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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 = 0.9910 ... 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



Control Theory of Taiji

In Chapter 19 of There Are No Secrets author Wolfe Lowenthal comments that T'ai Chi "... is the subduing of the will to achieve understanding of softness, so that a slight, 75-year-old man, completely relaxed, can with a touch send a 250-lb. Judo champion flying." How in the world could such a thing happen, within the laws of physics?

An idea to pursue: model a person as a system, with sensors and actuators and time-delays. The sensors are the nerves and the brain; the actuators are the muscles; the time-delays are set by reflex and reaction lags. What is the simplest "interesting" such model? In "Artificial Wrestling: A Dynamical Formulation of Autonomous Agents Fighting in a Coupled Inverted Pendula Framework" Yoshida, Matsumoto, and Matsue propose what seems to be a far-too-complex system with multiple springs, controllers, actuators, sensors, and time delays.

Perhaps greater insight could come from something more primitive? Consider, for example, a single inverted solid-bar pendulum. A person is rather like a stick standing upright, kept from falling by small muscle movements that are controlled with a short time-delay based on inner-ear and other sensory inputs. If somebody could perturb that simple feedback-loop, maybe by applying a small force but on timescales shorter than the reaction time, could the system be driven into instability so the stick-person would fall down?

If so, what are the order-of-magnitude scales of the perturbing force and time, and how are they related? If, for instance, you react 50% faster than your opponent, do you only need 10% as much force to win a fight? What if you're ten times faster? What if you can only exert 1% of the other person's pressure? And what are the limitations of this approach? Surely a gnat can't derail a locomotive. But on the other hand, if all of the opposition's punches miss you, and you add an appropriate nudge a when a violent swing has just missed ... hmmmmm?!

(cf. The Complex Mathematics of Robot Wrestling" in MIT Technology Review June 2014)

- Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 04:51:12 (EDT)


2014-07-08 - McLean Loops

~6 miles @ ~11.2 min/mi

Zero McLean rabbits greet us, but Ed spots a flat tire on a shiny black Mustang at mile ~5 and we settle for that as something-to-count on a pleasant (for July) morning trek. Dr Amber and Dr Kristin do a 3 mile out-and- back with me at 6am, dodging cars at a major intersection. We then meet up with Dr David and Dr Ed at the loading dock for a sweaty local loop. I barely resist the urge to add a parking lot meander at the end to make the Runkeeper iPhone GPS roll over past 6.00; the Garmin already has.

- Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 05:34:52 (EDT)


Associative Mindfulness and High Performance

To run (or do anything stressful?) significantly better, perhaps paying attention is the best strategy — immersing oneself in the sensations of the moment, rather than attempting to ignore them. Terry Laughlin, elite swimming coach, writes in "Zone In, not Out, to Overcome Your Limits":

... But a key difference between average and elite marathon runners is that whereas average runners describe zoning out to make it through the last few miles of the race, the elite runner zones in more keenly.

This habit of better runners will be familiar to anyone who has practiced the "purposeful mindfulness" Total Immersion advocates for stroke improvement. While dissociation is intended to take an athlete's mind off the distance to be covered, or the effort required while running or cycling near one's limits, a contrasting mental technique—let's call it association—is far more interesting and functional ... .

Dissociation techniques are actually rather widespread and not limited to those who race. The TV-watchers and magazine-readers on the treadmills at the gym appear to find exercise so boring they do anything to take their mind off it. ...

... Rather than taking your mind away from what you're doing, the goal is to be completely present with it, and to use that mindfulness to make your awareness deeper and more subtle. ...

Laughlin alludes to a 1977 study by Morgan & Pollock ("Psychologic characterization of the elite distance runner") that, though based on a ridiculously small sample, found that the best marathoners "... paid very close attention to bodily input such as feelings and sensations ... [and] constantly reminded or told themselves to 'relax', 'stay loose', and so forth." Shades of "Softening into Experience"?!

(cf. Swimming Fine (2008-04-24), Mind Over Exercise (2008-10-22), Total Immersion Philosophy (2011-09-24), ...)

- Monday, July 21, 2014 at 21:29:51 (EDT)


2014-07-06 - Kensington Meandering with Amy

~11.9 miles @ ~12.2 min/mi

"Say something if a train is coming behind me," I ask Amy Couch as we pause on the tracks at the railroad station in Kensington for photos. "Uh, there's a train coming behind you!" she notes a few moments later. It's a cool Sunday morning trek around the neighborhood, 10+ miles with Amy, who just got back from a 3,000 mile drive to Oregon with her friend in a tiny Fiat and needs to stretch her legs. First stop is the ancient stone picnic hut near Ireland Dr. Then we follow Rock Creek to Stoneybrook St and launch an attack on the Mormon Temple Hill. She has never done it before. "It gets easier; the first time you run up is the toughest," I warn Amy on her initial ascent. We close the loop via (hilly) Plyers Mill Rd and Georgia Av, adding some endgame meandering to get Amy into double digits. Rabbit count: ~1 per mile, including a mostly-white one in a front yard on Old Spring Rd. Runkeeper on the iPhone and Garmin GPS tally the miles.

- Sunday, July 20, 2014 at 05:35:25 (EDT)


2014-07-05 - Leland Rabbits and Ireland Stone Hut

~15 miles @ ~11.8 min/mi

15 Leland St front yard rabbits, plus a big red fox and a tiny chipmunk, greet Gayatri Datta and me at sunrise on the most pleasant-cool Saturday summer morning imaginable. A bonus bunny on Warren St encourages the speedy solo first 3 miles (10:10-8:11-8:17 by the Garmin GPS). After our Chevy Chase trek, Gayatri and I join Barry Smith and Rebecca Rosenberg at 0730 for a Mormon Temple hill loop that adds one Kensington coney to the day's tally. The gang takes a detour on the way home to visit an ancient stone picnic hut near the Walter Reed Annex security fence. Barry recommends "The History of the Carriage Trail (Ireland Drive) From 1774 to Today" as background reading. Runkeeper and Garmin trackfiles show route and pace.

- Sunday, July 20, 2014 at 05:31:30 (EDT)


Extended Retreat

From Part One ("The Danger and the Promise") of the chapter "What Is Mindful Parenting?" in Everyday Blessings by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, thoughts that resonate with Ezra Bayda (cf. Being Zen) on how problems can become opportunities:

... from the perspective of mindfulness, parenting can be viewed as a kind of extended and, at times, arduous meditation retreat spanning a large part of our lives. And our children, from infancy to adulthood and beyond, can be seen as perpetually challenging live-in teachers, who provide us with ceaseless opportunities to do the inner work of understanding who we are and who they are, so that we can best stay in touch with what is truly important and give them what they most need in order to grow and flourish. In the process, we may find that this ongoing moment-to-moment awareness can liberate us from some of our most confining habits of perception and relating, the straitjackets and prisons of the mind that have been passed down to us or that we have somehow constructed for ourselves. Through their very being, often without any words or discussion, our children can inspire us to do this inner work. The more we are able to keep in mind the intrinsic wholeness and beauty of our children, especially when it is difficult for us to see, the more our ability to be mindful deepens. In seeing more clearly, we can respond to them more effectively and with greater generosity of heart, and parent with greater wisdom.

As we devote ourselves to nourishing them, and understanding who they are, these live-in teachers, especially in the first ten or twenty years of our "training," will provide endless moments of wonder and bliss, and opportunities for the deepest feelings of connectedness and love. They will also, in all likelihood, push all our buttons, evoke all our insecurities, test all our limits and boundaries, and touch all the places in us where we fear to tread and feel inadequate or worse. In the process, if we are willing to attend carefully to the full spectrum of what we are experiencing, they will remind us over and over again of what is most important in life, including its mystery, as we share in their lives, shelter and nourish and love them, and give them what guidance we can.

- Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 19:29:21 (EDT)


2014-07-04 - Holiday Hills and DC Boundary Stone

~9 miles @ ~11 min/mi

Happy Independence Day! Barry, tapering for the Missoula Marathon next weekend, trots with me down Rock Creek. For hillwork we branch west on Bingham Dr and then north parallel to Oregon Av with a pause at the DC-Maryland line to take photos at a Boundary Stone placed in 1792. I dress (display) patriotic red (face) white (beard) and blue (eyes) for the holiday.

Then it's more hillwork along Leland St to help me get ready for the Catoctin 50k at the end of the month. A cool front moves in and the humidity falls as we finish.

Fuel: yesterday's General Tso's veggie pseudo-chicken + hot-and-sour soup, this morning's coffee + chocolate candy egg, and during the run a Honey Stinger chewie that Barry drops on the road and I rescue.

During the run I sin and say "Hi!" to a runner wearing a Yankees baseball cap — but as Barry can testify, she tells me that her daughter is a Sox fan, so it's ok. Runkeeper and Garmin GPS record details of route and pace.

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Boundary_Stone_NW9_visit_z.jpg

- Friday, July 18, 2014 at 18:42:55 (EDT)


AC Fix

A tiny triumph yesterday evening, recorded just because it had a happy ending as well as taught a wee lesson in systematic thinking. Situation: water on the basement floor at the house where my sons live. Even though it occurs during torrential rain outside, one DS soon identifies the air conditioner as the likely culprit. Apparently the part where humidity condenses and drips down has overflowed. The whole system suddenly stops. But why?

I show up late the next day, with no tools except a curious attitude and a mental model of how A/C's sometimes work, or fail. All circuit breakers look normal. A test of an outlet on the side of the unit, where a small pump is plugged in to take water away, shows power.

Is there a safety cut-off somewhere that has triggered? Yep — or at least, there on the front of the unit is a mysterious device with a button sticking up and a U-shaped tube with a funny long-handled brush clipped to it. Hmmmm! Loosen the brush and push it through the U-shaped tube: a bunch of gunk comes loose, the button goes down, and soon the air conditioner decides to start running again. Look a little farther, and see a sticker nearby with instructions on how the unit should be cleaned every few months, "especially in the summer". Problem apparently solved, without the need to call a repairman — yay!

- Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 04:52:38 (EDT)


Bodhichitta, Maitri, Shunyata

Chapter 4 of Practicing Peace in Times of War by Pema Chödrön offers insightful comments on two words, maitri and shunyata. She describes them as aspects of bodhichitta, which means "awakened heart":

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche translated maitri as "unconditional friendliness with oneself." This unconditional friendliness means having an unbiased relationship with all the parts of your being. So, in the context of working with pain, this means making an intimate, compassionate, heart-relationship with all those part of ourselves we generally don't want to touch ... kindness toward all qualities of our being. The qualities that are the toughest to be kind to are the painful parts, where we feel ashamed, as if we don't belong, as if we've just blown it, when things are falling apart for us. Maitri means sticking with ourselves when we don't have anything, when we feel like a loser. And it becomes the basis for extending the same unconditional friendliness to others.

... One of the meanings of compassion is "suffering with," being willing to suffer with other people. This means that to the degree you can work with the wholeness of your being—your prejudices, your feelings of failure, your self-pity, your depression, your rage, your addictions—the more you will connect with other people out of that wholeness.And it will be a relationship between equals. You'll be able to feel the pain of other people as your own pain. And you'll be able to feel your own pain and know that it's shared by millions.

... Absolute bodhichitta, also known as shunyata, is the open dimension of our being, the completely wide-open heart and mind. Without labels of "you" and "me," "enemy" and "friend," absolute bodhichitta is always here. Cultivating absolute bodhichitta means having a relationship with the world that is nonconceptual, that is unprejudiced, having a direct unedited relationship with reality. ...

Hmmmm ... sounds as though maitri is a bit like "0" (nonattachment), and shunyata is "1" (oneness) — but perhaps in the sense of not being attached to separation?

(cf. 01 (2013-11-05), ...)

- Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 04:47:00 (EDT)


2014-07-03 - McLean Loops

~5 miles @ ~11 min/mi

Kristin spies one little rabbit and I see another in our 2 mile 6am warm-up loop (see first Runkeeper iPhone GPS file; I hit the "Stop" button by mistake) before meeting Ed at the loading dock to trot with him on a sweat-soaked 3-mile loop around the office neighborhood (start tracking late on second Runkeeper log; Garmin GPS has the whole 5.0+ as one). Conversation covers family (recent birthdays of various children), training, and Independence Day holiday weekend plans, in between observations of how warm and humid it is this morning.

- Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 04:46:59 (EDT)


Five Swords, Knife Hands

A cute-surprising T'ai Chi term, from "The 5th Tai Chi principle: The beautiful lady's hand", an essay by Andrew Mertens. "Beautiful lady's hand" usually just means a straight, relaxed wrist — but Mertens uses a much sharper metaphor: "We sometimes call it knife hands or five swords ...".

Now that's an image!

- Monday, July 14, 2014 at 04:12:26 (EDT)


2014-07-01 - Pimmit Hills Smoke

~6 miles @ ~10.6 min/mi

Only 1 rabbit this morning, a scrawny little guy at mile ~3. Kerry & David & Amber & I begin with a downhill blitz and then regret it during the climb back up. Ed replaces David at 0630 for the second half of the trek; I pick up an unsmoked Marlboro cigarette from the street but nobody has a match. Runkeeper and Garmin have splits and path data.

- Sunday, July 13, 2014 at 07:51:41 (EDT)


Electric Day Lily

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Electric_front_yard_purple_gold_day_lily.jpgAlas, it didn't last: the night after it bloomed, this purple and gold day lily in our front yard and all its brethren vanished, bitten off and eaten by passing deer.

- Saturday, July 12, 2014 at 05:15:29 (EDT)


2014-06-30 - Pimmit Run Trail Adventure with Amber and Kerry

~ 4.5 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

The first group Pimmit Run Run! Amber and Kerry trek with me through Olney Park to the tangle of paths in the woods. I quasi-panic at the sight of anything with three leaves, but Amber reassures me that it is (mostly?!) not poison ivy. We find our way to Pimmit Run and cross to take the official trail under the highway, where bright new graffiti decorates the infrastructure. Further downstream, across Great Falls Rd, Kerry recognizes the ballfields where her daughter played years ago and other kids got lost, fell into the water, etc. I feel unsteady on the steppingstones but manage to keep dry feet and avoid tripping on tree roots. We return via Westmoreland St and do a half-lap on the McLean HS track. Zero bunnies seen today, but I do run through lots of spiderwebs across the trail — must trick somebody else into leading next time! See Runkeeper and Garmin for route.

(cf. 2012-03-11 - Pimmit Run Trail (Upstream), ...)

- Friday, July 11, 2014 at 04:39:18 (EDT)


2014-06-29 - Rock Creek with Rebecca, Barry, and Emaad

~7.1 miles @ ~11.3 min/mi

Emaad Burki is channeling Sara and Ken as he discusses Viagra's vasodilation value for runners during this morning's humid trek along Rock Creek with Barry Smith and Rebecca Rosenberg, both recovering well after their Bighorn race last weekend. We review plans for upcoming runs, note triangular post-Bighorn tans on Rebecca's calves just below/behind the knees, and debate whether it's a compliment or insult when somebody says, "Your thighs are bigger than your waist!" Afterwards online Stephanie Fonda recommends beet juice as a recovery drink; I tell her that during the run Emaad, Barry, Rebecca, and I discuss the film Beetlejuice ("Sandworms - you hate 'em, right? I hate 'em myself!") and Tremors and the new Transformers film. Runkeeper and Garmin record route and pace.

- Friday, July 11, 2014 at 04:32:44 (EDT)


Double Vision, Ringing Ears

Tinnitus, a high-pitched tone, seems louder in recent years. Diplopia, inability to fuse images from the two eyes, has become noteworthy during the past several months after I got reading glasses. What's next?

Walking home yesterday, tiny epiphany: what if I've always had double vision and ringing in my ears, and only recently noticed? After all, each eye is always sending an image to the brain; maybe one of them has been ignored for decades? Nerves in the inner ear are always picking up auditory data; maybe I just haven't been paying attention?

Which raises some fascinating possibilities:

It's the David Foster Wallace parable "This Is Water":

... There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, "What the hell is water?"

- Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 04:45:30 (EDT)


2014-06-28 - Leland and Mormon Temple Hillwork

~16 miles @ ~11.4 min/mi

22 rabbit jackpot! Alone at sunrise I almost bump into a solo bunny on Warren St, then join Sam Yerkes and Gayatri Datta to spy a solid dozen as we run westbound along über-hilly Leland to Bethesda, plus another nine (perhaps including a few duplicates) on the return trip to Candy Cane City. We also see two big deer, one with velvety antlers, and an eye-searing memorably lime-green fluorescent t-shirt. Don Libes joins us at 0730, followed by Barry Smith and Rebecca Rosenberg. It's one week after their Bighorn odyssey two miles high in Wyoming/Montana. We trot north along Rock Creek and, with Don as my personal "rabbit", I do 5 (five!) Mormon Temple hill repeats along Stoneybrook Dr.

Fuel for the journey is last night's hot-and-sour veggie soup plus General Tso's veggie pseudo-chicken, joined by this morning Peet's coffee and Nutella on a stale matzoh. During the run I eat a packet of orange Sports Beans. Runkeeper and Garmin GPS agree reasonably well.

- Wednesday, July 09, 2014 at 04:24:50 (EDT)


2014-06-25 - Pimmit Hills Meandering

~5 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

Three rabbits, two by the baseball field and the last dashing across the road as we approach, on a warm and humid morning trek around the Pimmit Hills neighborhood. Kerry has to finish early and change into "grown-up clothes" for a morning presentation, so Kristin and I loop back to drop her off at 0630, then continue on to make Dr K's goal of 5+ miles. Walk breaks on the hills give us a chance to admire front-yard gardens. Runkeeper and Garmin GPS converge.

- Wednesday, July 09, 2014 at 04:21:34 (EDT)


Saying Yes to Life

A book one wants to love, but can't: Zen teacher Ezra Bayda's Saying Yes to Life (Even the Hard Parts).

The format: small, but with big whitespace, wide margins, gray decorations.

The length: by word count more booklet than book.

The language: flat, few metaphors, scant imagery, frequent non sequitur.

But faint, sporadic sparkles:

One lonely, twinkling star:

A flash of lightning:

One of the most powerful tools for awakening truth in the midst of your chaotic daily life is to take frequent pauses. Simply stop for a moment and feel what your life is right now. Right now: stop reading and simply experience what this moment feels like.

                              You can take these pauses anytime throughout the day. Sitting down to meditate is helpful but it's not necessary. Just settle into any moment and simply feel it. With whatever arises—anger, anxiety, restlessness—you don't have to "let it go" because, after all, that would just be more doing, more effort. Just let it be there. Remind yourself to feel this.

Overall: weak tea, though with great poetic potential.

(cf. Bursting the Bubble of Fear (2014-03-26), Being Zen (2014-05-26), ...)

- Tuesday, July 08, 2014 at 04:33:14 (EDT)


2014-06-23 - McLean HS Speedwork

~5 miles @ ~11.9 min/mi

Sunrise trek with Dr Kerry & Dr Kristin to McLean High School (arch-rival of Kerry's kids' Langley HS) for half a dozen 200m intervals, timed at 47-48-49-50-50-51 seconds, swinging out to avoid walkers and joggers in the inner lanes of the track. Return via Old Chain Bridge Rd, chatting about today's grade school curriculum. Comrade Kerry has enough willpower to stop at 4.8 miles, but OCD Kristin and I must trot on through the parking lot to make it 5+. We stretch afterwards and discuss homeschooling history and regulations in Maryland. Runkeeper and Garmin concur on the route.

