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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 = 0.9912 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z (at) his (dot) com" ... click on a title link to go to that item in the ZhurnalyWiki where you can edit or comment on it ... RSS



Winter's Tale

Mark Helprin's 1983 novel Winter's Tale is a poetic-prose dreamscape:

... and silly, philosophical, thick, and a host of other things all at once. Winter's Tale is Tarot-like in its archetypal absolutes. It deals a surrealistic Major Arcana in an array:

Perfection Infinity Light
Ice Justice Mystery
Beauty Cities Hope
Water Freedom Purity
Gold Clouds Fire
Death Emptiness Love

Meaning? Hard to say. Winter's Tale is also a story without an ending, or maybe with so many endings that they melt into a muddle-puddle. As the chapter "Battery Bridge" begins:

From either madness, truth, or charm, Peter Lake, listening hard, thought that he could hear the coming of the future in his machines. Cockeyed and still, directing all his attention to their sermons, he stood before them like a climber who has made some glorious peak. Their hoots, screams, and singing, like the static of the nebulae, enticed him deep into a confusing jungle of dimensionless sound and light. From the darkness, jaguars' eyes without jaguars glowed and circled in symmetrical orbits as red as rubies. On infinite meadows in the black, creatures made of misty light tossed their manes in motionless eternal swings that passed through the stars like wind sweeping through wildflowers.

That's as good a plot summary of Winter's Tale as any. No matter: it's a book worth reading, or more precisely, a journey worth living. The 2014 movie tries to distill it down to a two-hour experience, and fails, the ponderous voiceover a distracting echo of Stranger Than Fiction's narrator, the poetic quotes a bridge of snowflakes that collapses without context, the special-effect rainbows a flat parody of visions that can't be shown. No matter!

- Friday, October 24, 2014 at 04:40:48 (EDT)


No Mistake

From Chapter 19 of A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie:

... There's no mistake in the universe. It's not possible to have the concept "mistake" unless you're comparing what is with what isn't. Without the story in your mind, it's all perfect. No mistake. Strangers used to hear about me and show up at my front door (this was in 1986), and some of them would put their palms together and bow and say, "Namaste." I had never heard that before—people don't say "Namaste" in Barstow, the little desert town where I lived. So I thought they were saying, "No mistake." I was thrilled that the people coming to my door were so wise. "No mistake. No mistake."

- Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 04:06:16 (EDT)


Boa Constrictor

Met a month ago: Arnold, the red-tailed boa constrictor that my neighbor Pete across the street has owned for some years, but that I never before saw ...http://zhurnaly.com/images/Boa_constrictor_z.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/Snaky_tongue_boa_constrictor.jpg... and I never observed a snaky tongue close up, or knew that it might be really forked, or what color it might have!

- Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 04:43:17 (EDT)


2014-10-03 - WOD Trek

~14 miles @ ~12.1 min/mi

"Morning, Ladies!" the cyclist zooming by in the gloom greets us. Kristin starts laughing so hard that we have to take a walk break. "Well, my voice is higher-pitched than yours," I offer as explanation. Seven miles later another biker says, "Good morning, Sir!" in response to my salute. Once he's out of earshot Kristin asks, "So what are we? Chopped liver?"

Kerry's first-ever half marathon trek goes nicely, modulo twinges from new shoes, with a time of about 2:35. She spots half a dozen deer grazing by the W&OD Trail just west of Gallows Rd. At the Vienna Community Center we take a break, then turn back. It's fun to see again folks whom we met outbound. Our route is mostly the reverse of what Kristin and I did last Friday. Runkeeper captures the data.

- Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 04:40:07 (EDT)


No-Self and the Space of Wonder

From the chapter "The Observing Self" in Charlotte Joko Beck's Everyday Zen:

There are several ways to practice. One is with sheer concentration (very common in Zen centers), in which we take a koan and push hard to break through. In this approach what we are really doing is pushing the false thought and emotion into hiding. Since they are not real, we suppose that it is OK to push them out of the way. And it's true that if we are very persistent and push on a koan long enough, we can sometimes break through temporarily to the wonder of a life that is free of ego. Another way, which is our practice here, is slowly to open ourselves to the wonder of what life is by meticulous attention to the anatomy of the present moment. Slowly, slowly we become more sophisticated and knowledgeable, so that (for example) we may know that when we dislike a person, the left corner of our mouth pulls down. In this approach everything in our life —the good and bad events, our excitement, our depression, our disappointment, our irritability — becomes grist for the mill. It's not that we seek out the struggles and problems; but a mature student almost welcomes them, because we gradually learn from experience that as this anatomy becomes clear, the freedom and compassion increase.

A third way of practice (which I view as poor) is to substitute a positive for a negative thought. For example: if we are angry we may substitute a loving thought. Now this changed conditioning may make us feel better. But it doesn't stand up well to the pressures of life. And to substitute one conditioning for another is to miss the point of practice. The point is not that a positive emotion is better than a negative one, but that all thoughts and emotions are impermanent, changing, or (in Buddhist terms) empty. They have no reality whatsoever. Our only freedom is in knowing, from years of observation and experiencing, that all personally centered thoughts and emotions (and the actions born of them) are empty. They are empty; but if they are not seen as empty they can be harmful. When we realize this we can abandon them. When we do, very naturally we enter the space of wonder.

This space of wonder — entering into heaven — opens when we are no longer caught up in ourselves: when no longer "It is I," but "It is Thou." I am all things when there is no barrier. This is the life of compassion, and none of us lives such a life all the time. In the eye-gazing practice, in which we meditate while facing another person, when we can put aside our personal emotions and truly look into another's eyes, we see the space of no-self. We see the wonder, and we see that this person is ourselves. This is marvelously healing, particularly for people in relationships who aren't getting along. We see for a second what another person is: they are no-self, as we are no-self, and we are both the wonder.

(cf. Mindfulness for Beginners (2013-07-18), 0-1 (2014-08-29), ...)

- Monday, October 20, 2014 at 04:18:27 (EDT)


2014-10-01 - Pimmit Hills Dash

~3.3 miles @ ~8.8 min/mi

"Short and fast!" are Dr Amber's orders this morning - she's on the clock and has to get her kids to school on time. We wait briefly by the loading dock, but everybody else is either out of town or too sensible to run in the rain in the gloom. My suggestion: try for a descending pace, maybe 11 minutes for the first mile, then 10, then 9. That goes out the window when Mile 1 comes in 8:32 by the GPS. "Oops!"

We throttle back and cruise along neighborhood streets, greeting pre-dawn walkers, dodging commuter cars and the 3T Metrobus, and trying not to trip on sidewalk cracks. I feel guilty cursing the sweat that washes into my eyes after Amber confesses to cursing the nurses during the late stages of childbirth. "In English or in German?" I ask. We finish uphill in what could be a Personal Best 5k time for her, at least in recent decades. Whee! Runkeeper records route.

- Sunday, October 19, 2014 at 15:44:17 (EDT)


National Museum of Health and Medicine - Brain in a Vat

Down the street from Che^z near the US Army's Ft Detreck Walter Reed Annex is the National Museum of Health and Medicine. The building itself is fascinating architecturally ...http://zhurnaly.com/images/National_Museum_Health_Medicine_bldg.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/NMHM_skeleton_1.jpg... as are some of the materials in glass cases inside, such as these tiny fetal skeletons ...http://zhurnaly.com/images/NMHM_skeleton_2.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/NMHM_brain_vat_0.jpg... and various other exhibits involving mostly military-related medical themes. Among the most interesting neuroscience-related items at the NMHM is a genuine "brain in a vat" (with spinal cord) ...
... but if a visitor gets too close, an undocumented feature of this display apparently may be triggered ...http://zhurnaly.com/images/NMHM_brain_vat_1.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/NMHM_brain_vat_2.jpg... and pull that person's consciousness into the pickled cerebral mass, leaving behind a vacant stare and an empty-headed ...
... zombie. Strangely but fortunately, however, in the case of this victim of the system absolutely no differences could be observed after the mind was removed!http://zhurnaly.com/images/NMHM_brain_vat_3.jpg

