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By headlamp-glow the first Little Free Library found on 41st Street NW reveals a diverse set of classic literature including a bound collection of the "Capes and Babes" webcomic. A few blocks later another Little Free Library features Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and Edgar Rice Burroughs's Thuvia, Maid of Mars with eye-catching cover art. Tempting! But I'm on my way to meet Drs Kerry & Kristin at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Water Street at 0515, and carrying big books for scores of miles doesn't seem wise. Maybe another time!
It's a wonderful Independence Day for a neighborhood tour. K&K's orbit of Rock Creek and the Capital Crescent Trail is over 22 miles long, and with an additional ~9 on foot before and another ~9 afterwards I am blessed with a total of 40+ miles. (GPS app inadvertently pauses for ~10 minutes in the middle, so add a bonus ~0.5 miles to the total it shows.) Bottom line: superb training for the December Ultramarathon That Shall Not Be Named! And even with large amounts of deliberate walking, the average pace is ~14.5 min/mi including all breaks. Kerry and Kristin report minimal damage; I develop one blister on the outside of the right big toe.
At 0318 a light drizzle begins, then pauses until just after 1300 when I arrive back home. Weather is damp but cool. On the way to our rendezvous I hide an "Aid Station" plastic bag of drinks and goodies in a ditch by the CCT, which we reach at K&K's mile ~12. Before sunrise four pairs of beady-green retroreflective eyes blink at me from near ground level — a mother raccoon and her three ring-tailed babies. A Lady of the Evening, perhaps out past her bedtime, is dressed in super-short skirt and high heels. She paces along Massachusetts Avenue by the bus stop. "Good morning, Ma'am!"
Multiple rabbits scamper away, but two big ones lie deceased on the trail — poisoned? Later in the morning we see six deer, including a huge one inside the National Zoo and a spotted fawn that tries to hide behind its mommy doe. Rock Creek Park is peaceful but by mid-morning the CCT carries much fast cyclist traffic, all warning politely as they zoom by.
"No Drama!" is our mantra of the day. Nobody falls down, nobody gets seriously sick, and there are ample facilities along the way which we take full advantage of. The only delicate issue: one of us experiments with a blend of "Death Wish" coffee plus bee pollen, royal jelly, vitamins, and protein powder. Lesson Learned: don't drink that on race day! Conventional iced coffee from Bethesda Bagels, on the other hand, is quite refreshing. Fried pickles, jalapeños, and bean-and-cheese burritos eaten the day before cause no major ill effects. Homemade mint ice cream likewise went well.
Trail talk includes the new Tarzan movie (featuring some serious eye-candy!), theoretical speculation about NSFW Reddit topics (e.g., the "Slight Cellulite" subreddit?!), family news, tattoos, roller coasters, and more. Time together with friends is a total delight. (Thank you, Drs K&K!) The solo return trek to home includes pauses for selfies in Washington Circle and Meridian Hill Park and significant dehydration when water runs out with ~5 miles remaining. Final weight is down by ~5 lbs from the starting number. Note To Self: drink more during future long runs!
- Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at 05:27:31 (EDT)
"We only run when NOBODY is looking!" Dr Stephanie and I follow the Heisenberg Quantum Training Plan today, emphasizing walking as we ramp up mileage and toughen feet for upcoming ultramarathons. During the first 1.3 miles we observe 13 (thirteen!) bunny rabbits but not Schrödinger's Cat. At Randolph Road our wavefunctions collapse into a Dunkin Donuts where iced coffee adds momentum and energy at the cost of time waiting in line. Weather is lovely-cool and low-humidity. Social Distortion's 1990 punk-rock song "Story of My Life" plays out loud, with its perfect chorus:
| Life goes by so fast|
You only wanna do what you think is right
Close your eyes and it's past
Story of my life ...
Conversation is delightful and diverse, including an opening-hands gesture to symbolize "Let It GO!", the R Programming Language, a forehead-tattoo that reads "Poor Impulse Control", a friend's Audacity Lab, recommended readings in modern Scandinavian literature, factors to facilitate hypothesis generation, the film "Blades of Glory", mantras sacred and profane, and the metaphor of a rate-limiting process. We circle Lake Needwood, greet friends as they zip by ("We must WALK while you're watching!"), pause for selfies, spy a bicycle submerged in Rock Creek, and quietly share stories as only runner friends can. Stephanie's right Achilles tendon twinges for the final five miles, perhaps warning that a sudden increase in distance has risks even for an experienced 100 miler veteran.
Today's yet another perfect day ... it goes by so fast, and we only want to do what we think is right ...
- Monday, July 25, 2016 at 04:28:36 (EDT)
| I Am Worthy|
In My Life
... from Tara Brach's book True Refuge, Chapter 10 ("Self-Compassion: Releasing the Second Arrow"):
... Marge was experiencing what I call "soul sadness," the sadness that arises when we are able to sense our temporary, precious existence, and directly face the suffering that has come from losing life. We recognize how our self-aversion has prevented us from being close to others, from expressing and letting love in. We see, sometimes with striking clarity, that we have closed ourselves off from our own creativity and spontaneity, from being fully alive. We remember missed moments when it might have been otherwise, and we begin to grieve our unloved life.
This grief can be so painful that we tend con consciously to move away from it. Even if we start to touch our sadness, we often bury it by reentering the shame—judging our suffering, assuming that we somehow deserve it, telling ourselves that others have "real suffering" and we shouldn't be filled with self-pity. Our soul sadness is fully revealed only when we directly, mindfully contact our pain. It is revealed when we stay on the spot and fully recognize this human being is having a hard time. In such moments we discover a natural upwelling of compassion—the tenderness of our own forgiving heart.
When Marge's crying subsided, I suggested she ask the place of sorrow what it longed for most. She knew right away: "To trust that I am worthy of love in my life." ...
... and remember: be as kind to yourself as you would be to others ...
(cf. Breath and Awareness (2011-03-12), Just One Thing (2012-12-02), Opening to Love (2013-09-27), Forgiveness and Oneness (2013-10-08), Meditation Retreat - December 2015 (2015-12-16), Mantra - You Are Loved (2016-01-10), Mantra - Be Your Own Best Friend (2016-02-16), ...)
- Sunday, July 24, 2016 at 04:42:04 (EDT)
"Bunny Eyes!" Kristin puts the team on High Coney Alert as we enter Tysons Pimmit Park. We're at mile 4 and have already spotted 16 rabbits plus 2 likely-but-unconfirmed glimpses. Amazing!
It's a day of miracles and wonder, in a world charged with the grandeur of God. We share joy for the blessings of friendship and health and nature and life and love. Child-of-morning Dawn is beauty incarnate, pastel pink clouds splashed across a baby-blue sky. Kerry is back after exhausting travel and reports that her kids tucked her in and kissed her good night. Kristin's son just celebrated a birthday, happy in no small part due to her unseen preparation between midnight and 3am. In his words: "Mom, today is the best day EVER!" It surely is.
We take the natural-surface trail along Pimmit Run with stops for photos at freeway underpass graffiti, hesitation to find our way at water crossings, and nervousness about potential poison ivy and ticks. On Route 7 we pause at Peet's where kind Kerry insists on getting iced coffee for everyone. Passing the local library, still sipping, we're greeted by a morning exercise group doing push-ups in the parking lot. "Where are OUR drinks?" one asks, and smiles.
It's a "bumper bunny day", final total count =21. Thank you!
- Saturday, July 23, 2016 at 06:44:32 (EDT)
A beautiful image: holding space for a person. Heather Plett defines it in "What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone":
It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they're on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control. ...
