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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 = 0.9921 ... 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 ... thank you!

2016-09-02 - Tysons Exploration

~7.3 miles @ ~14.6 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Lawn_Dragon_Tysons.jpg"Something weird!" is the route request, as Cait and Kristin and I debate which way to trek in the darkness this morning. We rendezvous before dawn in Tysons Corner, since locker rooms are temporarily closed at our usual location. Maps hint at paths in the woods of Old Courthouse Spring Branch Park. Westward ho, seeking adventure!

Much meandering soon ensues. A somewhat-sketchy overgrown trail looks tempting, but a soggy stream crossing deters us from taking it Neighborhood streets lead to the other side of the same mini-jungle a few miles later. A local dog-walker encourages further search, as do five big deer at the end of a cul-de-sac. But again, recent rain suggests that sidewalks are a better choice today. Front yard dragon sculpture demands a pause for photography.

Trail talk is wide-ranging and cheerful. We listen mindfully, salute each other, and give thanks for friendship and tolerance and diversity and the great good fortune to live in such a wonderful world!


- Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 05:17:09 (EDT)

2016-08-31 - McLean Flashbacks

~8.2 miles @ ~12.2 min/mi

"I know Jimmy — he's a good friend!" Kerry exclaims. Small world: conversation about basketball leads Cait to mention her uncle, Jimmy Patsos, currently head coach at Siena College. Kerry met and worked with him during undergrad days in Boston. One degree of separation!

A few miles later, another flashback as we take a walk break to admire Hickory Hill, the former Kennedy family estate. The driver of a passing car rolls down his window and shouts, "Pick up the pace!" It's Joe, my boss 15 years ago!

The Dawn Patrol rambles east today, starting off by headlamp glow on a cool but humid morning. Kristin and Kerry lead along the forest path through Dead Run Stream Valley Park. We compare notes on yoga classes (Shavasana, aka "corpse pose", is my fave) and concur that, although hotel swimming pools are tempting during long summer conferences, the thought of seeing certain professional colleagues in Speedos is, uh, ...


- Wednesday, September 28, 2016 at 06:27:08 (EDT)

Open Readiness

From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Chapter 15 ("Meditation in Everyday Life"):

Your practice must be made to apply to your everyday living situation. That is your laboratory. It provides the trials and challenges you need to make your practice deep and genuine. It's the fire that purifies your practice of deception and error, the acid test that shows you when you are getting somewhere and when you are fooling yourself. If your meditation isn't helping you to cope with everyday conflicts and struggles, then it is shallow. If your day-to-day emotional reactions are not becoming clearer and easier to manage, then you are wasting your time. And you never know how you are doing until you actually make that test.

The practice of mindfulness is supposed to be a universal practice. You don't do it sometimes and drop it the rest of the time. You do it all the time. Meditation that is successful only when you are withdrawn in some soundproof ivory tower is still undeveloped. Insight meditation is the practice of moment-to-moment mindfulness. The meditator learns to pay bare attention to the birth, growth, and decay of all the phenomena of the mind. She turns from none of it and lets none of it escape. Thoughts and emotions, activities and desires, the whole show. She watches it all and watches it continuously. It matters not whether it is lovely or horrid, beautiful or shameful. She sees the way it is and the way it changes. No aspect of experience is excluded or avoided. It is a very thoroughgoing procedure.

If you are moving through your daily activities and you find yourself in a state of boredom, then meditate on your boredom. Find out how it feels, how it works, and what it is composed of. If you are angry, meditate on the anger. Explore the mechanics of anger. Don't run from it. If you find yourself sitting in the grip of a dark depression, meditate on that depression. Investigate depression in a detached and inquiring way. Don't flee from it blindly. Explore the maze and chart its pathways. That way you will be better able to cope with the next depression that comes along.

Meditating your way through the ups and downs of daily life is the whole point of vipassana. This kind of practice is extremely rigorous and demanding, but it engenders a state of mental flexibility that is beyond comparison. A meditator keeps his mind open every second. He is constantly investigating life, inspecting his own experience, viewing existence in a detached and inquisitive way. Thus, he is constantly open to truth in any form, from any source, and at any time. This is the state of mind you need for liberation.

It is said that one may attain enlightenment at any moment if the mind is kept in a state of meditative readiness. The tiniest, most ordinary perception can be the stimulus: a view of the moon, the cry of a bird, the sound of the wind in the trees. It's not so important what is perceived as the way in which you attend to that perception. That state of open readiness is essential. It could happen to you right now if you are ready. The tactile sensation of this book in your fingers could be the cue. The sound of these words in your head might be enough. You could attain enlightenment right now, if you are ready.

(cf. Moon Over Water (2012-02-12), Quiet in There (2011-05-31), Bare Attention (2016-06-20), ...)

- Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 05:38:07 (EDT)

2016-08-29 - Idlywood Sidewalk

~5.9 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

"Best. Anniversary. Gift. Ever!" Dr Kerry thanks her husband for his kind present after 22 years of marriage: three coats of polyurethane on the front door! And a bonus: "He and my daughter cleaned out my closet!"

The Dawn Patrol discovers a spiffy new sidewalk on Idlywood Road, making that segment far safer running in the early morning gloom. Kristin tells of her son's loose tooth removal this weekend, via a string tied to his radio-controlled model truck. Caitlin ran fast yesterday along Rock Creek Trail; her graduate work starts tonight at the University of Maryland. Kerry reports on the Laguna Beach "Pageant of the Masters" living-statue art recreation festival, and the "Tiki Beach 10k" that she did on the Pacific shore. Back after a multi-hop red-eye flight, she's somehow cheerful in spite of jet-lag, no caffeine, and just a few hours of sleep. "Welcome home, Dr K — we're so glad you're here!".


- Monday, September 26, 2016 at 04:28:25 (EDT)

Hide the Magic

Where do we put the mountains?
The mountains will give us the valleys.
The valleys will give us the shadows.
The shadows are where we hide the magic.

... comment (quote? source?) by Apollo Robbins, on deception and distraction and ...

- Sunday, September 25, 2016 at 12:57:34 (EDT)

2016-08-28 - RCT with RR

~6.1 miles @ ~11.7 min/mi

"I think you mean 'Dr. WHOM'!?" says the Grammar Dalek t-shirt that Rebecca points out on a passing walker. We're trekking along Rock Creek Trail, chatting about training, life, race course route mismanagement, and how tough summer humidity is sometimes. I meander around the 'hood solo for a mile until RR arrives to pull me along at ~10.5 min/mi, a hasty pace to get her back in time for family visits later this morning. She tries to teach me the names of various comrades we meet along the way; I try to practice saying "Thank you!" instead of arguing with someone who compliments me.


- Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 03:28:58 (EDT)

Mantra - Fine and One and Blessed

We are
  Fine and
    One and

... a reminder from a friend — to always be thankful, aware, loving — for all that we have, all the good in the world, and all that we can do for each other ...

(cf. Opening to Love (2013-09-27), 0-1 (2014-08-29), Mantra - Help, Thanks, Wow (2015-01-06), SHIP of Lovingkindness (2015-08-18), Mantra - Safety, Health, Insight, Peace (2015-10-30), Mantra - Stop, Notice, Appreciate (2016-04-03), ...)

- Friday, September 23, 2016 at 04:30:40 (EDT)

2016-08-27 - Maryland HEAT 50k

~32.2 miles @ ~18.2 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MD_HEAT_50k_2016_0.jpg"DFL!" The honor of finishing Dead, uh, Last at the the Maryland H.E.A.T. = "High Endurance Adventure Test" 50k trail run is mine: 54th place of 54 finishers, in 9 hours 44 minutes. (Two 50 km runners drop out; 21 declare victory with 25k after one lap.) Best of all: I win my age group! Can you guess how many finishers were over 60 years old?

It's a great day for a trek in the woods, across streams, over boulders, and up hillsides, solo and with new friends. Near Baltimore in the Patapsco Valley State Park the H.E.A.T. race meanders along trails in the Avalon/Glen Artney/Orange Grove Area. At 0535 comrade Matt Bevan and I salute Race Director Nick Yeates and set off to check course markings before the official event begins at 7am. Matt carries a big roll of pink ribbon; I bear bright orange plastic plates and paper signs decorated with big black arrows. Orion and a last quarter Moon stand high in the sky. The grass is heavy with dew, relative humidity ~90%. Temperatures start in the 70s and rise to the low 90s as the sun rises. A startled frog hops off the path in front of us. A deer stares at us from the brush. Owls call and freight train whistles blow.

Matt knows the course well and leads the way, wielding a tree branch to brush away cobwebs. Course markings are quite good, with minimal need for additional ribbons and none for supplemental signage. The Gun Road bridge takes us over the Patapsco, and then the Grist Mill path leads us to the Vineyard Spring Trail, uphill to a four-way crossing where the course loops around segments of the Soapstone Trail, Bull Run Trail, and Bike Jumper Trail. Back at the crossroads we follow Santee Branch Trail for a couple of miles, past the ballfield where Aid Station #1 will be set up later this morning. The Charcoal Trail and then Sawmill Branch Trail takes us down steeply back to near the river. A scary scramble over big boulders then leads to the most technical climb of the course, up Buzzards Rock Trail. Thick trees block most of the view from the scenic overlook this time of year. Matt discusses the evolutionary biology of omnivorism, running speeds of various species, effects of aging on training and heat tolerance, the benefits of racewalking, and a flock of other fun technical topics.http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MD_HEAT_50k_2016_1.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MD_HEAT_50k_2016_2.jpgThen the oddly-named Drugs Trail takes us back to the train tracks. Fast runners begin to pass by, dancing down the rocks. After a super-steep dirt chute we reach the paved Grist Mill hiker-biker path and thence a swaying pedestrian suspension bridge over the Patapsco. Aid Station #2 is ready here at mile 8. Matt and I refuel, thank the volunteers, and begin a series of climbs with switchbacks. The Cascade Falls Trail brings us past a nice little waterfall and then to the Ridge Trail, which eventually rises again via the Morning Choice Trail and Belmont Trail to Aid Station #3. Trails on private land outside the park boundaries, with traffic noise from I-95 highway as accompaniment, take us to the Rockburn Trail and the river once more. Now "The Wall" looms. But recent flooding has cut its height in half on the upstream side, where silt is piled six feet deep. A scramble up, a traverse, a crawl down, and a few hundred yards later we're back where we began five hours ago. Hooray! Matt's odyssey is done for the day.

I turn in surplus signs, visit the clean latrine (running water, yay!), and start loop #2. In daylight, everything looks different. After a pause to post progress on Facebook and snap selfies at the tunnel under the B&O Railroad's "Old Main Line" (OML) it's time to climb. Here for the first time I meet Kerry Shepherd, a cheerful-lovely lady from Frederick Maryland. She races ahead, I catch up and pass her, she takes the lead again, and for a while we lose sight of each other. A ham radio operator, tracking contestants at the four way intersection, asks for my bib number. "N6WX!" I tell him. It's my Amateur Radio callsign.

Aid Station #1 is closing down now, with all of the 25k club and most of the 50k gang long gone. Kerry and I pick our way over rocks along the stream at mile 22; I lead up Buzzards Rock. After a slippery-steep descent I pause for more selfies by the train tracks at the historic Ilchester Tunnel, described in [1]. More photos at the swinging suspension bridge, more fuel at mile 24 Aid Station #2. Kerry slows a bit now and accepts my offer of a mocha-caffeine energy gel. We play leap-frog in slo-mo as we ascend. Then Kerry's friends David Miller and Rachel Ridgeway join us. Fun conversation follows: we've done many of the same races together, and these folks all know the Catoctin Trail well. We concur that the H.E.A.T. course is perhaps half an hour easier than the Catoctin 50k and significantly harder than Rosaryville, but the three races are all equally charming and well-managed. David did the Cat Run this year and finished ~15 minutes ahead of me, slowed significantly by hot conditions. Today Rachel enjoyed the first 25k of H.E.A.T., took a break, then jogged a few miles upstream on the River Road to join David and Kerry and run the final 8 miles with them. "So you're doing a 40k!" I tell her.http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MD_HEAT_50k_2016_3.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MD_HEAT_50k_2016_4.jpgAt Aid Station #3 who should greet me but Lucas Moten, buddy from Janet Choi's "Ran It With Janet 50k"? After posing for photos with "Wilson", a soccer ball painted like the famous character in the film "Castaway", and recovering with fresh food and drink, it's time: Excelsior! Friendly Karin Smith of Baltimore chats and runs with me; she claims DFL among 25k-ers. At "The Wall" I find a shorter route over and trot ahead to finish. A happy fist-bump from official timer Leah Kauffman and we're done! RD Nick Yeates introduces me to his young son, who identifies me as Santa Claus. Three vegan black bean burgers, a mountain of homemade quinoa salad, a cold Diet Coke, a school bus ride back to the parking lot, and then home.

A great day, with rocks, hills, heat, and humidity adding to the challenge of distance and the delights of beautiful scenery!


- Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 05:26:37 (EDT)


  High, thigh pink
Turn, toss, moist
  Glow, nook-gloom
Sway, swing, arch

(cf. Great Ideas (1999-05-03), Even Odds (2009-05-05), Soft Matter (2016-07-07), ...)

- Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at 05:31:45 (EDT)

2016-08-26 - Opalocka Overdrive

~6.2 miles @ ~13.6 min/mi

"Lot of good eating on a mouse!" Kristin says, as a bird with rodent in beak swoops across the street ahead of us. "But not so good for the mouse!" Cait responds. After we finish a gloomy lap at the high school track dawn brightens into a luminous peachy pink. Opalocka Drive beckons, mainly because of the sound of its name. We ponder what the color-word might be to describe the green-blue paint job of a house with glass vases on front window display — teal, perhaps, or viridian. But what's in a name, anyway? It matches the hue of Caitlin's childhood home!


- Tuesday, September 20, 2016 at 05:20:03 (EDT)

Only Now

Notice and return
  To awareness:
Breathe, awake,
Observation ...

And when it "fails",
No blame,
  No judgment,
No clinging.

Only now.

(cf. Notice and Return (2013-03-11), Mantra - Notice and Return (2014-11-30), ...)

- Monday, September 19, 2016 at 04:30:55 (EDT)

2016-08-24 - Tysons Corner Circle

~8.3 miles @ ~13.2 min/mi

"Bunny!" calls Kristin, as she leads Caitlin and me along Lewinsville Road and spies a front-yard rabbit. Low humidity today offers a chance to loop past the building where Cait currently is stationed. Kristin and I feel deja vu as memories resurface of the 2016-03-07 - Ancient Moon and Baby Park trek through the same neighborhood. The sun rises and glints off mirror glass of Tysons Corner office buildings. Cait shares stories of friendly intra-family college rivalries: bulldogs vs. an alliance of huskies and turtles!


- Sunday, September 18, 2016 at 03:39:26 (EDT)

Mantra - Let the Mind Pass By

Let the Mind
    Pass By

... from Pragito Dove's Lunchtime Enlightenment:

Remember not to be too serious. Nothing special is supposed to happen. There is nothing to figure out or analyze, no success or failure. You are simply allowing yourself to be less identified with the body, mind, emotions, and environment, which then leaves space for insight or understanding to arise.

Remember, let the mind pass by. These are the five key words for watching the mind. There is no concentration, because concentration creates tension. No forcing, no trying to stop the mind, no fighting with the mind. Just let the traffic of the mind pass by. You are the watcher, observing, disidentified, with no judgment, accepting whatever passes by, as if one would sit high up on a mountaintop, watching life pass by with no attachment or involvement. This will bring you to your essential self.

(cf. Let the Mind Pass By (2010-12-28), Mantra - Let It Go (2014-12-27), Awareness of Thoughts (2016-04-01), ...) - ^z

- Saturday, September 17, 2016 at 05:18:53 (EDT)

2016-08-21 - Rock Creek Park with Barry

~5.5 miles @ ~13.3 min/mi

"I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri!" Barry and I quote dialogue from Dr Strangelove and critique that film versus various versions of Fail Safe as we run in Rock Creek Park on a hyper-humid Sunday morning. The final movement of J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 finishes on the radio just before we begin, and continues echoing inside the brain. Barry recommends Krista Tippet's "On Being", an NPR podcast; its latest episode is titled "Running as Spiritual Practice". We compare notes on Rio Olympic events, discuss how divergent the Facebook feeds are that each of us sees, marvel at semi-scandalous social media sharing, and review upcoming race plans.


- Friday, September 16, 2016 at 04:13:49 (EDT)

Moments of Mindfulness

From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Chapter 15 ("Meditation in Everyday Life"):

The concept of wasted time does not exist for a serious meditator. Little dead spaces during your day can be turned to profit. Every spare moment can be used for meditation. Sitting anxiously in the dentist's office, meditate on your anxiety. Feeling irritated while standing in a line at the bank, meditate on irritation. Bored, twiddling you thumbs at the bus stop, meditate on boredom. Try to stay alert and aware throughout the day. Be mindful of exactly what is taking place right now, even if it is tedious drudgery. Take advantage of moments when you are alone. Take advantage of activities that are largely mechanical. Use every spare second to be mindful. Use all the moments you can.