- Monday, July 07, 2014 at 04:37:44 (EDT)


2014-06-22 - UM-PB-NEB-NWB Anacostia Tributary Loop

~12.5 miles @ ~10.5 min/mi

Whew! Crash & burn after the first 8 miles on a sunny summer afternoon; perhaps the extra loop around Lake Artemesia was hubris? From the University of Maryland campus head down Paint Branch Trail to Northeast Branch, then up Northwest Branch to close the loop.Walk breaks begin after ~80 minutes and lengthen thereafter. The Garmin GPS reads within ~1% of Runkeeper on the iPhone, and estimates mile splits as 9:51-9:46-9:50-9:42-9:42-9:34-9:48-9:54-10:30-11:52-11:32-13:35 (waiting for a traffic light), plus a final fraction at ~10:48 min/mi pace. Arrive back at the perfect time to meet DW as DD's concert ends.

- Monday, July 07, 2014 at 04:32:15 (EDT)


Needs of the Many

Are we watching too many movies in this household? As I drift through the room a couple of days ago, Leonard Nimoy's voice is coming out of one of the giant robots in the 2011 film Transformers: Dark of the Moon, third in that series of, uh, deeply thoughtful commentaries on life. Nimoy's character says, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

"Hey, that's Spock's line from Star Trek!" I point out. Hmmmmm ... maybe I need to read more books and watch less TV (and spend less time online too) ...

(cf. PerpetualCalendar (2006-01-25), FunVersusEntertainment (2006-08-31), DoLess (2007-08-24), ...)

- Sunday, July 06, 2014 at 05:42:55 (EDT)


2014-06-21 - Cracked iPhone on Beach Dr

~14 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

Oops! — wearing a shoulder holster upside-down to make a smartphone screen readable is a suboptimal strategy, when the old iPhone falls out onto the street near Military Rd and cracks the back glass plate. Two big deer stare as I jog past on the way to meet Gayatri Datta at Candy Cane City for 8 leisurely miles together along Beach Dr. In a big field near Rock Creek some T'ai Chi practice occupies a break in the middle, as the GPS never stops. Light drizzle during final miles turns into rain that washes salty sweat into the eyes, as my path meanders to ogle antique statuary in the National Park Seminary. Found food: a protein bar unopened on Beach Dr — woot! Runkeeper and Garmin preserve track data.

- Saturday, July 05, 2014 at 05:25:03 (EDT)


2014-06-19 - Pimmit Hills Loops

~5.6 miles @ ~11.9 min/mi

Only 1 rabbit today: Ed Brown, whom Kristin & I call "our rabbit" as he leads us up a long hill on a warm and humid Thursday morning with temps and humidity in the upper 70's. Amber and Kristin and I start at 0600 and meander around the neighborhood trying to figure out how to get to the little Pimmit View Park from the north side (secret: Sportsman Dr to dead-end Hileman Rd). We're back at 0632 to join David and Ed for the office-area loop. Runkeeper and Garmin record results.

- Saturday, July 05, 2014 at 05:19:22 (EDT)


Swiss Cheese

Chapter 3 of Being Zen by Ezra Bayda begins with a metaphor of the self:

Let's imagine ourselves as a big piece of Swiss cheese, including all the holes. The holes are our identities, mental constructs, desires, blind spots, stuck places—all those aspects of ourselves that seem to get in the way of realizing our "cheese nature." Sometimes when a meditator gets a glimpse that he's the whole cheese, he forgets that he's also the little holes and instead sees himself as a big cheese. However, we are more likely to identify solely with the little holes—being fearful, being a victim, being confused, being right, and so on. In doing so, we forget our basic cheese nature—the vastness, God, call it what you will. We are the little holes; we can't ignore that. But we're also the whole cheese, and we can't ignore that either. When we finally see the little holes for what they are, then we see they are truly holes—that is, of no substantial reality.

Well, maybe "of no substantial reality" is off base; a foreground/background (01?) way of looking at everything would suggest that the holes are as real and substantial as what surrounds them, no? But setting aside that (and the cheesy wordplay!), there's meat in Bayda's metaphor that even a vegan can chew on. Bayda offers hard-headed operational suggestions for how to practice seeing into oneself. The first tool he calls Thought Labeling — putting a name on what's ratting around inside the cranium, what Joseph Goldstein terms Mental Noting. Bayda's examples range from the objective ("Having a thought that I have too much to do") to the generic ("planning", "fantasizing", "daydreaming", "conversing") to the immediate-emotional ("Having a believed thought that this is too hard") to the philosophical ("Having a believed thought that life should be comfortable").

Thought Labeling clarifies beliefs. Then comes the second tool: Experiencing. It's "awareness of the physical reality of the present moment", an awareness that, Bayda suggests, can lead to "... the willingness to just be, that finally allows us to be with life as it is—holes and all."

Not so cheesy after all, perhaps.

(cf. Poetry 180 (2009-09-30), Notice and Return (2013-03-11), ...)

- Friday, July 04, 2014 at 13:35:33 (EDT)


2014-06-16 - LBJ High School Speedwork

~10 miles @ ~10.6 min/mi

Sultry sunrise speedwork on an empty LBJ High School track under a gibbous moon. After jogging from Mom's home in northeast Austin, an already-sweaty shirt comes off for the "ladder" of 1-2-3-4-3-2-1 laps (1:59-3:54-5:55-7:50-5:52-3:52-1:48), with clouds parting so a shadow chases me on the final interval. Spiral ramps to the pedestrian bridge over highway US-183 are not resolved by iPhone GPS. Double vision of the lane markings is slightly troublesome. A police car cruises slowly by in the middle of ladder around track; a blessed breeze from the south makes Texas summer humidity more tolerable. The ramble back adds detours to get both GPS units into double digits. Garmin is ~5% more generous than the iPhone Runkeeper today. Cooldown comes via T'ai Chi for 20 minutes in Mom's driveway; dehydration makes digital scale read 139.5 at the post-run weigh-in.

- Thursday, July 03, 2014 at 04:31:55 (EDT)


Quest of a Lifetime

From Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, in Part One ("The Danger and the Promise"), chapter "The Challenge of Parenting":

As with any spiritual discipline, the call to parent mindfully is filled with enormous promise and potential. At the same time, it also challenges us to do the inner work on ourselves to be fully adequate to the task, so that we can be fully engaged in this hero's journey, this quest of a lifetime that is a human life lived.

- Wednesday, July 02, 2014 at 04:37:10 (EDT)


2014-06-15 - Austin Lady Bird Lake Loop

~10 miles @ ~10.4 min/mi

Would you accept a plastic bag with unmarked white capsules from a strange sweaty old man? A young couple do when I offer them "Succeed!" electrolyte caps after they run past me, then stop exhausted at a water fountain on the north side of the Austin Texas (Lady Bird Lake) loop trail. "Don't take more than 2 per hour," I advise. "They're good against cramps!"

The fancy new River Boardwalk is open now. It cuts off hilly sidewalk mileage and eliminates Interstate-35 on-ramp car dodging. Humidity is high; the morning sun is bright. After a couple of miles the pace slows and walk breaks begin. The singlet finally comes off after 7 miles.

At Longhorn Dam it's time to salute a peloton of cyclists, stop both GPS units, find a flat gravel patch on the lake shore, and do T'ai Chi for 20 minutes (half a dozen repeats of the 24 Forms) to cool down and dry off in the breeze. Runkeeper and Garmin GPS agree to within 1%.





(click on the photo for a higher resolution version)

Taiji beach on the shore of Lady Bird Lake in Austin Texas, with Longhorn Dam in the background

- Tuesday, July 01, 2014 at 04:10:55 (EDT)


2014-06-14 - Austin Reagan HS Speedwork

~10 miles @ ~10.5 min/mi

In Austin Texas, 5 seconds after starting the run I realize I've forgotten to carry a water bottle (temps near 80, dew point likewise) but am too OCD to restart, so instead begin pondering where to find a drinking fountain. At alma mater (1980) Reagan High School track, do six 400m repeats (1:50 + 1:49 + 1:47 + 1:48 + 1:49 + 1:46). Young ladies call me "Sir" in answering my question about water sources (alas, there aren't any nearby). Swing out into Lane 3 to avoid older gentlemen walking the inner edge of the track. After laps, random-walk in search of a hole in the fence to escape, then ramble along Cameron Rd past car washes, convenience stores, and a pawn shop ("GET CASH FOR YOUR GUNS"). Find water at Bartholomew Park, where I drink like a camel near smoke rising from "Happy Graduation!" early morning barbecue parties. The homeward trot is via Pearce Jr High. Three circuits of the tiny track (56, 55, 52 sec with 2 min recovery walk laps) suggest it is only ~200m around. After finishing, do a bit of cooldown T'ai Chi in Mom's driveway, to the amusement of passers-by. Runkeeper is ~3% more conservative than the Garmin GPS.

