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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in the ^zhurnal (that's Russian for "journal") — see ZhurnalyWiki for a Wiki edition of individual items; see Zhurnal and Zhurnaly for quick clues as to what this is all about; see Random for a random page. Briefly, this is the diary of ^z = Mark Zimmermann ... previous volume = 0.9918 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z (at) his (dot) com" ... click on a title link to go to that item in the ZhurnalyWiki where you can edit or comment on it ... RSS

2015-11-16 - Dawn Deja Vu in McLean

~7.1 miles @ ~12.2 min/mi

"And here we are again!" Kristin notes, as our meandering path takes us once more to Kent Gardens Elementary School. The dawn is beautiful today, the air is crisp, the frost glitters on parked cars, and the run is brisk and smooth and easy. It brings to mind some words of Holley Mangold, superheavyweight Olympic lifter: "It's like peace, there's no struggle. That's what we're all searching for, that feeling of weightlessness." (see That Feeling of Weightlessness) We discover a new little greenspace, Bryn Mawr Park, and a new cut-through path in the McLean Manor neighborhood. Five high contrails decorate the sky. "Let's run up the hill to that pickup truck!" Kristin says, and sprints ahead.


- Sunday, November 29, 2015 at 07:08:48 (EST)

Mantra - For Us

For Us

Since we are One, it's totally ok to take turns and let a friend (or anyone else!) carry the load for us sometimes — and likewise, it's fine for us to pick up the check for others, without any thought of compensation or reward. We're all in this together!

... and as Sylvia Boorstein notes in It's Easier Than You Think:

... I used to think that if I began seeing all beings as my kin, it would be a big burden. The opposite is true. When someone I know is doing something admirable I don't feel I need to be doing it. She is doing it on my behalf, or as me, relieving me of that particular task. Mary and Chodren are being nuns for me, Alex is teaching for me in remote places, Itzhak Perlman is me playing the violin, and Joe Montana is me, too. So is his mother.

... and as the protagonist realizes in the finale of the film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, when he discovers the Power of Self-Respect, if we're all one then with the right attitude there's neither self-sacrifice nor selfishness. There's simply another chance for unselfing ... for letting go ... for realizing that clinging is optional ... for discovering freedom ... for centering ... for erasing boundaries ... and for just being with nothing and everything and all the changes between ...

- Saturday, November 28, 2015 at 06:12:31 (EST)

2015-11-14 - Stone Mill 50 Miler

~50.5 miles @ ~16.3 min/mi

"Cheese burn — Ow!"

Molten cheddar leaks onto fingers at the mile 27 aid station from fresh-off-the-camp-stove grilled cheese sandwiches. "First time I've had that injury during a trail run!"

^z at mile 14 - tunnel under Darnestown Rd - photo by Alex Reichmann - click for higher-resolution version
^z at mile 14 - cruising down the path to Muddy Branch Trail - photo by Dan Reichmann - click for higher-resolution versionToday's Stone Mill 50 miler is fun and tough, a new Personal Worst — though after adjusting for age, weight, lack of talent, recent illness, injuries in unmentionable places, and a unique combination of under training and overtraining maybe it's really a world record result?
The longer the run, the nicer the people are. Stone Mill is no exception. Taking an early start, 45 minutes ahead of the official time, allows almost everybody else ample opportunity to overtake and greet, including kind trail friends Adeline Ntam, Mike Edwards, and Stephanie Fonda. Aid station volunteers are über-helpful.^z at mile 16 - Muddy Branch Trail near Quince Orchard Rd - photo by Ken Trombatore - click for higher-resolution version
^z near River Rd on the Muddy Branch Trail - photo by Paul Encarnacion - click for higher-resolution versionThe woods are beautiful, the hills are steep, the air is brisk, the leaves are thick, and in spite of a few stumbles there are no falls. Most water crossings are low enough to make it safely across on stepping-stones or with short leaps.
The Stone Mill course includes a four-mile segment on the flat C&O Canal towpath alongside the lovely Potomac River, between the mouths of Muddy Branch and Seneca Creek. It's smooth and nearly level, a chance to make good time if one so desires.