(cf. Work of a Lifetime (2009-02-01), Plenty of Time (2009-03-09), Every Moment is an Opportunity (2009-03-24), Dimensionless and Therefore Infinite (2010-02-03), Mindfulness for Beginners (2013-07-18), ...)

- Thursday, September 15, 2016 at 06:01:35 (EDT)

2016-08-20 - Rock Creek Park with John

~10.6 miles @ ~15.9 min/mi

"Whoa — we're twins!" Six miles into the run I belatedly note that fresh-out-of-the-box Brooks "Cascadia" trail shoes, on my feet for the first time this morning, are a perfect match for John Hord's shiny new kicks. Likewise both of us are fans of the Boston Red Sox, share a common circle of ultra-nice ultrarunning friends, have enjoyed the FORTH programming language and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and suffer from a similar self-deprecating style of humor. (Ignore the fact that one of the dynamic duo is younger, faster, handsomer, stronger, has finished multiple 100 milers, and plays lead guitar for Sparklebot!)

This morning's trek begins in gloom just after 6am. One stumble, on a stone near mile 3, scrapes a knee. High waters of Rock Creek rumble far below as we climb the hills of the Valley Trail. It's John's home turf, a loop he knows by heart and has run many times in total darkness. We step aside for fast young runners, pause for selfies at a sign, and return via the Western Ridge Trail. Conversation covers training tactics, blisters, long-term race plans, punk and grunge music, love and friendship, nutrition, and philosophy. A dapple gray mare watches us from an equitation ring.


- Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 04:29:00 (EDT)

How Full Is Your Bucket?

Optimistic, yes. Deep, no. How Full Is Your Bucket?, subtitled "Positive Strategies for Work and Life", is co-authored by the late chairman of Gallup Inc. and his grandson. It's a super-fast read, full of anecdotes to encourage people to be nicer to one another. After setting up a metaphor — one's level of happiness is like a bucket, with a level of water that can go up or down — the authors suggest "Five Strategies for Increasing Positive Emotions":

  1. Prevent Bucket Dipping
  2. Shine a Light on What Is Right
  3. Make Best Friends
  4. Give Unexpectedly
  5. Reverse the Golden Rule

They're each explained in short, large-print discussions:

Not a lot of rocket science, but alas not strikingly well-written and not grounded in any quantitative research. Likely most of the copies sold were mass-purchases by businesses and for employee-motivational classes.

That doesn't make How Full Is Your Bucket?" wrong, of course. But perhaps it should be thought of as a launching pad for more thoughtful, diverse reading in positive psychology, mindfulness, or life-philosophy.

(cf. Optimist Creed (1999-04-16), How to Win Friends and Influence People (2008-05-17), Tough-Minded Optimists (2009-12-22), Take It Up (2011-05-13), How to Be an Optimist (2011-08-24), Mental Toughness (2015-12-06), How to Master Any Game (2016-02-18), Mantra - Be on Good Form (2016-05-10), ...)

- Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 05:50:38 (EDT)

2016-08-19 - Warm McLean Loop

~7.6 miles @ ~12.9 min/mi

"And with that color arrangement, from a distance it looked SO WRONG!" Cait is describing an unfortunate choice of hues for a high school boys swim team, with lower-body garments too close to typical skin tones. We share anecdotes of winter running clothes, chill body parts, unconventional hat or hand-warmer placement, chafing complaints, and other slightly delicate topics. An orange sunrise portends a hot and humid day.

Kristin leads us to the W&OD Trail, where cyclist-commuters politely swoop by. We experiment with hydraulic pressure coupling between dog-water tap and human-drink dispenser at the Route 7 water fountain. Across the street from Lincoln Park, at the convergence of Great Falls St + Dorchester Rd + Oak Haven Drive, an eye-catching lawn decoration is accompanied by flags honoring Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army, and perhaps other military services.


- Monday, September 12, 2016 at 04:21:35 (EDT)

Mantra - Things Can Only Get Better

Things Can Only
    Get Better!

... even (especially!) if the situation is rough right now — don't panictake a breath — and try to smile, and think, just a little bit. Whatever is happening, it is what it is — and in perspective, from the big picture, this will somehow all turn out ok.

... and remember the refrain from the Howard Jones song:

And do you feel scared, I do
But I won't stop and falter
And if we threw it all away
Things can only get better

(... and likewise listen to the 2013 Cedric Gervais remake of "Things Can Only Get Better"; cf. Finding the Quiet (2009-12-05), Mantra - Mind Like Water (2015-05-04), ...)

- Sunday, September 11, 2016 at 05:34:03 (EDT)

2016-08-17 - Metalinguistic Meandering

~3.9 miles @ ~13.0 min/mi

"I don't know what you don't know!" says Kristin, metacognitively, as we set off toward a pastel sunrise. How do spiders build webs across pathways? Obvious to some of us, less so to others!

Cait is done with jury duty and joins in a short-and-soggy trot through trendy Lewinsville communities. We reminisce about high school gym coaches (shot and discus were two of her events), express awe at Olympic decathlon competitors, and successfully avoid falling on cut-throughs and irregular sidewalks. Cooldown conversation turns to the amazing way most kids learn language from few examples — and how adroit they are in picking up curse words from peer and parent usage. Samuel L. Jackson's performance of "Go the F*@# to Sleep!" is mentioned, in lieu of Chomskyan generative linguistic theory. Likewise reading practice, rhyming games, and how wise parents handle inadvertent results: "Out of the mouths of babes!"


- Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 04:02:45 (EDT)

Forty Rules of Love

If only! Elif Shafak's 2010 "Novel of Rumi" titled The Forty Rules of Love has such potential for beauty, joy, and magic. The theme is powerful: awakening and self-discovery. The plot is clever: see-sawing across time between 13th century Persia and modern day America. The situation is historic: the transformational meeting of Islamic theologian-poet Rumi and Sufi mystic Shams, a trainwreck of yang and yin. The characters are engaging — or could be if they had individual voices. But they don't. And the language is ... pedestrian in the extreme. <insert big, audible sigh.>

If only it had been written by Salman Rushdie, or someone with a similar command of words. As Michelle Goldberg says in "Lost in Translation", her New Republic review of the book, "The Forty Rules of Love is a terribly frustrating novel, because almost everything about it is wonderful except for the work itself."

Maybe some day ...

(cf. Meditation Retreat (2014-01-28), The Pearl Buys Itself (2015-07-22), Watch the Wound (2015-07-24), ...)

- Friday, September 09, 2016 at 04:46:53 (EDT)

2016-08-15 - More Training

~7.4 miles @ ~13.4 min/mi

"Mom, I need more training," Kristin's six-year-old daughter tells her, as they watch the Olympic women's 400m race. "When can we go to the track?" Perfect reaction!

Sunrise scatters off pastel pink clouds on a warm and humid morn. We set off not knowing where to go, just thrilled to be out in mindful-friendly company. Kristin recalls a ramble involving an out-of-place car and Christmas lights, which a quick logbook check identifies as 2015-12-21 - Sunrise Survey. So we reenact the route, then extend it to Lemon Road School. At a lawn sprinkler I stop to soak my head. That didn't happen eight months ago with temperatures near freezing!

Trail talk includes how to give feedback on less-than-professional clothing ("You are stretching the envelope for others, but you're also imposing barriers on yourself.") and the sometimes-happy results of frank-and-open exchanges. Sharp-eyed Dr K spies two rabbits and one front-yard deer.


- Thursday, September 08, 2016 at 04:22:40 (EDT)

Simply Deal with It

From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Chapter 15 ("Meditation in Everyday Life"):

A state of mindfulness is a state of mental readiness. The mind is not burdened with preoccupations or bound in worries. Whatever comes up can be dealt with instantly. When you are truly mindful, your nervous system has a freshness and resiliency which fosters insight. A problem arises, and you simply deal with it, quickly, efficiently, and with a minimum of fuss. You don't stand there in a dither, and you don't run off to a quiet corner so you can sit down and meditate about it. You simply deal with it. And in those rare circumstances when no solution seems possible, you don't worry about that. You just go on to the next thing that needs your attention. Your intuition becomes a very practical faculty.

- Wednesday, September 07, 2016 at 04:21:10 (EDT)

2016-08-14 - Georgetown Summer 10 Mile Race with Amber

~10.0 miles @ ~10.3 min/mi

"No need to apologize — that was a German burp!" Dr Amber forgives me. In her household, following Teutonic tradition, it's polite to express one's enjoyment of a meal by audible belching. To insult the cook one can label an eructation as "American".

Temperatures rise from upper 70s to low 90s during this morning's "Price Benowitz Summer Georgetown 10 Miler", and high humidity makes the wheels fall off in the second half. Of 121 starters only 85 finish. But it's still great fun to run through difficulties with a friend!

Amber and I park on Water Street under the Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown and make our way to packet pickup, where I recognize Bob Platt who's managing the timing and awards today. Beth greets us, and I apologize when I discover that yesterday she served as a course marshal, totally unrecognized by me, at the 2016-08-13 - MCRRC Comus Run 5k XC Race. (Prosopagnosia, anyone?)

We set off too fast, as usual, with mile splits by the GPS = 8:59 + 9:09 + 9:14 + 9:48 + 10:00 + 10:08 + 9:54 + 11:10 + 11:42 + 10:49. But it turns out ok. Many thanks to kind Beth for cold Gatorade at the finish line!

Official results: Gun Time 1:42:16, overall place 25th of 85 finishers, among males 18th of 35 — and DFL of all males over age 60. And that's also first place in my age/sex group - yay!


- Tuesday, September 06, 2016 at 05:25:19 (EDT)

Truth, Love, Awareness

From Chapter 4 ("Three Gateways to Refuge") of Tara Brach's True Refuge, thoughts on "the universal path of awakening":

... For me, the words that best capture the spirit of these gateways are "truth," "love," and "awareness." Truth is the living reality that is revealed in the present moment; love is the felt sense of connectedness or oneness with all life; and awareness is the silent wakefulness behind all experience, the consciousness that is reading these words, listening to sounds, perceiving sensations and feelings. Each of these gateways is a fundamental part of who we are; each is a refuge because it is always here, embedded in our own being.

Brach offers a summary table:

            The Outer and Inner Aspects of Refuge

Meditation; Ethics; Teachings
Realizing the nature of reality;
embodying living presence
Conscious relationships with self and other
Realizing oneness;
embodying loving presence
Inspirational spiritual figures
Realizing and embodying
empty, luminous awareness

Those three big themes lead to the three major sections of the book True Refuge ...

(cf. So I Will See (2016-03-27), Mantra - Worthy of Love (2016-07-24), Mantra - Forgiven (2016-08-02), Wakeful, Open, Tender (2016-08-25), ...)

- Monday, September 05, 2016 at 06:49:25 (EDT)

2016-08-13 - MCRRC Comus Run 5k XC Race

~3.1 miles @ ~9.3 min/mi

"But since the Club President isn't here, let's race!" says RD Monica Bachman. Mercury and humidity are off-chart, but we're all grown-ups and adult beverages await at the finish line. It's the Comus Run, a MCRRC cross-country at the Bachman family farm.

Eric London and Tom Young sprint out with me, and the warm-up initial mile goes by in ~8.6 minutes by GPS. Entering the dark woods with sunglasses on gives Eric a thrill. Mile 2 at ~9.2 and mile 3 at ~10.0 reflect heat build-up and hills to climb. Then suddenly, there's the finish line — yay! Many thanks to Mary Bowman and Barry Smith for the ride to/from the event.

Official results: 49th place of 100 finishers, 42nd of 68 males, 4th of 9 males age 60-64, total time 29:41.

(photo by Dan Reichmann)



- Sunday, September 04, 2016 at 16:31:04 (EDT)

2016-08-12 - Learnable Moments

~4.9 miles @ ~12.1 min/mi

"I'm sorry you feel that way, Sir, but it does not change the fact that ...", Caitin Kenney offers an example of how to professionally respond to a Higher Authority when someone reacts unprofessionally to bad news. Kristin concurs. We're stretching after a soggy-warm dawn trek around Pimmit Hills. Earlier Kerry shares a similarly funny "teachable moment" her son experienced recently, and happy news of her husband gracefully handling someone else's mistake. "Maybe you should keep him!"

No Perseid meteors visible this morning, and no lawn rabbits, but one trainee is on the ground doing sit-ups in the Tysons-Pimmit Library parking lot under the watchful eye of a coach. Kerry tells a Zen story that (as usual) made no sense at the time she first heard it but now is full of wisdom. While Drs K&K talk management issues Cait and I run ahead to discuss her first semester of graduate school, soon to begin at the University of Maryland. "The guys who lock up the track there are friendly," I tell her. "They don't mind if you climb over the fence to run intervals in the dark!".


- Saturday, September 03, 2016 at 06:06:21 (EDT)

Victory Calling

From Elizabeth Weil's essay "Seeing What My Muscles Can Do" in the New York Times (19 August 2016), a comment by the author's daughter about her mother's well-developed muscles:

      "Nice, Mom.
That's victory calling."

(cf. Mantra - The Problem is Not the Problem (2016-08-21), ...)

- Friday, September 02, 2016 at 04:29:53 (EDT)

2016-08-10 - Friendship and Balance

~5.8 miles @ ~13.2 min/mi

"Yesterday I'd have said, 'Sure thing'!", Kristin replies, when asked about lengthening today's run. Overnight weather turns warm and humid, with thick cloud cover that almost makes us wish we had flashlights as we set out. We loop by Tysons, extend the route along Route 7, discover a new (or forgotten?) cut-through to Kilgore Rd, and meander back via Pimmit Hills.

A startled chipmunk freezes mid-sidewalk until we're within a few steps, then flees into the grass. There's much to be thankful for, not least of which are balance and friendship. Kristin leads a final 800m sprint. Two Pokémon eggs hatch. Mantra of the day: "Be a duck, not a sponge!".


- Thursday, September 01, 2016 at 05:24:28 (EDT)

Mindfulness Retreat - August 2016

Quotes to ponder, from a Mindfulness-Meditation Workshop on the theme of "Relationships", led by Patricia Long and held in Bethesda Maryland on 2016-08-21:

Change the rhythm!It has to start with me.No one can diminish you but yourself.
How do you love
with some degree
of separation?
You didn't fail.
The relationship failed.
I can choose.
I'm not stuck.
When things end,
it's not always catastrophic.
It's hard to make a change,
even when it's the right thing.
I spent 21 years
convincing myself
that what I wanted
wasn't what I wanted.
Marriage is great.
Marriage is tough.
Love vs Duty
Joy vs Obligation
Generosity vs Sacrifice
Choice vs Contract
Recognize my own value Allow myself to make mistakes Honor my intention

(cf. Meditation Retreat (2014-01-28), Meditation - Sound, Music, Silence (2014-10-06), Mindfulness Workshop 2015 (2015-03-19), Meditation Retreat - December 2015 (2015-12-16), ...)

- Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 04:35:48 (EDT)

2016-08-07 - RCT with Barry

~5.0 miles @ ~13.5 min/mi

"You don't have to run marathons to be healthy," Barry's doctor tells him on Friday. So yesterday he only does a half-marathon! We laugh as we run along Rock Creek Trail, comparing notes on our various old-guy ailments — vertigo, double vision, joint and tendon twinges, and less-mentionable issues — hypothesizing that if we only upped our mileage a bit we would be cured. Ha!

"Tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat!" echo footfalls from my new shoes within the tunnel under KenGar's railroad tracks. Pokémon abound in the woods, and Barry is tolerant of my attempts to catch them. Rebecca zooms ahead with fast friends. The air is refreshingly cool and low-humidity, in contrast to past (and future) summer mornings.


- Tuesday, August 30, 2016 at 05:24:58 (EDT)

2016-08-06 - CCT and RCT with Gayatri

~18.6 miles @ ~13.9 min/mi

"God did not tell you to be mean!" Gayatri quotes a favorite saying of her father, Ganga, who passed away when she was in her youth. "Only the good die young," we agree. Conversation turns to Parvati and mudras, most of which seem to be associated with peace, protection, wisdom, generosity, and other positive traits.

We're on a summer morning ramble along Rock Creek and thereabouts; high humidity makes it challenging. A big doe eyes us from the roadside bushes, then crosses the street when we're safely past. After the first hour groups of other Montgomery County Road Runners begin to stream by. Pokémon lurk in the park and I catch a few, but the game drains phone batteries quickly. Ice offered by friendly volunteers at an MCRRC aid station is a welcome gift as temperatures rise into the mid-80s.

Bruce Flanagan, XMP coach and experienced ultrarunner, joins us for the final segment of today's trek. We talk about 100 miler preparation, blisters, fueling, cramps, and other issues. On the value of training on tired legs, Bruce shakes his head in admiration when he mentions ultra-friend Stephanie's propensity to lead her pace group on long runs the day after she does a 40 mile jog. Wow!

Gayatri provides salt capsules during the journey, and after we finish I follow her home where she insists on giving me a bottle of them. Thank you, Ma'am!


- Tuesday, August 30, 2016 at 05:21:07 (EDT)

Mantra - Be Obvious

To catalyze creativity, collaboration, and communication, some calming attitudes:

Be Obvious!

... and

Be Positive!

... and

Don't Do
Your Best!