- Tuesday, July 01, 2014 at 04:06:21 (EDT)


Dial-an-Excuse

At the office there's a big printed cardboard wheel with a pivot in the middle and little punch-cut holes. It says "Because a Bad Excuse is Better than No Excuse" and has been lying around for a few years now. The original source is apparently a novelty sales company, but this item seems to be out-of-print. For posterity, a semi-random sampling of the "Dial-an-Excuse" suggestions that it offers, through windows in a rotating disc:

Category Issue Classic Excuse Extenuating Excuse Mundane Excuse Far-Fetched Excuse Sob Story Excuse
COMMUNICATION Missed Birthday Later Surprise Planned Mercury in Retrograde Preoccupied at Work Gift Stolen at Gun-point Childhood Birthday Trauma
Unreturned E-Mail Technical Difficulty Spilled on KeyboardTremendous Backlog House Burned Down Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
ATTENDANCE Early Departure Headache Food Poisoning Big Day Tomorrow Secret Spy Mission Weaned Too Soon
Tardiness Slept Through Alarm Sewage Emergency Stuck in Traffic Fell in Ditch Unexpected Nausea
PERFORMANCE Nodding Off Recent Insomnia Nighttime Street Noise Too Warm in Room Doped Against Will Narcolepsy
Lack of Preparation Not Enough Time Printer Problems Took Longer than Thought Parole Officer Visited Sudden Learning Disability
FINANCE Under-Employment No Good Jobs Fear of Harassment Following Dream Scheduling Conflict Agoraphobia
Bounced Check Bad Arithmetic Ex Emptied Account Should Have Cleared Government Plot Children Going Hungry
INFRACTION Traffic Violation Speedometer Broken Hemorrhoid Attack Didn't See Sign Being Chased Whining Child
Fender Bender Didn't See Other Car Tire Blowout Talking on Cell Phone Bad Song on Radio Epileptic Seizure
Public Inebriation Empty Stomach Accidental Fermentation Only Had a Few Slipped a Mickey at Drive-Thru Very Thirsty
PERSONAL RELATIONS Platonic Rejection So Busy Right Now Too Many Friends Working All the Time Moving to Australia Entering Intensive Therapy
Romantic Rejection Not Ready Entering Monastery Need to Be Alone Upcoming Sex Change Scared of Intimacy
Offensive Behavior Drunkenness Unwitting Drug Consumption Acting Out from Stress Supernatural Possession Frequent Childhood Humiliation
Inappropriate Outburst Straw Broke Camel's Back Just Got Bad News That Time of Month Birth Canal Flashback Went Off Medication
Divulged Secret Just Slipped Out Under Hypnosis Unaware of Confidentiality Paid Lots to Reveal Tourette's Syndrome

Yes, many of them aren't terribly funny, and others are rather dated already (the "Dial-an-Excuse" wheel is copyrighted 2005 on the back), but others rate at least a smile. Nowadays, of course, the mechanical disc-with-windows approach feels so quaint ...

- Monday, June 30, 2014 at 04:46:19 (EDT)


2014-06-12 - McLean Rabbit Day

~5.5 miles @ ~11.7 min/mi

Coney Conjunction: at least 5 seen, including a pair on Hunting Av and a couple more in the MITRE parking lot at the finish line. On a wet morning Kristin and I do ~2 miles to warm up, then at 0630 join Ed and Kerry at the loading dock for "Ed's Loop" in the reverse direction. Ed describes his torn hamstring injury from some years ago, and we compare notes on running out of gas in various cars, plus discuss long hair, and hill climbing tactics. Runkeeper and Garmin GPS are again within 1% concurrence today.

- Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 06:31:52 (EDT)


2014-06-10 - Ed's Loop Plus

~5.3 miles @ ~11.7 min/mi

Two big bunnies bound away as Ed, Kerry, and Kristin trot along Hunting Av on a humid morning Pimmit Hills jog. Dr Kristin does a couple of warmup miles with me before the 0630 group gathers at the loading dock to run "Ed's Loop". She tolerates my lectures on favorite quotes ("The same equations have the same solutions," R. P. Feynman, etc.) and salutes the Four Mantras from Thich Nhat Hanh. Birds chirp and we "Notice the Music". I make her laugh by explaining how to cure my intermittent double vision: wear an eyepatch on one eye, and maybe shift it to the other occasionally! Runkeeper and Garmin GPS agree today to within ~1%.

- Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 06:27:08 (EDT)


2014-06-08 - Northwest Branch Hillwork Blitz

~6 miles @ ~9.6 min/mi

The mega-hill climb at the Beltway (northern) end of Northwest Branch Trail — gravel surface, 150' up in a quarter mile at ~11% grade — gets done twice. There's a HUGE error by the iPhone Runkeeper GPS, which perhaps is lured off-course by neighborhood WiFi signals and instead of the out-and-back shows a jump during the return trip onto neighborhood streets, for 7.21 miles and an impossible pace during miles 5, 6, and 7 of 5:01, 6:45, and 5:50 respectively. The Garmin GPS is more reasonable, with 6.15 miles and hard-trotting splits of 8:38 + 8:43 + 10:38 (hill!) + 11:34 (hill!!) + 9:03 + 8:52 and final fraction in 73 seconds (8:15 min/mi pace). Two deer peer at passing runners, then dash across the stream. One sports scary-big velvet-covered antlers. Latina girls walk the hill and smile. Fishermen toss lines in the water under the New Hampshire Av bridge. A dripping wet fellow in shorts and singlet ambles along the bikepath.

- Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 06:21:05 (EDT)


Sit with Suffering

From Chapter 4 ("Changing Our Attitude Toward Pain") of Practicing Peace in Times of War by Pema Chödrön::

Yet it is so basic in us to feel that things should go well for us, and that if we start to feel depressed, lonely, or inadequate, there's been some kind of mistake or we've lost it. In reality, when you feel depressed, lonely, betrayed, or any unwanted feelings, this is an important moment on the spiritual path. This is where real transformation can take place.

As long as we're caught up in always looking for certainty and happiness, rather than honoring the taste and smell and quality of exactly what is happening, as long as we're always running away from discomfort, we're going to be caught in a cycle of unhappiness and disappointment, and we will feel weaker and weaker. This way of seeing helps us to develop inner strength.

And what's especially encouraging is the view that inner strength is available to us at just the moment when we think we've hit the bottom, when things are at their worst. Instead of asking ourselves, "How can I find security and happiness?" we could ask ourselves, "Can I touch the center of my pain? Can I sit with suffering, both yours and mine, without trying to make it go away? Can I stay present to the ache of loss or disgrace—disappointment in all its many forms—and let it open me?" This is the trick.

- Saturday, June 28, 2014 at 05:42:33 (EDT)


2014-06-07 - Valley Trail, Holly Trail, Pine Trail with Gayatri and Barry

~15 miles @ ~14.2 min/mi

"Oops, I forgot your flashlight again!" I apologize to comrade Mike Edwards when he appears suddenly in the woods. He left his lamp in my drop bag accidentally at the C&O Canal 100 in late April; we fist-bump and he forgives me.

Steroid-boosted from last Saturday's Montana Society Testy-Fest, Barry Smith blasts out 3 circuits of the steep Holly Trail + Pine Trail loop in Rock Creek Park, while Gayatri Datta and I only manage ~1.5 laps, scaring a big deer along the way. We encounter lots of muddy puddles along the Valley Trail. The Garmin GPS is ~5% more conservative than the iPhone (~15.1 miles total). Rabbit count =1. Runkeeper and Garmin GPS record the details.

- Friday, June 27, 2014 at 05:44:35 (EDT)


Four Mantras

At the local library used-book sale not long ago a tiny book surfaced from 2004 by Thich Nhat Hanh, monk and mindfulness teacher. Its title was True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart; it discussed what Hanh called "The Four Mantras". He offered the same list in an interview on an Oprah Winfrey TV show in 2012, and in a 1995 talk shared at "The Mindfulness Bell". Worth remembering:

(cf. EatTheOrange (2004-11-28), Laundromat Surprises (2009-03-02), Breath as Vehicle (2009-06-17), Bind the Monkey (2009-11-21), Blooming of a Lotus (2013-11-17), ...)

- Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 05:06:19 (EDT)


2014-06-05 - Ed's Loop Reversed Plus, with Kristin et al.

~5.8 miles @ ~11.6 min/mi

Coney Count = 3: one rabbit sitting in the middle of the street at mile 2, one in the brush about mile 4, and one at the edge of the parking lot during our cool-down walk (so technically it doesn't count as part of the "run"). Kristin and I meander through Pimmit Hills early, then join Ed and David to do "Ed's Loop" but in the reverse direction at my insistence. Light intermittent drizzle and high humidity, moderated by intermittent breezes, makes for a pleasant trek. Runkeeper and Garmin GPS differ by less than 2%.

- Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 04:42:26 (EDT)


2014-06-04 - McLean HS Track Speedwork with Kristin

~4.5 miles @ ~12 min/mi

Kristin and I take advantage of a neighborhood cut-through path and find our way past fragrant flowers to McLean High School's fancy cushioned track, where at sunrise we join half a dozen others to do five 200 meter repeats at ~50 seconds each, with half a lap recovery walk between each sprint. Dr K's first experiment with interval training goes well: no puking! Runkeeper and Garmin show the way, with return route via Westmoreland St and Chain Bridge Rd to Anderson Rd.

- Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 04:39:30 (EDT)


2014-06-01 - KenGar with Barry, Ken, and Rebecca

~10 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

"And of course you remember the Battle of Franklin!" Ken says, at mile 6 of a detailed monologue describing his recent road trip to New Orleans and back, with stops in Tennessee (athletic facilities at UT there outshine academic ones), Kentucky ("Concealed Carry" magazine in a restroom reading rack), Alabama (the original Mardi Gras museum in Mobile), etc. Cars from MCRRC training group participants fill the KenGar parking lot and occupy roadside slots up and down Beach Dr when Barry and I arrive a bit after 7am. Then, as we begin our jog, packs of fast runners greet us as they blast past. Ken & Rebecca meet us at mile 2 and pull us along at a brisk pace. At the 7-11 afterwards a super-large Slurpee helps cool and rehydrate. Runkeeper is ~2% more generous than the Garmin GPS.

- Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 04:37:04 (EDT)


Mindfulness Skills

At a presentation last month titled "If Not Now, Zen?", Blaise Aguirre, M.D. (Medical Director, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School) offered a hierarchical list of "Mindfulness Skills". Slightly edited for parallelism and style:

- Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 04:18:18 (EDT)


2014-05-31 - Stephanie's Loop

~17 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

Join Stephanie for a 7 mile afternoon loop around her neighborhood, dodging cyclists and sharing geeky-analytic conversation: ketogenic diets, neurophysiology, pro- and pre-biotics, ultramarathon training, etc. Dr Fonda is finishing another awesome 70-mile week before starting to taper for the Mohican 100 miler in late June — wow! During the solo trek home, greet family friend Elie at her Kensington bookstore, and trot down the Mormon Temple hill (Stoneybrook St) behind a young lady with a flaming red ponytail. Runkeeper inexplicably pauses when the iPhone takes a photo and so misses the first 4+ miles to Stephanie's home; Garmin records the entire route.