Walking most of the final 20 miles brings to mind thoughts shared by Gary Dudney in a 2004 essay, wherein he quotes Dave Olney: "Instead of feeling like I had to run, run, run and feeling guilty every time I was reduced to a walk, I assumed an almost Taoist state of calm. I realized that I could walk the hundred miles at a good clip, and whenever I felt like running I could put a little extra time in the bank."

Likewise today, mental math suggests that a brisk stroll will make it under the cutoffs (thanks to the aforementioned 45 minute head start). All is well. It's a blessing, being able to ramble through the forest alone, enjoying a quiet autumn day, thinking about life and peace and love and mindfulness.

"No Worries, Mate!"

^z near mile 24, starting the C&O Canal towpath segment of the course - photo by Brian Butters - click for higher-resolution version
^z at the midpoint of the race on the C&O Canal towpath - click for higher-resolution versionThe midpoint of the course is a fine place to pause, comb out the beard, and ask a friendly fellow runner to take a photo.

As Amy Pope Fitzgerald says [1], "... ultras allow you to do something that's awesome, but you do it at your own pace." After a low spell for a few miles when feet get wet at a stream crossing, the day is an ultra-happy one in spite of ultra-slowness.

"It's All Good!"


- Thursday, November 26, 2015 at 07:49:39 (EST)

One Percent

Tiny (1%?!) epiphany: if devoting ~15 minutes per day — about 1% of the 24 hours — in mindful Not Doing results in the remaining hours being 1% better — more productive, creative, calm, happy, insightful — that completely pays for the meditative-time. Anything more than 1% improvement is pure "profit". What a great return on investment!

(cf. Wherever You Go, There You Are (2008-10-26), Dimensionless and Therefore Infinite (2010-02-03), Breath and Awareness (2011-03-12), No Beginning, No End (2013-03-24), Ground of Being (2013-10-03), ...)

- Wednesday, November 25, 2015 at 04:55:51 (EST)

2015-11-13 - McLean Orbit

~6.0 miles @ ~14.0 min/mi

"And what kind of loop is this going to be?" Beth wonders, as the GPS passes 2.5 miles and we're still outbound on a "4 to 5 mile" ramble. "Maybe the curvature of the Earth will get us back?" I speculate. We agree to blame Kristin for the overrun this time. Venus and Jupiter glitter bright at the start, with Mars faint between them, dawn's glow strengthening on the horizon, and airplane lights crawling sporadically above the trees. Coughing triggers groin muscle twinges, not a great portent for tomorrow's Stone Mill 50 miler.


- Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 04:10:51 (EST)

Mindfulness, Concentration, and Distraction

From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Chapter 12 ("Dealing with Distractions II"), thoughts on the real goal of meditation and how to get there:

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 you 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. Mental Noting (2009-05-03), Try It for a Few Years (2009-05-19), Breath as Vehicle (2009-06-17), Karma (2009-07-15), We Are the Pot (2009-08-13), Calm Technique (2011-05-07), No-Self and the Space of Wonder (2014-10-20), ...)

- Monday, November 23, 2015 at 04:20:04 (EST)

2015-11-08 - Potomac Heritage 50k

~30.8 miles @ ~19.7 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/PH_50k_2015_Kerry_z.jpg"Mark, get your ass up that hill!" Quattro Hubbard admonishes as he catches up after starting an hour behind me. Today's Potomac Heritage 50k is a lovely walk (with a wee bit of running) in the woods. Dr Kerry pulls me along for the first dozen miles, but wisely passes the torch at the Chain Bridge aid station after a bad step on slippery leaf-covered rocks injures her left calf muscle.