... all Zen — not-try, not-do — from Keith Johnstone's Impro:

... I encourage negative people to be positive, and clever people to be obvious, and anxious people not to do their best. ...

(cf. Yes, and... (2012-11-14), Positive and Obvious (2012-12-12), Make Mistakes (2013-02-27), Don't Punish Yourself (2013-05-08), Keith Johnstone Improv Quotes (2013-12-26), Creativity Quotes (2014-06-12), Mantra - Yes, and... (2016-01-30), ...)

- Monday, August 29, 2016 at 04:41:35 (EDT)

2016-08-05 - McLean-to-Sterling W&OD Adventure Run

~20.2 miles @ ~14.5 min/mi

"Of course, we have to take it to extremes!" Is Dr K talking about people in general, the nation, our company, or some subset thereof? She can't mean the Dawn Patrol itself! What's extreme about taking off on a quiet workday morning just to run 20+ miles?

The eastern sky glows lavender to match Kerry's singlet, cloud bands like an overcompressed digital image. As we cross the Beltway a rising sun glints gold on a mirrorshade Tysons office building. We debate whether dressage is edgier than steeplechase, then turn to musings on "Simplicity" in the organizational context. Kristin suggests key themes: consistency, stability, shared vision. Acronym-overload and business jargon-du-jour risk losing one's audience. Good communications needs to maximize signal-to-noise ratio by not overloading the receiver.

A big deer prances across the path ahead. At Vienna we pause to refill bottles at a water fountain, then pose for photos in front of the huge train mural. A crowd fills the CrossFit gym, apparently preparing to pump iron. Cyclist commuters, uniformly polite, swoop past. Cloud cover keeps summer temperatures down, though humidity is high.

Then comes Reston, terra nova for Drs K&K. I recall kind Kate's gift of cheese curls and Dr Pepper here many years ago (cf. 2009-10-10 - Andiamo 2009). Kerry cautions against opening a flask of champagne during a foxhunt. At Sunset Hills a lovely lily pond demands a stop to admire. Could they be lotus blossoms? The Flower Sermon comes to mind: {}

Charming downtown Herndon features a multi-level water fountain where we again refill. A young, newly-adopted rescue greyhound out for a walk gets bonus love and petting overload. A biker wearing a bright green helmet greets me: it's Steve, decades-ago office comrade on his way to Leesburg. Kerry and Kristin share small-world stories of similar surprise encounters.

Approaching Sterling we text Kerry's husband Clay, who has kindly volunteered to give us a ride back to work. At the parking lot by Pacific Blvd I send him our GPS coordinates. We continue onward to tag the W&OD Trail milepost 25, then hook back. Perfect timing: Clay arrives just as we do. The return drive to the office feels ridiculously long. Thanks be to best friends for a wonderful run today!


- Sunday, August 28, 2016 at 06:47:01 (EDT)

Watch It All Flow Past

From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Chapter 15 ("Meditation in Everyday Life"):

Seated meditation is the arena in which meditators practice their own fundamental skills. The game the meditator is playing is the experience of his own life, and the instrument upon which he plays is his own sensory apparatus. Even the most seasoned meditator continues to practice seated meditation, because it tunes and sharpens the basic mental skills he needs for his particular game. We must never forget, however, that seated meditation itself is not the game. It's the practice. The game in which those basic skills are to be applied is the rest of one's experiential existence. Meditation that is not applied to daily living is sterile and limited.

The purpose of vipassana meditation is nothing less than the radical and permanent transformation of your entire sensory and cognitive experience. It is meant to revolutionize the whole of your life experience. Those periods of seated practice are times set aside for instilling new mental habits. You learn new ways to receive and understand sensation. You develop new methods of dealing with conscious thought and new modes of attending to the incessant rush of your own emotions. These new mental behaviors must be made to carry over into the rest of your life. Otherwise, meditation remains dry and fruitless, a theoretical segment of your existence that is unconnected to all the rest. Some effort to connect these two segments is essential. A certain amount of carry-over will take place spontaneously, but the process will be slow and unreliable. You are very likely to be left with the feeling that you are getting nowhere and to drop the process as unrewarding.

One of the most memorable events in your meditation career is the moment when you first realize that you are meditating in the midst of some perfectly ordinary activity. You are driving down the freeway or carrying out the trash and it just turns on by itself. This unplanned outpouring of the skills you have been so carefully fostering is a genuine joy. It gives you a tiny window on the future. You catch a spontaneous glimpse of what the practice really means. The possibility strikes you that this transformation of consciousness could actually become a permanent feature of your experience. You realize that you could actually spend the rest of your days standing aside from the debilitating clamoring of your own obsessions, no longer frantically hounded by your own needs and greed. You get a tiny taste of what it is like to just stand aside and watch it all flow past. It's a magic moment.

- Saturday, August 27, 2016 at 03:30:05 (EDT)

2016-08-03 - Peaceful Dawn

~4.0 miles @ ~11.9 min/mi

"Nothing Special!" A dawn run around Dr Kerry's extended 'hood is uneventful, an opportunity for quiet conversation and peaceful musings about work, life, and progress. Mansions under construction inch toward completion ... road and pipeline workers emerge from trucks and gather tools ... two Pokémon eggs hatch ... plans for the future slowly mature, and perhaps evolve.

We reverse a route oft taken and enjoy climbs that become descents. Kristin, chained to her desk all day finishing a priority deliverable, texts to share sunrise beauty with us. Reply: "TY! HILL!!".


- Friday, August 26, 2016 at 04:19:23 (EDT)

Wakeful, Open, Tender

In Chapter One of Tara Brach's book True Refuge (2013), the section "Natural Presence: Wakeful, Open, and Tender" describes Presence:

Presence is not some exotic state that we need to search for or manufacture. In the simplest terms, it is the felt sense of wakefulness, openness, and tenderness that arises when we are fully here and now with our experience. You've surely tasted presence, even if you didn't call it that. Perhaps you've felt it lying awake in bed and listening to crickets on a hot summer night. You might have sensed presence while walking alone in the woods. You might have arrived in full presence as you witnessed someone dying or being born.

Presence is the awareness that is intrinsic to our nature. It is immediate and embodied, perceived through our senses. If you look closely at any experience of presence, you'll find the three qualities I mentioned above:

Our wakefulness is the basic consciousness that is aware of what is happening, the intelligence that recognizes the changing flow of moment-by-moment experience—the sounds that are here around us, the sensations of our body, our thoughts. It is the "knowing" quality of awareness.

Our openness is the space of awareness in which life takes place. This awareness does not oppose our experience, or evaluate it in any way. Even when our feelings and thoughts are painfully stirred up, it simply recognizes what's happening and allows our emotional life to be as it is. Like the sky when weather systems come and go, the open space of awareness is unstained by the changing expressions of life moving through us. And yet awareness has a natural sensitivity and the capacity to express warmth. This responsiveness is what I call tenderness. Our tenderness allows us to respond with compassion, love, and awe to whatever arises, in all its beauty and sorrow.

We can refer to these as the three qualities of presence, but in fact they're inseparable. Think of a sunlit sky. There is no way to separate the light of the sky from the space it illuminates; there is no way to separate the warmth we feel from the space and light around us. Light, space, and warmth are all inextricable expressions of a whole.

Our longing to live fully—from our beingness—calls us home to this natural presence. Our realization of truth arises from the lucidity of presence. Love flows from the receptivity of presence. Aliveness and creativity flower when we inhabit the openness of presence. All that we cherish is already here, sourced in presence. Each time we cry out for help, our longing can remind us to turn toward our true refuge, toward the healing and freedom of natural presence.

(cf. Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Kundun (2010-03-31), Fully Present (2011-02-14), Heartfulness and Mindfulness (2014-12-15), Mantra - Worthy of Love (2016-07-24), Mantra - Forgiven (2016-08-02), ...)

- Thursday, August 25, 2016 at 05:35:04 (EDT)

2016-08-01 - Mindful McLean Morning

~5.6 miles @ ~14.3 min/mi

"Here, take this knee strap, now!" Dr K1 offers her velcro band to Dr K2, whose left ITB (or something nervous near it) starts to twinge seriously at mile 3. Good teamwork! We walk a bit, jog some test intervals, pause at Starbucks for iced coffee, pose for Pokémon pics, and ease back into sustained running during the final mile. Fingers crossed that nothing is majorly damaged!

In the gloom Kristin's bunny-eyes pick up the single rabbit-of-the-dawn. Humidity is high and nobody feels decisive about a route, so after a lap around the high school track we ramble eastward, happy just to be out and about. Kerry reports on weekend home improvement work. We concur on its biggest benefit: practice in handling spousal stress with grace!


- Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 04:20:47 (EDT)

Flag Photo

Mark Zimmermann and US flag - by Jae Robinson... a fortuitous image taken by colleague Jae Robinson of me at the office after a stressful-but-successful briefing!

(click for larger version)

- Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 04:44:25 (EDT)

2016-07-31 - MCRRC Riley's Rumble Half Marathon Race

~13.1 miles @ ~9.6 min/mi

"... and I'm carrying an extra 30 pounds!" Jordan Creed glances down at her bib, pinned over a six-month-pregnant tummy, and smiles. We're at mile 3 of Riley's Rumble and the pace feels brisk, given hills & heat & humidity. Jordan explains she's taking the 8k option instead of the half-marathon. At the 2016-05-15 - MCRRC Run Aware 5k XC, where she took a tumble on a rocky/rooty slope but thankfully no harm, we met on her way to trouncing my time. Runners around us concur that a racing stroller should be #1 on her baby shower wish list!

Today is full of fortuitous friendly encounters. Gary Knipling, with Cathy Roberts and Dave Yeakel, fist-bump and chat with Michele Rodriguez McLeod and me before the start. Eric London tells of overcoming recent stressful situations with ultra-grace and patience, then cruises ahead. Barry Smith and I ride to/from the event with Mary Bowman, who turns out to be a fellow member of Pokemon Go "Team Mystic". Adeline Ntam and Mike Edwards serve with enthusiasm at the main Aid Station, and Don Libes & Co. offer life-saving ice at the mile 8.4 turnaround. Gayatri Datta and Ken Swab race, as do a flock of other comrades. Tom Young provides bawdy banter opportunities as he and his buddy Emmanuel Teitelbaum pull me along.

Despite challenging weather and an always-daunting course, it's a happy day. Preliminary official results put me 197th of 415 finishers, 145th of 248 males, 6th of 16 in the age-sex group, with a time of about 2:08 at ~9:45 min/mi pace. Whee!


- Monday, August 22, 2016 at 05:41:27 (EDT)

Mantra - The Problem is Not the Problem

            The Problem is not the Problem —
The Problem is your Attitude toward the Problem

... a saying of Hungarian champion swimmer Katinka Hosszu ("The Iron Lady"), as quoted in Elizabeth Weil's essay "Seeing What My Muscles Can Do" in the New York Times (August 2016).

... much like "The 84th Problem", as told in Ezra Bayda's book Being Zen:

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."

(cf. Posture (2009-06-05), Mindfulness for Beginners (2013-07-18), Softening into Experience (2012-11-12), Being Zen (2014-05-26), ...)

- Sunday, August 21, 2016 at 06:34:35 (EDT)

2016-07-30 - Four Mile Run Run

~5.0 miles @ ~9.3 min/mi

"Ha, another Pokémon!" I tell Amber as we sprint along Four Mile Run Trail. She pushes us to a faster pace than I would have thought possible, with a first mile of ~8:30 but then decelerating ~20 sec/mi/mi as a relative humidity of 85% and temps in the low 80s melt us.

"Go, DC RoadRunners!" a passing jogger cheers at the sight of my singlet. We turn back early so Amber can fix her kids' breakfast on time and I can fetch home the CSA veggie box and scones from the farmers' market. It's a hot tempo run on a hot morning — thank you, Dr A!


- Saturday, August 20, 2016 at 04:14:08 (EDT)

2016-07-29 - Epic Run

~4.2 miles @ ~12.4 min/mi

"Not an Epic Run for us!" observes Kerry, as we finish a loop around the Pimmit Hills neighborhood, shortened in order to get everybody back in time for early morning meetings. No sooner said than Kristin spies a front-yard rabbit, then another and another. That's three more than Kerry and her daughter saw on Coney Island just a few days ago!

Storms drift away from the area leaving behind puddles, soggy paths, and 90%+ relative humidity. K&K talk shop about stressful, "challenging" issues — great opportunities for practice in diplomacy, mindfulness, and giving good feedback!


- Saturday, August 20, 2016 at 04:11:18 (EDT)

Mindfulness Can Make You Free

From Chapter 14 ("Mindfulness versus Concentration") of Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana:

Mindfulness is a broader and larger function than concentration. It is an all-encompassing function. Concentration is exclusive. It settles down on one item and ignores everything else. Mindfulness is inclusive. It stands back from the focus of attention and watches with a broad focus, quick to notice any change that occurs. If you have focused the mind on a stone, concentration will see only the stone. Mindfulness stands back from this process, aware of the stone, aware of the concentration focusing on the stone, aware of the intensity of that focus and instantly aware of the shift of attention when concentration is distracted. It is mindfulness which notices the distraction which has occurred, and it is mindfulness which redirects the attention to the stone. Mindfulness is more difficult to cultivate than concentration because it is a deeper-reaching function. Concentration is merely focusing of the mind, rather like a laser beam. It has the power to burn its way deep into the mind and illuminate what is there. But it does not understand what it sees. Mindfulness can examine the mechanics of selfishness and understand what it sees. Mindfulness can pierce the mystery of suffering and the mechanism of discomfort. Mindfulness can make you free.

- Friday, August 19, 2016 at 04:51:02 (EDT)

2016-07-27 - Buck, Rabbit, Chipmunk

~7.1 miles @ ~13.9 min/mi

"Six male deer just up the street!" warns the lady walking her dog. Stags crowd a front yard near the corner of Churchill and Dead Run, lift heads heavy with antlers to stare at Kristin and me, then flee. We're on a soggy-humid summer loop exploring connections between neighborhoods. From the median of VA-123 the sunrise looks like an impressionist painting with feathery-cloud brushstrokes. A road worker holds up a stop sign to a car that wants to blast through a one-lane construction zone and asks rhetorically, "Whatcha doing, playing Chicken?" Kristin tells of seeing an über-cool hoverboard rider with shades and a cigarette dangling from his mouth. We greet a friendly woman with blue-streaked hair, and tally 1 rabbit plus 1 chipmunk.


- Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 05:21:29 (EDT)

Worth Writing Well

In an interview recently with Kelly McEvers on NPR, Dallas Morning News book editor Michael Merschel talks about why it's essential to "... be thoughtful in anything you write" — even if it's just an out-of-office autoreply message:

... we should try. I mean, when you're writing something, there's this magical thing that happens where your words are going into someone else's brain. And so whenever we're putting words on paper in any form, you need to be thinking about who's going to be reading that and how are they going to take it? It does matter. And also, I kind of think life's too short not to have some fun with it. ...

(cf. Reader as Performer (1999-06-10), Ralph Waldo Emerson (2003-08-05), ...)

- Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 04:15:12 (EDT)

2016-07-25 - Tysons Loop

~6.5 miles @ ~13.1 min/mi

"And with 3 seconds to go she was fouled during a 3 point shot, and then made all 3 free throws to tie the game!" Kerry tells of her daughter's cool performance under pressure in yesterday's basketball tourney. (Alas, the other side came back with a buzzer-beater to win.) Tomorrow Daughter flies off to the opposite end of the Earth for volunteer work. Kristin and I admire how cool Mom is under pressure.

We loop through Tyson's Corner on a hyper-humid and already-warm day, fantasies of frigid winter running running through our heads. Kristin's sniffles and sore throat are beginning to fade but still significant. On the way back, near Marshall High School, somebody says, "Let's skip the track workout today!" Drs K&K laugh.


- Tuesday, August 16, 2016 at 05:16:36 (EDT)

Mantra - Be a Duck, Not a Sponge

  Be a Duck,
Not a Sponge!

... let it go — don't cling to desires, insults, possessions, positions, ... and maybe not even to "self" itself ...

(cf. Mantra - Be Like a Log (2016-01-26), Mantra - Cling to Nothing (2016-04-17), ...)

- Monday, August 15, 2016 at 04:36:08 (EDT)

2016-07-24 - Rosaryville 50k-ish Trail Race

~28 miles @ ~16.3 min/mi

"... and it's just so humbling!" As we approach the end of today's hot-and-humid Rosaryville 50k ultra-friend Stephanie and I are discussing ultrarunning, and why ultrarunners tend to be such profoundly NICE people — in general friendly, optimistic, trustworthy, caring, helpful, kind, welcoming, etc. Dr Fonda postulates that part of it is the humility that the sport develops (or demands?), even among the fastest of the elite: the realization that to succeed at such a challenge depends on so many huge factors outside oneself. There's no room for arrogance at the finish line!

Awesome and ultra-modest John Hord provides a great example of that, one week after succeeding at the Vermont 100 miler. Stephanie and I run the first half of today's race with him, then wait to applaud his final mile. After sprinting up the hill and across the line, John sits down and lets us cool him with ice, as he curses the fool (himself!) who made him race in this crazy summer weather. We laugh, hug, fist-bump, and pose for photos.