- Saturday, October 18, 2014 at 06:59:20 (EDT)


2014-09-29 - Arbor Lane Mansions

~9.8 miles @ ~12.1 min/mi

"Groin, throat, eyes, ...", my running companions are reviewing the best vulnerable points to aim for if one is attacked. We're trotting back from a trek along a new street, Arbor Lane, where lovely houses sit behind well-groomed lawns. I dip my hand in a sprinkler's spray. A big American flag hangs in the gloom at the top of a front yard pole. Pink clouds low in the east proclaim the dawn.

Kristin and Amber lead the way on the narrow woodsy path and take cobwebs in the face for Kerry and me. We review the weekend and upcoming schedules. Back at the starting line Kristin and I add a final parking lot loop to get her GPS into double digits. Runkeeper records route.

- Friday, October 17, 2014 at 04:09:35 (EDT)


Vast Openness

From Chapter 16 of A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie:

... You can have ten thousand thoughts a minute, and if you don't believe them, your heart remains at peace.

The original stressful thought is the thought of an I. Before that thought, there was peace. A thought is born out of nothing and instantly goes back where it came from. If you look before, between, and after your thoughts, you'll see that there is only a vast openness. That's the space of don't-know. It's who we really are. It's the source of everything, it contains everything: life and death, beginning, middle, and end.

Until we know that death is as good as life, and that it always comes at just the right time, we're gong to take on the role of God without the awareness of it, and it's always going to hurt. Whenever you mentally oppose what is, you're going to experience sadness and apparent separation. There's no sadness without a story. What is is. You are it.

- Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 04:20:01 (EDT)


2014-09-28 - Bachman Valley Half Marathon

~13.1 miles @ ~8.4 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Bachman_Valley_2014_sunrise.jpgHills, horses, and happiness! Before the race, the sun rises over a foggy Bachman Valley in northern Maryland.

Pushing hard to maintain pace, the result: overall 48th place of 202 finishers, 3rd male in the 60-69 year bracket. Official results: chip time 1:49:37, in agreement with the watch. Splits by mile markers: ~8.0 + 8.4 + 8.4 + 8.8 + 8.0 + 8.4 + 8.3 + 8.2 + 8.6 + 8.8 + 8.8 + 8.3 + 8.1 and ~45 seconds for the final fraction to the finish line.

Before the race we greet comrade Christina Caravoulias, who accompanied me here in years past. (cf. 2008-09-21 - Bachman Valley Half Marathon, 2009-09-20 - Bachman Valley Half Marathon, 2010-09-26 - Bachman Valley Half Marathon, ...) Along the course I see only one wooly bear caterpillar on the road. I carefully step over it.

Many thanks to Don Libes for snookering me into this insanity, and for driving to and from. Don also gets photo credit for recording my prize: a small apple pie. Note that it originally is for another age group, where nobody hung around long enough to collect it. I correct the label using my ballpoint pen.

Runkeeper records route, pace, and elevation profile.

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Bachman_Valley_2014_apple_pie_3rd_place_z.jpg

- Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 04:36:17 (EDT)


Cogwheels of the Mind

"The Story of Venn Diagrams" is a sadly inaccurate subtitle for Cogwheels of the Mind (2004) by A. W. F. Edwards. The first paragraph of the Preface is rather more honest:

I started to write this book with the intention of providing a popular but accurate account of Venn diagrams from a geometrical rather than a logical point of view, with emphasis on the many recent and beautiful developments. But it has been an unruly child from the outset, and my own involvement in some of these developments has kept on intruding. This preface is both a warning about the nature of the book and a disclaimer that it is intended to secure priority of discovery for me or anyone else.

