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|Important Tip: when refilling bottle in fancy restroom, hold under water tap, not under automatic soap dispenser!|
Today's trek with Amy Couch and Gayatri Datta starts at Amy's front door and proceeds along the Anacostia Tributary trail system: down Sligo Creek and Northwest Branch, up Northeast Branch and Paint Branch, and across the University of Maryland campus to close the loop.
We see dozens of geese and robins and ducks, one huge turkey vulture, and one deer. After 20 miles, Gayatri confesses that she did 6 miles on Friday and 16 on Saturday. So, for some obscure reason, she feels a wee bit tired — hmmmmm! Gayatri and I send Amy, who still feels frisky, ahead via Sligo Creek during the final miles back to her home. We take a short-cut along Dale Dr to arrive a few minutes behind her.
As it has been for weeks, my left hamstring (gluteus maximus? piriformis? ITB?) is achy but tolerable. As happened a fortnight ago, Amy gets a couple of bonus miles compared to what her marathon training schedule prescribes — yay!
- Monday, March 10, 2014 at 04:40:54 (EDT)
From Chapter 10 of There Are No Secrets by Wolfe Lowenthal, a reminder to soften:
Many students resist the notion that it is possible to be soft in the face of a violent attack. Perhaps it is that most of us feel so powerless in society; we carry such residue of frustration and anger. Whatever the cause, a prevalent image is that of the violent attacker who deserves death or worse at our hands, whether or not we're capable of delivering it.
"Fearlessness in the face of ferocity" also requires the old Confucian virtue: "Do not do to another what you would not have him do to you." Confronted by an attacker, our tendency is to depersonalize and objectify. The attacker as monster. Not a fellow human being, full of fear and pain. We cannot see the small, hurt child beneath the raging image of the mugger — and who knows what subconscious parental images are being triggered at the same moment? These images produce tension, anger and fear, none of which are of any value in an appropriate martial response.
One of the principles of the Tao is that the world reflects what we hold in our hearts. An angry person will live in a hostile, anger-provoking world, while a loving person will have a much different experience of the very same environment.
It is true that there are few capable of mastering their fear to the extent that they can respond softly to a violent attack. But it is both the paradox and glory of Tai Chi Chuan that the very virtues which many understand to be the secret of living — gentleness, sensitivity, compassion — are as well the secret of mastery of the martial art.
"So far to go," sighs the student.
Echoing the "... simple, soft power of Aikido ...".
- Sunday, March 09, 2014 at 11:28:21 (EDT)
After the latest snow it's an icy shoulders-of-the-roads Sunday afternoon jog to Ken Swab's home, where Don Libes joins us for a meander around the north Bethesda neighborhood, pulling me along for 5 miles with hilarious banter. Then the achy old left hamstring joins the twingy old right knee (banged against the car door last night, ouch!), and mutually persuade me to wimp out and take the J2 Metrobus most of the way back home, after Ken kindly shows me a shortcut to the nearest stop. At that point, however, OCD kicks in and makes me add a few final blocks to ensure all GPS readouts exceed 12 miles. Runtastic and Garmin GPS concur in the foolishness.
- Saturday, March 08, 2014 at 04:28:14 (EST)
A comrade suggests gently that one shouldn't say "I'm sorry!" when a situation is not one's fault, when only trying to express regret for what's happening and sympathy for what others are experiencing. Sometimes instead of an apology, "I'm sorry!" can be a poke, a sarcastic weapon. Too often it's over-used. When running with friends, at times we've allocated each person a quota of one "Sorry!" per mile. Maybe a similar limit in regular conversation is appropriate too?
(for examples of the "1 sorry/mile" quota see 2009-01-18 - Goose Creek and the WOD, 2009-05-30 - CM is a Wimp, 2010-01-16 - Shooting Starr on Sligo Creek, ...)
