Saturday Morning Links

1. Ever heard of the Ordesa Valley in Spain? me neither. It’s absolutely amazing, a huge valley that’s part of the Pyrenees. This is a statement from Wikipedia: “It was first discovered in 1820, but not mapped in detail until approximately the 1920s.” I don’t see how this is even possible, to not be discovered until 1820 and not mapped until 1920?

Photo by Marco Montero Pisani on Unsplash

Photo by Marco Montero Pisani on Unsplash

2. This is one of those things where you didn’t know that it existed, but it does. There’s this whole brewery district in Seattle called Ballard Brewery District, via Good Beer Hunting, that looks absolutely amazing. So many breweries per square foot, you could spend an afternoon there and barely be able to walk straight out of there.

3. Sometimes we (Americans) don’t get how popular soccer actually is and this article from The Guardian is really terrific how Pele became a myth, which is part of a Netflix documentary, where the last quote from the trailer:

I think the greatest gift you receive in victory isn’t the trophy. It is the relief.

Imagine the pressure to win or succeed being that overwhelming.

4. From Aeon’s Sam Dresser on the ethical life, what does choosing the right thing to do actually mean and how do you make that choice?

In contrast, a good deal of moral theory prioritises one of these practical perspectives and downplays the moral relevance of the others by ruling them out as providing genuine access to moral reasons. This has the effect of allowing any responsiveness to other classes of normative claims to be categorised as irrational or evil. For example, classical utilitarianism enjoins us to think of everyone – ourselves included – as an equal unit in the moral calculus that aims to maximise the satisfaction of legitimate desires and preferences. This is a third-person way of approaching the question of what it’s best to do, since each of us is to be treated as an equal moral unit, subjected to the same categories and assessments as any other. Similarly, Kantian deontology prioritises the third-person universality of a reason understood to be identically present in all agents. In each case, the good life is defined in terms of your ability to submit yourself to universally shared moral categories – to think of yourself in third-person moral terms.

There is something right about this approach. It has the compelling result of putting pressure on us to do more for strangers in distress than we tend to do because we’re so often caught up in our own troubles, or those of loved ones. But it also gives rise to objections that ultimately derive from a recognition of the equal value and importance of the first- and second-person perspectives in our moral lives. For example, critics of Kantian deontology point out that respect for a universal reason that manifests in every other human is hardly the same thing as loving concern for this particular person. Critics of utilitarianism, meanwhile, have pointed out that maximising ‘total expected utility’ – ie, getting as large a ‘quantity’ of good results as possible – might require us to, say, harvest someone’s organs when she arrives for a routine check-up at the doctor’s office, since five of her healthy organs could save the lives of five critically ill people. Allowing her to keep her organs will save only a measly one. Though utilitarians and deontologists have come up with many ingenious responses to such objections, these worries follow naturally from a third-person practical perspective, in which each person is viewed as an interchangeable and largely anonymous unit of general rationality or calculable outcomes for the world at large.

5. From Eater, the history of African American brewers and the idea African American culture not embracing craft beer despite having a long history of brewing beer.

Saturday Morning Links

Photo by Michael Pujals on Unsplash

1. Ever heard of Mount Tamalpais? Me neither. It’s in Marin County, California, and contained in the Mount Tamalpais State Park, Muir Woods National Monument, and is right next to the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. I was a bit fascinated by the name, Tamalpais, which means “west hill” from the Coast Miwok language.

Photo by Levi Bare on Unsplash

2. This is great! Via Outside Online, the National Park Service has released apps for all 423 national parks, Android and Apple, which include maps (can download for offline use), lodging, restaurant hours within the park, and audio tours.

3. This is so neat, via University of Alaska Fairbanks, blue glass beads that were made in Venice were found in Alaska, and they also pre-date Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the America’s.

How did the beads — found in no other archaeological site west of the Rockies — make their way from the canals of Venice to a plateau in the Brooks Range?

In the 1400s, craftsmen in the city-state of Venice traded with people throughout Asia. The beads might have traveled in a horse-drawn cart along the Silk Road eastward toward China. From there, “these early Venetian beads found their way into the aboriginal hinterlands, with some moving to the Russian Far East,” the authors wrote in their recent paper.