In "Understanding How to Hold Space", Jim Tolles suggests four key components:
Lynn Hauka in "The Sweetness of Holding Space for Another" describes it as:
When you hold space for someone, you bring your entire presence to them.
You walk along with them without judgment, sharing their journey to an unknown destination. Yet you're completely willing to end up wherever they need to go. You give your heart, let go of control, and offer unconditional support.
And perhaps best of all, in "The Importance of Holding Space", Helen Avery suggests that holding space is just:
| being 'there'|
... shades of Zen's vast emptiness!
(cf. Ma (negative space) in Wikipedia, and Kenosis (2008-09-21), Between (2009-12-10), No Method (2010-01-21), Shul (2011-06-11), Zen Soup (2012-02-09), Empty Cup (2012-05-08), Space Between (2013-10-15), Seeking Negative Space (2016-04-21), ... )
- Friday, July 22, 2016 at 04:35:25 (EDT)
|"... and then my real nightmares began!" Today's therapy-trek involves much mindful listening by one of us, as the other (guess who? yep, c'est moi) recounts traumatic events of the past weekend. But by the time we find Kerry's Cut-Through #3 and emerge from the woods all's right with the world again. That's the magic of the miles!|
A fox crosses the road as pink dawn begins. New homes under construction look lovely but seem poised dangerously close to flood-prone streams. Kristin has early meetings and can't join us and text-messages encouragement in absentia as we run for her. A bronze front-yard statue of beautiful mermaids is rather easy on the eyes. No stumbles happen on the natural-surface trail through the woods, despite mud and roots and rocks and hills and a stepping-stone passage over Turkey Run. On behalf of The Team, kind Kerry catches early morning cobwebs in the face. She spies a huge redheaded woodpecker as it flits across the street.
- Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 05:41:06 (EDT)
From the Introduction of Tom Leinster's 2014 book Basic Category Theory:
Category theory takes a bird's eye view of mathematics. From high in the sky, details become invisible, but we can spot patterns that were impossible to detect from ground level. How is the lowest common multiple of two numbers like the direct sum of two vector spaces? What do discrete topological spaces, free groups, and fields of fractions have in common? We will discover answers to these and many similar questions, seeing patterns in mathematics that you may never have seen before.
(cf. Peter Smith's Logic Matters blog, and Cakes, Custard, and Category Theory (2016-02-14), Category Theory Concepts (2016-04-25), ...)
- Wednesday, July 20, 2016 at 04:34:59 (EDT)
Two tiny rabbits are dancing in the middle of Knowles Avenue as I drive to this morning's run. They leap into the air together, scamper around one another, and pause. I stop, creep forward, back up. Bunnies stare, then dash out of the street and across a yard to hide in the bushes.
"You're not in Taper - you're in Denial!" Rebecca and I scold Barry, who confesses that his hip is complaining in language not fit for mixed company. The Missoula Marathon is two weeks away, and he missed the deadline to drop back to the half-marathon. We commiserate and trot upstream along Rock Creek, then turn onto the Matthew Henson Trail. ("Hip hates hills? Happy Henson!" Rebecca alliterates.) Traffic on Veirs Mill Road stops politely for us at crosswalks. "Maybe they don't want to run us down on a Sunday?"
Back at the parking lot Rebecca and I demand that Barry end the madness — at least, while we're in line-of-sight. We send him home with movie recommendations for the afternoon, then do an out-and-back south, picking up the pace to ~10 min/mi and coaching ourselves "Up! Up!" on the climbs. Kind MCRRC training group organizer Brian Murphy awards us each a banana when we finish.
- Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 05:23:55 (EDT)
| Go for|
... from Andrew Weiss's Beginning Mindfulness:
... Don't get caught up in technique. Remember that the instructions and techniques, and even the words of great teachers, are no more than a finger pointing at the moon: Always go for the moon.
(cf. Go for the Moon (2013-10-26), ...)
- Monday, July 18, 2016 at 04:21:00 (EDT)
|Front yard Coney Count = 14 on a humid trek around the local extended 'hood. At dawn a pair of deer, one with stubby velvet horns still developing, munch grass by Beach Drive. Amy and I discover bright new totem-pole artwork in front of the Strathmore music center on our way to meet Stephanie. Then it's her turn to lead us along the Bethesda Trolley Trail. Packs of runners (MCRRC training groups) salute us as they head north. Conversation is delightful -- we share family news and summer plans, frustrations and sympathies, tattoo tips and long-term aspirations. Amy gently twists my arm to join her in the Richmond Marathon in November. Hmmmm ... good prep for "The Scottish Race" in December?!|
|Back at home base Amy heads for the gym with 7+ miles logged, a perfect start to her ramp-up. Stephanie and I trot upstream along Rock Creek to KenGar and greet friends (Hi, Gayatri, Barry, Keith, Gerald, Mike, Sharlene, Bob, and more!) as pace groups return along the trail. Streets of Garrett Park are lined with nice-looking lawn chairs, a drum set, tiki lamps, a trampoline. "One person's trash is another's treasure!" Stephanie closes her loop with 10+ miles. We give thanks for the day and vow to run together more often.|
|Refill bottle from a garden shop hose: Eau de Kensington 2016, a rubbery vintage with notes of copper and a chlorine nose. Half a block later, suddenly realize that something's missing. Backtrack to pick up the phone! Final leg of the journey includes more walking along side streets, past yard sales and the neighborhood swimming pool.|
- Sunday, July 17, 2016 at 12:25:26 (EDT)
"Perfect day for rambling!" the fellow walking his big dog tells us. Kristin wears her singlet inside-out. Maybe that makes for low temps and comfy humidity? Last night's Unicorn Oracle Card advises, "Try Something New!" So we trot toward the sunrise and climb long steep hills in the Franklin Forest community. Two big fawns still covered with spots stare, then bound away in search of mommy. Two rabbits munch grass. "A day of duos!"
A small Statue of Liberty holds high her torch by a driveway. Across the street a man in a garish night robe greets us as he fetches in the newspaper. At the corner of John Marshall Dr and Williamsburg Blvd we pause to debate the route. "Left or right?" Kerry wonders.
"No idea!" is the reply. And no matter! At East Falls Church Metro we climb stairs past commuters to the W&OD Trail and return via a leaky water fountain. On Great Falls St a lady asks if we've seen her little white dog. "Ozzie! Come here, Ozzie!" Total bunny count = 4.
- Saturday, July 16, 2016 at 04:40:17 (EDT)
From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Chapter 13 ("Mindfulness (Sati)"), the central meaning of mindfulness:
Mindfulness reminds you of what you are supposed to be doing.
In meditation, you put your attention on one item. When your mind wanders from this focus, it is Mindfulness that reminds you that your mind is wandering and what you are supposed to be doing. It is Mindfulness that brings your mind back to the object of meditation. All of this occurs instantaneously and without internal dialogue. Mindfulness is not thinking. Repeated practice in meditation establishes this function as a mental habit which then carries over into the rest of your life. A serious meditator pays bare attention to occurrences all the time, day in, day out, whether formally sitting in meditation or not. This is a very lofty ideal towards which those who meditate may be working for a period of years or even decades. Our habit of getting stuck in thought is years old, and that habit will hang on in the most tenacious manner. The only way out is to be equally persistent in the cultivation of constant Mindfulness. When Mindfulness is present, you will notice when you become stuck in your thought patterns. It is that very noticing which allows you to back out of the thought process and free yourself from it. Mindfulness then returns your attention to its proper focus. If you are meditating at that moment, then your focus will be the formal object of meditation. If you are not in formal meditation, it will be just a pure application of bare attention itself, just a pure noticing of whatever comes up without getting involved — "Ah, this comes up ... and now this, and now this ... and now this".