- Friday, March 07, 2014 at 04:33:50 (EST)
Slouching to Bethesda on Saturday morning for a meet-up; rainbow oil slicks show the safer spots between icy patches on the pavement as chilly drizzle shifts to sleet and then eye-stinging snow showers. Gayatri Datta jogs with me for the middle ~5 miles as Barry Smith, Don Libes, Ken Swab, and Rebecca Rosenberg trek ahead on Leland St and Beach Dr into DC. A peloton of salt trucks lines up in preparation for duty. On Brookville Rd at the party store parking lot, a prize lies in a puddle: a pair of soggy houndstooth gloves. Runtastic and Garmin GPS concur on course and pace.
- Thursday, March 06, 2014 at 04:12:19 (EST)
A psychological phenomenon mentioned in Chapter X of Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography (but which I somehow overlooked among Franklin on Dogmatism, Franklin on Libraries, Franklin on Pride, Franklin on Vegetarianism, Franklin's Virtues, etc.): the long-term benefits of learning to graciously receive favors. Wikipedia's article on the "Ben Franklin Effect" leads to the relevant passage, wherein Franklin tells how he befriended a one-time rival in the legislature where he was a clerk:
I therefore did not like the opposition of this new member, who was a gentleman of fortune and education, with talents that were likely to give him, in time, great influence in the House, which, indeed, afterwards happened. I did not, however, aim at gaining his favour by paying any servile respect to him, but, after some time, took this other method. Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return'd it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death. This is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which says, "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged." And it shows how much more profitable it is prudently to remove, than to resent, return, and continue inimical proceedings.
Shades of David Singer's advice to "Let others be generous", as well as the "No enemies!" rule ...
- Wednesday, March 05, 2014 at 04:41:48 (EST)
|As snow and sleet sting the eyes it's a ladder of laps, 1-2-3-4-3-2-1, in the near-darkness at 7pm around the Bowie High School track. The left hamstring (or is it the glute?) aches, as it has for some weeks now.|
Runtastic shows one view of the course and pace, based on the iPhone's GPS.
|The Garmin wrist GPS provides a sharper graph of pace versus time, with an inverted axis. Splits: 2:14 + 3:53 + 5:50 + 7:52 + 6:00 + 3:52 + 1:57|
- Tuesday, March 04, 2014 at 04:14:42 (EST)
A philosopher-comrade (GdM) recently pointed out Massimo Pigliucci's essay "Is Information Physical? What Does That Mean?". It discusses "... a problem that has much to do with philosophical theories of truth and with the difference between physics and metaphysics".
Well, maybe not. The "problem" under discussion revolves around black-hole event horizons, quantum mechanics, and information theory — all of which are then merrily extrapolated many many orders of magnitude beyond any realms in which they have been tested and verified by observation. Isn't it likely that new physics occurs somewhere in that gap between the known world and the event horizon of a hypothetical tiny collapsed object? Isn't it hubris to imagine that today's rules for computing physical events all apply unchanged in such circumstances?
A metaphorically-rich paragraph of Pigliucci's article observes:
Susskind boldly proposed that the universe itself behaves as a hologram, i.e., that all the information that constitutes our three-dimensional world is actually encoded on the universe's equivalent of a black hole's event horizon (the so-called cosmic horizon). If true, this would mean that "reality" as we understand it is an illusion, with the action actually going on at the cosmic horizon. Baggott ingeniously compares this to a sort of reverse Plato's cave: it isn't the three-dimensional world that is reflected in a pale way on the walls of a cave were people are chained and can only see shadows of the real thing; it is the three-dimensional world that is a (holographic) projection of the information stored at the cosmic horizon. Is your mind spinning properly? Good.
A lovely image — but no exotic physics is needed to raise the same philosophical issues. Look at the situation in complex analysis, where Cauchy's integral formula says that the value of a smooth-enough function is determined by its values on the boundary of a region. Or similarly, consider how a wave equation everywhere inside a volume can be solved by Green's function methods if initial values and boundary conditions are known. No deep magic there.
And in fact, after discussing alternative theories of "truth", philosopher Pigliucci eventually concludes his essay similarly. Far-out science is rather irrelevant, except perhaps as a metaphor. And metaphors aren't "truth"!
