Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nobel Prize Winner

Via the always-vigilant Digby, we have a follow-on to my post of a couple weeks ago about the bombing proclivities of a certain Nobel Prize winner:

A very select club petitions one of its own members to do the right thing by digby
Hey, remember when President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize? I know, those were heady times.  Check out what his fellow Peace Prize Winners are asking of him today:

Twelve winners of the Nobel Peace Prize asked President Barack Obama late Sunday to make sure that a Senate report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of harsh interrogation tactics is released so the U.S. can put an end to a practice condemned by many as torture.
The release of the report, which is the most detailed account of the CIA’s interrogation practices in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, would be an opportunity for the U.S. and the world to come to terms with interrogation techniques that went too far, the laureates said in an open letter and petition. The release of the report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has stalled as the Obama Administration the CIA, and lawmakers clashed over how much of it should be redacted.

Why not just release the report?  Oh, I guess it might make us look maybe that tells us that what we did wasn't so good.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Hunting"...and Ultrarunning

Seems that "hunting" news is, well, in the news, both in my home state of Pennsylvania as well as in Maine.  I am loosely summarizing from a couple of recent pieces in the Chambersburg Public Opinion newspaper:

PA Fails Again to End Cruel Pigeon Shoots:  Legislation in the PA House of Representatives failed to be brought out of committee and thus will not be voted on this session.  The law would have ended the practice of allowing live-target shooting of pigeons, something that is legal in no other state.  Supporters of the bill believe it represents the success of gun advocacy groups to keep the measure from a vote, for fear of starting what they perceive to be a slippery slope that could limiting gun and hunting rights.

Maine Proposed Black Bear Hunting Restrictions: And in Maine, a vote is coming up dealing with some controversial practices currently legal in bear hunting.  The bill would ban the use of bait, pursuit by dogs, and use of leg traps.  Believers in these practices point to an increasing level of human-bear encounters and the need to keep the bear population low; folks who want the bans point to the logical fallacy that baiting bears with donuts, among other things, can only serve to draw bears closer to people and thereby increase potential interactions.

For me, the pro-hunting position (and I use the term "hunting" very loosely) are symptomatic of something broken in these people, that they somehow could look at these practices and think they're OK and sporting.  Reminds me of previous posts (here and here) where I think that something must have happened to these people as children that extinguished their empathy.

The link to Ultrarunning?  When I'm in the backcountry--or even along my local roads--the sighting of a critter fills me with joy and wonder.  The last thing that comes to mind is "Man, I'd really like to shoot me one of those!"

Monday, October 27, 2014

Natural History in Rome...and Ultrarunning

I must confess that the notion of Ultrarunning seldom crossed my mind while on our Europe excursion.  But two events come to mind: first, in the fabled Black Forest of Germany where I saw a trail snaking suggestively and alluringly into, well, the black forest (lower case).

Next was in Amsterdam where we found ourselves in the city on the very day of the Amsterdam Marathon with 40,000 of our closest running comrades.  More on both of these points later in a separate post.

No, today I want to discuss natural history.  My first love is biology (I do have a MS in the field that I never used professionally) so whenever I run, I am always ion the lookout for unusual plants and animals.

In Rome I was absoutely dumbfounded by what I believe are called Umbrella Pines, ubiquitous in Rome.  It's a tree that looks deciduous up its trunk, to the branching crown...but then the branches end in needles, not leaves.  My only experience with coniferous trees is that they grow straight up with small, regular lateral branches.

So, couple photos. In the first we see the trees in daylight; if you enlarge it you can probably see the needles, but can't quite make out the branching structure.

Image credit Gary, near the Vatican

In this daybreak shot from the window of our apartment, scope out the Umbrella Pines on the left, where you will see the branching effect quite clearly:

Image credit Gary, looking north from Via Babuino

That crazy Mother Nature!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cats in Art: The Fall of Man (van Haarlem)

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.  

The bride and I just returned from a couple weeks in Europe, the trip of a lifetime.  We first took a Rhine River cruise downstream from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands.  Then we remained 3 more days each in Amsterdam and Rome.  While in Europe, my Cats in Art became a sort of quest for us and the others of our group, so the next few weeks here on Sundays will be focused on our kitty discoveries in the Old World.