(^z and Dr Kerry pose at the usual tree in Mile 1 - see 2014-11-02 - Potomac Heritage 50k for last year's selfie there)

Amy Couch takes over for the next dozen miles, to the American Legion Bridge and back. With both kind friends the conversations are splendid and wide-ranging — everything from ontology to trail-running strategy, with digressions to reminisce about past races and share thoughts on life. We take detours for photos at a house where Kerry lived decades ago and for Amy to pose inside a lone stone chimney standing by the Potomac River.

(^z and Amy Couch cross Pimmit Run — Amy leaps between stepping stones, Mark wades — photo by Robert Fabia, mile ~13)

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/PH_50k_2015_Amy_z.jpgPacing is perfect, good enough to achieve the honor of DFL and excellent preparation for the upcoming Stone Mill race. To make the cutoffs there will either require more speed or fewer selfie pauses. Hmmmmmm...

(^z and Amy pose in front of graffiti under the American Legion Bridge, mile ~20 — for earlier races on this course see Potomac Heritage 50k 2007, 2009-11-01 - Potomac Heritage 50k 2009, 2010-11-07 - Potomac Heritage 50k + Potomac Heritage Trail 50k 2010, and 2014-11-02 - Potomac Heritage 50k ...)


- Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 06:11:01 (EST)

Characteristics of Superforecasters

Philip Tetlock's research into better thinking (see Expert Political Judgment) is extraordinarily important. From his new book (with Dan Gardner), Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, some characteristics of people who are good at overcoming biases and fallacies in their thinking:

(from [1] and [2]; cf. Thinking, Fast and Slow (2013-10-24), Fundamental Attribution Error (2013-11-13), Metacognition and Open Mindedness (2015-11-15), ...)

- Saturday, November 21, 2015 at 09:52:53 (EST)

2015-11-07 - 4.01k Race for Retirement

~2.4 miles @ ~17.6 min/mi

Dan Ginter 2015 caricature of ^zWalkabout morning! — a fun meander near RFK Stadium in DC with DD Gray!

The "4.01k Race for Retirement" is sponsored by Prudential Insurance Company to raise awareness of long-term financial planning (and potentially sell annuities and other products). Originally scheduled for a couple of weeks ago, it was delayed when Hurricane Joaquin threatened the area. Today there's intermittent light drizzle, but nothing serious. Gray and I speed-walk the course with a few thousand others, and get some nice swag including commemorative shirts. The "Holy Crepes" food truck provides a sweet recovery snack afterwards.

Before the 4.01 km trek we stand in line at a small pavilion where local artists draw caricatures. Mine is by Dan Ginter of Baltimore, who does an amazing job in just a few minutes. (click on the image for a larger higher-resolution version)


- Friday, November 20, 2015 at 04:23:16 (EST)

Mantra - Let Others Be

   Let Others Be Right
Let Others Be Generous

(cf. How to Win Friends and Influence People (2008-05-17), Smile and Listen (2011-08-21), Let Others Be Right (2012-12-31), ...)

- Thursday, November 19, 2015 at 10:19:03 (EST)

2015-11-01 - WOD Intervals with Mary

~4.2 miles @ ~13.5 min/mi

"Maybe your crotch problem?" suggests Mary, rather indelicately, to explain my sub-par performance at the 5k race a couple of days ago. "Oops, I meant to say 'groin' or 'hip adductor'." But no matter — we've done 50 milers together, we're trail friends, we can say anything!

Today Mary's coach prescribes four repeated intervals of 9 minutes running + 1 minute recovery. We execute to perfection along the W&OD Trail in Reston on a Sunday afternoon, averaging ~12.5 min/mi pace for 40 minutes. Cars stop politely and cyclists give warning as they swoop past. Conversation as always is thoughtful and frank.

And afterwards: a shopping expedition to Trader Joe's for wine and chocolate and kefir!


- Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at 04:04:21 (EST)

Look at Each Second

From Chapter 2 of Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana:

Meditation ... is an investigation and an experiment, an adventure every time. In fact, this is so true that when you do reach a feeling of predictability and sameness in your practice, you can read that as an indication that you have gotten off track and are headed for stagnation. Learning to look at each second as if it were the first and only second in the universe is essential in vipassana meditation.

