Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Flannery's Pub Half Marathon

This past weekend I ran a road half marathon with an old trail buddy, Jody.  We were running with his brother-in-law, whose pace was a tad slower, so the race for us was largely a leisurely stroll for 13 miles.

I must confess that it was a very fun day, in a race situation yet not feeling the need to press or accelerate.  We cracked the 2:30 barrier, which was a goal of brother-in-law.  And despite the slower pace (just over 11:00 per mile) , I managed to snag an age group trophy.

In all honesty, this was more a testament to the dearth of 60+ runners than to my speed, but I'll take it anyway with pride:

Finishers' medal plus 60-64 age group 3rd place trophy

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Moon and Venus Tues 21 Apr 2014...and Ultrarunning

Just stepped out front to try to summon our outside cats, and was dumbstruck by the sight of the waning cresent moon and Venus in the western sky.

This is an iPhone 5 photo (image credit Gary) and the moon looks more like a circle than a crescent, but the photo is pretty cool nonetheless:

The skies, they are wonderful!  

This sky reminds me of the memorable night back in 1998 when Bill Ladieu and I were training for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run.  We picked a night for an overnight training run in southern PA when the moon was largely full and ran the Appalachian Trail south from Pine Grove Furnace to Caledonia Park...and back, some 38 miles or so.

The moon was full and during many parts of the run we could turn off our lights and just run by moonlight.

Think about that for a moment.  If you've run 100 miles, you've run overnight.  How many people in  your circle of friends, relatives, and acquaintances have run on trails in the moonlight?

We are an elite group--not in the sense of special or better but rather in the sense of doing something way cool that very few people will ever experience.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cats in Art: A Black Cat Leaping (Hockney)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  We'll continue with last week's artist, David Hockney.

Image credit Goldmark Art, here.  A Black Cat Leaping, David Hockney, 1969 (from the story The Boy who Left Home to Learn Fear. For Six Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm), approx 10" square, etching aquatint, for sale at the Goldmark Gallery.

It always boggles my mind to realize that there's a ton of art, by well-known artists, that's actually for sale, and regular people can, well, buy it if they are so inclined.

As for this image, what strikes me is that although there is a cat--a very large cat--headed straight for his face, the seated man remains unmoved and imperturbable.  The cat, for its part, seems fierce and dangerous with its mouth open and ready to bite in the next split second.

One could read all kinds of symbolism into this image, and it'd all be sheer speculation, so better just enjoy the art.  I'd mention that at first glance the painting seems flat and 2-dimensional...but then I note the shadows on the floor and suddenly think the image comes to life and is almost in motion.

Anyway, you--yes, YOU--could actually own this unsigned piece for £950 (that's 950 British pounds).

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

One of my most pleasant memories is when a pilot friend couple with a Cessna flew us up to Cleveland several years ago just for a day trip.  We flew into a small municipal airport right beside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum; we walked over and spent an absolutely wonderful day wandering amongst musical memorabilia.

Image credit I. M. Pei, here

Tonight is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2015 induction ceremony where 8 artists/groups will become part of music history.  Artists are eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record, and chosen based on their influence and contributions to rock music. 

The 2015 inductees are:

  • Ringo Starr
  • The "5" Royales
  • The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  • Green Day
  • Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
  • Lou Reed
  • Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble
  • Bill Withers

But all is not well in Rock and Roll.  Here are three favorites of mine--bands that have never even been nominated--who surely deserve to be so enshrined: Jethro Tull, Moody Blues, Bad Company.

I know that everybody has a story involving love and music from their formative years, but Jim Croce, who is largely responsible for me and the bride getting hitched 40 years ago, has never been nominated either.

Just for kicks, take a moment to Google "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame snubs" and you'll be treated to thousands of hits.  I could have chosen from any number of sites, but here's a great site that you should click on over to and scope out to see who is not in (I can't easily reproduce their list here).

Keep in mind, though, the bigger picture: climate change looms, we continue to be a war-obsessed species, most of the prospective Republican presidential wanna-bes are batshit who is in, and who is not in, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is clearly only a first-world problem.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Interstellar...and Ultrarunning

[Editorial update: going with a slightly modified design for the blog]

The bride and I watched the film Interstellar last evening.

A great site that a close friend and movie buff constantly mentions is IMDb, a treasure trove of all things film.  Here's the summary story line on Interstellar:

In the near future, Earth has been devastated by drought and famine, causing a scarcity in food and extreme changes in climate. When humanity is facing extinction, a mysterious rip in the space-time continuum is discovered, giving mankind the opportunity to widen its lifespan. A group of explorers must travel beyond our solar system in search of a planet that can sustain life. The crew of the Endurance are required to think bigger and go further than any human in history as they embark on an interstellar voyage into the unknown. Coop, the pilot of the Endurance, must decide between seeing his children again and the future of the human race.