"Call me Ice-Z!" I tell dear Adeline Ntam before the event. The strategy of eating massive amounts of ice at every aid station works well, as it did last week at the 2016-07-16 - Catoctin 50k Trail Run. Stephanie and I trek together at a good pace, walking most of the last few miles to keep a twingy knee happy. Other runners trip and fall, but this time we're fortunate enough not to. A lady walking along tells me that her glasses got broken in a tumble and she can't see the roots any more. "That's ok," I tell her, "my double-vision makes roots enough for us both!"

Race Director Ron Bowman and all the volunteers do a wonderful job, and even the mountain bikers along the trails are polite and cautious as they pass. My GPS glitches and misses ~10 minutes of the final lap, and the course is likely short by a few miles, but who cares? It's a beautiful day for a run in the woods. Dr Fonda and I finish together in about 7:37.


- Sunday, August 14, 2016 at 05:19:00 (EDT)

Gently, Gently, Gently

From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Chapter 14 ("Mindfulness versus Concentration"):

You can't develop mindfulness by force. Active teeth-gritting willpower won't do you any good at all. As a matter of fact, it will hinder progress. Mindfulness cannot be cultivated by struggle. It grows by realizing, by letting go, by just settling down in the moment and letting yourself get comfortable with whatever you are experiencing. This does not mean that mindfulness happens all by itself. Far from it. Energy is required. Effort is required. But this effort is different from force. Mindfulness is cultivated by a gentle effort, by effortless effort. You cultivate mindfulness by constantly reminding yourself in a gentle way to maintain your awareness of whatever is happening right now. Persistence and a light touch are the secrets. Mindfulness is cultivated by constantly pulling oneself back to a state of awareness, gently, gently, gently.

(cf. Cultivation of Wisdom (2009-02-09), Mindfulness, Concentration, and Distraction (2015-11-23), Awareness of Thoughts (2016-04-01), Bare Attention (2016-06-20), ...)

- Saturday, August 13, 2016 at 06:09:58 (EDT)

2016-07-22 - Dead Run Ford

~12.4 miles @ ~14.6 min/mi

"I appreciate you!" Kerry's daughter texts the words every mom wants to hear. She's serving as a summer nanny and now realizes how much unrecognized work her mother did over the years. Kristin and I applaud and then demand, "Save that message!"

Early on a humid summer morning we ramble across McLean. Rabbit count = 7, plus 2 speedy chipmunks. The woods of Langley Forks Park are muddy, but nobody trips on roots or falls into Dead Run at the water crossing. New mansions are springing up; we admire their architecture. In a front yard bright-hued ceramic pots slant akimbo in deliberate sculptural-artistic design.

During the return trip Kerry and I play rock-paper-scissors to decide who buys the other's iced coffee. She wins the honor of paying. We're tardy getting back for Kristin's morning meeting. "Just say, 'We ran late!'".


- Friday, August 12, 2016 at 04:11:09 (EDT)


Good thoughts — on collaboration, software development, long-term progress, clearer thinking, and other important topics — excerpted and edited from the Oddmuse wiki page "Refactoring":

Good ideas fade away if not implemented fast enough. The problem is, there is not enough time to implement all of your great ideas today. Write everything down and share it! Some day we will sort it out. The chance that we will remember it if is not written down is just too low.

If you think that something requires attention but it feels like your proposed solution is not good enough (too hard to implement for too little gain, or just plain wrong), still write that down. It will help us to keep track of things.

If you find something weird, just edit it. Nothing on this page is cast in stone. Feel free to express your opinion especially if you are against something.

Small tasks are as important as big ones. You can dream big, but if simple stuff is not taken care of, the whole system will never be good.

- Thursday, August 11, 2016 at 05:34:36 (EDT)

2016-07-20 - No-Goal

~7.7 miles @ ~13.4 min/mi

"Eagle house!" Kristin points to a bronze raptor perched on the top of a flagpole, and suddenly I know where we are (cf. 2014-10-15 - Roadkill Raccoon in the logbook). Just down the street is the lovely lavender Victorian cottage (cf. 2016-02-24 - Rainy Ramble). Neighborhood roads dead-end into Kent Gardens Park and Pimmit Run. We explore culs-de-sac in search of cut-throughs without success. A front-yard totem pole mandates a pause for photos.

Rabbit count = 2 confirmed + 2 probable on a cool summer morning. The first 2 miles are sub-11, slowing to a more sustainable pace thereafter. It's great to be free to just ramble without plans or goals. "We'll find our way somehow!".


- Wednesday, August 10, 2016 at 04:21:39 (EDT)

2016-07-18 - Gary Knipling with the Dawn Patrol

~8.1 miles @ ~13.5 min/mi

At mile 7, melting in morning heat and humidity, Drs K&K and I pause to watch a video that friend Stephanie took on Saturday. Ultra-tough John Hord is in the midst of yet another 100 miler, and ultra-legend Gary Knipling offers an ultra-inspirational message of encouragement:

"John, you're up there, halfway through Vermont now — you're going to kick ass the rest of the way! I know you are. You are! And at 2 AM, at 3 AM, at 4 AM, when you don't think anybody's with you, we're going to be with you, John. We're with you! You just take it in, and we're going to finish with you. We're all for you!"

... wow! - how can we stop running now?

Ninety minutes earlier: "Baby blanket colors!" A pastel sunrise lures feet eastward. Near mommy doe, two spotted fawns nibble flowers in a McLean front yard. Rabbit count grows to 5 during a ramble over the hills of Lewinsville Heights. Then a new route beckons, North West Street, past a mix of classic architecture and hypermodern angular contra-dormers. Conversation likewise rambles, from Cambodia to athletes' lack of inhibitions. Another beautiful day in the neighborhood!


- Tuesday, August 09, 2016 at 05:46:24 (EDT)


Package Qi — the famously-unscientific mystical "life force" energy — and sell it, to boost people who are feeling spiritually-droopy?

Hmmmm ... maybe call it "QiTos"? And given how seductive evil-food-group-Frito-Lay's Cheetos ("crunchy cheese-flavored snack") already are, hmmmmm ... perhaps someone satanic has done that!?

And a recent personal silly-epiphany: the Cheetos cartoon creature is supposed to be a cheetah, not just some random orange critter with an attitude! His official name is apparently "Chester Cheetah". Ha!

- Monday, August 08, 2016 at 05:28:31 (EDT)

2016-07-17 - Rock Creek Recovery

~4.9 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

"Mileage OCD, I pwnz you!" This morning's sunrise walkabout with Dr Stephanie ends with 5.99 miles on the GPS, and the run along Rock Creek at 4.99 miles. Yay for (some tiny shreds of) self-control!

Barry shares stories from last weekend's odyssey to Missoula, which included a beer run, a 5k, an über-steep climb to the big "M" on the mountain above town, and oh yeah, a marathon. I'm late arriving to KenGar and apologize to Ken and Rebecca. The gang is amused by Pokémon Go. K&R run ahead for speed & distance.

Earlier, Stephanie and I walk to Dunkin Donuts for iced coffee and discuss vulnerability and friendship, virtue and life. She shares sweet news: after witnessing the niceness of ultrarunners at yesterday's Catoctin 50k, her wise daughter asks, "Mama, when can I run my first 50k?".


- Sunday, August 07, 2016 at 05:48:29 (EDT)

2016-07-16 - Catoctin 50k Trail Run

~33.3 miles @ ~16.4 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Catoctin_50k_2016_zimmermann.jpg"When I fell my chin hit a rock, but fortunately the beard protected it and it wasn't broken - the rock, that is!" Two major stumbles, at miles 21 and 31, punctuate this year's Catoctin 50k trail race. Thankfully damage is limited to minor scrapes and dirt and bruises. As always the course is beautiful, with daunting hills, brutal heat, jagged rocks, and gnarly roots. What's not to love? And after a fifth finish, next year's entry is free. Woot!

Best of all: people met along the way. Paul Sherlock discusses New Zealand, his homeland of kiwis and ferns. ("3 million humans, 30 million sheep!") Trey Williams sets a perfect pace to Hamburg Road where we make a critical cutoff with scant minutes to spare. Faye Weaver gives guidance at tricky trail turns in final miles. Tattooed Tom Mitchell goes off course and adds bonus distance on his last long training trek before a 200 miler at Mt Shasta. Before the start I chase Pokémon and pose for photos with fast Adeline Ntam and ultra-legends Paul Crickard, Tom Green, Gary Knipling, and Race Director Kevin Sayers. Near mile 16 Paul Encarnación and others stop to take care of Judith Weber when she breaks her wrist. Kindness beats competition!

This year's Cat Run is pleasantly peaceful and low-stress despite warm weather. Stepping stones make stream crossings safely passable, and a luxurious mid-course latrine has real toilet paper and running water. Countless cheery volunteers are enthusiastic and encouraging. Hyper-helpful also are ~18 salt capsules, quarts of Gatorade, multiple watermelon slices, and a dozen mini Heath Bars consumed en route.

Extra friskiness and thermal control comes from a new tactic: carry a washcloth and, at every aid station, wrap a big handful of ice inside it - then alternate chewing ice and squeezing cold water onto the old noggin. It helps! (And there's ice to donate for Judith's broken wrist.)

Bottom line: the fellowship of ultrarunning is ultra-inspiring. We're all in this together, not racing against each other. Stephanie Fonda's daughter witnesses it at the finish area, and on the way home asks, "Mama, when can I run my first 50k?"

(cf. GPS trackfile; photo thanks to Jenny Hallberg; prior Cat Run reports at Catoctin 50k 2008, 2009-08-01 - Catoctin 50k Trail Run, 2010-07-31 - Catoctin 42k, 2011-07-30 - Catoctin 50k Trail Run 2011, 2013-07-27 - Catoctin 50k Trail Race 2013, 2014-07-27 - Catoctin 50k Trail Race)

- Saturday, August 06, 2016 at 04:42:36 (EDT)

As Much Nothing as Possible

If less is more, then is nothing everything? A long-ago op-ed ("More Treatment, More Mistakes" by Sanjay Gupta, 2012-07-31 New York Times) begins with the classic Hippocratic "First, do no harm." Gupta discusses overprescription of medications and overuse of diagnostics: "... each additional procedure or test, no matter how cautiously performed, injects a fresh possibility of error." He concludes with a quote from the 1979 novel The House of God by Stephen Bergman, writing as Dr. Samuel Shem. The book's "Rule No. 13" for hospitals is:

The delivery of medical care is to do as much nothing as possible.

... a principle that applies in countless other fields!

- Friday, August 05, 2016 at 19:36:20 (EDT)

2016-07-13 - Pokemon Go and Stop

~5.9 miles @ ~13.8 min/mi

Instead of "Pokémon Go" perhaps it should be called "Pokémon Stop"? Mega-apologies to patient comrade Kerry, as I stare at my screen and interrupt the trek through Scotts Run Nature Preserve to catch virtual creatures. Real bunny count = 0; ditto zero actual deer sightings. On a dirt trail we pass another Pokémon hunter, who looks as though the walk in the woods is the most exercise he has undertaken in quite a while. Good on him, and on the game for encouraging outdoor activity!

"Now we know the answer to that philosophical question!" Kerry observes, after a tree falls in the forest and makes a loud noise. (Yes, we're nobody!) On Churchill St we investigate a potential cut-through behind a stand of bamboo, but the connection to a proper trail is unclear, so we turn back rather than trespass or risk falling into a creek. Kerry catches cobwebs for The Team as she leads, and makes a graceful recovery from a near-epic stumble on a hidden root. A scramble down to the Potomac River yields lovely views and a Magikarp.


- Thursday, August 04, 2016 at 05:19:57 (EDT)

2016-07-11 - McLean Miracle

~6.3 miles @ ~13.1 min/mi

"Take a shot! Take a shot!" Kerry quotes a New Zealand dad, whose daughter was on the basketball team with her daughter and whose court-side shouts were oft misinterpreted. We're rambling around McLean and comparing language notes, especially involving kids, figures of speech, and slightly-naughty slang.

Bunny count = 6 plus an unconfirmed 1, on a pleasantly cool summer morn. Kristin spots a big scary-looking gray bird — heron? crane? — standing in the Evans Farm pond. The Starbucks app apparently causes Runkeeper's GPS recording to pause, so there's a ~22 minute gap and a missing mile-ish in the trackfile that correlates with iced coffee. We explore cut-throughs and discover a new one between neighborhood streets.

"Are you Mark?" asks a man on Margie Drive who's wearing a bright green Bull Run Run t-shirt. It's Charlie Miracle, a fellow Virginia Happy Trails Club ultrarunner. Small world!


- Wednesday, August 03, 2016 at 04:23:06 (EDT)

Mantra - Forgiven


... from True Refuge by Tara Brach, Chapter 10 ("Self-Compassion: Releasing the Second Arrow"), as the author describes a session with a person full of self-blame and self-hatred:

"... take a moment to view yourself as if you could see all this through the eyes of a friend, someone who really cares about you and understands that you are feeling demeaned and ashamed." I paused to give Sam some time to bring this to mind.

"Now," I said, "with that kind of view, begin to send yourself some words of forgiveness and compassion. It might be 'I forgive you,' or 'forgiven, forgiven, forgiven,' or maybe, 'I care about this suffering.' Offer whatever words communicate understanding and care." ...

(cf. Wings of Acceptance (2015-05-26), Watch the Wound (2015-07-24), Mantra - Be Your Own Best Friend (2016-02-16), So I Will See (2016-03-27), Mantra - Worthy of Love (2016-07-24), ...)

- Tuesday, August 02, 2016 at 10:00:37 (EDT)

2016-07-10 - Kensington Ramble

~5.9 miles @ ~11.0 min/mi

"Stick a fork in me!" Rebecca says, when asked if we're done after almost half a dozen miles on a warm and humid morning. Well done!

Ken takes us along the streets and over the hills of Kensington and Chevy Chase View. At every corner we turn in the direction that offers the most shade. A dog-walking woman's shirt reads, Will Run for Cupcakes! Someone wonders, "Is 'Cupcakes' your pup's name?" We cut through the Cedarbrook Swim and Tennis Club and hope that the friendly wave from a member will cancel out the NO TRESPASSING signs we see.

Meandering feet eventually find their way back to Rock Creek Trail, where packs of runners-in-training greet us as we pass. Then comes Nick who in his British accent warns, "Treats ahead!" Though he's from England this isn't (just) naughty British slang — there are indeed bunches of bananas and jugs of orange juice on the picnic table at KenGar, left there by the kind Montgomery County Road Runners club. Thank you!


- Monday, August 01, 2016 at 04:27:10 (EDT)

2016-07-09 - Amy Iced Coffee Trek

~19.2 miles @ ~13.9 min/mi

"It's impossible to take a bad picture of that building!" says a devout Mormon friend, concerning the LDS Temple in Kensington. Maybe he's biased, and maybe he's right! On Rock Creek Trail at sunrise I pause for photos of it, and at the perfect moment spotlights below the spires begin to glow. Beautiful!

Comrade Amy's prep for a November marathon continues well. We meet at ~0620 near Strathmore Hall (where I snap more pics of a totem-pole-like art installation) and proceed north along the Bethesda Trolley Trail. Lines at Dunkin Donuts look long, so we cross the street for iced coffee at McDonalds. The morning is warm and humid; along Rock Creek training group members greet us and eye our cool drinks with envy. (Hi, Edward!) Trail Talk focuses on "Holding Space" for friends in need — practicing nonjudgmental support — and the belated realization that we all need to be better friends to ourselves. Not easy!

Two fawns stand watch near Dewey Park; earlier a pair of large deer stare from beside West Bexhill Rd. Total bunny count = 6. We analyze foot issues and discuss potential blister solutions: grease, tape, shoe-cutting, sock-changing, sole-toughening, etc. Conversation also covers recent sad events in the world, and the need for more empathy among people of all sorts. Both of us are hopeful.

"Sorry, my math is bad!" I confess when we finish our circuit together. Initially I compute Amy's mileage as 8ish ... but apparently 13 - 4 is more like 9, and we do more than that. "Oops!" During the remaining trek home Heather, training for the Parks Half Marathon in two months, introduces herself. We compare notes on treating tummy trouble — candied ginger and "Succeed!" e-caps may help sometimes.


- Sunday, July 31, 2016 at 05:32:44 (EDT)


Leo Babuta in his Zen Habits blog a couple of years ago wrote a beautiful-brief essay on what he called the "Stateless Mindset". Technical background: in computer science state is the internal configuration of a system — all the information stored in it that can influence its future. Statelessness means that when new inputs arrive they are treated independently of the past.

No memory. No grudges. No clinging. Let all it go.

Babuta riffs on the theme and concludes with a lovely-mindful description of what living like that would be like:

Just this task. Just this person. Just this action. Just this moment.

There would be nothing else, just this. It would be your entire universe. It would fill you up completely.

Then it would be gone.

And the next moment would be all there was. Then that would die too.

This is stateless.

Try letting go of all previous moments, right now. Try making the present moment all there is. When you feel a previous request or idea pulling at your attention, let it go.

This is the stateless practice. You'll fail. Let that go too.

Start anew, with all the possibilities of emptiness.