Personal, idiosyncratic, amateurish, and alas often muddled. As Ian Stewart says in his Foreword, "It may not be the most important piece of mathematics ever ..." — a gently oblique way of suggesting the insignificance of the work. Perhaps it would have made a nice magazine article, or a child's picture book? Venn diagrams are quite useful as thinking tools and rhetorical devices (e.g., see Bodhisattva's Brain). Not enough of that application comes through in Cogwheels of the Mind. And it's a red flag when an author attaches his name to prior work ("Edwards-Venn Diagrams", "Smith-Morra Gambit", etc.). Best let others award credit where and if due.

- Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 04:26:45 (EDT)


2014-09-26 - Dog Lights

~14 miles @ ~11.6 min/mi

"Dog lights?" Kristin speculates, as we see a pair of white glows dancing about irregularly, low near the ground ahead. It's dawn on the W&OD Trail. Cyclists with strobing headlamps have already caught our attention, twinkling like stars in the distance. As we get closer we see that, yes indeed, the dog lights are real: it's a miniature schnauzer and what his owner calls "a rescue mutt". We pause to visit with them, then jog onward.

Today ventures into new mileage territory for Dr Kristin, who asks at the loading dock starting line, "Could we try for 13?" — and who, when we get back and the GPS reads 13.9 miles, insists on an extra lap around the parking lot to reach the next magic integer. OCD runner status confirmed! During the eastward return trek she spots big spiderwebs that I pause to photograph. Runkeeper records route.

- Monday, October 13, 2014 at 04:10:19 (EDT)


Bee Flower 3

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Bee_flower_3.jpg

(echinacea, aka "cone flower", plus busy bee, as taken with iPhone 4 camera during a walk along Forest Glen Rd; cf. BlackEyedSusanBee (2007-07-28), Bee Flower 1 (2013-09-26), Bee Flower 2 (2014-10-03), ...)

- Sunday, October 12, 2014 at 05:17:58 (EDT)


2014-09-24 - WOD Trail Sunrise

~10.5 miles @ ~11.6 min/mi

"Sandbagger!" I accuse Amber after today's run. She denies (of course!) hanging back to stroke her management's egos and make them think she's slower than they are. Dawn arrives to paint the clouds pretty pink as we trot eastward along the W&OD Trail. David, Kerry, and Kristin see rabbits; Amber mistakes ground-feeding birds for frogs; I only spy a few squirrels. We correct some wrong turns taken last Friday exploring the same route, but make a few new mistakes in compensation. Runkeeper records route.

- Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 06:20:27 (EDT)


Life on the Other Side of Inquiry

From Chapter 11 of A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie:

... if you want to open your heart, question your thinking.

Inquiry always leaves you with less of a story. Who would you be without your story? You never know until you inquire. There is no story that is you or that leads to you. Every story leads away from you. You are what exists before all stories. You are what remains when the story is understood.

Life on the other side of inquiry is so simple and obvious that it can't be imagined beforehand. Everything is seen to be perfect, just the way it is. Hope and faith aren't needed in this place. ... The wonderful thing about knowing who you are is that you're always in a state of grace, a state of gratitude for the abundance of the apparent world. I overflow with the splendor, the generosity of it all. And I didn't do anything for it but notice.

The litmus test for self-realization is a constant state of gratitude. ...

(cf. HowGreatThouArt (2005-03-16) for perhaps-related quotes from the film Joe Versus the Volcano, and Beginner's Guide to Insight Meditation (2011-08-05), Ground of Being (2013-10-03), ...)