- Monday, June 23, 2014 at 04:55:07 (EDT)


2014-05-30 - Pimmit Hills with Amber and Kristin

~6.3 miles @ ~11.6 min/mi

Coney count = 2 on a cool cloudy circuit around the Pimmit Hills neighborhood with colleagues Amber and Kristin. Discussion topics include kids, high school running records, and the irresistible temptations of free food at department meetings. Runkeeper and Garmin GPS agree to within ~1%.

- Monday, June 23, 2014 at 04:47:50 (EDT)


Iron and Silk

From 1982 to 1984, Mark Salzman taught English to students at a medical college in Hunan, a province in south-central China. His description of that time, Iron & Silk, is a well-written, fast-reading, and charming collection of anecdotes that depict both stark poverty and deep love among the people he met. There is openheartedness, as described in the chapter "Teacher Wei":

... Since very few people in China have telephones, about the only way to arrange to visit someone is to walk to his home and knock on the door. If it's a friend, you can often dispense with the knocking and just walk in. My students told me again and again that if I ever wanted to see them I could walk into their homes any time of day or night.

"But what if you are busy?"

"It doesn't matter! If you come, I won't be busy anymore!"

"But what if you are asleep?"

"Then wake me up!"

There are sweet poetic stories, told by Salzman's students as they learn English — stories that dance close to the razor-wire political fences they must live within. Most displays of affection are forbidden, or unacknowledged. But in the chapter "Kissing", there is a private confession:

... Then very slowly, and with great precision, he said, "Teacher Mark. Do you remember? We said that we do not kiss our children after they are big. You are an honest, and you are my teacher. So I must be an honest, your student. As to kissing, this is not always true. I have two daughters. One is twelve and one is ten. I cannot kiss them, because they would feel embarrassment and they would call me a foolish. But every night, after they are asleep, I go into their room to turn off the light. In fact, very quiet, very soft, I kiss them and they don't know."

And there are local customs that Salzman finds hilariously startling. In the chapter "A Ghost Story", for example, he stays overnight with some poor fishermen in the boats where they live:

... In time I was properly introduced, and we pulled our boat into their little cluster and shared breakfast. When everyone had eaten, they took turns dropping their trousers, leaning off the sides of the boats and using the river as a toilet. At the same time, Old Ding insisted that it was time to wash up. He dipped an iron cup into the filthy water and began splashing it on his face and neck, inviting me to do the same. I declined, to everyone's surprise. "Don't you wash yourself?" "Yes, but not every day. I will tomorrow." Then it came time to brush our teeth. He dipped the cup into the water again, swished a lump of steel wool in it, then put the steel wool in his mouth to chew on. He gargled with a mouthful of the water, then spat it out. "Here—your turn." I declined again, and everyone agreed that it was an odd thing that Americans, who supposedly live in a fantastical future-world, understand so little about personal hygiene.

... which brings to mind Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, esp. the scene in Chapter XIII of making tea from Thames river water just before "one of the quietest and peacefullest dogs I have ever seen" drifts by, obviously quite dead.

Iron & Silk also touches upon Asian martial arts and philosophy — but the true strength of Salzman's book lies in the images of ordinary Chinese people he sketches, as they live and love and thrive.

- Sunday, June 22, 2014 at 07:21:07 (EDT)


2014-05-26 - MCRRC Memorial Day Race

~3.9 miles @ ~7.9 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Memorial_4_Mile_Run_2014_connie_corbett_z1.jpg"Happy Birthday!" I shout at John Way as he blasts past on the out-and-back course of today's MCRRC Memorial Day race, a short 4 miler. The downhill start makes for a fast first split but a correspondingly tough finish; Garmin estimates 7:31 + 7:45 + 7:46 + 8:25 pace on the final 0.9 mile fraction, overall about 2% more conservative than RunKeeper. Comrade Barry Smith is a volunteer course marshall after his marathon yesterday, and gives me a ride to/from the event — many thanks, Sir!

After the run, Comrade Christina Caravoulias diagnoses my achy left-side ribs as strained intercostal muscles, from this unfortunate dumbbell's foolish attempt to lift a 25 pound dumbbell on Thursday. The official results put me at 30:36, 67th of 277 runners, behind 52 men & 14 women (the 15-year-old Rosas sisters pass me on the final hill, curse them!), 3rd of 15 males in the age 60-64 bracket. Past results:
    34:11 - 2002
    45:51 - 2006
    41:36 - 2007
    44:27 - 2008
    46:15 - 2009
    31:04 - 2010
    32:07 - 2012
... so apparently this year is a PB — yay!

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Memorial_4_Mile_Run_2014_connie_corbett_z2.jpg

(photos by Connie Corbett)

- Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 05:10:09 (EDT)


Wake, Ask, Laugh, Love

Chapter 12 of Ezra Bayda's book Being Zen is called "Practicing with Distress". It offers a wise but somewhat clunky four step process to try when overwhelmed by problems. As Bayda puts it:

  1. Awakening aspiration
  2. Awakening curiosity
  3. Awakening humor
  4. Awakening loving-kindness

Briefer, better, more memorable is the acronym WALL:

(cf. Bursting the Bubble of Fear (2014-03-26), ...)

- Friday, June 20, 2014 at 04:16:04 (EDT)


Tres Amigos Graffiti

Wall art seen in Austin Texas at the Tres Amigos restaurant parking lot:

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Tres_Amigos_graffiti_1.jpg

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Tres_Amigos_graffiti_2.jpg

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Tres_Amigos_graffiti_3.jpg

- Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 04:38:53 (EDT)


2014-05-24 - Rock Creek with Gayatri

No Cameleopardalid meteors seen at 0400 this morning, so back to bed, then up to run starting ~0545. A formerly-purple-blazed path skirts the fence around Walter Reed Annex and winds past clumps of poison sumac, under deadfalls, and across muddy tributary streams. Dogs dance at dawn across soggy ballfields as Gayatri and I meet near Candy Cane City for a trek down Rock Creek to the Zoo and back. Gayatri lectures about Indian politics and social issues. We concur on the value of optimism. Runkeeper using the iPhone GPS records the route and pace.

- Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 08:43:52 (EDT)


Attentive Sensitivity

From the Prologue of Everyday Blessings, gentle thoughts on paying attention by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

For me, mindfulness—cultivated in periods of stillness and during the day in the various things I find myself doing—hones an attentive sensitivity to the present moment that helps me keep my heart at least a tiny bit more open and my mind at least a tiny bit clear, so that I have a chance to see my children for who they are, to remember to given them what it is they most need from me, and to make plenty of room for them to find their own ways to be in the world.

But the fact that I practice meditation doesn't mean that I am always calm or kind or gentle, or always present. There are many times when I am not. It doesn't mean that I always know what to do and never feel confused or at a loss. But being even a little more mindful helps me to see things I might not have seen and take small but important, sometimes critical steps I might not otherwise have taken.

... and not just as a parent relating to one's children, of course.

- Monday, June 16, 2014 at 06:51:20 (EDT)


2014-05-22 - Pimmit Hills Plus Again

~6 miles @ ~11.3 min/mi

2 bunnies sighted, both at mile ~5 — after thunderstorms pass and we get a few sips of coffee, Dr Kristin & I warm up with a couple of miles, then join Amber, David, and Ed for the usual 0630 Tu/Th group trot around the office 'hood. Runkeeper records the route.

- Sunday, June 15, 2014 at 18:25:44 (EDT)


2014-05-20 - Pimmit Hills Plus

~5.9 miles @ ~11.4 min/mi

Pimmit Hills coney count 6+ — after a dawn warm-up loop with Kristin, join Amber, David, and Kerry for a brisk trot including off-road detour on the connector to Pimmit Run Trail. RunKeeper shows the last two miles as the fastest, ~10.5 min/mi pace.

- Sunday, June 15, 2014 at 18:24:12 (EDT)


Not Biting the Hook

From Chapter 3 ("Not Biting the Hook") of Practicing Peace in Times of War by Pema Chödrön::

In Tibetan there is a word that points to the root cause of aggression, the root cause also of craving. It points to a familiar experience that is at the root of all conflict, all cruelty oppression, and greed. This word is shenpa. The usual translation is "attachment," but this doesn't adequately express the full meaning. I think of shenpa as "getting hooked." ...

... I once saw a cartoon of three fish swimming around a hook. One fish is saying to the others, "The secret is nonattachment." That's a shenpa joke: the secret is don't bite that hook. If we can learn to relax in the place where the urge is strong, we will get a bigger perspective on what's happening. We might come to see that there are two billion kinds of itch and seven quadrillion types of scratching, but we just call the whole thing shenpa.

(cf. This Is Water (2009-05-21), Core Buddhism (2011-11-17), Big Ideas (2012-05-20), 01 (2013-11-05), ...)

- Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 07:10:39 (EDT)


2014-05-18 - Solo Zimmarathon

~26 miles @ ~12 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Rock_Creek_Trail_bridge_curves.jpgDip fingers into Lake Needwood at the halfway point, thinking of the Taiji "Pick Up Needle from Sea Floor" form ... slip on muddy patch and do a near Face Plant at mile 23, but reassure concerned witness, "No worries, Ma'am; it's the first fall of the day!" as wet dirt hardens into an instant poultice for the scraped arm and knees ... tag along for a mile with Alyssa Soumoff, Terri Scadron, and Toby McGinn near KenGar as they finish their trek ... count 4 bunnies and 8 deer total on a solo "Mad Dog Zimmarathon" that this year falls on a pleasantly cool Sunday.