(cf. This (2013-03-09), Clinging Is Optional (2013-08-21), Mantra - No Goals (2015-07-26), Mantra - Cling to Nothing (2016-04-17), ...)

- Saturday, July 30, 2016 at 06:04:50 (EDT)

2016-07-08 - Wonder Twins

~7.1 miles @ ~14.5 min/mi

"I would have been traumatized for life!" Kerry comments, relieved when the car on Churchill Road stops in time for a bunny to cross in front of it. Kristin and I wave thanks to the alert driver. Total rabbit count = 6 today.

We begin with a meander toward the lovely sunrise. On a dead-end street past a huge fallen tree a potential cut-through by an abandoned house is tempting. Maybe next time! We're in the midst of discussing GPS-enhanced Pokémon when, coincidentally, ultra-friend Stephanie texts and calls Drs K&K "The Wonder Twins" — which leads to reminisces about other cartoon superheroes: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Speed Racer, Aquaman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc. At the McLean Public Library there's a pause for selfies in front of childrens-book artwork featuring Babar the Elephant and Madeline. Back in Lewinsville Park the Friday morning farmers market is setting up, with tempting berries and pastries. Maybe next time!


- Friday, July 29, 2016 at 04:23:40 (EDT)

2016-07-06 - McLean Recovery Run

~8.0 miles @ ~14.7 min/mi

"There are worse ways to go!" says the lady at the W&OD water fountain near Route 7. We concur that a heart attack while running is no excuse to stop. "Chest pain is just a sign to up your pace!"

Humidity is high as a summer heat wave settles in. Sharp-eyed Kristin spies a mole crouched by the sidewalk and a baby rabbit, ears sticking up from the high grass of a front lawn. Today's confirmed bunny count = 4, all along Great Falls Street. Blisters that Kerry and I acquired during Monday's long run only begin to complain today when we reach the farthest point from our start. "It is what it is," says Kerry, stoically. She picks up a thorn from the gutter and we think about pricking her toe to let out the fluid. "Ah, if we only had some vodka to sterilize it!" Best solution is probably retail therapy: shop for new shoes!


- Thursday, July 28, 2016 at 05:23:17 (EDT)

Unstained and Invulnerable

From Chapter 13 ("Mindfulness (Sati)") of Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana:

Fully developed Mindfulness is a state of total non-attachment and utter absence of clinging to anything in the world. If we can maintain this state, no other means or device is needed to keep ourselves free of obstructions, to achieve liberation from our human weaknesses. Mindfulness is non-superficial awareness. It sees things deeply, down below the level of concepts and opinions. This sort of deep observation leads to total certainty and complete absence of confusion. It manifests itself primarily as a constant and unwavering attention which never flags and never turns away.

This pure and unstained investigative awareness not only holds mental hindrances at bay, it lays bare their very mechanism and destroys them. Mindfulness neutralizes defilements in the mind. The result is a mind which remains unstained and invulnerable, completely unaffected by the ups and downs of life.

(cf. Purpose of Meditation (2009-04-07), Equanimity (2012-02-01), This Is Equanimity (2015-03-15), Mindfulness of the Body (2015-06-14), ...)

- Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 04:18:14 (EDT)

2016-07-04 - Kristin and Kerry RCT-CCT Long Run Plus

~40.2 miles @ ~14.4 min/mi

By headlamp-glow the first Little Free Library found on 41st Street NW reveals a diverse set of classic literature including a bound collection of the "Capes and Babes" webcomic. A few blocks later another Little Free Library features Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and Edgar Rice Burroughs's Thuvia, Maid of Mars with eye-catching cover art. Tempting! But I'm on my way to meet Drs Kerry & Kristin at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Water Street at 0515, and carrying big books for scores of miles doesn't seem wise. Maybe another time!

It's a wonderful Independence Day for a neighborhood tour. K&K's orbit of Rock Creek and the Capital Crescent Trail is over 22 miles long, and with an additional ~9 on foot before and another ~9 afterwards I am blessed with a total of 40+ miles. (GPS app inadvertently pauses for ~10 minutes in the middle, so add a bonus ~0.5 miles to the total it shows.) Bottom line: superb training for the December Ultramarathon That Shall Not Be Named! And even with large amounts of deliberate walking, the average pace is ~14.5 min/mi including all breaks. Kerry and Kristin report minimal damage; I develop one blister on the outside of the right big toe.

At 0318 a light drizzle begins, then pauses until just after 1300 when I arrive back home. Weather is damp but cool. On the way to our rendezvous I hide an "Aid Station" plastic bag of drinks and goodies in a ditch by the CCT, which we reach at K&K's mile ~12. Before sunrise four pairs of beady-green retroreflective eyes blink at me from near ground level — a mother raccoon and her three ring-tailed babies. A Lady of the Evening, perhaps out past her bedtime, is dressed in super-short skirt and high heels. She paces along Massachusetts Avenue by the bus stop. "Good morning, Ma'am!"

Multiple rabbits scamper away, but two big ones lie deceased on the trail — poisoned? Later in the morning we see six deer, including a huge one inside the National Zoo and a spotted fawn that tries to hide behind its mommy doe. Rock Creek Park is peaceful but by mid-morning the CCT carries much fast cyclist traffic, all warning politely as they zoom by.

"No Drama!" is our mantra of the day. Nobody falls down, nobody gets seriously sick, and there are ample facilities along the way which we take full advantage of. The only delicate issue: one of us experiments with a blend of "Death Wish" coffee plus bee pollen, royal jelly, vitamins, and protein powder. Lesson Learned: don't drink that on race day! Conventional iced coffee from Bethesda Bagels, on the other hand, is quite refreshing. Fried pickles, jalapeños, and bean-and-cheese burritos eaten the day before cause no major ill effects. Homemade mint ice cream likewise went well.

Trail talk includes the new Tarzan movie (featuring some serious eye-candy!), theoretical speculation about NSFW Reddit topics (e.g., the "Slight Cellulite" subreddit?!), family news, tattoos, roller coasters, and more. Time together with friends is a total delight. (Thank you, Drs K&K!) The solo return trek to home includes pauses for selfies in Washington Circle and Meridian Hill Park and significant dehydration when water runs out with ~5 miles remaining. Final weight is down by ~5 lbs from the starting number. Note To Self: drink more during future long runs!


- Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at 05:27:31 (EDT)

2016-07-02 - Rock Creek Iced Coffee with Stephanie

~20.3 miles @ ~14.5 min/mi

"We only run when NOBODY is looking!" Dr Stephanie and I follow the Heisenberg Quantum Training Plan today, emphasizing walking as we ramp up mileage and toughen feet for upcoming ultramarathons. During the first 1.3 miles we observe 13 (thirteen!) bunny rabbits but not Schrödinger's Cat. At Randolph Road our wavefunctions collapse into a Dunkin Donuts where iced coffee adds momentum and energy at the cost of time waiting in line. Weather is lovely-cool and low-humidity. Social Distortion's 1990 punk-rock song "Story of My Life" plays out loud, with its perfect chorus:

Life goes by so fast
    You only wanna do what you think is right
Close your eyes and it's past
    Story of my life ...

Conversation is delightful and diverse, including an opening-hands gesture to symbolize "Let It GO!", the R Programming Language, a forehead-tattoo that reads "Poor Impulse Control", a friend's Audacity Lab, recommended readings in modern Scandinavian literature, factors to facilitate hypothesis generation, the film "Blades of Glory", mantras sacred and profane, and the metaphor of a rate-limiting process. We circle Lake Needwood, greet friends as they zip by ("We must WALK while you're watching!"), pause for selfies, spy a bicycle submerged in Rock Creek, and quietly share stories as only runner friends can. Stephanie's right Achilles tendon twinges for the final five miles, perhaps warning that a sudden increase in distance has risks even for an experienced 100 miler veteran.

Today's yet another perfect day ... it goes by so fast, and we only want to do what we think is right ...


- Monday, July 25, 2016 at 04:28:36 (EDT)

Mantra - Worthy of Love

I Am Worthy
    Of Love
  In My Life

... from Tara Brach's book True Refuge, Chapter 10 ("Self-Compassion: Releasing the Second Arrow"):

... Marge was experiencing what I call "soul sadness," the sadness that arises when we are able to sense our temporary, precious existence, and directly face the suffering that has come from losing life. We recognize how our self-aversion has prevented us from being close to others, from expressing and letting love in. We see, sometimes with striking clarity, that we have closed ourselves off from our own creativity and spontaneity, from being fully alive. We remember missed moments when it might have been otherwise, and we begin to grieve our unloved life.

This grief can be so painful that we tend con consciously to move away from it. Even if we start to touch our sadness, we often bury it by reentering the shame—judging our suffering, assuming that we somehow deserve it, telling ourselves that others have "real suffering" and we shouldn't be filled with self-pity. Our soul sadness is fully revealed only when we directly, mindfully contact our pain. It is revealed when we stay on the spot and fully recognize this human being is having a hard time. In such moments we discover a natural upwelling of compassion—the tenderness of our own forgiving heart.

When Marge's crying subsided, I suggested she ask the place of sorrow what it longed for most. She knew right away: "To trust that I am worthy of love in my life." ...

... and remember: be as kind to yourself as you would be to others ...

(cf. Breath and Awareness (2011-03-12), Just One Thing (2012-12-02), Opening to Love (2013-09-27), Forgiveness and Oneness (2013-10-08), Meditation Retreat - December 2015 (2015-12-16), Mantra - You Are Loved (2016-01-10), Mantra - Be Your Own Best Friend (2016-02-16), ...)

- Sunday, July 24, 2016 at 04:42:04 (EDT)

2016-07-01 - Rabbit Run

~5.9 miles @ ~13.9 min/mi

"Bunny Eyes!" Kristin puts the team on High Coney Alert as we enter Tysons Pimmit Park. We're at mile 4 and have already spotted 16 rabbits plus 2 likely-but-unconfirmed glimpses. Amazing!

It's a day of miracles and wonder, in a world charged with the grandeur of God. We share joy for the blessings of friendship and health and nature and life and love. Child-of-morning Dawn is beauty incarnate, pastel pink clouds splashed across a baby-blue sky. Kerry is back after exhausting travel and reports that her kids tucked her in and kissed her good night. Kristin's son just celebrated a birthday, happy in no small part due to her unseen preparation between midnight and 3am. In his words: "Mom, today is the best day EVER!" It surely is.

We take the natural-surface trail along Pimmit Run with stops for photos at freeway underpass graffiti, hesitation to find our way at water crossings, and nervousness about potential poison ivy and ticks. On Route 7 we pause at Peet's where kind Kerry insists on getting iced coffee for everyone. Passing the local library, still sipping, we're greeted by a morning exercise group doing push-ups in the parking lot. "Where are OUR drinks?" one asks, and smiles.

It's a "bumper bunny day", final total count =21. Thank you!


- Saturday, July 23, 2016 at 06:44:32 (EDT)

Holding Space

A beautiful image: holding space for a person. Heather Plett defines it in "What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone":

It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they're on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control. ...

In "Understanding How to Hold Space", Jim Tolles suggests four key components:

Lynn Hauka in "The Sweetness of Holding Space for Another" describes it as:

When you hold space for someone, you bring your entire presence to them.

You walk along with them without judgment, sharing their journey to an unknown destination. Yet you're completely willing to end up wherever they need to go. You give your heart, let go of control, and offer unconditional support.

And perhaps best of all, in "The Importance of Holding Space", Helen Avery suggests that holding space is just:

  being 'there'
doing 'nothing'

... shades of Zen's vast emptiness!

(cf. Ma (negative space) in Wikipedia, and Kenosis (2008-09-21), Between (2009-12-10), No Method (2010-01-21), Shul (2011-06-11), Zen Soup (2012-02-09), Empty Cup (2012-05-08), Space Between (2013-10-15), Seeking Negative Space (2016-04-21), ... )

- Friday, July 22, 2016 at 04:35:25 (EDT)

2016-06-27 - Langley Oaks Mermaids

~7.3 miles @ ~11.7 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Langley_Oaks_mermaids.jpg"... and then my real nightmares began!" Today's therapy-trek involves much mindful listening by one of us, as the other (guess who? yep, c'est moi) recounts traumatic events of the past weekend. But by the time we find Kerry's Cut-Through #3 and emerge from the woods all's right with the world again. That's the magic of the miles!

A fox crosses the road as pink dawn begins. New homes under construction look lovely but seem poised dangerously close to flood-prone streams. Kristin has early meetings and can't join us and text-messages encouragement in absentia as we run for her. A bronze front-yard statue of beautiful mermaids is rather easy on the eyes. No stumbles happen on the natural-surface trail through the woods, despite mud and roots and rocks and hills and a stepping-stone passage over Turkey Run. On behalf of The Team, kind Kerry catches early morning cobwebs in the face. She spies a huge redheaded woodpecker as it flits across the street.


- Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 05:41:06 (EDT)

Bird's-Eye View

From the Introduction of Tom Leinster's 2014 book Basic Category Theory:

Category theory takes a bird's eye view of mathematics. From high in the sky, details become invisible, but we can spot patterns that were impossible to detect from ground level. How is the lowest common multiple of two numbers like the direct sum of two vector spaces? What do discrete topological spaces, free groups, and fields of fractions have in common? We will discover answers to these and many similar questions, seeing patterns in mathematics that you may never have seen before.

(cf. Peter Smith's Logic Matters blog, and Cakes, Custard, and Category Theory (2016-02-14), Category Theory Concepts (2016-04-25), ...)

- Wednesday, July 20, 2016 at 04:34:59 (EDT)

2016-06-26 - Barry and Rebecca in Kensington

~8.9 miles @ ~12.5 min/mi

Two tiny rabbits are dancing in the middle of Knowles Avenue as I drive to this morning's run. They leap into the air together, scamper around one another, and pause. I stop, creep forward, back up. Bunnies stare, then dash out of the street and across a yard to hide in the bushes.

"You're not in Taper - you're in Denial!" Rebecca and I scold Barry, who confesses that his hip is complaining in language not fit for mixed company. The Missoula Marathon is two weeks away, and he missed the deadline to drop back to the half-marathon. We commiserate and trot upstream along Rock Creek, then turn onto the Matthew Henson Trail. ("Hip hates hills? Happy Henson!" Rebecca alliterates.) Traffic on Veirs Mill Road stops politely for us at crosswalks. "Maybe they don't want to run us down on a Sunday?"

Back at the parking lot Rebecca and I demand that Barry end the madness — at least, while we're in line-of-sight. We send him home with movie recommendations for the afternoon, then do an out-and-back south, picking up the pace to ~10 min/mi and coaching ourselves "Up! Up!" on the climbs. Kind MCRRC training group organizer Brian Murphy awards us each a banana when we finish.


- Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 05:23:55 (EDT)

Mantra - Go for the Moon

    Go for
the Moon!

... from Andrew Weiss's Beginning Mindfulness:

... Don't get caught up in technique. Remember that the instructions and techniques, and even the words of great teachers, are no more than a finger pointing at the moon: Always go for the moon.

(cf. Go for the Moon (2013-10-26), ...)

- Monday, July 18, 2016 at 04:21:00 (EDT)

2016-06-25 - Kensington Bunny-Palooza

~21.1 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Strathmore_totem_pole_art_0.jpgFront yard Coney Count = 14 on a humid trek around the local extended 'hood. At dawn a pair of deer, one with stubby velvet horns still developing, munch grass by Beach Drive. Amy and I discover bright new totem-pole artwork in front of the Strathmore music center on our way to meet Stephanie. Then it's her turn to lead us along the Bethesda Trolley Trail. Packs of runners (MCRRC training groups) salute us as they head north. Conversation is delightful -- we share family news and summer plans, frustrations and sympathies, tattoo tips and long-term aspirations. Amy gently twists my arm to join her in the Richmond Marathon in November. Hmmmm ... good prep for "The Scottish Race" in December?!
Back at home base Amy heads for the gym with 7+ miles logged, a perfect start to her ramp-up. Stephanie and I trot upstream along Rock Creek to KenGar and greet friends (Hi, Gayatri, Barry, Keith, Gerald, Mike, Sharlene, Bob, and more!) as pace groups return along the trail. Streets of Garrett Park are lined with nice-looking lawn chairs, a drum set, tiki lamps, a trampoline. "One person's trash is another's treasure!" Stephanie closes her loop with 10+ miles. We give thanks for the day and vow to run together more often.http://zhurnaly.com/images/Strathmore_totem_pole_art_1.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/Strathmore_totem_pole_art_2.jpgRefill bottle from a garden shop hose: Eau de Kensington 2016, a rubbery vintage with notes of copper and a chlorine nose. Half a block later, suddenly realize that something's missing. Backtrack to pick up the phone! Final leg of the journey includes more walking along side streets, past yard sales and the neighborhood swimming pool.


- Sunday, July 17, 2016 at 12:25:26 (EDT)

2016-06-24 - McLean Meander

~10.2 miles @ ~13.2 min/mi

"Perfect day for rambling!" the fellow walking his big dog tells us. Kristin wears her singlet inside-out. Maybe that makes for low temps and comfy humidity? Last night's Unicorn Oracle Card advises, "Try Something New!" So we trot toward the sunrise and climb long steep hills in the Franklin Forest community. Two big fawns still covered with spots stare, then bound away in search of mommy. Two rabbits munch grass. "A day of duos!"