- Friday, October 10, 2014 at 07:06:32 (EDT)


2014-09-22 - Benjamin St Revisited

~9.8 miles @ ~11.7 min/mi

"You're a man; you can take it!" Kristin reports that her little six-year-old son said to his father when rough-housing yesterday. Chuckles ensue, followed by other stories in the kids-say-the-darnedest-things genre. Amber, David, Kerry, Kristin, and I are trotting through the gloom early Monday morning. A silver sliver of an old old moon hangs low above Chain Bridge Rd, earthshine lighting its dark side. We loop down Benjamin St past beautiful houses, lawn sprinklers misting as the sun rises. A lovely start to the week! Runkeeper records route.

- Thursday, October 09, 2014 at 04:38:24 (EDT)


Striving vs Winning

From Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin (near the end of the Chapter "Lake of the Cooheries"):

"... I like the race rather than the winning."

"Do you? Really?"

"Yes. I've imagined great victories, and I've imagined great races. The races are better."

(cf. FunVersusEntertainment (2006-08-31), ...)

- Wednesday, October 08, 2014 at 04:44:45 (EDT)


2014-09-20 - MCRRC Lake Needwood 10k XC Race

~6.2 miles @ ~9 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Needwood_XC_2014_diFonzo_z2.jpgGPS error on this hilly cross-country race shows a miraculous short-cut across the water during the final return loop — hmmmmm! It's a blitz along construction project routes, including wooden bridges with scary-wide spaces between the slats.

Official results put total time at 55:12, placing 45th of 120 runners, 37th of 80 males, 3rd of 7 in the 60-64 male age group. I lose to arch-nemesis-rival 8 year old Jason Parks by about 90 seconds.

Runkeeper tallies the pace, and route (more or less). Photo by Dan DiFonzo.

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Needwood_XC_2014_GPS_error.jpg

(cf. 2005-09-24 - Lake Needwood 10k, 2006-09-16 - Ken-Gar plus Lake Needwood Orbit, 2008-09-27 - Lake Needwood 10k plus, 2011-09-24 - MCRRC Lake Needwood 10k XC, ...)

- Tuesday, October 07, 2014 at 05:29:44 (EDT)


Meditation - Sound, Music, Silence

On 10 May 2014 Patricia Long led a retreat titled "Doorways into Meditation: Experience the Power of Sound, Music, and Silence". The day began with a quote from Joseph Campbell:

People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That's what it's all finally about.

The rapture at this workshop centered on vibrations, thoughts, and resonances. There was mantra-chanting, including "Om Namah Shivaya". There was mysticism, worth respect as metaphor regardless of one's skepticism. There were harmonies, sometimes distractingly beautiful. There was focus, the opposite (or complement) perhaps of a diffuse-attentive style of mindfulness (cf. the taxonomy in Finding the Quiet). There was honoring of self, and overcoming of barriers, and dropping of judgments, and pushing-off into deep inner waters.

Patricia read poems, including an extraordinarily apt one by Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks):

"Where Everything Is Music"

Don't worry about saving these songs!
And if one of our instruments breaks,
it doesn't matter.

We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.

The strumming and the flute notes
rise into the atmosphere,
and even if the whole world's harp
should burn up, there will still be
hidden instruments playing.

So the candle flickers and goes out.
We have a piece of flint, and a spark.

This singing art is sea foam.
The graceful movements come from a pearl
somewhere on the ocean floor.

Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge
of driftwood along the beach, wanting!

They derive
from a slow and powerful root
that we can't see.

Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.

And, as Patricia observed, "All sounds are potentially music." (Yes, and that applied to occasional ambulance sirens passing by outside!)

Personal footnotes:

(cf. Thoughts Drop (2014-01-22), Meditation Retreat (2014-01-28), ...)

- Monday, October 06, 2014 at 22:07:16 (EDT)


2014-09-19 - WOD and Birds

~11 miles @ ~11 min/mi

"Birds!" From the darkness a small flock of big crows explodes around Kerry's head as she brushes beneath the tree hanging over the sidewalk and disturbs their slumber. Instant Hitchcock movie!