After that great journey, a trader may have tucked the beads into his kayak on the western shore of the Bering Sea. He then dipped his paddle and made passage to the New World, today’s Alaska. The crossing of Bering Strait at its narrowest is about 52 miles of open ocean.

Kunz and Mills think the beads found at Punyik Point and two other sites probably arrived at an ancient trading center called Shashalik, north of today’s Kotzebue and just west of Noatak. From there, people on foot, maybe traveling with a few dogs, carried them deep into the Brooks Range.

Someone at Punyik Point might have strung the exotic blue beads in a necklace, which they lost or left behind as they walked away. The tiny blue spheres rested for centuries at the entrance to an underground house north of the Arctic Circle, waiting to be found.

4. Via Smithsonian Magazine, archaeologists from Egypt found a 5,000 year old large-scale brewery.

The brewery probably dates to the time of King Narmer, who ruled ancient Egypt around 3150 B.C., reports Agence France-Presse. It houses eight large areas for beer production, each containing about 40 earthenware pots arranged in rows. Workers would have heated grains and water in the vats, which were held in place by clay levers.

Evidence found at the archaeological site—located in the southern Egyptian city of Sohag—suggests that the beer was used in sacrificial rites. The brewery “may have been built specifically to supply the royal rituals that were taking place inside the funeral facilities of the kings of Egypt,” says joint expedition leader Matthew Adams, an archaeologist at New York University, in a statement from Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

5. More history stuff. Via National Geographic, Stonehenge may not have been an original site, but rather part of an older site in Wales:

Now, a new study published in the journal Antiquity offers another plot twist in the saga of Stonehenge: The World Heritage site may not be an original creation. A team of researchers has found a possible precursor to Stonehenge in the remains of an even older monument in Wales.

The megalithic circle at the Welsh site of Waun Mawn has comparable dimensions to Stonehenge, is similarly aligned with the sun, and appears to feature some of the same building materials. But unlike Stonehenge it has few surviving stones. The research team speculates that the builders of Waun Mawn dismantled it five millennia ago and hauled some of its three-ton bluestones 175 miles east to the Salisbury Plain—an extremely arduous (and, on a practical level, unnecessary) endeavor. So why do it?

Some 2021 Goals

The end of 2020 ended up being a situation where I was not able to focus on any goals for 2021. I gave it zero thought and I typically always have some goals, especially recently, for the new year. So, rather than rush some goals that I wasn’t sure I wanted to do, I gave it some thought, and now, in the middle of February during a blizzard for the ages in what I hope is the ass-end of a pandemic, I’ve got some goals for the year.

Read of a book of poetry.

It’s been since college that I’ve read a book of poetry. In fact, I tend to stay away from poetry entirely because it’s something that really requires me to think about things that require more brain power than I have available. I’ve chosen a book of poems from my favorite author, Jim Harrison. Harrison wrote three of my favorite books, Dalva, True North, and Returning to Earth. Harrison also wrote a short story called, Legends of the Fall. I’ve chosen Jim Harrison, The Essential Poems edited by Joseph Bednarik. Will let you know how this goes, but it is something that I have to sit with for a while and staring at he words and I think that’s a good thing.

Two minutes of planks every day.

This is ridiculously easy for me because I just do this right after I do push-ups. I simply finish my push-ups and then do some planks and it’s gotten much easier since I first started at the beginning of the year. Doing these after running 15 miles or so? Not really fun.

Take another online class.

One of those things that I’m not sure if this is truly beneficial, but I enjoyed the class that I took last year, the class on Happiness at Yale. This year I’m taking a class at Penn called “Resilience Skills in a Time of Uncertainty“. I try to work on this on Sunday mornings when I have some quiet time. I do think that I want to do a bit more and if you need a place where you can find free online courses, then look no further than Open Culture. A ton of these are on iTunes for those of you who are normally stuck in the car for good stretches and maybe you’re a bit over-podcasted.

Run ultramarathon #2.

This has been the most difficult thing for me to do, but it should be the easiest thing for me to do because I’ve been training for this for 2 years since my last ultramarathon. I promised myself that I would not run another ultramarathon until I went for a yearly physical and got more life insurance. I’m in the process of getting more life insurance and I don’t want to get a physical until I get the insurance done.

I want to run the the 50k at the Coyote Trail Run where I’d take 4 laps around the Cleburne State Park. This is relatively close to my house (like a couple of hours) and would require just one night away, the night before the race and then I could just go home after the race.