Mindfulness is at one and the same time both bare attention itself and the function of reminding us to pay bare attention if we have ceased to do so. Bare attention is noticing. It re-establishes itself simply by noticing that it has not been present. As soon as you are noticing that you have not been noticing, then by definition you are noticing and then you are back again to paying bare attention.
Mindfulness creates its own distinct feeling in consciousness. It has a flavor — a light, clear, energetic flavor. Conscious thought is heavy by comparison, ponderous and picky. But here again, these are just words. Your own practice will show you the difference. Then you will probably come up with your own words and the words used here will become superfluous. Remember, practice is the thing.
(cf. Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Notice and Return (2013-03-11), Bare Attention (2016-06-20), ...)
- Friday, July 15, 2016 at 05:34:52 (EDT)
"Like an aurora: a curtain of light!" Sunbeams on a side street ripple between tree branches and scatter from morning fog. Kristin points; we pause to admire. Puddles linger from yesterday's storms, and breezes trigger sudden showers from leaves overhead accompanied by a perfect simulation of the sounds of rain. Two bunnies nibble an already-trimmed lawn. Later we spy a third, plus a big deer that retreats behind a house. "It's looking for dessert!"
Statues of mermaids and cattle decorate front yards. Multiple mansions, mini- and mega-, sit in varied stages of construction. Kerry discovers a covert cut-through gravel path between Mackall Avenue and Heather Brook Court. We emerge onto the Ridge Drive loop. "Let's take the long way home!" Kristin brushes a hand against a soggy hedge and uses the water to cool her brow.
- Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 05:14:19 (EDT)
"Head, Heart, Hands, Health!" The 4-H Club's national conference center's green lawn demands a detour to inspect the grounds. Sharp-dressed young people politely glance past a sweaty runner as they head from dorms toward Sunday breakfast. On hilly Leland Street four brave bunnies nibble clover. A skittish chipmunk dashes under a parked car to escape. "Vermin Supreme for President 2016" says a sticker on a Bradley Lane traffic sign. Exfair Road, a short street with an ugly-sounding portmanteau name halfway between Exeter and Fairfax, features an awesomely beautiful glass-fronted home.
Rebecca beeps and waves as she drives past to park. Barry and Ken soon arrive and we ramble down the Capital Crescent Trail, chatting and dodging bicycle traffic. Pace slows (first four miles solo were a brisk 9:49 + 9:43 + 9:09 + 9:40). It's a cheerful crisp day!
- Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at 04:23:12 (EDT)
|Eleven lives together, two as one —|
Elven love, across the centuries,
Even, balanced, perfect pair — and when
Eve begins, and night creeps over us,
Ever and always, until that final breath:
Fever, passion, single heart and mind —
- Tuesday, July 12, 2016 at 05:42:56 (EDT)
"Klondike Bars!" Ken offers to share his "Original" variety; I wolf down a Peanut Butter Cup one solo. (Thanks to Robin Z for the impromptu aid station!) We find ourselves in the midst of the MCRRC "Run for Roses" 5k and cheer the runners as they race by. Dr Betty Smith pauses to give Rebecca a hug. Race Director Christina Caravoulias offers us snacks, and course marshall Don Libes makes us pose for photos.
The morning begins at Barry's home, where he and I set off at 0630 for early mileage up Sligo Creek Trail with detours onto nearby pathways. We meet Ken and Rebecca at the Sligo-Dennis Avenue Recreation Center. Downy goslings and their long-necked parents waddle away as we approach Wheaton Regional Park. The weather is awesome cool and comfy. Downstream again K&R turn back when we reach the Beltway; Barry & I continue to the track at Silver Spring International Middle School, where one lap (1:47) is more than enough. The return trip includes stretches and step-ups on park benches.
- Monday, July 11, 2016 at 04:33:52 (EDT)
... from a recent essay about graceful, safe, efficient flying, by Dave English, titled "Are you a low-gain pilot?", which quotes from Rowland White's book Into the Black about test pilot/astronaut Joe Engle:
... he barely moved the stick, anticipating the need to do so and making small, necessary corrections in plenty of time. His inputs were smooth and progressive, never snatching at the controls. ...
And, as English notes, "... You can't make small smooth control inputs if you are gripping the yoke too hard. Relax. Slow down. Breathe. Think ahead of the airplane, so you see early, when a small correction is all that is needed. It's part of being one with the wing ...".
... which suggests another phrase to hold lightly (and then release!):
|Be One with the Wing!|
(cf. Great Peace of Mind (2011-02-20), Mantra - Pause and Breathe (2015-02-25), Mantra - Mind Like Sky (2016-02-29), Mantra - Inhale, Exhale (2016-05-14), Mantra - Go Slowly, Breathe, and Smile (2016-07-03),...)
- Sunday, July 10, 2016 at 06:09:20 (EDT)
"We choose Freedom!" Kristin and I follow aptly-named Freedom Lane and enjoy long hills and front yard flowers in bloom. A squirrel skitters across the hood of a parked Cadillac. After last night's thunderstorms the dawn is cloudy-cool with light breezes.
Our ramble takes us via the W&OD Trail past East Falls Church, through Benjamin Bannaker Park and then Tuckahoe Park where construction has apparently shut down the water fountain. We remember coming here from the opposite direction nine months ago (cf. 2015-09-14 - Buongiorno Kerry) and resolve to visit again. Kristin pauses to pet puppies, who return the love with enthusiasm.
Three rabbits and two big deer salute us. A huge fallen tree by the sidewalk displays nailed-on wooden decorations. Lawn signs recommend "SAY NO TO SUNRISE" (opposing a new nursing home project) and "SUPPORT THE GIRLS". That last advocates for a charity that collects bras and feminine products to help the homeless. Nice!
- Saturday, July 09, 2016 at 04:25:18 (EDT)
"... and Lewis & Clark found a spring bubbling out of the ground at the Continental Divide!" says Barry. He flew back this morning from his nephew's wedding in Wisconsin, and needs a few miles to atone for fancy celebratory dinners "and for eating a Devil's Spit Burger at Famous Dave's!"
We meander around the neighborhood, follow Tenbrook Street north until a dead end, find a dirt trail leading onward, and return downstream via Sligo Creek Trail. A weak cold front brings gusty winds and significantly lower humidity than earlier today. Kids fly tinydrones in their front yard while ladies walk tiny furry dogs. Barry mentions glacial moraines and how the hill we're climbing feels like one. "Yes, and our pace is glacial too!"
- Friday, July 08, 2016 at 04:25:40 (EDT)
Category Theory suggests inversion as a path to creativity and discovery. So, taking a lesson from the archetypal martial arts — full of focus and force, violence and velocity, solidity and strength and self-centering — explore the opposite. What's it like to be diffuse, humble, slow, invisible, weak, selfless ("self-less")?
Maybe rather like aikido or taiji. Instead of being full of oneself and one's goals, be empty and light; instead of blocking and counter-striking, redirect and rebalance. Yin, not Yang.
So big smile and salute to an awesome new metaphor when the American Physical Society — a wonderfully hard-headed scientific organization if there is one — a few years ago announced the establishment of a new subgroup, "Soft Matter". The topic is highly interdisciplinary and concentrates (if that's the right word for something so diverse!) on "... 'squishy' materials like polymers and biopolymers, foams, liquid crystals, complex fluids, and membranes ... patchy particles, DNA assemblies, and granular packings ... Origami-inspired materials and self-propelled colloids ... problems [that] are challenging and messy due to their many-body nature, the importance of interactions across many length and time scales, the existence of metastable states, their often complex geometry and topology, and long relaxation times ..." .
Let's be Soft!