It's barely after 6am, under a waning moon. Kristin and Kerry and I are trying a new route to the W&OD Trail, via neighborhood streets. We take a wrong turn seeking a bridge across Pimmit Run and discover ourselves in somebody's back yard. Oops! Backtrack and try again a block later. The Drs K clear spiderwebs for me on the proper path.

We approach Idylwood Park and Kerry says, "I know who lives here!" It's a family acquaintance from her kids' soccer games in years past. We join the W&OD near milepost 8, close to the eastern turnaround from Friday's run a fortnight ago. Bicycle commuters blitz past, some with friendly "Good Morning, Runners" and "On your left!" polite warnings, others silently surprising us.

We pause to drink from the fountain just after the bridge over Route 7. I test it and confirm the spritzing phenomenon that got Kerry a wet face on our 2014-09-17 - WOD Water Fountain journey. Teenagers on their way to school edge us off the sidewalk along Westmoreland Rd. Runkeeper records route and pace.

- Sunday, October 05, 2014 at 22:36:03 (EDT)


Bee Flower 2

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Bee_flower_2.jpg

(another photo of a busy bee taken with iPhone 4 camera, during the walk home from the local Metro station on Forest Glen Rd; cf. BlackEyedSusanBee (2007-07-28), Bee Flower 1 (2013-09-26), ...)

- Friday, October 03, 2014 at 04:09:34 (EDT)


2014-09-17 - WOD Water Fountain

~10 miles @ ~11.7 min/mi

Two rabbits seen this morning. David leads Amber, Kerry, Kristin, and me on a new route, down Great Falls St 3+ miles to the W&OD Trail. We begin at the loading dock before dawn, a last-quarter moon high overhead, Sirius low in the east. At Mile 1 we pause, and by flashlight Kerry points out the ridge in the sidewalk that tripped her when last we came this way (2014-09-03 - McLean Dawn Trek). Sidewalks are intermittent after Haycock Rd, so we zigzag across the street to avoid cars. On the W&OD Trail bicycles with brilliant headlights zoom past and other small packs of runners trot ahead. A pink sunrise begins behind us.

We find a water fountain just before the wide "Citizens' Bridge" over Route 7. Testing the tap for the dog water bowl on the side, I trigger a pressure wave that blasts Kerry in the face as she's trying to get a drink. A pair of women run by, training for the Waterman half-Iron triathlon that David did last year. On Broad St we see a concrete statue of a man feeding pigs next to a Don Beyer car dealership. Kerry says, "There's a story associated with that!" I'm reminded of the movie Snatch, in which a murderous character warns "Never trust a man who keeps pigs" and offers a formula for how many pigs are needed to dispose of a body in a given interval of time.

After crossing I-66 on/off ramps and safely back to neighborhood streets, David leads us at Mile 6 on a woodsy natural-surface meander via Lemon Road Park. It's a connector path that he found when off-road biking. Kristin and David take spiderwebs in the face for those who follow. We curve through Olney Park and, back at Magarity Rd, non-members of the Compulsive Clan branch off with 8+ miles. To get our GPS readings past 10, however, Kristin and I do a lap and a half at the McLean HS track, which we have all to ourselves. Long shadows run in front of us at the western end of the oval. Runkeeper records route.

- Thursday, October 02, 2014 at 04:42:55 (EDT)


2014-09-15 - Benjamin St Mansions

~9.8 miles @ ~11.7 min/mi

"Jamie!" Kerry greets her neighbor, out walking three dogs at 0630 as we pass through Churchill Road Park. After a mile 4 pause to pet the pups — Huey the big yellow Lab, Tilly the medium-sized mutt, and Pete the tiny black mother-in-law's critter — we carry on. "You get extra points during a run when you see somebody you know," I tell Kerry.

David, Kristin, Kerry, and I set out in the gloom at 0545. I've forgotten my flashlight but David has one, and I activate the iPhone LED camera-beam as needed. Kristin and I spy a red and white glow flickering on the side of David's belt. It turns out to be car headlights and taillights, refracted through one of his water bottles. Ha! On the forest path the Drs K clear spider webs for David and me.