But back to the two prerequisites, I like to get the yearly physical done each year, but last year I didn’t get it done because of Covid-19, I didn’t want to go to the doctor unless it was necessary. The life insurance is something that I wanted to do for a while because my life has changed when I got my first term policy. By holding the race as the carrot, I accomplish two things that need to get done. So, I’m waiting to sign up, but I think I should go ahead and sign up so I can get this off of my list of things to do.

I always reserve the idea that goal-setting isn’t something that you should do halfway through the year, but instead should do it during the course of the year. There’s always time to get better, even if it is incrementally.

Saturday Morning Links

Photo by Arthur Hickinbotham on Unsplash

1. Ever heard of The Drakensberg? Me neither. The Drakensberg is part of the Great Escarpment, which is in South Africa and essentially runs parallel to the coach, but inland. Basically, there’s this huge drop-off, a few thousand meters (or elevation gain, depending on your point of view) and then there’s a plateau. There’s also these cave paintings called the San rock art that are attributed to the San people who are part of one of the first nations of Southern Africa and date and apparently their Y-chromosome carries some of the oldest Y-chromosomes among people walking the Earth.

Photo by Elin Jonsson on Unsplash

2. Fascinating article from the BBC about the eighth continent of the world, Zealandia (sounds totally made up), that originally included 1.89 million square miles. There’s a ton to unpack here, but the thought is that Zealandia was once above the ocean and an actual eighth continent, part of the evidence (we really don’t know, but it’s fun!) is that the kiwi, which has whiskers and feathers like hair — did you even know that? — has a close relative, the elephant bird and is found in the forests of Madagascar. That’s not exactly close to each other.

The plot thickens with one of New Zealand’s weirdest and most beloved inhabitants, the kiwi – a dumpy, flightless bird with whiskers and hair-like feathers. Oddly, its closest relative is not thought to be the Moa, which is part of the same group – the ratites – and lived on the same island until its extinction 500 years ago, but the even-more giant elephant bird, which stalked the forests of Madagascar until as recently as 800 years ago.

The finding has led scientists to believe that both birds evolved from a common ancestor that lived on Gondwana. It took 130 million years to fully break up, but when it did, it left behind fragments which have since been scattered all across the globe, forming South America, Africa, Madagascar, Antarctica, Australia, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent, and Zealandia.

This, in turn, suggests that at least part of now-submerged Zealandia has remained above sea level the whole time. Except around 25 million years ago the entire continent – even possibly the entirety of New Zealand – is thought to have been plunged underwater. “It was thought that all the plants and animals must have colonised afterwards,” says Sutherland. So what happened?

3. I don’t think that I ever considered this, the idea of a sea floor being a memorial, via Duke.edu. I don’t think that I ever considered a map like this and I don’t think that I ever considered the lives lost that was part of the slave trade from Africa to North and South America. Over 5.5 million from west central Africa is a number that seems astounding and that’s the number that left, but not the number that arrived.

According to the group’s research, more than 12.5 million Africans were carried across the Atlantic on an estimated 40,000 slave-trading voyages between 1519 and 1865. At least 1.8 million perished under horrendous conditions on the two-month voyage and were thrown overboard.

That’s a lot of dead bodies and that’s “at least” meaning that there was probably more.

4. Via NPR, an attorney purchased a building and found a sealed attic with a ton of antique portraits. A real life version of National Treasure.

5. It is nearly Valentine’s Day, so let’s end on that idea, from The Conversation, the six different types of love from ancient Greece: eros, storge, ludus, pragma, mania, and agape. The word “love” is always one of those words that probably doesn’t properly describe the emotion. I’ve always been fascinated with those words that have multiple meanings in another language and for the record, I think I’m all storge, “Storgic types tend to be stable and committed in their relationships. They value companionship, psychological closeness and trust.”

Winter Running Things

I’ve run in the winter previously, but never trail running.

As an aside, my trail running was one where I never thought that I had a place to run that I didn’t have to drive a long distance to get there. Well, the late part of my summer and this fall, I discovered that I have about 4 miles of trails at my local city park that I can traverse and run through. Most of the time, I have the entire park to myself because most people are not idiots and they are smarter than to be running in 30-degree weather or the rain or the mud.