(cf. There Are No Secrets (2014-02-26), Mnemonic Principles of Taiji (2014-03-24), Good Manners and Taiji (2014-04-03), Control Theory of Taiji (2014-07-23), Mantra - Soften Into Experience (2014-11-26), Taiji at Work (2015-06-29), ...)
- Thursday, July 07, 2016 at 06:43:27 (EDT)
"Did you say 'The December Race' to avoid mentioning its true name?" Rebecca asks. She continues, "According to Patrick Stewart, after you've played the lead character in 'The Scottish Play' it's safe to say its official title out loud." Hmmmmm! There's a 100k/100M run on 17-18 December this year; perhaps after finishing it one can be more explicit. For now, 'twere best to say no more!
Sunday dawns warm and humid, though not as sultry hot as yesterday evening when friends set off on an overnight trek in Prince William Forest Park — by chance, where The Not-To-Be-Mentioned Scottish Event is to be held. We head southward from KenGar along Rock Creek trail, sharing training tips and head-shaking about current US politics. After 10 km, back at our starting point, Rebecca kicks my sorry butt upstream to partially atone for countless sins. Alas, sunny sidewalks along Veirs Mill Rd and Connecticut Av compel walk breaks after a couple of shady sub-10 miles. Rx: heat acclimatization - STAT!
- Wednesday, July 06, 2016 at 04:15:15 (EDT)
Dr Rick Hanson (author of the excellent little book Just One Thing) suggests a useful analogy with physical strength training in his essay "Grow a Key Inner Strength". He begins with a mini-taxonomy of psychological resources:
... and then recommends analyzing one's situation, identifying an inner strength that might help improve matters, and working to develop more of that trait. In Hanson's step-by-step prescription:
... fascinating, perhaps important, surely valuable to attempt!
(cf. "Grow a Key Inner Strength" at  or , and from Just One Thing thoughts such as Honor Your Practice (2013-01-04), Slow Down (2013-01-15), Strong and Lasting (2013-02-02), Bringing Back a Wandering Attention (2013-02-13), Patience (2013-03-03), Willpower (2013-05-01), Not Knowing (2013-06-07), Cause vs. Result (2013-06-17), Aspire without Attachment (2015-12-28), ...)
- Tuesday, July 05, 2016 at 05:58:53 (EDT)
"... and so we walked the last 30 miles of the race!" Ken says. We're telling ultra stories to entertain Beth Sanchez on her first trail run, a Saturday morning trek through Rock Creek Park. Rebecca leads the way. Win Persina (cf. 2016-03-20 - With Rebecca, for the Win) pauses to pet dogs and detours to dip her toes in the water. We turn off the Western Ridge Trail and pause to study Civil War earthworks of Fort DeRussy. Fast young runners zip past as we return along the Valley Trail.
Beth recounts her first triathlon experience. The stream splashes bucolic-beautiful over rocks. Somebody curses; somebody alludes to puking and chafing; somebody pauses behind a tree. "Trail Talk," we explain, "is not to be repeated — except maybe the next time we're out in the woods!".
- Monday, July 04, 2016 at 02:07:04 (EDT)
| Go Slowly,|
... from Beginning Mindfulness by Andrew Weiss ...
(cf. Being with Your Breath (2010-02-20), Smile and Listen (2011-08-20), Pause and Breathe (2014-07-25), ...)
- Sunday, July 03, 2016 at 08:36:05 (EDT)
"... and I couldn't taste a thing!" Kristin says. After a week of suffering in silence she finally admits to having such a bad cold that cooking delicacies for her family is only a vicarious pleasure. We ramble eastward, enjoying the sunrise and pastel faux-Victorian architecture in the Rosemont and Broyhill neighborhoods. Six front-yard rabbits, singly and in small groups, monitor our passage. Kerry spots an indoor lap pool and jacuzzi in the Travis Price-designed zig-zag-slanty house at 6522 Old Chesterbrook. "Let's buy it and go for a swim!" (Alas, it sold a few months ago for $1.1 million.) At the McLean High School track a powerfully-muscled athlete hefts a yellow sphere and tucks it under his chin, preparing to twirl and heave it through the air. "I must learn to shot put!" somebody says.
- Saturday, July 02, 2016 at 05:16:13 (EDT)
Samuel Johnson in The Rambler #66 (1750-11-03) suggests that instead of blaming people who overvalue worldly "trifles"— money, fame, physical beauty, power, etc. — the real guilt belongs to those who are wiser and yet applaud such unworthy things:
It is common to consider those whom we find infected with an unreasonable regard for trifling accomplishments, as justly chargeable with all the consequences of their folly, and as the authors of their own unhappiness: but, perhaps, those whom we thus scorn or detest, have more claim to tenderness than has been yet allowed them. Before we permit our severity to break loose upon any fault or error, we ought surely to consider how much we have countenanced or promoted it. We see multitudes busy in the persuit of riches, at the expence of wisdom and of virtue; but we see the rest of mankind approving their conduct, and inciting their eagerness, by paying that regard and deference to wealth, which wisdom and virtue only can deserve. We see women universally jealous of the reputation of their beauty, and frequently look with contempt on the care with which they study their complexions, endeavour to preserve or to supply the bloom of youth, regulate every ornament, twist their hair into curls, and shade their faces from the weather. We often recommend to them the care of their nobler part, and tell them how little addition is made by all their arts to the graces of the mind. But when was it known that female virtue or knowledge was able to attract that officiousness, or inspire that ardour which beauty produces whenever it appears? And with what hope can we endeavour to persuade the ladies, that the time spent at the toilet is lost in vanity, when they have every moment some new conviction, that their interest is more effectually promoted by a ribband well disposed, than by the brightest act of heroick virtue?
In every instance of vanity it will be found, that the blame ought to be shared among more than it generally reaches; all who exalt trifles by immoderate praise, or instigate needless emulation by invidious incitements, are to be considered as perverters of reason, and corrupters of the world: and since every man is obliged to promote happiness and virtue, he should be careful not to mislead unwary minds, by appearing to set too high a value upon things by which no real excellence is conferred.
(from ; cf. Habitual Virtue (2008-12-18), Trusting and Happy (2010-06-10), ...)
- Friday, July 01, 2016 at 04:40:35 (EDT)
Puppy Play Day! Sid is six months old, a black labrador-boxer mix with maybe a bonus bit of Rottweiler and what-not on the side. We pause to give Kerry's new family member a chance to meet Kristin, and they bond instantly. "If he ever vanishes," I tell Kerry, "you'll know where to find him!" Sid's surname has varied from "Phillips" (Toy Story) to "Vicious" (punk rock). Or maybe he's secretly "El Cid"?
The morning is delightfully cool and low-humidity. We ramble along the Dead Run forest path, where blue-and-white striped ribbons indicate trees slated for removal as part of stream and underground pipe maintenance. Lying on the shoulder of Dolley Madison Boulevard: a 28-ounce unopened bottle of "Glacier Freeze" turquoise-colored Gatorade. Woot!
- Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 04:50:28 (EDT)
From Chapter 12 ("Dealing with Distractions II") of Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana:
... Conceptualization is an insidiously clever process. It creeps into your experience, and it simply takes over. When you hear a sound in meditation, pay bare attention to the experience of hearing. That and that only. What is really happening is so utterly simple that we can and do miss it altogether. Sound waves are striking the ear in a certain unique pattern. Those waves are being translated into electrical impulses within the brain and those impulses present a sound pattern to consciousness. That is all. No pictures. No mind movies. No concepts. No interior dialogues about the question. Just noise. Reality is elegantly simple and unadorned. When you hear a sound, be mindful of the process of hearing. Everything else is just added chatter. Drop it. The same rule applies to every sensation, every emotion, every experience you may have. Look closely at your own experience. Dig down through the layers of mental bric-a-brac and see what is really there. You will be amazed how simple it is, and how beautiful.