We cross Georgetown Pike and continue to Benjamin St, an extension of prior routes that Kerry and Kristin reconnoitered together on Friday while I "tapered" for Sunday's half-marathon. "There are some neat houses along here," Kristin warns me. Massive understatement! The mansions in this neighborhood are beautiful, diverse in architecture and framed by lovely yards and trees.

On the return trip I find a 1989 dime and a 2011 cent, both severely scratched, in the middle of Beverly Rd as we cross. Kristin and I add an endgame loop to get her GPS into double digits after David and Kerry branch off. We stretch and concur on the goodness of sunlight to take off post-run chills. Runkeeper records route.

- Wednesday, October 01, 2014 at 04:14:14 (EDT)


Running Relationships to Analyze

Capture for the ever-growing To Do List: during the drive back from the Bachman Valley Half Marathon, statistician Don Libes and I got to talking about quantitative running relationships. There is much "folk wisdom" and lore about training — ramping up weekly mileage, doing hillwork and speedwork, tapering before a big race, eating certain foods, etc., etc. Almost none of this has been properly assessed. Do intensive training regimes actually destroy more people by causing injury than they help? What are the correlations between key parameters? How can someone optimize performance, depending on what goal(s) they want to achieve? What are the trade-offs and the statistically significant rules-of-thumb that people should bear in mind when they try to improve?

Data exist. The Montgomery County Road Runners and similar groups have, for many years, sponsored group training programs. Participants and coaches could be surveyed, before and after. Results in races could be correlated. Drop-outs could be interviewed to find out what happened to them. As far as Don and I can tell, none of this has been done. Instead, it's all anecdotal, and we all know the saying about "The plural of anecdote is ...".

Step One: identify key parameters, outcomes, and candidate connections to investigate and model. Among the obvious ones to explore and define:

(cf. NeedForSpeed (2002-08-10), DependentVariables (2003-04-09), DecelerationParameter (2003-12-28), RootMeanSquareDance (2004-04-24), StartSlower (2006-11-02), Weight Management (2009-04-13), Year of Running - 2009 - Further Observations (2010-02-01), 2012-03-04 - B and A Marathon (2012-03-15), ...)

- Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 04:38:15 (EDT)


2014-09-14 - MCRRC Parks Half Marathon 2014

13.1 miles @ ~8.1 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/PHM_2014_mark_schadley_z_mile_11.jpg1:45:25 for the Parks Half Marathon this year, thanks to cool weather and not-too-dumb pacing — it's a Personal Best for the distance, an improvement over the same course in 2013 by ~1 minute. The "secret", if any, is perhaps not-trying: running without expectations, in the moment, noticing the music of breath and footfall, softening into the experience, ...

Splits by watch and mile markers: 8:14 - 7:41 - 8:15 - 8:03 - 7:52 - {missed mile markers 6 & 7, total for 6-7-8 = 24:14} - 7:57 - 7:54 - 8:15 - 8:09 - 8:10 plus a final fraction in 0:43 — the Runkeeper iPhone GPS captures similar data.

Result: 303rd place of 941 male finishers, 8th of 45 men in the 60-64 year age group, behind 80 of 980 female finishers.




(happy hairy guy at mile 11 photo by Mark Schadley; finish line sprint picture by Arielle Reichmann)

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/PHM_2014_arielle_reichmann_z_finishing.jpg

(cf. 2008-09-14 - Parks Half Marathon Plus, 2009-09-13 - Double Parks Half Marathon, 2010-09-12 - Parks Half Marathon Plus, 2011-09-11 - Parks Half Marathon, 2013-09-08 - Parks Half Marathon 2013, ...)