Worth putting in a box to remember:

"... look at each second as if it were the first and only second in the universe ..."

(cf. Meditation Made Easy (2008-11-01), Present-Moment Reality ((2008-11-05), Dimensionless and Therefore Infinite (2010-02-03), ...)

- Tuesday, November 17, 2015 at 05:13:01 (EST)

2015-10-31 - Choice Run with Stephanie

~20.2 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

"Choice!" is the mantra of the day, as philosophical conversation about self-actualization, running, love, and life dominate the agenda. So much better to choose for oneself and find worth, instead of having one's value dependent on other people or external events. (OK, the Stoics said that a few thousand years ago; doesn't make it wrong!)

Frost rimes the tops of cars as we set out, Jupiter aligned with Mars, brilliant Venus dominating both. Stephanie lets me hold the leash for Louis ze French Bulldog in his walkabout. Two does dash across our path, and a few miles later an 8-point buck, then another with an equally handsome rack. (And then there's typical banter about front-mount hydration pack flexible bottles — no comment!) We walk the hills and keep the pace near the ~13 min/mi goal. Hip adductors are slightly achy, much less troublesome than during 3 October's trek on almost the same route. Every cough, however, twinges the old pulled groin muscle. Perhaps, as Coach Fonda suggests, rest and recovery would be wise to try some day? (But there are races coming up soon!)

We round Lake Needwood at sun rise with pauses to take photos of the fog. I help Stephanie tear open a packet of "Generation UCAN" complex carbohydrate endurance-fuel drink mix but make the mistake of blowing into it and get a blast of fine white powder in my face — oops! Trail talk brings to mind the movie Fight Club and the line, "After fighting, everything else in your life got the volume turned down." We agree that running is precisely the opposite: it cranks up the volume, of joy and self-awareness.

The GPS inadvertently pauses and omits ~0.7 miles during the return trip. Quotes from Henry V lead to a mini-tutorial on naughty Shakespearean slang. At Strathmore we fist-bump and part ways, Dr Fonda to do another 10+ miles along Rock Creek. What an awesome day to share with a friend!


- Monday, November 16, 2015 at 04:25:43 (EST)

Metacognition and Open Mindedness

A 2012 essay in The New Yorker by psychology professor Gary Marcus, "Happy Birthday, Noam Chomsky", describes a good personality characteristic:

Nine academics out of ten never change their mind about anything; most (though there are salient exceptions, like Wittgenstein) lock into a position earlier in their careers and then defend it to the hilt. Chomsky, in contrast, has never stopped critiquing his own theories with the same vigor with which he has criticized others. For fifty years, his search for linguistic truth has been relentless.

Earlier, in 2007, responding to the Edge.org question "What Are You Optimistic About?", Marcus wrote in "Metacognition For Kids":

... The average person tends to have a shaky grasp on logic, to believe a lot of what he (or she) hears unreflectively, and to be overly confident in his (or her) own beliefs. We tend to be easily fooled by vivid examples, and to notice data that support our theories—whilst forgetting about or ignoring data that go against our theories. ...

He concludes with the recommendation:

... start with a course in what cognitive scientists call metacognition, knowing about knowing, call it "The Human Mind: A User's Guide", aimed at say, seventh-graders. Instead of emphasizing facts, I'd expose students to the architecture of the mind, what it does well, and what it doesn't. And most important, how to cope with its limitations, to consider evidence in a more balanced way, to be sensitive to biases in our reasoning, ...

(cf. DoMeta (1999-05-08), MetaMan (2001-11-14), ReflectiveStudents (2004-03-17), KeyToTheTreasure (2004-04-23), One Transcend Suffices (2009-10-14), Never Say ... (2011-12-28), Metacognitive Banter (2014-02-03), ...)

- Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 15:18:59 (EST)

2015-10-30 - MITRE Halloween Fun Run

~3.5 miles @ ~8.6 min/mi

"Best costume? But I'm not, uh, ..."! At the MITRE/McLean Halloween 5k-ish fun run I win a door-prize pumpkin and a weird whirling-orange-flashlight-thingie toy. The course is the same as it was for the 2015-05-20 - MITRE McLean 5k-ish Run, about 15% long and a bit hilly. In spite of near-optimal cool weather the result is sadly slower by about 45 seconds/mile. Excuses abound: bad sniffles, bad hip flexors, bad groin strain, marathon five days ago, etc. But no matter, it's all good and 6th place among a dozen or so participants isn't shabby, behind a young woman dressed as a unicorn and a Count Dracula running in his socks.


- Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 03:21:29 (EST)

All Minds Quote

Meta-remarks by Ralph Waldo Emerson on "Quotation and Originality":

... In the highest civilization the book is still the highest delight. He who has once known its satisfactions is provided with a resource against calamity. Like Plato's disciple who has perceived a truth, "he is preserved from harm until another period." In every man's memory, with the hours when life culminated are usually associated certain books which met his views. Of a large and powerful class we might ask with confidence, What is the event they most desire? What gift? What but the book that shall come, which they have sought through all libraries, through all languages, that shall be to their mature eyes what many a tinsel-covered toy pamphlet was to their childhood, and shall speak to the imagination? Our high respect for a well-read man is praise enough of literature. If we encountered a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he read. We expect a great man to be a good reader; or in proportion to the spontaneous power should be the assimilating power. And though such are a more difficult and exacting class, they are not less eager. "He that borrows the aid of an equal understanding," said Burke, "doubles his own; he that uses that of a superior elevates his own to the stature of that he contemplates."

We prize books, and they prize them most who are themselves wise. Our debt to tradition through reading and conversation is so massive, our protest or private addition so rare and insignificant, — and this commonly on the ground of other reading or hearing, — that, in a large sense, one would say there is no pure originality. All minds quote. Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote. We quote not only books and proverbs, but arts, sciences, religion, customs, and laws; nay, we quote temples and houses, tables and chairs by imitation. ...

... from "Letters and Social Aims", a collection of Emerson's essays, ~1876.

(from [1] and [2]; cf. ByHeart (2001-11-28), Three Stages of Quotation (2013-12-10), ...)

- Friday, November 13, 2015 at 04:39:29 (EST)

2015-10-28 - Lemon Loop with Beth and Tiara

~4.5 miles @ ~13.0 min/mi

"What do they teach in this elementary school?" I ask, when Tiara Chapel and Dr Beth point out a pool table by the dumpster. It's a dark damp dawn, and we've just picked our way gingerly across the leafy-slippery Pimmit Run bridge to Lemon Road Park. A rabbit peers at us with demonic retroreflecting eyes in the light of our headlamps. Tiara has just finished the Marine Corps Marathon, her first, and is stretching her legs. A few front lawn Halloween tableaux are still lit, but the giant tree-stump grizzly bear statue stands quietly undecorated. Forecast rain pauses long enough for us to finish the loop, and thankfully nobody falls down on the wet sidewalks.


- Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 05:13:20 (EST)

Mantra - Gap


... attend to the space between thoughts ...
      ... notice the void between objects ...
           ... watch the pause between event and choice ...
                ... examine the moment between stimulus and response ....

... and just observe ...

(cf. Emotional States (2012-04-26), Ground of Being (2013-10-03), Pause and Breathe (2014-07-25), No-Self and the Space of Wonder (2014-10-20), Vastness, Equanimity, Selflessness (2015-06-04), Mantra - Remember to Remember (2015-09-07), ...)