(cf. Notice and Return (2013-03-11), Swiss Cheese (2014-07-04), Listen to the Traffic (2014-11-12), No Thing and Every Thing (2015-09-20), Heart of Meditation (2016-01-22), Bare Attention (2016-06-20), ...)
- Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 04:56:15 (EDT)
"It's a Bonus Bunny Day!" declares Dr Kristin. We spot 8 happy rabbits, almost 2 per mile, singly and in pairs, on front lawns and sidewalks, in streets and meadows. Dawn is cool and damp. Kerry and Kristin wear matching singlets; I didn't get the memo. Early meetings make for a short ramble, with conversational catch-up on family news, weekend activities, and emerging plans. A pickup truck flaunts the sticker: "Not As Mean, Not As Lean, But Still a Marine".
- Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 04:42:16 (EDT)
"How are we to treat others?"
| There Are|
... attributed to Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950), who may also have said (in various translations):
... Does my realisation help others? Yes, and it is the best help that you can possibly render to others. But really there are no others to be helped. For the realized being sees only the Self, just as the goldsmith sees only the gold while valuing it in various jewels made of gold. When you identify yourself with the body, name and form are there. But when you transcend the body-consciousness, the others also disappear. The realised one does not see the world as different from himself. ...
We are One ...
(cf. Unselfing (2009-01-14), 01 (2013-11-05), 0-1 (2014-08-29), Mantra - Ditto (2015-08-30), Mantra - For Us (2015-11-28), ...)
- Monday, June 27, 2016 at 04:37:42 (EDT)
"Any interest in a short shakeout run?" Answer obvious: mad dogs, Englishmen, and Marathon Maniacs all go out in the noonday sun. Yesterday was the Baltimore 10 Miler for Barry, the 2016-06-04 - Ran It with Janet 50k 2016 for me. Today Barry already did 7 miles this morning. In afternoon über-humid heat we trot along Sligo Creek, then take neighborhood streets back via the Dennis Avenue flood control pond. Thick brush on the connector path reddens shins and raises puffy welts on thighs. "Thank you for leading the way, Sir!" A 2016-P Jefferson nickel is rescued from the asphalt.
- Sunday, June 26, 2016 at 06:37:10 (EDT)
An essay on aircraft flying safety, "Learning How To Say 'No'" by James Albright, offers five suggestions for speaking "truth to power" and telling one's boss (or other authority) that something they want is unwise. Adapted and summarized:
And in the end, "... If all your refusals to comply with ill-considered demands land on deaf ears, it could very well be time to firmly say 'No' as your final answer, accepting the risk that it could cost you your job. ..."
Good thoughts, and not just for professional pilots!
(cf. "Paid to Say 'No.'" from Business & Commercial Aviation magazine, June 2016 issue, , ...)
- Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 04:41:21 (EDT)
|"Beware the black mud!" warns Jennifer Hotchkiss, as we trot along a soggy horse trail this morning. Or maybe it was Rosario Josefina, or Melina Shifflett, or Marlee Chavez? I'm so horrid with names!|
After photographing the race's start and pausing to put phone in plastic bag it's lonely until, at mile ~1, I catch up with four members of "Moms Run This Town". They're running in matching shirts, taking frequent walk breaks on what is the first ultramarathon for some. We chat about families, trails, the Manassas Battlefield Park, hydration, funny-significant personal stories, and a host of other topics. One meets such nice people during an ultra!
|It's the second "Ran It With Janet" 50k — see 2015-06-06 - Ran It with Janet 50k-ish for last year's report. Today is warm and humid, thankfully cloudy.|
At the end of Lap One we're back at the start/finish area, mile ~10. The ladies pause to refuel and change gear. I trek onward and do the second loop solo, with pauses to read historic markers.
|Shoes and socks are saturated and I'm thinking about swapping in backup ones at mile ~20, but as I arrive at the pavilion comrade Ken Swab is ready to head out. So I skip the equipment switch and join him for a final circuit of the park. We finish in just under 7.5 hours.|
|Ken lectures on the Compromise of 1850 and offers highlights from The First Congress, a book by Fergus Bordewich. At the site of "The Rock Fight" (Second Battle of Manassas, 30 Aug 1862) I throw a stone at him, but miss. We detour to inspect artifacts and memorials, pause to photograph flowers and canons, and just enjoy the day.|
Many thanks to Janet Choi and her cheerful, enthusiastic volunteers for a wonderful unicorn-themed event!
- Friday, June 24, 2016 at 04:39:46 (EDT)
By Helen Phillips, The Beautiful Bureaucrat is a sweet, gross, clever, sexy, funny, provocative short novel. Or maybe it's an extended anecdote, a philosophical puzzle in literary clothing. The language is lovely, simple, surprising. Chapter 16, for instance:
She knew he wouldn't be in the cellar when she returned. She knew the rooms would be sunk in shadows, the bathtub haunted, and she would sit in the dark the whole night, starving alone. Her joints ached, or maybe it was her brain. She limped up the block toward the sublet.
He was there. The lamps were on. Something steamed on the stove. She stood in the doorway in disbelief.
He came over to her. He smiled the smile of someone who didn't spend his days typing death dates into a database. He relieved her of her bag.
"You look like you need a hug," he said.
She felt like an alien. As though she had never before been exposed to the way things are done on Earth: that you can return home to someone who cares for you, that a few overused words can hurt your heart with their appropriateness, that your muscles can soften into the muscles of another human being.
"I got you something," he said. She wanted to cry out when he pulled away from her.
He went to the fridge and returned with a Coca-Cola in a bottle. Coca-Cola in a bottle was one of her favorite things. He twisted the cap off with the bottom of his T-shirt and handed it to her. He was good as gold, good as ever. She drank hard, the carbonation burning her throat.
That you could have a need; that someone could bring you something to fulfill this need.
He reminded her of a funny story from their past involving an old friend, someone mistaking vodka for water, connected to a later story in which Joseph disguised Guinness in a Coca-Cola bottle; you had to be there. She was shocked by her laughter. She stroked the cool perfect lines of the Coca-Cola bottle.
Oca ola otto.
"I hate my job," she allowed herself to say, as though she meant it in the way people usually mean it. "You hate yours too, right?" Misery loves company.
"It's boring," he said. "But it's great, in a way."
She was not in the mood for him to elaborate.
Later, they sat on the couch, eating carrots. She leaned her head against his skull while he chewed. She listened to his jaw moving. She liked to hear the sounds of his skeleton.
Philosophical spirituality meets animal physicality through meticulous observation of everyday life — plus the surreal. From Chapter 29, e.g.:
The day was becoming more golden by the minute. Glimmering fall weather that denied death as sunbeams glossed dying leaves. On a log poking out of the radiant water, three turtles stretched their necks up toward the light. She imitated them, the sun a tranquilizing balm on the hidden skin of her throat. But then she tipped her chin back down, frightened by the lulling brilliance of this day, the inappropriate and offensive beauty of the world.
Plot? Hard to identify. Character development? Skimpy. Atmosphere and imagery? Extraordinary.
(cf. perhaps On the Shore (2006-11-07), Kavalier and Clay (2006-12-29), PortraitOfTheArtist (2007-02-08), Dhalgren (2011-07-23), Winter's Tale (2014-10-24), ...)
- Thursday, June 23, 2016 at 04:58:21 (EDT)
"Met with silence!" says Kerry, breaking the fourth wall after a long pause. Somebody (guess who?) has just suggested adding extra mileage on a sultry soon-to-be summer morning. Perhaps not today!