A small Statue of Liberty holds high her torch by a driveway. Across the street a man in a garish night robe greets us as he fetches in the newspaper. At the corner of John Marshall Dr and Williamsburg Blvd we pause to debate the route. "Left or right?" Kerry wonders.

"No idea!" is the reply. And no matter! At East Falls Church Metro we climb stairs past commuters to the W&OD Trail and return via a leaky water fountain. On Great Falls St a lady asks if we've seen her little white dog. "Ozzie! Come here, Ozzie!" Total bunny count = 4.


- Saturday, July 16, 2016 at 04:40:17 (EDT)

Practice Is the Thing

From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Chapter 13 ("Mindfulness (Sati)"), the central meaning of mindfulness:

Mindfulness reminds you of what you are supposed to be doing.

In meditation, you put your attention on one item. When your mind wanders from this focus, it is Mindfulness that reminds you that your mind is wandering and what you are supposed to be doing. It is Mindfulness that brings your mind back to the object of meditation. All of this occurs instantaneously and without internal dialogue. Mindfulness is not thinking. Repeated practice in meditation establishes this function as a mental habit which then carries over into the rest of your life. A serious meditator pays bare attention to occurrences all the time, day in, day out, whether formally sitting in meditation or not. This is a very lofty ideal towards which those who meditate may be working for a period of years or even decades. Our habit of getting stuck in thought is years old, and that habit will hang on in the most tenacious manner. The only way out is to be equally persistent in the cultivation of constant Mindfulness. When Mindfulness is present, you will notice when you become stuck in your thought patterns. It is that very noticing which allows you to back out of the thought process and free yourself from it. Mindfulness then returns your attention to its proper focus. If you are meditating at that moment, then your focus will be the formal object of meditation. If you are not in formal meditation, it will be just a pure application of bare attention itself, just a pure noticing of whatever comes up without getting involved — "Ah, this comes up ... and now this, and now this ... and now this".

Mindfulness is at one and the same time both bare attention itself and the function of reminding us to pay bare attention if we have ceased to do so. Bare attention is noticing. It re-establishes itself simply by noticing that it has not been present. As soon as you are noticing that you have not been noticing, then by definition you are noticing and then you are back again to paying bare attention.

Mindfulness creates its own distinct feeling in consciousness. It has a flavor — a light, clear, energetic flavor. Conscious thought is heavy by comparison, ponderous and picky. But here again, these are just words. Your own practice will show you the difference. Then you will probably come up with your own words and the words used here will become superfluous. Remember, practice is the thing.

(cf. Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Notice and Return (2013-03-11), Bare Attention (2016-06-20), ...)

- Friday, July 15, 2016 at 05:34:52 (EDT)

2016-06-22 - Langley Cut-Through

~7.2 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

"Like an aurora: a curtain of light!" Sunbeams on a side street ripple between tree branches and scatter from morning fog. Kristin points; we pause to admire. Puddles linger from yesterday's storms, and breezes trigger sudden showers from leaves overhead accompanied by a perfect simulation of the sounds of rain. Two bunnies nibble an already-trimmed lawn. Later we spy a third, plus a big deer that retreats behind a house. "It's looking for dessert!"

Statues of mermaids and cattle decorate front yards. Multiple mansions, mini- and mega-, sit in varied stages of construction. Kerry discovers a covert cut-through gravel path between Mackall Avenue and Heather Brook Court. We emerge onto the Ridge Drive loop. "Let's take the long way home!" Kristin brushes a hand against a soggy hedge and uses the water to cool her brow.


- Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 05:14:19 (EDT)

2016-06-19 - CCT with Barry, Ken, Rebecca

~10.6 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

"Head, Heart, Hands, Health!" The 4-H Club's national conference center's green lawn demands a detour to inspect the grounds. Sharp-dressed young people politely glance past a sweaty runner as they head from dorms toward Sunday breakfast. On hilly Leland Street four brave bunnies nibble clover. A skittish chipmunk dashes under a parked car to escape. "Vermin Supreme for President 2016" says a sticker on a Bradley Lane traffic sign. Exfair Road, a short street with an ugly-sounding portmanteau name halfway between Exeter and Fairfax, features an awesomely beautiful glass-fronted home.

Rebecca beeps and waves as she drives past to park. Barry and Ken soon arrive and we ramble down the Capital Crescent Trail, chatting and dodging bicycle traffic. Pace slows (first four miles solo were a brisk 9:49 + 9:43 + 9:09 + 9:40). It's a cheerful crisp day!


- Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at 04:23:12 (EDT)

Eleven Lives Together

Eleven lives together, two as one —
  Elven love, across the centuries,
Even, balanced, perfect pair — and when
  Eve begins, and night creeps over us,
Ever and always, until that final breath:
  Fever, passion, single heart and mind —

- Tuesday, July 12, 2016 at 05:42:56 (EDT)

2016-06-18 - Wheaton Meander

~17.0 miles @ ~13.9 min/mi

"Klondike Bars!" Ken offers to share his "Original" variety; I wolf down a Peanut Butter Cup one solo. (Thanks to Robin Z for the impromptu aid station!) We find ourselves in the midst of the MCRRC "Run for Roses" 5k and cheer the runners as they race by. Dr Betty Smith pauses to give Rebecca a hug. Race Director Christina Caravoulias offers us snacks, and course marshall Don Libes makes us pose for photos.

The morning begins at Barry's home, where he and I set off at 0630 for early mileage up Sligo Creek Trail with detours onto nearby pathways. We meet Ken and Rebecca at the Sligo-Dennis Avenue Recreation Center. Downy goslings and their long-necked parents waddle away as we approach Wheaton Regional Park. The weather is awesome cool and comfy. Downstream again K&R turn back when we reach the Beltway; Barry & I continue to the track at Silver Spring International Middle School, where one lap (1:47) is more than enough. The return trip includes stretches and step-ups on park benches.


- Monday, July 11, 2016 at 04:33:52 (EDT)

Mantra - Relax - Slow Down - Breathe

Slow down

... from a recent essay about graceful, safe, efficient flying, by Dave English, titled "Are you a low-gain pilot?", which quotes from Rowland White's book Into the Black about test pilot/astronaut Joe Engle:

... he barely moved the stick, anticipating the need to do so and making small, necessary corrections in plenty of time. His inputs were smooth and progressive, never snatching at the controls. ...

And, as English notes, "... You can't make small smooth control inputs if you are gripping the yoke too hard. Relax. Slow down. Breathe. Think ahead of the airplane, so you see early, when a small correction is all that is needed. It's part of being one with the wing ...".

... which suggests another phrase to hold lightly (and then release!):

Be One with the Wing!

(cf. Great Peace of Mind (2011-02-20), Mantra - Pause and Breathe (2015-02-25), Mantra - Mind Like Sky (2016-02-29), Mantra - Inhale, Exhale (2016-05-14), Mantra - Go Slowly, Breathe, and Smile (2016-07-03),...)

- Sunday, July 10, 2016 at 06:09:20 (EDT)

2016-06-17 - Freedom Lane

~10.8 miles @ ~12.9 min/mi

"We choose Freedom!" Kristin and I follow aptly-named Freedom Lane and enjoy long hills and front yard flowers in bloom. A squirrel skitters across the hood of a parked Cadillac. After last night's thunderstorms the dawn is cloudy-cool with light breezes.

Our ramble takes us via the W&OD Trail past East Falls Church, through Benjamin Bannaker Park and then Tuckahoe Park where construction has apparently shut down the water fountain. We remember coming here from the opposite direction nine months ago (cf. 2015-09-14 - Buongiorno Kerry) and resolve to visit again. Kristin pauses to pet puppies, who return the love with enthusiasm.

Three rabbits and two big deer salute us. A huge fallen tree by the sidewalk displays nailed-on wooden decorations. Lawn signs recommend "SAY NO TO SUNRISE" (opposing a new nursing home project) and "SUPPORT THE GIRLS". That last advocates for a charity that collects bras and feminine products to help the homeless. Nice!


- Saturday, July 09, 2016 at 04:25:18 (EDT)

2016-06-12 - Ramble with Barry

~ 5.1 miles @ ~12.2 min/mi

"... and Lewis & Clark found a spring bubbling out of the ground at the Continental Divide!" says Barry. He flew back this morning from his nephew's wedding in Wisconsin, and needs a few miles to atone for fancy celebratory dinners "and for eating a Devil's Spit Burger at Famous Dave's!"

We meander around the neighborhood, follow Tenbrook Street north until a dead end, find a dirt trail leading onward, and return downstream via Sligo Creek Trail. A weak cold front brings gusty winds and significantly lower humidity than earlier today. Kids fly tinydrones in their front yard while ladies walk tiny furry dogs. Barry mentions glacial moraines and how the hill we're climbing feels like one. "Yes, and our pace is glacial too!"


- Friday, July 08, 2016 at 04:25:40 (EDT)

Soft Matter

Category Theory suggests inversion as a path to creativity and discovery. So, taking a lesson from the archetypal martial arts — full of focus and force, violence and velocity, solidity and strength and self-centering — explore the opposite. What's it like to be diffuse, humble, slow, invisible, weak, selfless ("self-less")?

Maybe rather like aikido or taiji. Instead of being full of oneself and one's goals, be empty and light; instead of blocking and counter-striking, redirect and rebalance. Yin, not Yang.

So big smile and salute to an awesome new metaphor when the American Physical Society — a wonderfully hard-headed scientific organization if there is one — a few years ago announced the establishment of a new subgroup, "Soft Matter". The topic is highly interdisciplinary and concentrates (if that's the right word for something so diverse!) on "... 'squishy' materials like polymers and biopolymers, foams, liquid crystals, complex fluids, and membranes ... patchy particles, DNA assemblies, and granular packings ... Origami-inspired materials and self-propelled colloids ... problems [that] are challenging and messy due to their many-body nature, the importance of interactions across many length and time scales, the existence of metastable states, their often complex geometry and topology, and long relaxation times ..." [1].

Let's be Soft!

(cf. There Are No Secrets (2014-02-26), Mnemonic Principles of Taiji (2014-03-24), Good Manners and Taiji (2014-04-03), Control Theory of Taiji (2014-07-23), Mantra - Soften Into Experience (2014-11-26), Taiji at Work (2015-06-29), ...)

- Thursday, July 07, 2016 at 06:43:27 (EDT)

2016-06-12 - Rock Creek with Rebecca

~11.0 miles @ ~11.0 min/mi

"Did you say 'The December Race' to avoid mentioning its true name?" Rebecca asks. She continues, "According to Patrick Stewart, after you've played the lead character in 'The Scottish Play' it's safe to say its official title out loud." Hmmmmm! There's a 100k/100M run on 17-18 December this year; perhaps after finishing it one can be more explicit. For now, 'twere best to say no more!

Sunday dawns warm and humid, though not as sultry hot as yesterday evening when friends set off on an overnight trek in Prince William Forest Park — by chance, where The Not-To-Be-Mentioned Scottish Event is to be held. We head southward from KenGar along Rock Creek trail, sharing training tips and head-shaking about current US politics. After 10 km, back at our starting point, Rebecca kicks my sorry butt upstream to partially atone for countless sins. Alas, sunny sidewalks along Veirs Mill Rd and Connecticut Av compel walk breaks after a couple of shady sub-10 miles. Rx: heat acclimatization - STAT!


- Wednesday, July 06, 2016 at 04:15:15 (EDT)

Inner Strength Training

Dr Rick Hanson (author of the excellent little book Just One Thing) suggests a useful analogy with physical strength training in his essay "Grow a Key Inner Strength". He begins with a mini-taxonomy of psychological resources:

... and then recommends analyzing one's situation, identifying an inner strength that might help improve matters, and working to develop more of that trait. In Hanson's step-by-step prescription:

  1. "What's the issue?" (be specific!)
  2. "What psychological resource — inner strength — if it were more present in your mind, would really help with this issue?" (difficult sometimes but worth struggling with; try to pick one or at most two)
  3. "How could you have experiences of this inner strength?" (notice when it's present, or deliberately summon it by visualizing it, etc.)
  4. "How could you help this experience of the inner strength really sink in to you?" (rehearse it and build links to it so it becomes stronger and more frequently present)

... fascinating, perhaps important, surely valuable to attempt!

(cf. "Grow a Key Inner Strength" at [1] or [2], and from Just One Thing thoughts such as Honor Your Practice (2013-01-04), Slow Down (2013-01-15), Strong and Lasting (2013-02-02), Bringing Back a Wandering Attention (2013-02-13), Patience (2013-03-03), Willpower (2013-05-01), Not Knowing (2013-06-07), Cause vs. Result (2013-06-17), Aspire without Attachment (2015-12-28), ...)

- Tuesday, July 05, 2016 at 05:58:53 (EDT)

2016-06-11 - Meet Beth, Greet Win

~7.5 miles @ ~13.4 min/mi

"... and so we walked the last 30 miles of the race!" Ken says. We're telling ultra stories to entertain Beth Sanchez on her first trail run, a Saturday morning trek through Rock Creek Park. Rebecca leads the way. Win Persina (cf. 2016-03-20 - With Rebecca, for the Win) pauses to pet dogs and detours to dip her toes in the water. We turn off the Western Ridge Trail and pause to study Civil War earthworks of Fort DeRussy. Fast young runners zip past as we return along the Valley Trail.

Beth recounts her first triathlon experience. The stream splashes bucolic-beautiful over rocks. Somebody curses; somebody alludes to puking and chafing; somebody pauses behind a tree. "Trail Talk," we explain, "is not to be repeated — except maybe the next time we're out in the woods!".


- Monday, July 04, 2016 at 02:07:04 (EDT)

Mantra - Go Slowly, Breathe, and Smile

Go Slowly,
      and Smile

... from Beginning Mindfulness by Andrew Weiss ...

(cf. Being with Your Breath (2010-02-20), Smile and Listen (2011-08-20), Pause and Breathe (2014-07-25), ...)

- Sunday, July 03, 2016 at 08:36:05 (EDT)

2016-06-10 - McLean Architecture Critique

~6.1 miles @ ~12.9 min/mi

"... and I couldn't taste a thing!" Kristin says. After a week of suffering in silence she finally admits to having such a bad cold that cooking delicacies for her family is only a vicarious pleasure. We ramble eastward, enjoying the sunrise and pastel faux-Victorian architecture in the Rosemont and Broyhill neighborhoods. Six front-yard rabbits, singly and in small groups, monitor our passage. Kerry spots an indoor lap pool and jacuzzi in the Travis Price-designed zig-zag-slanty house at 6522 Old Chesterbrook. "Let's buy it and go for a swim!" (Alas, it sold a few months ago for $1.1 million.) At the McLean High School track a powerfully-muscled athlete hefts a yellow sphere and tucks it under his chin, preparing to twirl and heave it through the air. "I must learn to shot put!" somebody says.


- Saturday, July 02, 2016 at 05:16:13 (EDT)

Johnson on Virtue

Samuel Johnson in The Rambler #66 (1750-11-03) suggests that instead of blaming people who overvalue worldly "trifles"— money, fame, physical beauty, power, etc. — the real guilt belongs to those who are wiser and yet applaud such unworthy things:

It is common to consider those whom we find infected with an unreasonable regard for trifling accomplishments, as justly chargeable with all the consequences of their folly, and as the authors of their own unhappiness: but, perhaps, those whom we thus scorn or detest, have more claim to tenderness than has been yet allowed them. Before we permit our severity to break loose upon any fault or error, we ought surely to consider how much we have countenanced or promoted it. We see multitudes busy in the persuit of riches, at the expence of wisdom and of virtue; but we see the rest of mankind approving their conduct, and inciting their eagerness, by paying that regard and deference to wealth, which wisdom and virtue only can deserve. We see women universally jealous of the reputation of their beauty, and frequently look with contempt on the care with which they study their complexions, endeavour to preserve or to supply the bloom of youth, regulate every ornament, twist their hair into curls, and shade their faces from the weather. We often recommend to them the care of their nobler part, and tell them how little addition is made by all their arts to the graces of the mind. But when was it known that female virtue or knowledge was able to attract that officiousness, or inspire that ardour which beauty produces whenever it appears? And with what hope can we endeavour to persuade the ladies, that the time spent at the toilet is lost in vanity, when they have every moment some new conviction, that their interest is more effectually promoted by a ribband well disposed, than by the brightest act of heroick virtue?

In every instance of vanity it will be found, that the blame ought to be shared among more than it generally reaches; all who exalt trifles by immoderate praise, or instigate needless emulation by invidious incitements, are to be considered as perverters of reason, and corrupters of the world: and since every man is obliged to promote happiness and virtue, he should be careful not to mislead unwary minds, by appearing to set too high a value upon things by which no real excellence is conferred.

(from [1]; cf. Habitual Virtue (2008-12-18), Trusting and Happy (2010-06-10), ...)

