Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Military Working Cats

Just ran across the blog called DuffleBlog, which seems full of smart-ass military insights and satirical writing...just the kind of blog I tend to gravitate to.

Here is a fine example of a typical post:

LACKLAND AFB, Texas – An experimental program to train housecats for military working roles will be scrapped, defense officials have told Duffel Blog. The $93 million initiative, which sought to utilize the feline’s stealth, agility and nine lives in espionage and counterespionage operations, was ultimately derailed by an inconspicuous, yet utterly intriguing, empty cardboard box.
“Training dogs, now that’s one thing. Cats are – well, cats are an entirely different animal,” admits lead handler, Master Sgt. Felicia Keys. “Dogs have discipline – you can teach a dog to ignore tennis balls, Frisbees, squeaky toys. A cat is going to do whatever the hell it wants.”
“Observe,” she says as she gestures to a video monitor showing a low-light training simulation from the adjacent room, where a military working cat (MWC) is being evaluated. The room has been outfitted to replicate an office filled with sensitive and classified materials posing a grave threat to national security.
Kitten First Class Nermal, a gray, mackerel tabby, has been assigned to stop a known hostile from stealing documents and embedding an improvised explosive device within a computer. Instead, Nermal can be seen batting a ball of yarn around for forty-five seconds before becoming bored and then discovering an unassuming but fascinating box. The infiltrator successfully plants the bomb and makes off with the data. A flashing red siren activates.

I just about blew coffee out my nose.  

Monday, March 30, 2015

Another Golf Ball

It's been awhile since I found a golf ball while running and blogged about it (last post was here, from this past fall).

Well, this weekend I just found another one in a last-year's corn field, along Swamp Fox Road, and as before this was in an area where there were no houses.  Just a corn field with a "golf ball" along the edge.

Image credit Gary.  "Golf ball" in situ.

Image credit Gary, a closer look.

Image credit Gary, the tell-tale crossed-out logo.

Regular readers may intuit where I am going next. See, my theory is that these are not errant golf balls hit by some backyard enthusiast: this ball was found at least 400 yards from the nearest habitation.  No, these are alien eggs.  It's the only explanation that makes any sense.  

Look carefully at the logo. It's TOP FLITE, but X'd out.  Savvy golfers may think that these are TOP FLITE rejects, but they'd be mistaken--this clearly must be how the aliens kept track of the eggs versus the real golf balls.  

See, they drop them across the landscape to spread their spawn. My theory:

The ubiquitousness of finding golf balls in unlikely places now leads me to consider some formerly outlandish theories.  I'm beginning to suspect that they are alien eggs, prepositioned, awaiting a hidden signal, and when they all hatch en masse there will be hell to pay for mankind.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cats in Art: Key West Kitties (4)

From my continuing weekly series on cats in art.

The bride and I recently returned from a fine week with friends in Key West, where we were fascinated with the Ernest Hemingway Home and Musuem and its array of cats, many of which exhibit the polydactyl trait (6 toes).

This is the art, a "sculpture" created by one of the cats in wet concrete.  

And this kitty is perched on top of the memorial stone where the Hemingway cats are laid to rest after death.  I guess she isn't freaked out by the notion of death.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Where I Run: Mason-Dixon Line Marker (Mile 106)

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.

Before the spring grown overtakes the fields and woods, Mister Tristan (the 7 year old human being, not the blog) and I headed out to find another local stone that I had not previously been to.  My last previous post on the topic (Mile 102) was from Dec 2013.

This is the stone at Mile 106. It's been sitting there peacefully for 248 years since Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon placed it in 1767.  The property owner was very helpful. 

The stone is found in an overgrown fence line; it'll be pretty much invisible and virtually inaccessible in a couple months as the new seasonal growth begins.  Image credit Gary.

Mister Tristan (7) for scale.  Image credit Gary.

The south-facing side with the "M" for Maryland.  Image credit Tristan.

The north-facing side with the "P" for Pennsylvania.  Image credit Tristan.

Friday, March 27, 2015


A couple of years ago I did a post I called  "Embarrassing Moments in Ultrarunning" about the Roberta Flack song "Killing Me Softly" in which I completely turned around the tune and permanently ruined it for any reader (it had to do with wiping my *ss with a snowball, so you really ought to click over and read it).

I'm about to do the same for Eric Clapton.  Ruining a song, that is.  Actually, it's an improvement because the original tune was a real downer.

So this is the Before:

Image credit Target

And this is the After:

YouTube link is here if the embedded video fails.

To close the loop in case it was not clear, every time I see a propane bottle or hear "Cocaine" on the radio, I immediately substitute Propane for Cocaine and burst into song.

It makes for a rather catchy tune.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What Are You Doing on 14-15 July?

Nope, it's not a race.  It's the North American Manure Expo, to be held in Chambersburg, PA, hosted by the county agricultural agent in conjunction with Penn State.

Web site is here.

I was in their office the other day to get a soil test kit for my garden and could not help but notice this flyer.

Believe me, I get it that farmers are the backbone of America and we don't want to take them or their profession for granted...but this tickled me!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fragmented Habitats...and Ultrarunning

Here in south-central PA we have been "civilized" for some 400 years, meaning that we no longer have any large swaths of uninterrupted forests.  For example, when I run on the Appalachian Trail near my home, the AT corridor is typically a ridge top scenario and you are indeed in the woods...yet you'd be hard-pressed to travel a linear mile without crossing some sort of of jeep trail or a real road.

I've always thought that the lack of contiguous habitat has adverse effects on the critters and plants that can live there, and this study is one of the more recent that verifies that intuitive thought:

The new study, led by Nick Haddad, a professor at North Carolina State University, and co-authored by Laurance and others, found that fragmented habitats lose an average of half of their plant and animal species within twenty years, and that some continue to lose species for thirty years or more. In all of the cases examined, the worst losses occurred in the smallest habitat patches and closest to a habitat edge. The study also demonstrates, using a high-resolution map of global tree cover, that more than seventy per cent of the world’s forest now lies within one kilometre of such an edge. “There are really only two big patches of intact forest left on Earth—the Amazon and the Congo—and they shine out like eyes from the center of the map,” Haddad said.

Think about that and treasure those times when your running habitat more closely resembles the primeval forest.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cats in Art: Key West Kitties (3)

From my continuing weekly series on cats in art.

The bride and I recently returned from a fine week with friends in Key West, where we were fascinated with the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum and its array of cats, many of which exhibit the polydactyl trait (6 toes).

Image credit Gary, of a painting hanging in the house.  As previously in the series, I did not note the painter or the date, but you juts gotta love the alert, interested expression on this kitty's face...just waiting for something good to happen.

And this was another of the cats who inhabit the place.  This one looks exactly like our cat, Ca Beere, except for the fact that Ca Beere's tail is shortened due to an infection which led to amputation.  

She gets along just fine with the shortened tail, except that on occasion her leaping is off due to the lack of a tail for balance.  Just the other day Ca Beere tried to execute a leap from the bed to the dresser in our bedroom and came up just a tad short, crashing into the top drawer and running off, shaking her head.  Cats hate to have people see them screw up.