All in all, I liked the movie, although it dragged a bit at times, and the science was sometimes tough to follow (probably why the bride was lukewarm about it).  But the main theme about the film that really resonated with me was the need for humankind to explore, to get off the earth, to ensure the survival of the species (plus there was a good love story component).

But the reason I even mention the film today is that coincidentally I was just reading a post of Phil Plait's over at Bad Astronomy--which you really should read at least weekly--a post about the SpaceX company proposed mission to Mars.  Phil took a tour of the SpaceX plant at the invitation of the founder and owner, Elon Musk, and came away very impressed about Musk's answer as to why explore beyond the Earth:

Musk didn’t hesitate. “Humans need to be a multiplanet species,” he replied.
And pretty much at that moment my thinking reorganized itself. He didn’t need to explain his reasoning; I agree with that statement, and I’ve written about it many times. Exploration has its own varied rewards ... and a single global catastrophe could wipe us out. Space travel is a means to mitigate that, and setting up colonies elsewhere is a good bet. As Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (the father of modern rocketry) said, “The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in the cradle forever.”
The overall atmosphere in the factory was one of working at a progressive company on an exciting project. Of course: They build rockets. But the feeling I couldn’t put my finger on before suddenly came into focus. The attitude of the people I saw wasn’t just a general pride, as strong as it was, in doing something cool. It was that they were doing something important. And again, not just important in some vague, general way, but critical and quite specific in its endgame: making humans citizens of more than one world. A multiplanet species.
It’s easy to dismiss this statement, think of some snark as a way to minimize it and marginalize it as the thinking of a true believer. But—skeptic that I am—I’ve come to realize this is not minimal. It is not marginal. This is a real, tangible goal, one that is achievable. And SpaceX is making great strides toward achieving it.
That’s when I also realized that the initial question itself was ill-posed. It’s not why Elon Musk wants to get to Mars. It’s why he wants humanity to get there.
I think that's a pretty good idea.

And since the U.S. government is not prioritizing NASA, it seems that it may be up private individuals, such as Elon Musk, to get us off the planet.

Oh, and I'd better bring in the mandatory Ultrarunning reference.  It's not hard, actually: seems to me that the same compulsion that propels us to run vast distances in the backcountry is the same compulsion that will lift us off this planet.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Providing for our Feathered Friends

The bride and I feed birds and enjoy seeing the wide variety of feathered creatures that populate our yard and surroundings.

Image credit Gary

After years of cleaning out nest boxes and seeing the wide variety of materials used, I decided to assist by providing short pieces of binder twine, unraveled down to the individual threads.

That's the binder twine in the foreground of the shot above, held down by a railroad spike, but easily pulled out by a determined bird.

[Note: please excuse my disgusting-looking coffee cup; I was dunking a biscotti, which left junk in the mug.]

From my Birdcam

From my Birdcam

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

BIG Shortfall in the National Park Service Budget...and Ultrarunning

Seems that our beloved NPS--and when I say "beloved" I am not being facetious, this is a vital agency for the things we love--and which has an approximately $11.5 billion backlog on deferred maintenance costs, according to this mainstream Marketplace article.

The article focused on the famous DC cherry blossoms, in full bloom as we speak, but it's part of the larger issue that affects all 50 states:
Craig Obey, the senior vice president of the National Parks Conservation Association, said that the federal neglect of the National Park Service’s funding is a bipartisan problem that has grown more severe in the past 30 years.

“I think the parks have been dealing with less for quite a while, they’ve been asked to do more with less and we are at the point where they’re able to do less with less,” Obey said.

And indeed, the “less” is lessening, Obey said, “because the Park Service gets about between $200 and $300 million less than they need each year just to keep it even, not even to begin reducing it.”
Too bad there is not sufficient money elsewhere in the national budget that we could prioritize for this purpose.  Wait!!!...maybe I just found some money:

The future bill from the Afghan war is likely to run into hundreds of billions of dollars more. The Pentagon has indicated it wants funding of $120 billion for 2016-19 for operations in Afghanistan, although the eventual cost will depend on the future mission that the White House decides on.

This on top of the $765 billion already spent, according to the CNBC article.
Do you think that maybe we could spend this money on parks instead of war?  Butter instead of guns?  Trails on which to run in the backcountry instead of airfields and bases?  And leave a better legacy for our children and grandchildren?