- Friday, July 01, 2016 at 04:40:35 (EDT)

2016-06-08 - Good Morning, Sid

~9.0 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

Puppy Play Day! Sid is six months old, a black labrador-boxer mix with maybe a bonus bit of Rottweiler and what-not on the side. We pause to give Kerry's new family member a chance to meet Kristin, and they bond instantly. "If he ever vanishes," I tell Kerry, "you'll know where to find him!" Sid's surname has varied from "Phillips" (Toy Story) to "Vicious" (punk rock). Or maybe he's secretly "El Cid"?

The morning is delightfully cool and low-humidity. We ramble along the Dead Run forest path, where blue-and-white striped ribbons indicate trees slated for removal as part of stream and underground pipe maintenance. Lying on the shoulder of Dolley Madison Boulevard: a 28-ounce unopened bottle of "Glacier Freeze" turquoise-colored Gatorade. Woot!


- Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 04:50:28 (EDT)

Elegantly Simple and Unadorned

From Chapter 12 ("Dealing with Distractions II") of Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana:

... Conceptualization is an insidiously clever process. It creeps into your experience, and it simply takes over. When you hear a sound in meditation, pay bare attention to the experience of hearing. That and that only. What is really happening is so utterly simple that we can and do miss it altogether. Sound waves are striking the ear in a certain unique pattern. Those waves are being translated into electrical impulses within the brain and those impulses present a sound pattern to consciousness. That is all. No pictures. No mind movies. No concepts. No interior dialogues about the question. Just noise. Reality is elegantly simple and unadorned. When you hear a sound, be mindful of the process of hearing. Everything else is just added chatter. Drop it. The same rule applies to every sensation, every emotion, every experience you may have. Look closely at your own experience. Dig down through the layers of mental bric-a-brac and see what is really there. You will be amazed how simple it is, and how beautiful.

(cf. Notice and Return (2013-03-11), Swiss Cheese (2014-07-04), Listen to the Traffic (2014-11-12), No Thing and Every Thing (2015-09-20), Heart of Meditation (2016-01-22), Bare Attention (2016-06-20), ...)

- Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 04:56:15 (EDT)


~4.5 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

"It's a Bonus Bunny Day!" declares Dr Kristin. We spot 8 happy rabbits, almost 2 per mile, singly and in pairs, on front lawns and sidewalks, in streets and meadows. Dawn is cool and damp. Kerry and Kristin wear matching singlets; I didn't get the memo. Early meetings make for a short ramble, with conversational catch-up on family news, weekend activities, and emerging plans. A pickup truck flaunts the sticker: "Not As Mean, Not As Lean, But Still a Marine".


- Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 04:42:16 (EDT)

Mantra - No Others

"How are we to treat others?"

There Are
  No Others

... attributed to Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950), who may also have said (in various translations):

... Does my realisation help others? Yes, and it is the best help that you can possibly render to others. But really there are no others to be helped. For the realized being sees only the Self, just as the goldsmith sees only the gold while valuing it in various jewels made of gold. When you identify yourself with the body, name and form are there. But when you transcend the body-consciousness, the others also disappear. The realised one does not see the world as different from himself. ...

We are One ...

(cf. Unselfing (2009-01-14), 01 (2013-11-05), 0-1 (2014-08-29), Mantra - Ditto (2015-08-30), Mantra - For Us (2015-11-28), ...)

- Monday, June 27, 2016 at 04:37:42 (EDT)

2016-06-05 - Recovery Ramble

~4.1 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

"Any interest in a short shakeout run?" Answer obvious: mad dogs, Englishmen, and Marathon Maniacs all go out in the noonday sun. Yesterday was the Baltimore 10 Miler for Barry, the 2016-06-04 - Ran It with Janet 50k 2016 for me. Today Barry already did 7 miles this morning. In afternoon über-humid heat we trot along Sligo Creek, then take neighborhood streets back via the Dennis Avenue flood control pond. Thick brush on the connector path reddens shins and raises puffy welts on thighs. "Thank you for leading the way, Sir!" A 2016-P Jefferson nickel is rescued from the asphalt.


- Sunday, June 26, 2016 at 06:37:10 (EDT)

How to Say "No"

An essay on aircraft flying safety, "Learning How To Say 'No'" by James Albright, offers five suggestions for speaking "truth to power" and telling one's boss (or other authority) that something they want is unwise. Adapted and summarized:

And in the end, "... If all your refusals to comply with ill-considered demands land on deaf ears, it could very well be time to firmly say 'No' as your final answer, accepting the risk that it could cost you your job. ..."

Good thoughts, and not just for professional pilots!

(cf. "Paid to Say 'No.'" from Business & Commercial Aviation magazine, June 2016 issue, [1], ...)

- Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 04:41:21 (EDT)

2016-06-04 - Ran It with Janet 50k 2016

~31.0 miles @ ~14.5 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Ran_It_with_Janet_50k_2016_Moms_Run_This_Town_z.jpg"Beware the black mud!" warns Jennifer Hotchkiss, as we trot along a soggy horse trail this morning. Or maybe it was Rosario Josefina, or Melina Shifflett, or Marlee Chavez? I'm so horrid with names!

After photographing the race's start and pausing to put phone in plastic bag it's lonely until, at mile ~1, I catch up with four members of "Moms Run This Town". They're running in matching shirts, taking frequent walk breaks on what is the first ultramarathon for some. We chat about families, trails, the Manassas Battlefield Park, hydration, funny-significant personal stories, and a host of other topics. One meets such nice people during an ultra!

It's the second "Ran It With Janet" 50k — see 2015-06-06 - Ran It with Janet 50k-ish for last year's report. Today is warm and humid, thankfully cloudy.

At the end of Lap One we're back at the start/finish area, mile ~10. The ladies pause to refuel and change gear. I trek onward and do the second loop solo, with pauses to read historic markers.

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Ran_It_with_Janet_50k_2016_wild_rose.jpgShoes and socks are saturated and I'm thinking about swapping in backup ones at mile ~20, but as I arrive at the pavilion comrade Ken Swab is ready to head out. So I skip the equipment switch and join him for a final circuit of the park. We finish in just under 7.5 hours.
Ken lectures on the Compromise of 1850 and offers highlights from The First Congress, a book by Fergus Bordewich. At the site of "The Rock Fight" (Second Battle of Manassas, 30 Aug 1862) I throw a stone at him, but miss. We detour to inspect artifacts and memorials, pause to photograph flowers and canons, and just enjoy the day.

Many thanks to Janet Choi and her cheerful, enthusiastic volunteers for a wonderful unicorn-themed event!



- Friday, June 24, 2016 at 04:39:46 (EDT)

The Beautiful Bureaucrat

By Helen Phillips, The Beautiful Bureaucrat is a sweet, gross, clever, sexy, funny, provocative short novel. Or maybe it's an extended anecdote, a philosophical puzzle in literary clothing. The language is lovely, simple, surprising. Chapter 16, for instance:

She knew he wouldn't be in the cellar when she returned. She knew the rooms would be sunk in shadows, the bathtub haunted, and she would sit in the dark the whole night, starving alone. Her joints ached, or maybe it was her brain. She limped up the block toward the sublet.

He was there. The lamps were on. Something steamed on the stove. She stood in the doorway in disbelief.

He came over to her. He smiled the smile of someone who didn't spend his days typing death dates into a database. He relieved her of her bag.

"You look like you need a hug," he said.

She felt like an alien. As though she had never before been exposed to the way things are done on Earth: that you can return home to someone who cares for you, that a few overused words can hurt your heart with their appropriateness, that your muscles can soften into the muscles of another human being.

"I got you something," he said. She wanted to cry out when he pulled away from her.

He went to the fridge and returned with a Coca-Cola in a bottle. Coca-Cola in a bottle was one of her favorite things. He twisted the cap off with the bottom of his T-shirt and handed it to her. He was good as gold, good as ever. She drank hard, the carbonation burning her throat.

That you could have a need; that someone could bring you something to fulfill this need.

He reminded her of a funny story from their past involving an old friend, someone mistaking vodka for water, connected to a later story in which Joseph disguised Guinness in a Coca-Cola bottle; you had to be there. She was shocked by her laughter. She stroked the cool perfect lines of the Coca-Cola bottle.

Oca ola otto.

"I hate my job," she allowed herself to say, as though she meant it in the way people usually mean it. "You hate yours too, right?" Misery loves company.

"It's boring," he said. "But it's great, in a way."

She was not in the mood for him to elaborate.

Later, they sat on the couch, eating carrots. She leaned her head against his skull while he chewed. She listened to his jaw moving. She liked to hear the sounds of his skeleton.

Philosophical spirituality meets animal physicality through meticulous observation of everyday life — plus the surreal. From Chapter 29, e.g.:

The day was becoming more golden by the minute. Glimmering fall weather that denied death as sunbeams glossed dying leaves. On a log poking out of the radiant water, three turtles stretched their necks up toward the light. She imitated them, the sun a tranquilizing balm on the hidden skin of her throat. But then she tipped her chin back down, frightened by the lulling brilliance of this day, the inappropriate and offensive beauty of the world.

Plot? Hard to identify. Character development? Skimpy. Atmosphere and imagery? Extraordinary.

(cf. perhaps On the Shore (2006-11-07), Kavalier and Clay (2006-12-29), PortraitOfTheArtist (2007-02-08), Dhalgren (2011-07-23), Winter's Tale (2014-10-24), ...)

- Thursday, June 23, 2016 at 04:58:21 (EDT)

2016-06-01 - Tysons Loop

~7.3 miles @ ~12.4 min/mi

"Met with silence!" says Kerry, breaking the fourth wall after a long pause. Somebody (guess who?) has just suggested adding extra mileage on a sultry soon-to-be summer morning. Perhaps not today!

A rising sun glints off Tysons Corner glass. We debate the Nature of the Good and review a summer margarita recipe: lime and pineapple juices, triple sec, tequila infused with jalapeño. High-energy Kristin pulls us up the hills along Lewinsville Road.


- Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 04:10:08 (EDT)

Bare Attention

From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, in Chapter 12 ("Dealing with Distractions II"):

Mindfulness is the most important aspect of meditation. It is the primary thing that you are trying to cultivate. So there is really no need at all to struggle against distractions. The crucial thing is to be mindful of what is occurring, not to control what is occurring. Remember, concentration is a tool. It is secondary to bare attention. From the point of view of mindfulness, there is really no such thing as a distraction. Whatever arises in the mind is viewed as just one more opportunity to cultivate mindfulness. Breath, remember, is an arbitrary focus, and it is used as our primary object of attention. Distractions are used as secondary objects of attention. They are certainly as much a part of reality as breath. It actually makes rather little difference what the object of mindfulness is. You can be mindful of the breath, or you can be mindful of the distraction. You can be mindful of the fact that your mind is still, and your concentration is strong, or you can be mindful of the fact that your concentration is in ribbons and your mind is in an absolute shambles. It's all mindfulness. Just maintain that mindfulness and concentration eventually will follow.

The purpose of meditation is not to concentrate on the breath, without interruption, forever. That by itself would be a useless goal. The purpose of meditation is not to achieve a perfectly still and serene mind. Although a lovely state, it doesn't lead to liberation by itself. The purpose of meditation is to achieve uninterrupted mindfulness. Mindfulness, and only mindfulness, produces Enlightenment.

(cf. Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2010-08-04), Calm Technique (2011-05-07), Ceaseless Society (2012-05-10), Associative Mindfulness and High Performance (2014-07-21), ...)

- Monday, June 20, 2016 at 17:43:28 (EDT)

2016-05-30 - MCRRC Memorial Day 4 Miler

~4.0 miles @ ~8.2 min/mi

Showing some midriff at mile 1 of the Montgomery County Road Runners Memorial Day race - photo by Dan Reichmann"Want me to massage your thighs now? ... oops! You're not Tom!" When the young gentleman turns around I discover my mistake; apologies are accepted with laughter. Before this morning's MCRRC Memorial Day 4 miler friendly rival Tom Young and I banter about tight leg muscles. Important Safety Tip: after a race lots of folks look the same from behind!

At 0635 a big front-yard rabbit watches me jog by on the way to Barry's home. His neighbor Mary Bowman drives us to the race and kindly offers coffee. Her description of a half-marathon yesterday (at a pace near my PB) and her Boston Marathon last month explains her nickname: "Fast Mary"!

Big puddles decorate the trail, the boardwalk is slippery, and weather is cool but humid. Mile splits by the GPS = 7:31 + 7:56 + 8:20 + 8:42 with downhill start and corresponding climb to finish. Total time: a hair under 33 minutes, significantly slower than in 2010, 2012, and 2014.

Please sir, I want some more ... speedwork!

Official results: 119/324 finishers, 92/168 males, 8/20 in the male 60-64 age bracket, gun time 32:59.

Past races on this course:
    34:11 - 2002
    45:51 - 2006
    41:36 - 2007
    44:27 - 2008
    46:15 - 2009
    31:04 - 2010
    32:07 - 2012
    30:36 - 2014

Just thrilled to be alive at Mile 3+ of the Montgomery County Road Runners Memorial Day 4 miler - photo by Dan Reichmann


- Sunday, June 19, 2016 at 16:00:21 (EDT)

Mantra - As It Is


... all things are as they are — the challenge: awaken to that, accept that, and simply love that!

"As it is" was the life philosophy of Mr Universe of 1952, Manohar Aich, according to "Healthy and Wise", a 2013 profile in Outlook (an Indian magazine); it is quoted in Aich's 2016 New York Times obituary ("Manohar Aich, 4-Foot-11 Bodybuilder Known as the Pocket Hercules, Dies at 103"). He lived quietly and happily — no worries, no quest for fame or fortune, no secrets.

As it is ...

(cf. Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Not Always So (2009-07-04), Radical Acceptance (2015-05-13), ...)

- Saturday, June 18, 2016 at 05:07:39 (EDT)

2016-05-29 - Super Sligo Loop with Barry

~6.2 miles @ ~11.9 min/mi

"Never run up a hill that has a name!" So Barry and I decide to name all the hills in his neighborhood. A pint of egg drop soup plus a veggie spring roll are perhaps suboptimal for lunch, half an hour before setting out on a humid-hot afternoon jog. Headless deer carcass rests on the shoulder of University Blvd. In front of Glen Haven Elementary School we pause at the Scene of the Crime, 14 years ago: my very first-ever road race, the MCRRC "Super Sligo" 4.2 miler held on 2002-03-30 - my, how time flies! At General Getty Neighborhood Park we pose for photos in a toy pirate ship.


- Friday, June 17, 2016 at 04:14:34 (EDT)

Roads to Infinity Revisited

After half a dozen years, try again: John Stillwell's Roads to Infinity, which I read and partly understood in 2010, still stretches beyond the mind's elastic limit. But perhaps, among the the silly symbols, some parts may make slight sense. In another decade, more? Meanwhile, powerful principles emerge:

So there's not one "infinity", or even an "infinity of infinities" — mathematicians know how to play that game too well! — but there are sets of rules within which one can speak consistently, can define and discern objects, and can deduce implications. Sometimes the transfinite casts shadows onto the (seemingly) finite. Take, for instance, Goodstein's Theorem: pick a starting number and write it as sums of powers of two. Following Stillwell's example (in Section 2.7), 87 = 64 + 16 + 4 + 2 + 1 which can be expressed as 26 + 24 + 22 + 21 + 1. Then if an exponent in that representation is larger than 2, write it as sums of powers of two as well; so the 6th power in the first term of 87's expansion is written as 22 + 2, etc. OK, now replace all those 2's by 3's, and subtract 1. Rearrange to make the resulting number a proper sum of powers of three. OK, now replace all those 3's by 4's, and subtract 1. Rearrange, and repeat ("... and so on..."). After a long, long, long, LONG time, Goodstein's Theorem says, you end up at 0.

Far from obvious, and not provable without tiptoeing toward infinity, or maybe beyond. And the variations on "infinity", starting with ordinals and cardinals, lead to extraordinarily strange birds indeed, like the elusive Inaccessible cardinals.

And so on ...

- Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 05:07:30 (EDT)

2016-05-28 - Carolee and Sakurako on RCT

~9.2 miles @ ~14.3 min/mi

"Carolee! Is that you?" Surprise encounter: an office T'ai Chi buddy on Rock Creek Trail, totally out-of-context. Turns out she lives not far away; we exchange info in hopes of future training runs together. Barry hangs with me, Gayatri and her friend Sakurako go onward, with Ken and Don and Rebecca farther downstream. I arrive late, park by the road, and intercept the group before it spreads. Barry sets out early from his front door, and is now six miles ahead of me. We take our time on a warm and humid morning, meandering and attacking hills, debating whether it's truly a "repeat" if one does only one of something. "Then how about Zero?"

Barry demonstrates Meb Keflezighi skipping drills. Don joins us and explains "Duff's Device", a loop-unrolling computer programming trick. Two big deer peer at us as we approach. "You take out the one on the left; the one on the right is mine. Attack!".


- Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 05:28:07 (EDT)

ZhurnalyWiki Random Tarot

Tarot? Isn't that ... silly?

Well, as Samuel R. Delany says in his sf novel Nova:

... the seventy-eight cards of the Tarot present symbols and mythological images that have recurred and reverberated through forty-five centuries of human history. Someone who understands these symbols can construct a dialogue about a given situation. There's nothing superstitious about it.