(cf. PhysicsEnvy (2001-04-11), ... )
- Monday, March 03, 2014 at 17:43:25 (EST)
New-to-me word, used in a message from a friend: bricolage — from the French for "tinkering", artwork made out of a jumble of available stuff ... kinda like improv, eh?!
- Sunday, March 02, 2014 at 10:20:41 (EST)
|Color-coordinated back-to-back 20 milers! Today brings a Sunday stroll with Amy Couch and Stephanie Fonda along the Metropolitan Branch Trail, from Amy's 'hood to Union Station, where I buy cups of coffee for everyone. After a pause to visit the loo we head back. It's neat urban sightseeing, superb conversation, and nobody falls down. As usual, I underestimate the distance, and we overshoot the 18 mile goal on Amy's training plan. Stephanie and I add a little loop at the end to reach round numbers on all GPS systems we carry.|
Topics of discussion include analyses of ladies' sports garments, the value of a semester devoted to reading a 15-page dialogue of Plato in the original Greek, hair colors, ketosis, what's lost when college becomes vocational training, how to pronounce "cement" (CEE-ment) and "umbrella" (UMBER-ella) when speaking to family over the phone (Amy is from Arkansas), polarized training, and much much more.
- Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 04:32:42 (EST)
Gayatri Datta stumbles and falls at 9:30am on Rock Creek Trail while running with me; Barry Smith does likewise at 10:30am. I head for home immediately, before my turn comes! Rebecca Rosenberg and Sara Crum are far ahead and, cross fingers, avoid a fall. Runtastic and Garmin trackfiles show the rambling route.
- Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 04:19:21 (EST)
"The book is charming in its artlessness." When the Preface by the author's friend says that, you know that you're about to see a work of love, possibly thoughtful but likely amateurish. Wolfe Lowenthal's There Are No Secrets: Professor Cheng Man-ch'ing and his Tai Chi Chuan fits that description. It's a chaotic biography, published in 1991, of a man who came to the USA in 1964 from Taiwan, prescribed Chinese medicine, did calligraphy, founded a T'ai Chi school, and taught for a decade before his death. Wikipedia's article on Cheng provides additional detail.
So ignore the "welter of words and seemingly unstructured paragraphs and chapters", another remark in the Preface by Robert W. Smith. Set aside the author's digressions into his own addictions and issues. Amongst the weeds and clinkers, There Are No Secrets offers shiny nuggets and rough gems. Chapter 32, for instance, begins with the words "The study of Tai Chi is a commitment to being present..." and ends with a quote from Cheng: "Softness is the gung fu of life, hardness is the gung fu of death." In the midst of Chapter 31's discussion of Cheng-recommended massage techniques appears, "The secret is having faith, giving up the feeling that we need to use force to make things happen, and relaxing." And from the conclusion of Chapter 26:
Students becoming serious about Tai Chi practice notice its positive effect on their personality. Relaxation makes one less fearful, less prideful, more open to people and situations.
The cumulative effect of the "integrity" of the practice — integrity in the sense of "wholeness" — has the effect of moderating behavior, making one less prone to fly off the handle or go off the deep end. Integrity develops an individual's sense of responsibility, lessing the negative tendency to place blame on situations or other people.
Sounds like an antidote to the Fundamental Attribution Error. Further quotes and notes from There Are No Secrets to follow ...
(cf. Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain (2014-01-18), ...)
- Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 04:50:56 (EST)
The University of Maryland track for some strange reason is completely empty tonight, except for an old coot doing half a dozen 800 meter repeats under a first-quarter moon with temps in the upper 30s and gusty west winds. Icy puddles in lanes 1 and 2 at the north end make for wide turns, after near-slips the first few encounters. Splits are 4:19 + 4:02 + 4:01 + 3:58 + 3:56 + 3:51 with an achy left hamstring/glute. Runtastic and Garmin log the session.
- Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 10:20:53 (EST)
|Jog from home to Barry Smith's (Runtastic/Garmin GPS) where Ken Swab kindly drives us out to Olney for the MCRRC "Country Road Run". The course seems familiar, though the logbook says it's been half a dozen years since the last encounter (cf. 2006-02-05 - Country Road Run, 2007-02-04 - Country Road Run 2007, 2008-02-03 - Country Road Run, Country Road Run).|
One day after a slow 21 mile trek things turn our well: official time 38:55, about 30 seconds behind arch-rival 7-year-old Jason Parks, 106th place overall, 88th of 189 men, 5th of 18 in the 60-64 year male cohort. Mile splits by the Garmin GPS are 7:34 + 8:00 + 7:53 + 7:33 + 7:45, not too horrible pacing given somewhat hilly terrain. Runtastic and Garmin record the route.
- Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:45:33 (EST)
At dawn Venus gleams brilliantly as I trot to Bethesda on the icy Capital Crescent Trail. Two fast runners heading east greet me. "Who's that?" I ask, peering in the gloom. Jim Whitnaw and Pete Paulson identify themselves. Gayatri Datta joins me for ~15 miles, and then with Barry Smith, Ken Swab, and Rebecca Rosenberg we do a bit extra. A passing cyclist on Beach Dr drops her water bottle at least four times, and each time that she stops ahead of us I pick it up and return it to her. On the way home I teach Barry the "Doomsday Rule" for mental Perpetual Calendar calculation. Runtastic and Garmin provide GPS data.
- Friday, February 21, 2014 at 04:25:05 (EST)
The upper-20s (°F) feel balmy-warm after a week of Arctic chills, as comrade Kristin Heckman and I do a Pimmit Hills loop pre-dawn. My monologue includes metacognition and the MIT freshman computer science textbook Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, with digressions re friends, family, etc. Kristin is amused. Runtastic and Garmin show pace and route.
- Friday, February 21, 2014 at 04:16:14 (EST)
"PnE" — meaning "Possibilities, not Expectations" — is a made-up text-message code that some friends-in-mindfulness and I have been using lately. It's meant to remind ourselves to stay open to possibilities as they unfold, rather than cling to expectations of how the future will turn out. Recently a colleague forwarded a link to James Clear's essay "Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead." (originally at ) that makes the same point. The author suggests that what really matters is building better systems, not concentrating on the target end-state. It's journey, not destination.
What he suggests is rather to design and implement processes — like a Practice, as mindfulness-meditation folks often say. As Clear puts it most nicely:
|"When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time."|
Yes — and when the goal goes away, maybe "improve" takes on a new meaning itself!
(cf. Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Expectations vs. Possibilities (2013-08-13), ...)
- Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 04:44:56 (EST)
It's a delightful winter morning for a ramble, with temps in the 20's. Like yesterday, we mainly follow ice-free Beach Dr, down Rock Creek into DC. Barry Smith and Don Libes (newly clean-shaven, but concealing his chin behind a balaclava) have time constraints and must turn back early. Amy Couch and Stephanie Fonda and I continue to Broad Branch Rd. The Candy Cane City parking lot is full of training group cars. I offer Stephanie my windbreaker-mitten-shells to help her cold hands, and she says they're small. I feign insult, with "You know what they say about men who wear small mittens?" Stephanie banters back.
Superb conversation along the way ensues, with discussions of training, diet, self-awareness, injuries, and families. Amy is ramping up for a comeback marathon in April at Gettysburg. Stephanie is doing high mileage at a measured pace with intermittent fasting to promote ketosis. It's a thoughtful, fun sharing of ideas and experiences. The song "Tonight, Tonight" is playing on Stephanie's car radio as she prepares to give me a ride home. Runtastic and Garmin generally agree.
- Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 04:13:55 (EST)
Today's chilly run features winds that make it seem even colder. Temps are in the 20s and there's ice on the sidewalks. After one solo Mormon Temple hill climb I join Barry Smith and Gayatri Datta for 10 down Rock Creek and back. Along the way we meet Loren Alikhan, a young DC lawyer out on a long lone run; her car wouldn't start this morning, and she missed a meeting with her buddy. We accompany her for several miles back to Barry's and Gayatri's cars, and then I escort her back down Jones Mill Rd to East-West Hwy, from which she knows the way home. Runtastic concurs generally with the Garmin GPS.
- Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 04:07:34 (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), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2014 by Mark Zimmermann.)