With my discovery this year, I’ve run outside on Saturday mornings pretty much every Saturday and it’s been fun.

And being a novice runner in the winter, I have found a few things that I think have been beneficial for me.

It is important to remember that you dress for mile one, not mile none (this was made up by someone that’s not me, but it is catchy). Meaning that when you start, you are probably going to be cold and uncomfortable, but by the time you get going, your body is going to heat up pretty nicely and you won’t want those extra clothes. Uncomfortable is good and normal.

Head

If the weather is really cold, somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 degrees, I’d run in a Smartwool stocking cap that I believe is made with some sort of merino wool. It’s 4 or 5 years old, it is reversible, black and gray, and it works great. Not too hot, not too cool. Merinio wool is supposed to be one of those magical materials that breathes, doesn’t stink too terribly, and keeps you warm all at the same time. I do have a few merino wool things that have always performed well.

The problem with just a stocking cap is that if it is sunny, the sun is incredibly bright and this is my fault because I typically get up and go right when the sun is rising. So I do need a set of sunglasses and have found that a relatively cheap pair of Goodr sunglasses work great. They are light, they stay on my head (your mileage may vary), can be polarized, and are relatively cheap.

On warmer days, like 35-degrees and expected to warm up, I think I prefer to wear a gaiter that is also a merino wool thing that I got as a Christmas present about 5 years ago that I can pull up over my ears when I start and then pull it down when I warm up. I’ll wear a standard trucker hat without sunglasses and this is actually what I would prefer to wear. It’s better to just be cold for a bit and just tough it out.

Torso

This is actually pretty easy. Most mornings I’ll wear some sort of technical shirt, I have 3 or so REI technical shirts that I bought a few years ago that work just fine as an undershirt and then I’ll add a long sleeve shirt, whether it be a Patagonia Capilene Cool shirt, or just another technical long sleeve shirt like this Baleaf shirt. This works in most circumstances in Texas.

If it is particularly windy, I have a very thin North Face windbreaker that I bought 2 years ago. Not a hoody, just a jacket, and it does work great as well. It’s not necessarily breathable, but it does the job in that it blocks the wind. I know that I could spend a lot more money on something more fancy, something that blocks the wind and is also breathable, but I sort of am fine with just using what I have. Those sort of technical jackets can be upwards of $200 and that seems excessive.

I did buy this Baleaf quarter-zip running shirt and I absolutely hate it. There’s this huge pocket in the back, like where you would have a tramp-stamp, and so this quarter-zip isn’t at all form fitting, it fits me like a sack and I can’t stand it. Would not buy.

Legs

For the first part of the fall, I would just try to run in shorts and hope for the best, but as the weather turned and wind became a bigger issue, I tried to look for pants. You’re going to notice a theme here.

I bought these Baleaf windpants and I actually really like them. They are very thin, like a windbreaker for your legs with some vents along your thighs. They are very comfortable and I enjoy running in them.

Then one Saturday the temperature was colder I got brave and wore these Bayleaf running tights. I’m in love with tights from this point forward. These are terrific, they are warm without being too hot, they do a decent job of blocking the wind, they have pockets for my cellphone along my thigh. They’re great. I never thought I’d see the day where I’m putting on tights, but it’s a glorious day.

I usually leave before my wife is awake and when I got home, she asked me if I was really wearing what I was wearing, and realizing that this was a rhetorical question, I just let her bask in my glory. I am a tights-guy and darn proud of it.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to wear something underneath my tights but I do and picked up these Runderwear boxer brief and they are terrific. They are more cotton-like in terms of their fabric rather than a real smooth or slick polyester. There are these little plastic things that are along the legs and they are supposed to keep the briefs from riding up, but I don’t notice them riding up any way. Very much recommend and even wear them running with just shorts.

Hands and Feet

I have two pairs of the Darn Tough merino wool element crew lightweight socks and I wear them in the summer and winter. Socks is one of those weird things in that if you have something that works for you then that’s what you should wear.