- Wednesday, November 11, 2015 at 07:01:26 (EST)

For back issues of the ^zhurnal see Volumes v.01 (April-May 1999), v.02 (May-July 1999), v.03 (July-September 1999), v.04 (September-November 1999), v.05 (November 1999 - January 2000), v.06 (January-March 2000), v.07 (March-May 2000), v.08 (May-June 2000), v.09 (June-July 2000), v.10 (August-October 2000), v.11 (October-December 2000), v.12 (December 2000 - February 2001), v.13 (February-April 2001), v.14 (April-June 2001), 0.15 (June-August 2001), 0.16 (August-September 2001), 0.17 (September-November 2001), 0.18 (November-December 2001), 0.19 (December 2001 - February 2002), 0.20 (February-April 2002), 0.21 (April-May 2002), 0.22 (May-July 2002), 0.23 (July-September 2002), 0.24 (September-October 2002), 0.25 (October-November 2002), 0.26 (November 2002 - January 2003), 0.27 (January-February 2003), 0.28 (February-April 2003), 0.29 (April-June 2003), 0.30 (June-July 2003), 0.31 (July-September 2003), 0.32 (September-October 2003), 0.33 (October-November 2003), 0.34 (November 2003 - January 2004), 0.35 (January-February 2004), 0.36 (February-March 2004), 0.37 (March-April 2004), 0.38 (April-June 2004), 0.39 (June-July 2004), 0.40 (July-August 2004), 0.41 (August-September 2004), 0.42 (September-November 2004), 0.43 (November-December 2004), 0.44 (December 2004 - February 2005), 0.45 (February-March 2005), 0.46 (March-May 2005), 0.47 (May-June 2005), 0.48 (June-August 2005), 0.49 (August-September 2005), 0.50 (September-November 2005), 0.51 (November 2005 - January 2006), 0.52 (January-February 2006), 0.53 (February-April 2006), 0.54 (April-June 2006), 0.55 (June-July 2006), 0.56 (July-September 2006), 0.57 (September-November 2006), 0.58 (November-December 2006), 0.59 (December 2006 - February 2007), 0.60 (February-May 2007), 0.61 (April-May 2007), 0.62 (May-July 2007), 0.63 (July-September 2007), 0.64 (September-November 2007), 0.65 (November 2007 - January 2008), 0.66 (January-March 2008), 0.67 (March-April 2008), 0.68 (April-June 2008), 0.69 (July-August 2008), 0.70 (August-September 2008), 0.71 (September-October 2008), 0.72 (October-November 2008), 0.73 (November 2008 - January 2009), 0.74 (January-February 2009), 0.75 (February-April 2009), 0.76 (April-June 2009), 0.77 (June-August 2009), 0.78 (August-September 2009), 0.79 (September-November 2009), 0.80 (November-December 2009), 0.81 (December 2009 - February 2010), 0.82 (February-April 2010), 0.83 (April-May 2010), 0.84 (May-July 2010), 0.85 (July-September 2010), 0.86 (September-October 2010), 0.87 (October-December 2010), 0.88 (December 2010 - February 2011), 0.89 (February-April 2011), 0.90 (April-June 2011), 0.91 (June-August 2011), 0.92 (August-October 2011), 0.93 (October-December 2011), 0.94 (December 2011-January 2012), 0.95 (January-March 2012), 0.96 (March-April 2012), 0.97 (April-June 2012), 0.98 (June-September 2012), 0.99 (September-November 2012), 0.9901 (November-December 2012), 0.9902 (December 2012-February 2013), 0.9903 (February-March 2013), 0.9904 (March-May 2013), 0.9905 (May-July 2013), 0.9906 (July-September 2013), 0.9907 (September-October 2013), 0.9908 (October-December 2013), 0.9909 (December 2013-February 2014), 0.9910 (February-May 2014), 0.9911 (May-July 2014), 0.9912 (July-August 2014), 0.9913 (August-October 2014), 0.9914 (November 2014-January 2015), 0.9915 (January-April 2015), 0.9916 (April-July 2015), 0.9917 (July-September 2015), 0.9918 (September-November 2015), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2015 by Mark Zimmermann.)