Ok, maybe. And cartomancy aside, individual Tarot cards can be great fun, with beautiful artistic-inspirational images. And maybe they can provide out-of-the-box metacognitive escape hatches when one's thinking is caught in a closed loop. The Oddmuse wiki engine behind ZhurnalyWiki supports choosing pseudorandomly among a set of pages matching a title substring [1]. So why not give with one click an arbitrarily chosen card plus commentary?

Hence, a wiki experiment: "Tarot" in the menu bar at the top and bottom of each page. Some thumbnail card art and words are copyright by their respective owners, offered here for personal fair use only, with links wherever possible to original sources. Other pictures and interpretive texts are completely free. All are subject to further editing and improvement.

Yes, there are surely bugs and typos; yes, it may not work in all browsers (e.g., if results are cached); yes, some of the card artwork includes mild nudity and may not be strictly office-safe; yes, the wiki page layout needs work, especially on small screens; yes, some of the "meanings" are highly debatable, likely bogus; yes, it shouldn't be used to control nuclear reactors or medical devices, nor should anyone make major life-altering decisions based on a random-number generator.

And then again, like life itself, it's a start, eh?! ...

(the random tarot card link = "http://zhurnaly.com/cgi-bin/wiki?action=randommatch;match=%5ETarot_-_".)

- Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 06:00:13 (EDT)

2016-05-27 - Hot Memorial Long Run

~20.3 miles @ ~14.3 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Theodore_Roosevelt_Kristin_Kerry_z.jpg"Michael Wardian? I worship you!" The bearded cyclist waiting for the crosswalk light to change admires my shoes, which match his. He admits that Hoka is one of his sponsors, and shyly reveals his identity only when I ask. After he pedals away the next few miles are occupied by my blathering to Drs K&K about what an extraordinary athlete and Nice Guy that he is. (cf. Michael Wardian)

Orange dawn at 0530 soon turns into humid-hazy-hot Code Orange air. We trot west along Four Mile Run, with detours to inspect stonework and ponds, flowers and fish. "What's that in your pants?" asks Kerry, innocently. Kristin laughs and reveals a bottle of experimental elixir: "Deathwish" coffee blended with protein powder and vitamin B12. A robin hops away, big worm dangling from its beak. At a new trailside playground bike repair tools chained to a post clang like wind chimes when shaken.

Weenie Beanie is open at mile 0 of the W&OD, but we refrain from indulging. The Bluemont Junction bypass is unlabeled, so the Custis Trail takes us into Rosslyn. A chipmunk scurries ahead, then turns back for home. On Theodore Roosevelt Island a big deer stands close by the trail, then flees as we approach; another one watches us from thick brush. After a pause for selfies in front of TR's statue we cross the Roosevelt Bridge and pass by the Kennedy Center and Saudi Embassy. ("Want to knock and ask for a glass of water?" "Maybe not.") School tour groups crowd around the Lincoln and Korean War Memorials. Martin Luther King Jr's monument is awe-inspiring.

Diet Pepsi from the Jefferson Memorial refreshment stand at mile 16 helps us cool down. Jets rumble low overhead on final approach to National Airport. At the Potomac Yards finish line Starbucks iced coffee begins the rehydration process.



- Monday, June 13, 2016 at 05:36:20 (EDT)

Dive Right In

From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, "Problem 7: Fear" in Chapter 10 ("Dealing with Problems"), inspirational words and an exhortation to have courage:

... At some point in your meditation career, you will be struck with the seriousness of what you are actually doing. You are tearing down the wall of illusion you have always used to explain life to yourself and to shield yourself from the intense flame of reality. You are about to meet ultimate truth face to face. That is scary. But it has to be dealt with eventually. Go ahead and dive right in.

(cf. Face to Face with God (2001-11-13), ...)

- Sunday, June 12, 2016 at 05:06:36 (EDT)

2016-05-25 - MITRE McLean 5k-ish Fun Run

~3.0 miles @ ~7.9 min/mi

"Competition categories for this race are based on self-identification," I tell a runner who asks me before the start, "and I self-identify as a 90 year old tortoise!" The MITRE McLean fun-run today reverts to the old short course that hooks through Westgate Park, avoiding construction on sidewalks used for the past two years. Gusty winds send pine needles into faces as we duck under low-hanging branches. A few dozen walkers do one lap; the "5k" event has a few dozen more participants. Time ~24 minutes makes the top quartile, mile splits 7:32 + 7:59 + 8:05 by the GPS, distance ~4.9 km, about 30 seconds slower than the 2013-05-15 - MITRE 5k Fun Run.


- Saturday, June 11, 2016 at 06:16:23 (EDT)

Golem and Jinni

Helene Wecker's first novel, The Golem and the Jinni, is magical fantastical fun, a fast 400+ page romp. In style and setting — New York City at the turn-of-the-century (1899, that is) — it echoes Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale, though Wecker's prose is less ornate. A sample description, from Chapter 7 where one of the protagonists discovers Central Park:

Across from the station rose a wall of greenery. A high iron fence ran along it, as though to hold back something wild. There was a wide gap in the middle of the fence, and Sixth Avenue disappeared inside, curving around and out of sight. A steady stream of pedestrians and carriages came and went. He crossed the street and passed inside.

Almost immediately the sounds of traffic faded away, were replaced by a descending hush. A grove of trees edged the path on both sides, turning the air cool and heavy. Gravel crunched under his shoes. Open carriages ambled past, the horses' hooves beating a pleasant rhythm. Smaller paths broke away from either side of the carriage road, some wide and paved, others little more than dirt tracks overhung with lush vegetation.

Soon the shading grove came to an end, and the land opened into a vast swath of rolling lawn. The Jinni stopped, stunned by the vivid sea of green. Trees bordered its far edges, shielding the city from view. In the middle of the lawn, a herd of plump, dusky-white sheep stood peacefully together, eating lazy mouthfuls of grass. Benches lined the road, and here and there people sat, in pairs or threes or the occasional solitary gentleman—though women were never alone in public, he had noticed this—and watched the carriages go by.

He stepped off the path and walked about in the grass for a few moments, feeling the earth give and spring back. He bounced on the balls of his feet, unaware of the smile that rose to his lips. Briefly he considered abandoning the path altogether, and walking the length of the lawn, perhaps without his shoes; but then he spied a small sign staked into the ground that read PLEASE STAY TO THE PATH. And indeed, a few passersby were frowning at him in admonishment. He thought the rule absurd but had no wish to be noticed. So he stepped back onto the path, vowing to return at night, when hopefully he could do as he liked.

The carriage road branched away east, and the Jinni followed its curve over a pretty wooden bridge. Through a copse of tall trees he spied a long, straight path of shining gray-white. He left the road to investigate, and the gray-white path revealed itself as a broad promenade of flagstone, lined with high, arching trees. There were more people here than on the carriage path, but the scale of the space was so grand that he took little notice of the crowd. Children ran past, and one boy's hoop went rolling away from him, tilting across the Jinni's path. Startled, he plucked it from the stones and gave it back to the boy, who ran to catch up with his fellows. The Jinni continued on, wondering about the function of the hoop.

Eventually the broad walk descended into a tunnel that cut beneath a carriage road. On the other side of the tunnel, a broad plaza of red brick curved along the shore of a pond. In the middle of the plaza he saw what he took at first for an enormous winged woman, floating above a foaming cascade of water. No, not a woman—a sculpture of a woman, perched atop a pedestal. The water flowed into a wide, shallow basin at her feet, and then into a pool that stretched almost the width of the plaza.

Smooth yet evocative language, with quiet depth and sparkle, as the protagonists see new worlds through fresh eyes. The Golem and the Jinni has plot, though as the narrative progresses it becomes rather contrived. Its characters are startling, archetypal, intriguing. Its atmosphere delights and surprises. Its titular "technology" — woman of earth, man of fire — form a yin-yang pair. Neat meets chaotic: works well.

- Friday, June 10, 2016 at 04:21:22 (EDT)

2016-05-23 - No Macarons

~5.1 miles @ ~12.3 min/mi

"Just Cambodia!" Dr K2 tells of her daughter's summer plans, to teach and tour almost as far from home as one could imagine. The Dawn Patrol pauses at mile 1 to pet a fat gray cat ambling down Anderson Road. We meander around Pimmit Hills, sharing weekend news, cooking projects, puppy updates, and long-run plans. Peonies and roses blossom in front-yard gardens. Kerry and Kristin notice a new cake shop on Route 7, with macarons on display. Alas, at 0630 the doors are locked.


- Thursday, June 09, 2016 at 05:21:27 (EDT)

No Goals

From the end of Chapter 7 ("What to Do with Your Mind") of Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana:

Don't set goals for yourself that are too high to reach. Be gentle with yourself. You are trying to follow your own breathing continuously and without a break. That sounds easy enough, so you will have a tendency at the outset to push yourself to be scrupulous and exacting. This is unrealistic. Take time in small units instead. At the beginning of an inhalation, make the resolve to follow the breath just for the period of that one inhalation. Even this is not so easy, but at least it can be done. Then, at the start of the exhalation, resolve to follow the breath just for that one exhalation, all the way through. You will still fail repeatedly, but keep at it.

Every time you stumble, start over. Take it one breath at a time. This is the level of the game where you can actually win. Stick at it — fresh resolve with every breath cycle, tiny units of time. Observe each breath with care and precision, taking it one split second on top of another, with fresh resolve piled one on top of the other. In this way, continuous and unbroken awareness will eventually result.

Mindfulness of breathing is a present-time awareness. When you are doing it properly, you are aware only of what is occurring in the present. You don't look back and you don't look forward. You forget about the last breath, and you don't anticipate the next one. When the inhalation is just beginning, you don't look ahead to the end of that inhalation. You don't skip forward to the exhalation which is to follow. You stay right there with what is actually taking place. The inhalation is beginning, and that's what you pay attention to; that and nothing else.

This meditation is a process of retraining the mind. The state you are aiming for is one in which you are totally aware of everything that is happening in your own perceptual universe, exactly the way it happens, exactly when it is happening; total, unbroken awareness in the present time. This is an incredibly high goal, and not to be reached all at once. It takes practice, so we start small. We start by becoming totally aware of one small unit of time, just one single inhalation. And, when you succeed, you are on your way to a whole new experience of life.

(cf. Being Nobody, Going Nowhere (2008-10-18), No Method (2010-01-21), Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2010-08-04), Goals and Failure (2014-12-13), Now and Here (2015-06-07), Mantra - No Goals (2015-07-27), Aspire without Attachment (2015-12-28), ...)

- Wednesday, June 08, 2016 at 04:21:34 (EDT)

2016-05-22 - Sunday Ramble

~22.3 miles @ ~11.3 min/mi

"Freedonia, as in the Marx Brothers?" I ask, glimpsing a sweatshirt on the Capital Crescent Trail early this morning.

"No," the wearer replies, "Fredonia, as in the University!"

A soggy rabbit flees. Don and Rebecca lead the middle 10+ miles at a brisk pace. Conversation covers macarons, red velvet cake, coffee addiction, crossword puzzles, and current politics. We visit a DC Boundary Stone (NW9, dated 1792) and loop through Rock Creek Park. Don's daughter Kenna has just graduated from Georgetown (yay!), and Don's mom is in town; she does a walkabout on the CCT as her son atones for party food yesterday. Rebecca kindly gives me a Hüma brand chia-based energy gel. Other fuel for today's trek includes a mini Heath bar and a pre-run brownie plus cup of coffee.

"... And admit that the waters / Around you have grown / And accept it that soon / You'll be drenched to the bone ..." plays heavy-rotation on the mental 8-track as drizzle continues. Frisky feet random-walk north along Rockville Pike, turning off for a mini-tour of the Stone Ridge girls' school. Then home, via Cedar Lane and Rock Creek Trail. The Mormon Temple hill offers a chance to enhance the GPS elevation profile. Walk breaks ensue.


- Tuesday, June 07, 2016 at 05:20:18 (EDT)

Mantra - I Choose


... inspiration from conversation during a long training run with a friend:

... So much better to choose for oneself and find worth, instead of having one's value dependent on other people or external events....

... in friendship, virtue, love, work, life!

(cf. the song "Freewill" by Rush; and Knowing Choosing Doing (1999-05-29), Precision Living (2002-03-31), Will Power (2008-07-18), This Is Water (2009-05-21), ...)

- Monday, June 06, 2016 at 04:25:26 (EDT)

2016-05-21 - Personalization, Pervasiveness, Permanence

~9.0 miles @ ~8.8 min/mi

"Permanence, Pervasiveness, and Personalization!" After a couple of miles I recollect the three P's of resilience that Sheryl Sandberg quoted (from Martin Seligman's "learned optimism") in her lovely-wise UC Berkeley commencement speech one week ago. Cold rain drenches Amber and me during our brisk trot along the Mount Vernon Trail. We dance around puddles and give thanks for the gift of running with a friend.

Gray waters of the Potomac are a perfect match for wet asphalt at the Jefferson Memorial; at first glance, the river seems to have flooded our path. Two geese arch their necks in parallel to hunt for bugs in the wet grass. A mallard duck hunkers down. Jets roar overhead every two minutes as they take off from National Airport. Dr A describes The Golem and the Jinni, a novel by Helene Wecker; I summarize Roads to Infinity, a math book by John Stillwell that I'm trying to read.

GPS mile splits: 8:28 + 8:17 + 8:33 + 8:51 + 9:10 + 8:53 + 8:50 + 8:56 + 8:41.


- Sunday, June 05, 2016 at 07:26:27 (EDT)

Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain

NHK World, the Japanese educational TV network, recently began broadcasting a series of lectures titled "First Class". One of the talks was by Oxford professor Elaine Fox, a smart and enthusiastic psychologist, on the modern neuroscience of optimism and pessimism. The topic is important, as is Fox's work. But alas, her 2012 book Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, subtitled "How to Retrain Your Brain to Overcome Pessimism and Achieve a More Positive Outlook", is ... thin. Not thin physically, but slow, anecdotal, and excessively first-person in its presentation. Illustrations are cartoonish; charts lack error-bars or confidence intervals. And techniques for attitude-improvement are only sketched, likely without enough detail to help most readers.

So story follows upon story, with feel-good conclusions based only on small samples. Even though the author clearly knows about cognitive fallacies and tries to be objective, the text approvingly cites experiments that confirm preferred conclusions; those that disagree are dismissed in the endnotes. Certainty dominates skepticism. Recent research suggests most psychology studies are literally wrong, irreproducible. Many of Fox's examples share characteristics of such flawed work.

As an incorrigible optimist I truly want to believe the major theses of Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain: that brain chemistry, largely driven by genetics, makes some people pessimists — but that proper training can reduce that bias, increase happiness, promote resilience, and help people become better. But Fox doesn't make a convincing case for that. Too bad ...

(cf. Conceptual Metaphor (2012-06-19), Buddha's Brain (2014-07-27), Creativity and Insight Enhancers (2015-08-04), ...)

- Saturday, June 04, 2016 at 04:21:46 (EDT)

2016-05-20 - Tysons Corner Flowers

~6.6 miles @ ~12.3 min/mi

"We're in exactly the right place!" Kristin quotes Kerry, as I fidget impatiently for traffic lights to change so we can cross Route 7. Lovely cool weather beckons, so we greet dawnwalker Patti and let feet lead us where they will. The track at five-star Gen. George C. Marshall High School is securely defended from attack. We loop through local communities seeking cut-through gates without success. Front-yard gardens feature variegated irises, pink and orange roses, petunias. ("OK, enough of this flower-smelling — time to run!") A grackle perches on a stone water ewer. ("Why is a raven like a writing-desk?") A happy brown rabbit races us for half a block.


- Friday, June 03, 2016 at 04:17:09 (EDT)

Life Partner Criteria Revisited

Two years ago, brainstorming with a friend suggested some "Life Partner Criteria" that might form a useful semi-quantitative way to evaluate candidates for one's long-term affections — as well as a fun theme for discussion. Those dimensions, in roughly descending order of importance for the friend, included Intellect, Love of children, Sensitivity, Affection, Spirituality, Confidence, Altruism, Financial stability, Education, Interest in world events, "Chemistry", Humor, Physical activity, and Chivalry. Since then a few other characteristics have come to mind:

Or perhaps more systematic structure is needed, to bring order to these personal parameters? The "Storyteller System", designed to generate characters for role-playing games, is a two-dimensional grid that might be worth exploring. In its original form the array seems rather arbitrary and contrived:

POWER intelligence strength presence
FINESSE wits dexterity manipulation
RESISTANCE resolve stamina composure

... but applied to the search for a Life Partner maybe it could make more sense, e.g.:

POWER fitness intellect sexiness
FINESSE agility spirituality empathy
RESISTANCE health stability independence

... perhaps worth further thought, in a nerdy-analytic party-game way?!

- Thursday, June 02, 2016 at 04:56:44 (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), 0.9911 (May-July 2014), 0.9912 (July-August 2014), 0.9913 (August-October 2014), 0.9914 (November 2014-January 2015), 0.9915 (January-April 2015), 0.9916 (April-July 2015), 0.9917 (July-September 2015), 0.9918 (September-November 2015), 0.9919 (November 2015-January 2016), 0.9920 (January-April 2016), 0.9921 (April-June 2016), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2015 by Mark Zimmermann.)

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