Photos: curvy shadows at mile 9 lead the way to the Rock Creek Trail bridge over Veirs Mill Rd; found sunglasses protect the eyes while lying down for a selfie on the trail mosaic at the other end of the bridge at mile 17 on the return trip.

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Rock_Creek_Trail_bridge_mosaic.jpg

Garmin and Runkeeper GPS tracks concur to within 2%. Compare with previous runs on roughly the same route 2004-08-29 - Mad Dog Zimmarathon, 2006-10-28 - Mad Dog Zimmarathon Plus, 2007-08-18 - Mad Dog Zimmarathon 2007, 2011-07-16 - Mad Dog Zimmarathon 2011, ...

- Friday, June 13, 2014 at 05:50:00 (EDT)


Creativity Quotes

From a mini-seminar-discussion on 2013-03-13, selected inspirational extracts from ZhurnalyWiki pages:

Keith Johnstone (Yes, and...):

There are people who prefer to say 'Yes', and there are people who prefer to say 'No'. Those who say 'Yes' are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say 'No' are rewarded by the safety they attain. There are far more 'No' sayers than 'Yes' sayers, ...

Charlie Mingus (AwesomelySimple):

"Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can play weird --- that's easy. What's hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple complicated is commonplace --- making the complicated simple, awesomely simple --- that's creativity."

W. J. Leveque (CreativeDevices):

"What is a trick the first time one meets it is a device the second time and a method the third time."

... and Michael Kimmelman:

"Bach, whose music has the most rules, also gives the most freedom, a paradoxical quality of creativity."

Shunryu Suzuki (Not Always So):

So the secret is just to say "Yes!" and jump off from here. Then there is no problem. It means to be yourself in the present moment, always yourself, without sticking to an old self. You forget all about yourself and are refreshed. You are a new self, and before that self becomes an old self, you say "Yes!" and you walk to the kitchen for breakfast. So the point on each moment is to forget the point and extend your practice.

As Dogen Zenji says, "To study Buddhism is to study yourself. To study yourself is to forget yourself on each moment." Then everything will come and help you. Everything will assure your enlightenment. ...

... and:

The secret of Soto Zen is just two words: "Not always so." Oops — three words in English. In Japanese, two words. "Not always so." This is the secret of the teaching. It may be so, but it is not always so. Without being caught by words or rules, without too many preconceived ideas, we actually do something, and doing something, we apply our teaching.

Michael Shermer (TenThousandHours):

"What does it take to be a creative genius and reach the top of your field? First of all, there's a minimal 10,000-hour rule. If you want to master a sport or a skill or a subject, that comes out to about 60 hours per week for about three and a half years. That's true in all professions. It doesn't mean you'll make it. Good biology and genes help. But look at Mozart. He didn't just plop out of nowhere as some people think. He had the father and the training and did the 10,000 hours when he was 6, rather than 26, when most of us find our way in life. Earlier devotion, of course, does help the genius to come out."

Jon Kabat-Zinn (Ceaseless Society):

... Creativity is mysterious, but one way to generate or tilt the probability of creativity is to cultivate more spaciousness in the mind, because thought tends to sort of contract and then get [...] stymied, when it can't get to the next thought.

And sometimes, if you learn how to just stand there, at what the Zen people in the Zen archery world call the point of highest tension — nobody could string or hold back Odysseus's bow except Odysseus, nobody — but when you can stand at the point of highest tension with your thoughts going nowhere and hold it in something bigger, wakefully, not necessarily in a dream, but actually wakefully, interesting connections seem to appear because they're already here.

But we are in some sense blind to them because our thinking itself acts like lenses and prevents us from seeing orthogonal opportunities, opportunities that are rotated in some way in relationship to the passive assumptions, to what's already known.

And what science is about is going between what's already known and the next that's going to be known — but how it is going to happen, and part of that is just an incredibly beautiful adventure. ...

John Cleese (HareBrainTortoiseMind):

In a nutshell, [Cleese] said, Claxton describes the "hare brain" as logical, fast, machine-like thinking. The "tortoise mind," on the other hand, is slower, less focused, less articulate, much more playful, almost dreamy. In his book, Claxton says the two sides need each other to come up with not just ideas, but good ideas. He also cites a number of studies suggesting that people should trust their hunches more.

The problem in business, Cleese said, is that three forces are leaving no room for the tortoise mind—a "terribly dangerous" development that stifles creativity and innovation and inevitably leads to bad decisions.

These forces, he said, are the widely held, but misguided, beliefs that being decisive means making decisions quickly, that fast is always better and that we should think of our minds as being like computers.

. . .

The pressure on managers at all levels to act quickly is enormous, he said. "Although taking decisions very fast looks impressive, it is in fact not only show-off behavior, but actually a bit cowardly. It shows you'd rather give the impression of decisiveness than wait to substantially improve your chances of coming up with the right decision."

Disney Imagineering (Ideas and Identity):

... Disney Imagineering philosophy is to relentlessly separate ideas from identity. That is, if you invent something you shouldn't cling to it and feel that you must "own" it and develop it. Rather, you should share it with others and enlist their help in developing it. Collaboration is crucial in making something great. All ideas are built upon older ones.

Keith Johnstone (Impro):

At about the age of nine I decided never to believe anything because it was convenient. I began reversing every statement to see if the opposite was also true. This is so much a habit with me that I hardly notice I'm doing it any more. As soon as you put a 'not' into an assertion, a whole range of other possibilities opens out—especially in drama, where everything is supposition anyway. When I began teaching, it was very natural for me to reverse everything my own teachers had done. I got my actors to make faces, insult each other, always to leap before they looked, to scream and shout and misbehave in all sorts of ingenious ways. It was like having a whole tradition of improvisation teaching behind me. In a normal education everything is designed to suppress spontaneity, but I wanted to develop it.

Z. A. Melzak (InSearchOfTheFulcrum):

"He had little to be proud of except perhaps for this: that he differed in almost everything that matters from almost everybody. This sustained him in his struggles by inspiring the belief that he could not be everywhere wrong. He was profoundly grateful not for a glimpse of horror that was vouchsafed him, but for the accident of strength to bear it and to rebuild himself several times upon new foundations."

... and in his book 'Bypasses' (Michael Mikhaylovich Speranski):

"The relevance of bypass as a rhetorical device is forcibly shown by Tolstoy in War and Peace (the Maude translation, Bk. VI, Ch. VI, p. 22) in words that are, from our point of view at least, very striking; Tolstoy here describes Michael Speranski, who was for a time a favorite counsellor of the Tsar Alexander. After telling us that metaphysics was a resource the brilliant Speranski very frequently employed in argument, Tolstoy goes on to say: 'He would transfer a question to metaphysical heights, pass on to definitions of space, time, and thought, and having deduced the refutation he needed, would again descend to the level of the original discussion.' "

Robert Maurer (One Small Step):

David Allen (Mind Like Water):

In karate there is an image that's used to define the position of perfect readiness: "mind like water." Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn't overreact or underreact.

... and a few pages later:

Ralph Waldo Emerson (RalphWaldoEmerson):

Quotation — yes, but how differently persons quote! I am as much informed of your genius by what you select, as by what you originate. I read the quotation with your eyes, & find a new & fervent sense. ... For good quoting, then, there must be originality in the quoter --- bent, bias, delight in the truth, & only valuing the author in the measure of his agreement with the truth which we see, & which he had the luck to see first. And originality, what is that? It is being; being somebody, being yourself, & reporting accurately what you see & are. If another's words describe your fact, use them as freely as you use the language & the alphabet, whose use does not impair your originality. Neither will another's sentiment or distinction impugn your sufficiency. Yet in proportion to your reality of life & perception, will be your difficulty of finding yourself expressed in others' words or deeds.

- Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 04:56:18 (EDT)


2014-05-17 - Rock Creek with Amy and Co.

~12.5 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

Dawn bunny count = 1 on the way to join Amy Couch for a ramble around the 'hood. Recent Rock Creek floods leave muddy mini-dunes at Candy Cane City where we meet first Gayatri & Sam, then Barry & Rebecca to trek into DC on Beach Dr. We then loop back to Amy's home via downtown Silver Spring, enjoying hills along Amy's former nemesis, Dale Dr. It's a lovely cool day with glowing electric iris blossoms and other May flowers. Runkeeper and Garmin GPS concur, more or less.

- Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 04:23:45 (EDT)


2014-05-13 - Pimmit Hills Loop

~3 miles @ ~10.2 min/mi

It's a humid morning meander with Amber, David, and Kerry. Discussions include Mother's Day yoga, aphid control, running shoe hoopla, Memorial Day plans, the Gettysburg Address, and a recent bachelor party in New Orleans that brings to mind the film The Hangover. Runkeeper and Garmin GPS redundantly record the route.

- Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 04:21:57 (EDT)


Thousand-Year View

The Spring 2014 issue of Inquiring Mind (Vol. 30, No. 2) on the theme "War and Peace" wrestles with questions of mindfulness mediation and the military. An interview of Jon Kabat-Zinn (by Barbara Gates and Alan Senauke) is titled "The Thousand-Year View". At one point K-Z describes how, on September 11, 2011, he and his wife Myla were at a Zen monastery and decided to spend the time as previously planned with Zen master Harada Roshi rather than "... sitting stunned in front of the TV":

At the end of the day, [the master] gave everyone a poster with a big Zen circle, an Enso, and underneath the words, "Never forget the one-thousand-year view." I just love that. I would say that all of my work has been informed by that spirit. How can we just put one skillful drop into the mix? We have no idea what the effects will be. The world is on fire. It's screaming. We have to trust that if we maintain a certain kind of integrity and learn to wake up in tiny little ways and embody compassion in tiny little ways in the laboratory of our own lives and families and work, over time it will elevate and transform society.

And at the end of the discussion, Kabat-Zinn offers a profoundly optimistic view of the future of self-awareness:

IM: ... But how do you propose that we watch to guard against the commodification of mindfulness within our culture?