A rising sun glints off Tysons Corner glass. We debate the Nature of the Good and review a summer margarita recipe: lime and pineapple juices, triple sec, tequila infused with jalapeño. High-energy Kristin pulls us up the hills along Lewinsville Road.
- Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 04:10:08 (EDT)
From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, in Chapter 12 ("Dealing with Distractions II"):
Mindfulness is the most important aspect of meditation. It is the primary thing that you are trying to cultivate. So there is really no need at all to struggle against distractions. The crucial thing is to be mindful of what is occurring, not to control what is occurring. Remember, concentration is a tool. It is secondary to bare attention. From the point of view of mindfulness, there is really no such thing as a distraction. Whatever arises in the mind is viewed as just one more opportunity to cultivate mindfulness. Breath, remember, is an arbitrary focus, and it is used as our primary object of attention. Distractions are used as secondary objects of attention. They are certainly as much a part of reality as breath. It actually makes rather little difference what the object of mindfulness is. You can be mindful of the breath, or you can be mindful of the distraction. You can be mindful of the fact that your mind is still, and your concentration is strong, or you can be mindful of the fact that your concentration is in ribbons and your mind is in an absolute shambles. It's all mindfulness. Just maintain that mindfulness and concentration eventually will follow.
The purpose of meditation is not to concentrate on the breath, without interruption, forever. That by itself would be a useless goal. The purpose of meditation is not to achieve a perfectly still and serene mind. Although a lovely state, it doesn't lead to liberation by itself. The purpose of meditation is to achieve uninterrupted mindfulness. Mindfulness, and only mindfulness, produces Enlightenment.
(cf. Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2010-08-04), Calm Technique (2011-05-07), Ceaseless Society (2012-05-10), Associative Mindfulness and High Performance (2014-07-21), ...)
- Monday, June 20, 2016 at 17:43:28 (EDT)
|"Want me to massage your thighs now? ... oops! You're not Tom!" When the young gentleman turns around I discover my mistake; apologies are accepted with laughter. Before this morning's MCRRC Memorial Day 4 miler friendly rival Tom Young and I banter about tight leg muscles. Important Safety Tip: after a race lots of folks look the same from behind!|
At 0635 a big front-yard rabbit watches me jog by on the way to Barry's home. His neighbor Mary Bowman drives us to the race and kindly offers coffee. Her description of a half-marathon yesterday (at a pace near my PB) and her Boston Marathon last month explains her nickname: "Fast Mary"!
|Big puddles decorate the trail, the boardwalk is slippery, and weather is cool but humid. Mile splits by the GPS = 7:31 + 7:56 + 8:20 + 8:42 with downhill start and corresponding climb to finish. Total time: a hair under 33 minutes, significantly slower than in 2010, 2012, and 2014.|
Please sir, I want some more ... speedwork!
Official results: 119/324 finishers, 92/168 males, 8/20 in the male 60-64 age bracket, gun time 32:59.
- Sunday, June 19, 2016 at 16:00:21 (EDT)
... all things are as they are — the challenge: awaken to that, accept that, and simply love that!
"As it is" was the life philosophy of Mr Universe of 1952, Manohar Aich, according to "Healthy and Wise", a 2013 profile in Outlook (an Indian magazine); it is quoted in Aich's 2016 New York Times obituary ("Manohar Aich, 4-Foot-11 Bodybuilder Known as the Pocket Hercules, Dies at 103"). He lived quietly and happily — no worries, no quest for fame or fortune, no secrets.
As it is ...
(cf. Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Not Always So (2009-07-04), Radical Acceptance (2015-05-13), ...)
- Saturday, June 18, 2016 at 05:07:39 (EDT)
"Never run up a hill that has a name!" So Barry and I decide to name all the hills in his neighborhood. A pint of egg drop soup plus a veggie spring roll are perhaps suboptimal for lunch, half an hour before setting out on a humid-hot afternoon jog. Headless deer carcass rests on the shoulder of University Blvd. In front of Glen Haven Elementary School we pause at the Scene of the Crime, 14 years ago: my very first-ever road race, the MCRRC "Super Sligo" 4.2 miler held on 2002-03-30 - my, how time flies! At General Getty Neighborhood Park we pose for photos in a toy pirate ship.
- Friday, June 17, 2016 at 04:14:34 (EDT)
After half a dozen years, try again: John Stillwell's Roads to Infinity, which I read and partly understood in 2010, still stretches beyond the mind's elastic limit. But perhaps, among the the silly symbols, some parts may make slight sense. In another decade, more? Meanwhile, powerful principles emerge:
So there's not one "infinity", or even an "infinity of infinities" — mathematicians know how to play that game too well! — but there are sets of rules within which one can speak consistently, can define and discern objects, and can deduce implications. Sometimes the transfinite casts shadows onto the (seemingly) finite. Take, for instance, Goodstein's Theorem: pick a starting number and write it as sums of powers of two. Following Stillwell's example (in Section 2.7), 87 = 64 + 16 + 4 + 2 + 1 which can be expressed as 26 + 24 + 22 + 21 + 1. Then if an exponent in that representation is larger than 2, write it as sums of powers of two as well; so the 6th power in the first term of 87's expansion is written as 22 + 2, etc. OK, now replace all those 2's by 3's, and subtract 1. Rearrange to make the resulting number a proper sum of powers of three. OK, now replace all those 3's by 4's, and subtract 1. Rearrange, and repeat ("... and so on..."). After a long, long, long, LONG time, Goodstein's Theorem says, you end up at 0.
Far from obvious, and not provable without tiptoeing toward infinity, or maybe beyond. And the variations on "infinity", starting with ordinals and cardinals, lead to extraordinarily strange birds indeed, like the elusive Inaccessible cardinals.
And so on ...
- Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 05:07:30 (EDT)
"Carolee! Is that you?" Surprise encounter: an office T'ai Chi buddy on Rock Creek Trail, totally out-of-context. Turns out she lives not far away; we exchange info in hopes of future training runs together. Barry hangs with me, Gayatri and her friend Sakurako go onward, with Ken and Don and Rebecca farther downstream. I arrive late, park by the road, and intercept the group before it spreads. Barry sets out early from his front door, and is now six miles ahead of me. We take our time on a warm and humid morning, meandering and attacking hills, debating whether it's truly a "repeat" if one does only one of something. "Then how about Zero?"
Barry demonstrates Meb Keflezighi skipping drills. Don joins us and explains "Duff's Device", a loop-unrolling computer programming trick. Two big deer peer at us as we approach. "You take out the one on the left; the one on the right is mine. Attack!".
- Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 05:28:07 (EDT)
Tarot? Isn't that ... silly?
Well, as Samuel R. Delany says in his sf novel Nova:
... the seventy-eight cards of the Tarot present symbols and mythological images that have recurred and reverberated through forty-five centuries of human history. Someone who understands these symbols can construct a dialogue about a given situation. There's nothing superstitious about it.
Ok, maybe. And cartomancy aside, individual Tarot cards can be great fun, with beautiful artistic-inspirational images. And maybe they can provide out-of-the-box metacognitive escape hatches when one's thinking is caught in a closed loop. The Oddmuse wiki engine behind ZhurnalyWiki supports choosing pseudorandomly among a set of pages matching a title substring . So why not give with one click an arbitrarily chosen card plus commentary?
Hence, a wiki experiment: "Tarot" in the menu bar at the top and bottom of each page. Some thumbnail card art and words are copyright by their respective owners, offered here for personal fair use only, with links wherever possible to original sources. Other pictures and interpretive texts are completely free. All are subject to further editing and improvement.
