1913 is in the Guggenheim while the 1928 is in Prague.