JKZ: In this era, some commodification may be unavoidable. But to what end? Maybe it can be a skillful means to promote wisdom. I trust the dharma and the practice itself in this regard. For me, in essence, it is an expression of love. And that love includes trust in the integrity of the people who come to the practice and stay with it. Motivation is also extremely important. Motivations grow and change, so even if your initial motivation is to cause harm, by the time you finish, you may have a different motivation. I have to trust that. What else is there? We are trying to maximize the wholesome and minimize harm through discernment. It's like a muscle. It can be trained.

Of course, the mainstream flowering of mindfulness is a work in progress. If the entire military wanted high-level training in mindfulness, how many qualified instructors would you need? And how do you prevent the practice from being distorted, diluted, denatured, or commodified? This is a gigantic practical challenge.

Still, there are many deeply committed people teaching mindfulness in one form or another in hospitals, prisons, schools, corporations and in the military, and researching the outcomes. Hopefully they are dedicated practitioners themselves. Are they perfect? Well, are we? All we can do is to do the best we can, to "be all you can be," as the Army slogan has it. But it is hard to be aware of what you're not aware of. So we need to help each other. We need to talk out difficult things. We need to practice together, and live our own understanding. And we need to recognize our own uncertainties and blindnesses, and keep the one-thousand-year view in mind. I just bow to the two of you for doing this issue. It's dicey, and an important conversation to have.

Especially beautiful, the description of mindfulness practice: "For me, in essence, it is an expression of love."

- Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at 04:56:10 (EDT)


2014-05-11 - Music Everywhere with Stephanie

~19 miles @ ~14.5 min/mi

Coney Count = 2 (unique rabbits, not double-counting the one that was spotted twice) as we trek at ultra race pace on tired legs around her favorite neighborhood loops. A lady pushing a stroller passes us in the first mile, as do countless runners along Rock Creek and the Bethesda Trolley Trail. Dr Fonda listens patiently as Dr ^z lectures interminably on neuroscience, Fourier analysis, Fordyce's angiokeratoma, the meaning of Shakespeare's Sonnet XVI, etc., with naughty confessional asides and a bonus pause to photograph a flattened snake. Stephanie recommends slow training to avoid "shredding" one's body. "Do I want to get shredded or ripped?" I ask faux-naïvely. We take turns observing "Music Everywhere", adapting Dr Kristin Heckman's mantra ("Notice the Music!") to the sounds of the day's journey. Runkeeper and Garmin tell the tale of route and pace.

- Monday, June 09, 2014 at 22:08:31 (EDT)


2014-05-10 - Tempo Hillwork

~11 miles @ ~10.6 min/mi

Coney Count = 4: one big bunny on the Capital Crescent Trail, plus three lesser rabbits kicking up mulch in front yard gardens along Leland St. Early hillwork and a brisk trot solo from Candy Cane City are followed by a meet-up with Ken & Sara & Barry & Rebecca for bawdy banter plus trekking along Rock Creek. Runkeeper and Garmin GPS record the ramble.

- Monday, June 09, 2014 at 22:03:23 (EDT)


Cycles to Burn

At the end of a long slow run a month ago I'm fretting and criticizing myself about a variety of old issues — mistakes I've made, unskillful behavior, over-attachment and clinging to expectations, inadvertent brain glitches, obsessions, persistent complaints, etc., etc. Dear friend Stephanie suggests that I cut myself some slack, and observes kindly that my brain may be a bit over-active: "You have more cycles to burn than most people!" Hmmmm ... thanks, Dr Fonda!

- Sunday, June 08, 2014 at 15:11:22 (EDT)


2014-05-04 - CCT Leland RCT with Ken

~10 miles @ ~11 min/mi

Bunny count = 1 (on Warren St!) en route to join Ken Swab in Bethesda for a hilly Leland St trek to Rock Creek, then upstream home. GPS resolution-test spirals around the Mermaid Fountain in National Park Seminary offer a chance to eye its beauty. An iPhone glitch adds a bonus 1/3 mile to the Runkeeper tally upon leaving the tunnel under Wisconsin Av, as compared to the Garmin trackfile. Ken recounts yesterday's antique fair and pottery expedition to Pennsylvania with his DW, and we analyze blister prevention tactics.

- Saturday, June 07, 2014 at 18:50:07 (EDT)


2014-05-03 - Rock Creek Park with Barry and Rebecca

~20 miles @ ~12 min/mi

Sunrise bunny count = 1 (Warren St!) on the way to meet Rebecca & Barry at Candy Cane, where Avon Breast Cancer Walk volunteers are setting up a pink tent city and monster commercial kitchen & shower Trucks block the parking lot. We trek down Beach Dr and back, with a detour along Military Rd to add hills. Conversation topics include entropy and time's arrow, the animated film Ratatouille, exhibits at the soon-to-close Corcoran art gallery, literal-minded French tax lawyers, and varieties of the philosophical Trolley Problem — after that last of which, I eye my companions warily when we pause on a bridge above roiling Rock Creek, lest they decide to push me off to save the more worthy life of someone in the water. Runkeeper and Garmin GPS record the route.

- Saturday, June 07, 2014 at 18:44:18 (EDT)


2014-05-01_-_McLean_Circuit

~3.3 miles @ ~11.3 min/mi

Bunny count in the 'hood = 3 — tall Ed runs in front under the junipers, his head brushing the branches and causing a cascade of water onto me, while Kristin and David jog ahead and point out mud puddles. Runkeeper shows Ed's usual loop.

- Saturday, June 07, 2014 at 18:38:33 (EDT)


2014-04-29 - McLean Office Gang Loop

~3.5 miles @ ~10.4 min/mi

Mochi-mochi and Diet Coke breakfast fuels morning jog with office colleagues David, Ed, and Kristin — two bunny sightings in light drizzle — Kanzan pink cherry trees and pastel tulips in bloom — Runkeeper records "Ed's Loop" route.

- Saturday, June 07, 2014 at 18:35:34 (EDT)


Everyday Blessings

The 1997 book Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn is insightful, fascinating, and fun. Much of it applies not just to raising kids but throughout life. Many suggestions, in fact, work amazingly well if the word "child" is simply changed to "spouse", or "friend", or "parent". Some parts of the discussion are slow, anecdotal, and loosely written, but even those have sporadic sparkles and doubtless speak to some readers at certain times.

Among the difficult balancing-acts that Everyday Blessings wrestles with is the paradoxical challenge of combining deep love with non-attachment. The Prologue section by Jon Kabat-Zinn offers a beautiful image (from Rainer Marie Rilke) of seeing a silhouette "whole against the sky":

To me, it feels like the work is all in the attending, in the quality of the attention I bring to each moment, and in my commitment to live and to parent as consciously as possible. We know that unconsciousness in one or both parents, especially when it manifests in rigid and unwavering opinions, self-centeredness, and lack of presence and attention, invariably leads to sorrow in the children. These traits are often symptoms of underlying sorrow in parents as well, although they may never be seen as such without a deep experience of awakening.

Maybe each one of us, in our own unique ways, might honor Rilke's insight that there are always infinite distances between even the closest human beings. If we truly understand and accept that, terrifying as it sometimes feels, perhaps we can choose to live in such a way that we can experience in its fullness the "wonderful living side by side" that can grow up if we use and love the distance that lets us see the other whole against the sky.

I see this as our work as parents. To do it, we need to nurture, protect, and guide our children and bring them along until they are ready to walk their own paths. We also have to be whole ourselves, each his or her own person, with a life of our own, so that when they look at us, they will be able to see our wholeness against the sky.

It's all about awareness, attention, awakening ...

(cf. SkyLights (2003-05-25), Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Work of a Lifetime (2009-02-01), No Method (2010-01-21), ...)

- Friday, June 06, 2014 at 04:40:53 (EDT)


2014-04-26 - CO Canal 100 Miler DNF

~69.6 miles @ ~17.3 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/COCanal100_2014/COCanal100_2014_before_race_z.jpgAt dawn, it's almost time to start the 2014 C&O Canal 100. Many thanks to comrade Caren Jew for the spiffy electric-green-and-black gaiters!

Yet another attempt to do a 100 miler, yet another Did Not Finish = DNF. This time it's at mile 69, about 7 miles farther than the October 2013 century attempt and ~17 better than last year at this same race. At that rate of improvement perhaps there's a chance to finish one of these by 2019 or so?

The Garmin GPS trackfile records details of route and pace. Entertainingly, as with other long runs, meteorological effects during the 20 hour trek create an artificial downhill slope to the elevation chart. NOAA records show the barometer rising from 29.8" to 30.0" during the 20 hours of the race.

This photo is by Paul Encarnación (click for larger high-res image). It was taken ~7:30am at Dargan Bend, mile ~1.4 of the race.

The C&O Canal 100 course begins at Camp Manidokan, a parklike area on a ridge near Harpers Ferry on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. After a steep scramble-crawl down muddy slopes — on which I slip and fall, fortunately on my backside, no harm done — runners cross a boggy bit of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and join the flat gravel towpath.

Initially the race heads upstream toward the Antietam Civil War battlefield. Dargan Bend is the first aid station, seen again at about 17 miles and about 59 miles into the run.

Mark Zimmermann at mile 1.4 C&O Canal 100
Butch Britton, Ed Masuoka, Mark Zimmermann at mile 17 C&O Canal 100Another great photo by Paul Encarnación (click for larger high-res image) of Butch Britton, Ed Masuoka, and ^z at mile 17, Dargan Bend.

A few miles into the C&O Canal 100 I meet Butch and Ed. We're among the three oldest participants in the race, and stick together for most of the first thirty miles. Following my companions' advice, for the next dozen hours I try to repeat the pattern "walk 4 minutes, run 1 minute". This results in a comfortable average ~15 min/mi pace. Cutoff times are ~18 min/mi so there's a margin of safety, in anticipation of deceleration at night and later in the race.