Today's subject comes from the magnificent Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, in the Kingdom of the Netherlands (AKA Holland):

Image credit Rijks Museum, The Fall of Man, Corneleus van Haarlem, 1592, oil on canvas, approx 116" x 88", held in the Ricks Museum, Amsterdam.

The museum website tells us:

In the left background we see God (a cloud with a human face and hands) cautioning Adam and Eve. They may eat the fruit of all of the trees, except the tree of ‘the knowledge of good and evil’. Tempted by the serpent (with a human torso), Adam and Eve nevertheless eat the forbidden fruit, for which they were driven from Paradise.

Couple of points: first, this painting is huge, some 9' high and 8' wide.  It is centrally placed in, and dominates, the long gallery.  

As for content, unfortunately, the Rijks Museum tells us nothing about what for me is the central point of this image: the cat seated between Adam and Eve, being held--inexplicably--by a monkey (I did take a close up image of this kitty/monkey partnership but it's still in my camera... will post it at a later time).

Really?  A monkey??  Although the two critters certainly seem to be buddies, it is beyond me why van Haarlem would have chosen to include this unlikely pair in the image about the fall of Adam and Eve from grace.

Perhaps the animal duo were blamed for the fall, although they certainly seem benign and non-threatening.  

Of course, you can never trust a monkey.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cats and Sundays

Stolen (shamelessly, but with attribution!) from the always-good Earth Bound Misfit:

Think about this cartoon tomorrow.  The bride says that the best thing about being retired is this leisurely Sunday night feeling that we now can enjoy.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

When You Shoot, You've Lost

Now this is kinda a sobering observation, recently made by Glenn Greenwald:

Syria becomes the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by the 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate.

Which again causes me to turn to Duncan Black, who blogs at Eschaton:

Wars Are Bad
And if for some reason the people who run the United States feel the need to start one, it means they've failed. It means they should all resign in shame and let someone else clean up their mess. This country has immense power - military, economic, political - and if you can't use the latter two, along with the implicit threat of the first one, to make war unnecessary then you've fucked up and it's time to go home.

I still cannot fathom the nearly headlong rush to make war on ISIS.  Congress rattles its sabers yet steadfastly refuses to even discuss a declaration of war as called for in our Constitution.  To hear the talking heads tell it, ISIS is the devil incarnate and Must.  Be.  Stopped.  Now.  At any and all costs.

Perhaps a better, saner approach might be this one, as I posted a couple years ago, where we'd take war dollars and use them for humanitarian purposes instead:

We're declaring a unilateral cease-fire.  And in lieu of fighting we are taking those combat dollars to dig wells, immunize children, and build roads and bridges.

Perhaps I am naive but I do speak from the knowledge base of decades of work for the DOD, and say as I hold a grandchild on my lap, by God, we can do better than this.  We have to do better than this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Macho Campers...and Ultrarunning

A couple weeks back the bride and I took a road trip to visit a dear old friend in the St. Louis area.

While cruising along I-70 somewhere in Indiana, we passed this camper on the interstate.  I just had to snap a picture:

[image credit Gary]

I found the model name, Avenger, to be extremely odd.  I mean, who thinks this can possibly be an appropriate name for a travel camper??????

Or maybe I just have it all wrong.  Perhaps camping is really a blood sport.  And maybe, too, I've gotten it all wrong with Ultrarunning.  I'm thinking I should rename my 2-bottle pack The Terminator, and my water bottles Smith, and Wesson.


Monday, October 20, 2014

A Bizarre Warning Along the Appalachian Trail

While visiting the in-laws recently in Tower City, PA, I took a short run over in Stony Valley.  There is a rails-to-trails path off Gold Mine Road which intersects the Appalachian Trail some 3.5 miles in.

Anyway, an interesting warning sign appears at the trailhead, warning of possible unexploded ordnance from an Army base nearby:

Hope you can enlarge sufficiently to read the warning poster.  I don't know about you, but the last thing that I want to think about while I'm running trails is military activity and the possibility--even if extremely remote--of getting blown up.