I also wear some Smartwool gloves that I bought about 4 or so years ago, just one of those things that I bought and just continue to use. I should probably upgrade to something that is also a bit more rain resistant, but have not done that

Conclusion

You’ll note that most of the stuff that I wear is a few years old and/or purchased recently and cheaply. That’s always the best thing about running, which is that it doesn’t have to be expensive and you can typically just wear what you have on hand. If/when this becomes something that you enjoy doing on a regular basis, then you can spend that extra money. For me, I’m perfectly fine trying to find cheap options, although I also fully acknowledge that you get what you pay for when it comes to running gear. When you find the Baleaf pants and tights, you sort of consider those really significant wins because most of the time, cheap items (i.e. the Baleaf quarter-zip) are terrible.

Saturday Morning Links

Photo by Rap Dela Rea on Unsplash

1. Ever heard of Shirakawa? Me neither. It’s a village in Japan and it is known for being this tranquil village with thatched roof houses and is actually a UNESCO site. But this place has almost become too popular because it is overrun by tourists. Regardless, it is breathtaking in the winter

Photo by Sam Lee on Unsplash

2. Do yourself a favor and go Google the “Cueva de los Tayos” and then come back and read this article from Outside Online’s David Kushner. There is no way that I can give you an accurate history of this cave, but it’s nothing sort of amazing. In 1969, this cave in Ecuador was explored and said to contain unimaginable gold and a metallic library and within the tunnels of the cave. The thing is that in order to get to the entrance you have to repel into the cave.

Tayos is named for the brown-feathered, hook-billed nocturnal birds that dwell inside the cave alongside thousands of bats. The birds act a lot like bats, spending their days in darkness and heading out at night to forage for fruit. They’re called oilbirds ­because of their fatty chicks, which the Shuar capture and reduce to oil. The cave is also rumored to contain artifacts of a lost civilization. A 1972 bestselling book by Swiss author Erich von Däniken, called The Gold of the Gods, claimed that Tayos held carved passageways and a “metal library” of tablets written in an unknown language. Von Däniken has long believed that aliens once inhabited the earth, and the tablets fit his theory that extraterrestrials helped ancient people evolve. The notion has been criticized as pseudoscientific and racist, attributing the achievements of now marginalized earthlings to ­interlopers from space. Yet it spawned a cottage industry of books, conventions, and TV shows, ­including the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens, which premiered in 2010 and is one of the network’s most popular programs.

A couple of years after The Gold of the Gods was published, the late Scottish explorer Stan Hall assembled a team of 100 scientists, cavers, British and Ecuadorean military personnel, and, remarkably, astronaut Neil Armstrong, who served as a figurehead, and led them into Tayos to unravel the mystery. What they found astonished them. Deep inside, in spots where it would have been impossible to lug machinery, there were stone passageways that appeared to have been cut at right angles and then polished. They also discovered a burial site dating back to 1500 B.C.

“The cadaver, as if surprised by the sudden intrusion after so many lonely centuries, crumbled to dust when touched,” Hall writes in Tayos Gold, his book about the expedition. Though the team didn’t find the metal library, Armstrong put the adventure “up there with the moon landing.”

Beyond that, only a small number of intrepid hikers, wide-eyed UFO believers, and even a team of researchers from Brigham Young University—who believed that the metal tablets might be linked to the Mormon faith—have made it inside. The cave has also attracted interest from geologists and archaeologists, who have mapped portions using 3D technology to better understand its scope. (Roughly four miles of the cave have been mapped so far, but an estimated three miles remain.) Toulkaridis calls it “a natural laboratory which is fundamentally untouched.”

3. I honestly don’t know a ton about hedgehogs, but in England, people are cutting holes in their stone fences to allow hedgehogs to roam from garden to garden. This is legitimately happening.

4. Via Smithsonian Magazine, Italy is going to recreate the floors in the Colosseum. I think I know about this because of the movie Gladiator, but there was the floor of the Colosseum and then during the games, they could bring in wild animals into the fight:

The structure consisted of staging areas, ramps, pulleys, ropes and other mechanisms that allowed workers to create a seamless show aboveground. Engineers even devised an underground elevator of sorts that lifted lions, bears, leopards and other caged wild animals into the arena.

“The hypogeum allowed the organizers of the games to create surprises and build suspense,” Heinz-Jürgen Beste, a researcher at the German Archaeological Institute in Rome, told Smithsonian in 2011. “A hunter in the arena wouldn’t know where the next lion would appear, or whether two or three lions might emerge instead of just one.”

5. Understanding the idea of the size of the universe and the size of our rock orbiting the sun is always an amazing dive into relativity.