Yes, there are surely bugs and typos; yes, it may not work in all browsers (e.g., if results are cached); yes, some of the card artwork includes mild nudity and may not be strictly office-safe; yes, the wiki page layout needs work, especially on small screens; yes, some of the "meanings" are highly debatable, likely bogus; yes, it shouldn't be used to control nuclear reactors or medical devices, nor should anyone make major life-altering decisions based on a random-number generator.
And then again, like life itself, it's a start, eh?! ...
(the random tarot card link = "http://zhurnaly.com/cgi-bin/wiki?action=randommatch;match=%5ETarot_-_".)
- Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 06:00:13 (EDT)
|"Michael Wardian? I worship you!" The bearded cyclist waiting for the crosswalk light to change admires my shoes, which match his. He admits that Hoka is one of his sponsors, and shyly reveals his identity only when I ask. After he pedals away the next few miles are occupied by my blathering to Drs K&K about what an extraordinary athlete and Nice Guy that he is. (cf. Michael Wardian)|
Orange dawn at 0530 soon turns into humid-hazy-hot Code Orange air. We trot west along Four Mile Run, with detours to inspect stonework and ponds, flowers and fish. "What's that in your pants?" asks Kerry, innocently. Kristin laughs and reveals a bottle of experimental elixir: "Deathwish" coffee blended with protein powder and vitamin B12. A robin hops away, big worm dangling from its beak. At a new trailside playground bike repair tools chained to a post clang like wind chimes when shaken.
|Weenie Beanie is open at mile 0 of the W&OD, but we refrain from indulging. The Bluemont Junction bypass is unlabeled, so the Custis Trail takes us into Rosslyn. A chipmunk scurries ahead, then turns back for home. On Theodore Roosevelt Island a big deer stands close by the trail, then flees as we approach; another one watches us from thick brush. After a pause for selfies in front of TR's statue we cross the Roosevelt Bridge and pass by the Kennedy Center and Saudi Embassy. ("Want to knock and ask for a glass of water?" "Maybe not.") School tour groups crowd around the Lincoln and Korean War Memorials. Martin Luther King Jr's monument is awe-inspiring.|
Diet Pepsi from the Jefferson Memorial refreshment stand at mile 16 helps us cool down. Jets rumble low overhead on final approach to National Airport. At the Potomac Yards finish line Starbucks iced coffee begins the rehydration process.
- Monday, June 13, 2016 at 05:36:20 (EDT)
From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, "Problem 7: Fear" in Chapter 10 ("Dealing with Problems"), inspirational words and an exhortation to have courage:
... At some point in your meditation career, you will be struck with the seriousness of what you are actually doing. You are tearing down the wall of illusion you have always used to explain life to yourself and to shield yourself from the intense flame of reality. You are about to meet ultimate truth face to face. That is scary. But it has to be dealt with eventually. Go ahead and dive right in.
(cf. Face to Face with God (2001-11-13), ...)
- Sunday, June 12, 2016 at 05:06:36 (EDT)
"Competition categories for this race are based on self-identification," I tell a runner who asks me before the start, "and I self-identify as a 90 year old tortoise!" The MITRE McLean fun-run today reverts to the old short course that hooks through Westgate Park, avoiding construction on sidewalks used for the past two years. Gusty winds send pine needles into faces as we duck under low-hanging branches. A few dozen walkers do one lap; the "5k" event has a few dozen more participants. Time ~24 minutes makes the top quartile, mile splits 7:32 + 7:59 + 8:05 by the GPS, distance ~4.9 km, about 30 seconds slower than the 2013-05-15 - MITRE 5k Fun Run.
- Saturday, June 11, 2016 at 06:16:23 (EDT)
Helene Wecker's first novel, The Golem and the Jinni, is magical fantastical fun, a fast 400+ page romp. In style and setting — New York City at the turn-of-the-century (1899, that is) — it echoes Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale, though Wecker's prose is less ornate. A sample description, from Chapter 7 where one of the protagonists discovers Central Park:
Across from the station rose a wall of greenery. A high iron fence ran along it, as though to hold back something wild. There was a wide gap in the middle of the fence, and Sixth Avenue disappeared inside, curving around and out of sight. A steady stream of pedestrians and carriages came and went. He crossed the street and passed inside.
Almost immediately the sounds of traffic faded away, were replaced by a descending hush. A grove of trees edged the path on both sides, turning the air cool and heavy. Gravel crunched under his shoes. Open carriages ambled past, the horses' hooves beating a pleasant rhythm. Smaller paths broke away from either side of the carriage road, some wide and paved, others little more than dirt tracks overhung with lush vegetation.
Soon the shading grove came to an end, and the land opened into a vast swath of rolling lawn. The Jinni stopped, stunned by the vivid sea of green. Trees bordered its far edges, shielding the city from view. In the middle of the lawn, a herd of plump, dusky-white sheep stood peacefully together, eating lazy mouthfuls of grass. Benches lined the road, and here and there people sat, in pairs or threes or the occasional solitary gentleman—though women were never alone in public, he had noticed this—and watched the carriages go by.
He stepped off the path and walked about in the grass for a few moments, feeling the earth give and spring back. He bounced on the balls of his feet, unaware of the smile that rose to his lips. Briefly he considered abandoning the path altogether, and walking the length of the lawn, perhaps without his shoes; but then he spied a small sign staked into the ground that read PLEASE STAY TO THE PATH. And indeed, a few passersby were frowning at him in admonishment. He thought the rule absurd but had no wish to be noticed. So he stepped back onto the path, vowing to return at night, when hopefully he could do as he liked.
The carriage road branched away east, and the Jinni followed its curve over a pretty wooden bridge. Through a copse of tall trees he spied a long, straight path of shining gray-white. He left the road to investigate, and the gray-white path revealed itself as a broad promenade of flagstone, lined with high, arching trees. There were more people here than on the carriage path, but the scale of the space was so grand that he took little notice of the crowd. Children ran past, and one boy's hoop went rolling away from him, tilting across the Jinni's path. Startled, he plucked it from the stones and gave it back to the boy, who ran to catch up with his fellows. The Jinni continued on, wondering about the function of the hoop.
Eventually the broad walk descended into a tunnel that cut beneath a carriage road. On the other side of the tunnel, a broad plaza of red brick curved along the shore of a pond. In the middle of the plaza he saw what he took at first for an enormous winged woman, floating above a foaming cascade of water. No, not a woman—a sculpture of a woman, perched atop a pedestal. The water flowed into a wide, shallow basin at her feet, and then into a pool that stretched almost the width of the plaza.
Smooth yet evocative language, with quiet depth and sparkle, as the protagonists see new worlds through fresh eyes. The Golem and the Jinni has plot, though as the narrative progresses it becomes rather contrived. Its characters are startling, archetypal, intriguing. Its atmosphere delights and surprises. Its titular "technology" — woman of earth, man of fire — form a yin-yang pair. Neat meets chaotic: works well.
- Friday, June 10, 2016 at 04:21:22 (EDT)
"Just Cambodia!" Dr K2 tells of her daughter's summer plans, to teach and tour almost as far from home as one could imagine. The Dawn Patrol pauses at mile 1 to pet a fat gray cat ambling down Anderson Road. We meander around Pimmit Hills, sharing weekend news, cooking projects, puppy updates, and long-run plans. Peonies and roses blossom in front-yard gardens. Kerry and Kristin notice a new cake shop on Route 7, with macarons on display. Alas, at 0630 the doors are locked.
