April 19, 2013

A wild night and day

With headlines spilling over the media and web about the disaster in Texas and the chaotic times in Boston, I'm not even going to try to comment. I can't even keep up with events. My friend Ken Ward at the Charleston Gazette made a couple good points on Twitter that can help put headlines in perspective. Here's one:

...Saw comparison of gun deaths vs terrorism deaths-30,000 gun deaths per year in US, 3,400 terror deaths since 1970.

Here's the accompanying link.

He added the following:

...Keep in mind: 4,500 deaths per year in workplace accidents, 50,000 per year from occupational diseases.

And here's that link.

Speaking of Twitter, when I first heard of it, it made no sense at all to me. However, when there's something going down that you want to follow, there's probably no quicker way to get information, even though some of it is going to be noise rather than signal.

Here's hoping for some slow news days. Meanwhile, here are some things to check out:

UPPER BIG BRANCH. Also from Ken Ward, here's an interesting article that suggests former Massey Energy executives and board members may be targets of criminal investigations.

A GOOD PIECE ON GUNS from someone who knows a thing or two about them here.

MEDICAID EXPANSION. It looks like Arkansas is going to do it, albeit with publicly subsidized private insurance. Better than nothing though. Still waiting to here about WV...


ON A STRESSFUL DAY FOR THE COUNTRY AND WORLD, it might be good to look at some calming images. Check out these of bat-eating spiders! Who loves you?


April 18, 2013

This is what happens...

...when 20 odd turkeys sleep in a redbud tree.

(In case the picture is unclear, the horizontal tree used to be a good bit more vertical, no thanks to this guy and his buddies.)

CHILDREN IN AMERICA fare worse than those in most Western nations.

ON THIS DATE 101 YEARS AGO, members of the United Mine Workers began their historic Paint Creek/Cabin Creek strike that marked the beginning of the Mine Wars--and eventually inspired the writing of the song Solidarity Forever, which has become the international anthem of the labor movement. Too bad people don't know the verses better than the chorus...

CALLING OUT THE SENATE. This op-ed by Gabrielle Giffords is getting a lot of attention.

AND AGAIN, this time by WV native Michael Tomasky.

AYN RAND WOULD NOT BE AMUSED. According to a new poll, most Americans think the distribution of wealth is unfair and that the federal government should do something about it.


April 17, 2013

Mr. Mojo risin'

It seems to me that some days are better than others for former WV Governor and now Senator Joe Manchin, but the last several have been some of his best. I really appreciate his efforts to bring a little bit of sanity to the whole gun debate. He did us proud this time.

MEDICAID EXPANSION. Montana might be next, although it would involve private companies (corporate welfare). I guess that's better than nothing though.

FEED TO ACHIEVE. Here's an op-ed by a friend of mine in defense of new legislation in WV that aims to improve child nutrition.

PERSONAL STORY. I knew for sure that the Spousal Unit was an outstanding woman when she pointed out to me that the title of this post (from the Doors' song LA Woman) is an anagram for Jim Morrison.


April 15, 2013

It's personal

The last time I posted on this blog (Monday morning) the topic was endurance sports as a metaphor for the struggle for human justice and progress. At the time, I had no idea that a vile terrorist attack would occur targeting the Boston Marathon. Maybe I'm a little more sensitive to the issue with my legs still on fire from running a half marathon this Saturday on trails. Maybe not.

But I've always considered the marathon to be a sacred event, one the celebrates an ancient victory between the nascent forces of an open society against the forces of monolithic despotism. For what it's worth, and in honor of those who were wounded, killed or maimed in Monday's despicable attack, here is an old post from this blog about the marathon and what it means dating back to August 2007:

Of all endurance events, the marathon is special to El Cabrero. Sacred even.

The event takes its name from the place of a battle between a huge force of invading Persians and a hastily assembled Athenian force in 490 BC.

According to Herodotus, Pheidippides was a professional runner who covered the distance between Athens and Sparta (around 150 miles) in two days in an effort to urge the Spartans to resist the invaders. Along the way, he had an encounter with the god Pan, who pledged friendship to the Athenians.

The Spartans were sympathetic, but for religious reasons could not send an army until the moon was full. So he had to slog back.

A much later legend has it that after the Athenians defeated the numerically superior Persian force, Pheidippides ran the 25+ miles back to Athens to deliver the news. As the story goes, he said something like, "Rejoice, we conquer" and fell dead.

(This is what happens when you overdo it.)

This story was the subject of a 
poem by Robert Browning. Here's a stanza:

"Yes, he fought on the Marathon day:
So, when Persia was dust, all cried "To Akropolis...!
Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due!
'Athens is saved, thank Pan,' go shout!" He flung down his shield,
Ran like fire once more: and the space 'twixt the Fennel-field
And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through,
Till in he broke: "Rejoice, we conquer!" Like wine thro' clay,
Joy in his blood bursting his heart, he died--the bliss!"

Whether it happened or not, it's a good story. And the consequences of the eventual Greek triumph were really great. It permitted the full flowering of Greek science, art, literature, philosophy and democracy. They had plenty of shortcomings--but they also helped to give us the tools with which to criticize them.

When the great tragedian Aeschylus died, his grave marker said nothing about all the prizes he won for drama. Instead, it simply said

"Beneath this stone lies Aeschylus, son of Euphorion, the Athenian, who perished in the wheat-bearing land of Gela; of his noble prowess the grove of Marathon can speak, or the long-haired Persian who knows it well."

It was a big deal. No wonder that when the Olympic games were revived in 1896 they included a long run of 40 K (24.8) miles. Now the distance is 26.2.

Running a marathon is kind of a big deal too. Running for more than 25 miles isn't normal. Aside from the obvious, the body tends to run out of readily available fuel after about 20 miles. This is known among marathoners as "hitting the wall." Basically, you just have to gut it through the rest.

Training for one isn't as hard as it might seem. You don't need to run 100 or more miles a week. Three days of hard training, with an easy day between, are enough. One day should be a long run, culminating in one of at least 20 miles around 2 weeks before the race. Another day should include tempo runs, which start slow but include several faster segments.

The day that REALLY builds character is interval training, which often consists of a mile or two warmup followed by repeated hard 800 meter intervals with a brief jog between each. Six, eight, ten, twelve, whatever, striving to finish each in the same time. Pushing yourself over and over. I love it. I hate it. It hurts. It's awesome, even if your interval is a whole lot slower than anyone else's.

Then comes the race. I've done three. One good, one bad, and one ugly. The worst was when my knee blew out halfway through and I had to limp the last 13 miles.

(Note: the line between endurance and idiocy is fine and El Cabrero is not the best judge of where it starts and stops. With my corazon in the shape it's in, I may not have another one in me.)

But here's my best advice: run it one mile at a time and don't worry about who passes you or who you pass.

In the long run, we run against ourselves.

Progress as endurance sport

This morning I find myself creaking around as I try to recover from two endurance events. One was a half marathon over mountain trails and the other was the 60 day WV legislative session. I'm not sure which one was more of a challenge.

There were some brutal spots on the trail and there were some really low points in the session, although parts of both were really good.

All this reminds me of an email I got from a friend as we commiserated on a good bill that got away due to the pressure from an unsavory interest group. I now quote it in full:

"Sleezebags always win in the short run. Good thing progress is an endurance sport."

Roger that.

JUST DO IT. Two op-eds recently appeared in the Gazette supporting Medicaid expansion in WV. Here's one that looks at it from a religious perspective and one that looks at it from the standpoint of women's health.

THE 99/1 PERCENT THING. Here's a timely call for tax fairness from a Nobel Prize-winning economist.