Butch and Ed discuss numismatics (Ed collects half cents, prison tokens, Early American Coppers, etc.), ultra training strategies, NASA bureaucracy, race-day nutrition, retirement plans, and a host of other topics. I explain "the remembering self" (how will this seem in retrospect?) and "the experiencing self" (how does this feel right now?) as per Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow. It's so neat to make new friends during a race!

For long stretches the C&O Canal parallels the railroad line between Washington DC and Harpers Ferry WV. Butch takes this image of me about mile 30, as our pace slows and Ed treks on ahead. A few miles earlier I changed shoes at an aid station. Perhaps this was a slight mistake, as these shoes are a trifle tighter and blister formation seems to accelerate.

When a freight train starts moving, there's a loud rattle-clash sound as slack is taken up in the couplings between the cars. It propagates rapidly down the length of the train, slower than the speed of sound but still startlingly fast. We hear it several times today.

Also along the towpath are redheaded woodpeckers and other birds, bluebell flowers, and at night loudly screaming peepers (small frogs). Like last year the Audubon Society is sponsoring a One Day Hike with participants doing 50k and 100k distances, heading upstream to Harpers Ferry. A few weeks after the race, at 5:30am when I'm beginning my daily commute at the Forest Glen Metro Station, a woman greets me on the platform with, "Didn't I see you running on the C&O Canal?" Small world: it's Julia Wisniewski, a neighbor who was doing that very hike!

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/COCanal100_2014/COCanal100_2014_mile_30_z.jpg
Mark Zimmermann at mile 59 C&O Canal 100The last image of the day, taken about midnight at mile ~59, is also from Paul Encarnación (click for larger high-res version). "By the way," Paul notes, "all those white dots in the photo are the camera's flash reflecting off lots of flying bugs. I understand that they were providing protein to some of the runners."

After mile 38, the downstream turnaround where bad blisters make Butch drop out, I'm mostly by myself for the remaining 50 kilometers. That's not too worrisome in the daylight, but all alone at night the old brain gets lonely and the old feet aren't feeling much love.

So at mile 69, after 20 hours trekking, at 3:00am I decide to drop. Logistics here at the Brunswick aid station are optimal to stop, since comrade Mike Edwards has kind crew person Merci there who welcomes me and gives me a ride back to the start-finish. I nap, Mike finishes, and I drive him home. The next day I can walk just fine, and two days later I'm back running with friends at the office. A fine result!

Lessons learned and other observations?

The biggest lesson of all: it's crucial to maintain a cheery attitude at all times!

Bottom line: great race, great people, great experience!

- Wednesday, June 04, 2014 at 04:41:25 (EDT)


Patience with Mistakes

From Chapter 2 ("The Courage to Wait") of Practicing Peace in Times of War by Pema Chödrön, wise advice on being more gentle with oneself:

Then the path of peace depends on being patient with the fact that all of us make mistakes. And that's more important than getting it right. This whole process seems to work only if you're willing to give yourself a break, to soften up, as you practice patience. As with the rest of the teachings, you can't win and you can't lose. You don't get to just say, "Well since I never can do it, I'm not going to try." It's like you never can do it and still you try. And, interestingly enough, that adds up to something, it adds up to appreciation for yourself and for others. It adds up to there being more warmth in the world. You look out through your eyes and you just see yourself wherever you go—you see all these people who are escalating their suffering just like you do. You also notice people catching themselves just like you do, and they give you the gift of their fearlessness. You begin to be grateful for even the slightest gesture of bravery on the part of others because you know it's not so easy. Their courage increases your trust in the basic goodness of yourself and all beings throughout the world—each of us just wanting to be happy, each of us not wanting to suffer.

Lovely thoughts, that resonate with Rick Hanson's suggestions (in his book Just One Thing, etc.) and Phillip Moffitt's counsel to "Soften into Experience" ...

- Tuesday, June 03, 2014 at 04:47:23 (EDT)


Legends and Heroes

A lovely-kind compliment from my elder son, Merle, in response to a note of praise I sent him for something he had done:

The Hero does not fall far from the Legend!

<<blushes>> ... and many thanks, Sir!

- Monday, June 02, 2014 at 08:39:57 (EDT)


Power Cycling

A silly (maybe) story, from earlier days of computing:

A novice was trying to fix a broken Lisp machine by turning the power off and on.

Knight, seeing what the student was doing, spoke sternly: "You cannot fix a machine by just power-cycling it with no understanding of what is going wrong."

Knight turned the machine off and on.

The machine worked.

Sometimes, that seems to make sense — at which point, clearly, it's time to (not) think again!

(cf. Hacker koan, "Some AI Koans", ...)

- Friday, May 30, 2014 at 04:45:31 (EDT)


2014-04-22 - Office Running Club Pimmit Hills Loop

~3.3 miles @ ~11.2 min/mi

It's the first morning run of the year for the office crew (Dr David, Dr Ed, Dr Kerry, Dr Kristin) and the weather is superb. Ed lectures on medical issues via a stream of acronyms (TIA, A-fib, MRI, CAT scan, etc.), Kristin spies a coney, and cars swerve to let runners pass through on narrow stretches of road. David and Kerry trot ahead, and I carry a scarlet tulip flower found on the sidewalk. Runkeeper records pace and path.

- Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 04:14:43 (EDT)


2014-04-21 - Pimmit Hills with Kristin

~5 miles @ ~10.6 min/mi

Venus shines low in the east on a lovely brisk morning, setting for a delightful dawn Pimmit Hills meander with Dr K, including trail talk about fluorescent lime-green running gear, quantum electrodynamics and renormalization theory, useful acronyms ("AFGO!" = "Another F'ing Growth Opportunity!"), cars, The 84th Problem, scar tissue, and more. Runkeeper records the route.

- Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 04:19:12 (EDT)


Being Zen

Chapter 5 of the 2002 book Being Zen by Ezra Bayda is called "The Eighty-fourth Problem". It begins with a classic story:

Once a farmer went to tell the Buddha about his problems. He described his difficulties farming—how either droughts or monsoons complicated his work. He told the Buddha about his wife—how even though he loved her, there were certain things about her he wanted to change. Likewise with his children—yes, he loved them, but they weren't turning out quite the way he wanted. When he was finished, he asked how the Buddha could help him with his troubles.

The Buddha said, "I'm sorry, but I can't help you."

"What do you mean?" railed the farmer. "You're supposed to be a great teacher!"

The Buddha replied, "Sir, it's like this. All human beings have eighty-three problems. It's a fact of life. Sure, a few problems may go away now and then, but soon enough others will arise. So we'll always have eighty-three problems."

The farmer responded indignantly, "Then what's the good of all your teaching?"

The Buddha replied, "My teaching can't help with the eighty-three problems, but perhaps it can help with the eighty-fourth problem."

"What's that?" asked the farmer.

"The eighty-fourth problem is that we don't want to have any problems."

Being Zen in its first chapter ("Skating on Thin Ice") offers two suggestions — or maybe one Big Suggestion? — on how to react more skillfully to life challenges:

Ezra Bayda concludes that first chapter with:

What we need is a gradual yet fundamental change in our orientation to life—toward a willingness to see, to learn, to just be with whatever we meet. Perhaps there is nothing more basic and essential than this willingness to just be. To simply be with our experience—even with the heaviness and darkness that surround our suffering—engenders a sense of lightness and heart. The willingness to learn from our disappointments and disillusionments is key. Pain we thought we could never endure becomes approachable. As we cultivate our willingness to just be, we discover that everything is workable. Until we come to know what this means, we are cutting ourselves off from the openness, the connectedness, and the appreciation that are our human gifts.

This echoes themes explored by Jon Kabat-Zinn (cf. Mindfulness for Beginners), Phillip Moffitt (cf. Softening into Experience), et al. More Being Zen thoughts to follow ...

(cf. Posture (2009-06-05), Bursting the Bubble of Fear (2014-03-26), ...)

- Tuesday, May 27, 2014 at 04:32:22 (EDT)


2014-04-19 - Rock Creek Park with Stephanie

~10.4 miles @ ~10.7 min/mi

Brisk morning trek down Beach Drive and back with Dr Fonda, featuring discussions of:

... and a host of other marvelous topics. Along the way Stephanie greets her boss Bob as he runs past, and I shake hands with cyclist Philippe, who stops to congratulate me for persistence. I remind him that in 2002 he shook my hand after my first marathon and said, "Welcome to the Club" in his beautiful French accent. (He did sub-3-hour marathons in his youth!) Runkeeper and Garmin concur to within ~4%.

- Monday, May 26, 2014 at 13:16:57 (EDT)


Practicing Peace in Times of War

The tiny Pema Chödrön book Practicing Peace in Times of War surfaced yesterday at the local used-book sale. It has many incredibly thoughtful and inspiring bits — but overall feels loose and fuzzy (and includes too many stray typographical errors). Perhaps the incoherence arises because it's based on some of Chödrön's talks, as edited by Sandy Boucher. But among the memorable imagery and advice are remarks in Chapter 1:

... There is a teaching that says that behind all hardening and tightening and rigidity of the heart, there's always fear. But if you touch fear, behind fear there is a soft spot. And if you touch that soft spot, you find the vast blue sky. You find that which is ineffable, ungraspable, and unbiased, that which can support and awaken us at any time. ...

... Our empathy and wisdom begin to come forward when we're not clouded by our rigid views or our closed heart. It's common sense. "If I retaliate, then they'll go home and beat their kids, and I don't want that happening."

... to the degree that each of us is dedicated to wanting there to be peace in the world, then we have to take responsibility when our own hearts and minds harden and close. We have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That's true spiritual warriorship. That's the true practice of peace.

More quotes and comments to follow ...

(cf. Sky Lights (2003-05-25), Softening into Experience (2012-11-12), ...)

- Sunday, May 25, 2014 at 13:00:43 (EDT)



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), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2014 by Mark Zimmermann.)