- Thursday, June 09, 2016 at 05:21:27 (EDT)
From the end of Chapter 7 ("What to Do with Your Mind") of Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana:
Don't set goals for yourself that are too high to reach. Be gentle with yourself. You are trying to follow your own breathing continuously and without a break. That sounds easy enough, so you will have a tendency at the outset to push yourself to be scrupulous and exacting. This is unrealistic. Take time in small units instead. At the beginning of an inhalation, make the resolve to follow the breath just for the period of that one inhalation. Even this is not so easy, but at least it can be done. Then, at the start of the exhalation, resolve to follow the breath just for that one exhalation, all the way through. You will still fail repeatedly, but keep at it.
Every time you stumble, start over. Take it one breath at a time. This is the level of the game where you can actually win. Stick at it — fresh resolve with every breath cycle, tiny units of time. Observe each breath with care and precision, taking it one split second on top of another, with fresh resolve piled one on top of the other. In this way, continuous and unbroken awareness will eventually result.
Mindfulness of breathing is a present-time awareness. When you are doing it properly, you are aware only of what is occurring in the present. You don't look back and you don't look forward. You forget about the last breath, and you don't anticipate the next one. When the inhalation is just beginning, you don't look ahead to the end of that inhalation. You don't skip forward to the exhalation which is to follow. You stay right there with what is actually taking place. The inhalation is beginning, and that's what you pay attention to; that and nothing else.
This meditation is a process of retraining the mind. The state you are aiming for is one in which you are totally aware of everything that is happening in your own perceptual universe, exactly the way it happens, exactly when it is happening; total, unbroken awareness in the present time. This is an incredibly high goal, and not to be reached all at once. It takes practice, so we start small. We start by becoming totally aware of one small unit of time, just one single inhalation. And, when you succeed, you are on your way to a whole new experience of life.
(cf. Being Nobody, Going Nowhere (2008-10-18), No Method (2010-01-21), Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2010-08-04), Goals and Failure (2014-12-13), Now and Here (2015-06-07), Mantra - No Goals (2015-07-27), Aspire without Attachment (2015-12-28), ...)
- Wednesday, June 08, 2016 at 04:21:34 (EDT)
"Freedonia, as in the Marx Brothers?" I ask, glimpsing a sweatshirt on the Capital Crescent Trail early this morning.
"No," the wearer replies, "Fredonia, as in the University!"
A soggy rabbit flees. Don and Rebecca lead the middle 10+ miles at a brisk pace. Conversation covers macarons, red velvet cake, coffee addiction, crossword puzzles, and current politics. We visit a DC Boundary Stone (NW9, dated 1792) and loop through Rock Creek Park. Don's daughter Kenna has just graduated from Georgetown (yay!), and Don's mom is in town; she does a walkabout on the CCT as her son atones for party food yesterday. Rebecca kindly gives me a Hüma brand chia-based energy gel. Other fuel for today's trek includes a mini Heath bar and a pre-run brownie plus cup of coffee.
"... And admit that the waters / Around you have grown / And accept it that soon / You'll be drenched to the bone ..." plays heavy-rotation on the mental 8-track as drizzle continues. Frisky feet random-walk north along Rockville Pike, turning off for a mini-tour of the Stone Ridge girls' school. Then home, via Cedar Lane and Rock Creek Trail. The Mormon Temple hill offers a chance to enhance the GPS elevation profile. Walk breaks ensue.
- Tuesday, June 07, 2016 at 05:20:18 (EDT)
... inspiration from conversation during a long training run with a friend:
... So much better to choose for oneself and find worth, instead of having one's value dependent on other people or external events....
... in friendship, virtue, love, work, life!
(cf. the song "Freewill" by Rush; and Knowing Choosing Doing (1999-05-29), Precision Living (2002-03-31), Will Power (2008-07-18), This Is Water (2009-05-21), ...)
- Monday, June 06, 2016 at 04:25:26 (EDT)
"Permanence, Pervasiveness, and Personalization!" After a couple of miles I recollect the three P's of resilience that Sheryl Sandberg quoted (from Martin Seligman's "learned optimism") in her lovely-wise UC Berkeley commencement speech one week ago. Cold rain drenches Amber and me during our brisk trot along the Mount Vernon Trail. We dance around puddles and give thanks for the gift of running with a friend.
Gray waters of the Potomac are a perfect match for wet asphalt at the Jefferson Memorial; at first glance, the river seems to have flooded our path. Two geese arch their necks in parallel to hunt for bugs in the wet grass. A mallard duck hunkers down. Jets roar overhead every two minutes as they take off from National Airport. Dr A describes The Golem and the Jinni, a novel by Helene Wecker; I summarize Roads to Infinity, a math book by John Stillwell that I'm trying to read.
GPS mile splits: 8:28 + 8:17 + 8:33 + 8:51 + 9:10 + 8:53 + 8:50 + 8:56 + 8:41.
- Sunday, June 05, 2016 at 07:26:27 (EDT)
NHK World, the Japanese educational TV network, recently began broadcasting a series of lectures titled "First Class". One of the talks was by Oxford professor Elaine Fox, a smart and enthusiastic psychologist, on the modern neuroscience of optimism and pessimism. The topic is important, as is Fox's work. But alas, her 2012 book Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, subtitled "How to Retrain Your Brain to Overcome Pessimism and Achieve a More Positive Outlook", is ... thin. Not thin physically, but slow, anecdotal, and excessively first-person in its presentation. Illustrations are cartoonish; charts lack error-bars or confidence intervals. And techniques for attitude-improvement are only sketched, likely without enough detail to help most readers.
So story follows upon story, with feel-good conclusions based only on small samples. Even though the author clearly knows about cognitive fallacies and tries to be objective, the text approvingly cites experiments that confirm preferred conclusions; those that disagree are dismissed in the endnotes. Certainty dominates skepticism. Recent research suggests most psychology studies are literally wrong, irreproducible. Many of Fox's examples share characteristics of such flawed work.
As an incorrigible optimist I truly want to believe the major theses of Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain: that brain chemistry, largely driven by genetics, makes some people pessimists — but that proper training can reduce that bias, increase happiness, promote resilience, and help people become better. But Fox doesn't make a convincing case for that. Too bad ...
(cf. Conceptual Metaphor (2012-06-19), Buddha's Brain (2014-07-27), Creativity and Insight Enhancers (2015-08-04), ...)
- Saturday, June 04, 2016 at 04:21:46 (EDT)
"We're in exactly the right place!" Kristin quotes Kerry, as I fidget impatiently for traffic lights to change so we can cross Route 7. Lovely cool weather beckons, so we greet dawnwalker Patti and let feet lead us where they will. The track at five-star Gen. George C. Marshall High School is securely defended from attack. We loop through local communities seeking cut-through gates without success. Front-yard gardens feature variegated irises, pink and orange roses, petunias. ("OK, enough of this flower-smelling — time to run!") A grackle perches on a stone water ewer. ("Why is a raven like a writing-desk?") A happy brown rabbit races us for half a block.
- Friday, June 03, 2016 at 04:17:09 (EDT)
Two years ago, brainstorming with a friend suggested some "Life Partner Criteria" that might form a useful semi-quantitative way to evaluate candidates for one's long-term affections — as well as a fun theme for discussion. Those dimensions, in roughly descending order of importance for the friend, included Intellect, Love of children, Sensitivity, Affection, Spirituality, Confidence, Altruism, Financial stability, Education, Interest in world events, "Chemistry", Humor, Physical activity, and Chivalry. Since then a few other characteristics have come to mind:
Or perhaps more systematic structure is needed, to bring order to these personal parameters? The "Storyteller System", designed to generate characters for role-playing games, is a two-dimensional grid that might be worth exploring. In its original form the array seems rather arbitrary and contrived:
... but applied to the search for a Life Partner maybe it could make more sense, e.g.:
... perhaps worth further thought, in a nerdy-analytic party-game way?!
- Thursday, June 02, 2016 at 04:56:44 (EDT)
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