- Monday, September 29, 2014 at 04:40:23 (EDT)


Hidden Messages in Water

Irrational, unscientific, and not even funny as parody. If The Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto (2001) is serious, then it's a tragic example of silly, bizarre thinking. The author has a feel-good notion — basically, clean water is nice — which leads to a rambling (perhaps badly translated from the Japanese?) discussion of how ice crystals look prettier if one thinks polite, happy thoughts at them while they're growing, plays pleasant music for them, etc. The microphotographs in his book, however, are as fuzzy as his logic. It might have worked as a joke, if it had been ~5% as long. Sorry!

- Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 05:13:54 (EDT)


2014-09-10 - Hickory Hill

~10 miles @ ~11.6 min/mi

Thud! — not a noise one wants to hear on the trail in the dark. At this point, mile ~2 of the pre-dawn adventure, Kristin is leading us on the connector path through the woods. I'm following, and Kerry is shining a flashlight ahead of our feet so we can see the way. That leaves David in the gloom behind. He takes a tumble, fortunately not a bad one. We gather up water bottles that have popped off his belt-pack, check his scraped hand, and proceed.

Today's route passes "Hickory Hill", formerly the Kennedy estate, and then goes by Richard Cheney's modest-by-comparison mansion. Along Georgetown Pike we spot four big deer grazing in a mega-yard. We refrain from running a lap around the Langley HS track, and after a brief debate decide to take the long way back. Kerry invites us to pause at her lovely home, where we meet her husband Clay and make friends with the family's dog, retired racing greyhound "Can You Do This?", now just called "CanDo". The rest of the return trek is led by Kerry, and includes a a meander through a frisbee golf course. Runkeeper records route.

- Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 11:32:55 (EDT)


2014-09-08 - Monday McLean Meandering

~10 miles @ ~11.6 min/mi

"Bunny!" Amber spots the one and only of today's trek, on the path by Georgetown Pike. A scary-big anime-style full moon is setting at 0545 as Kristin and Kerry and I do a mile warm up loop around the office neighborhood. We cast about in the dark to find the return gap amongst thickets of brush behind the ballfield. At 0600 as dawn begins to pinken the clouds Amber joins us. Today puts her into new territory, a longer distance than she has ever run before. Beware! This way lies ultra-madness!

We take turns carrying the flashlight (to help each other avoid stumbles on the bumpy asphalt) and leading the group (to clear overnight spiderwebs across the way). Kerry reminisces about her daughter's elementary school friends, then spots one of them (now a teenager) on the corner awaiting a ride to high school. Amber gives me a German lesson, which I promptly forget. Kristin and I speculate about the causes of swollen fingers (electrolyte imbalance?). Back at our start the OCD Twins add a loop around the parking lot to get all GPS readings into double digits. Runkeeper records route.

- Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 11:22:58 (EDT)


Bee Flower 1

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Bee_flower_1.jpg

(photo of a busy bee on an echinacea ("cone flower") taken with iPhone 4 camera, during the walk home from the local Metro station on Forest Glen Rd; cf. BlackEyedSusanBee (2007-07-28), ...)

- Friday, September 26, 2014 at 04:16:04 (EDT)


2014-09-07 - Sunday CCT

~11.4 miles @ ~10 min/mi

"2:53!" Scott Koonce admits as he jogs alongside me, cooling down at the end of a dozen fast miles. I'm sprinting at race pace to keep up, and manage to pant out admiration for his marathon PB. Scott has also run Seneca Creek and other local races, all far faster than I can envision. "I think we're in different age groups!" I joke. He mentions reading about DC Boundary Stones in Zhurnaly; I tell him about The Ring, commiserate with his recent injuries, and after half a mile send him on ahead as I slow to a sustainable trot on the way to a downtown Bethesda meet-up with Barry Smith, Ken Swab, and Rebecca Rosenberg. The morning is delightfully cool and low-humidity, in bold contrast to yesterday's pre-cold-front conditions that they ran in. Groups of First Time Marathon folks are doing 20 mile treks. "Jackie" chats with me, and I wish her luck as we go through the tunnel under Wisconsin Av.

After a pause for all of the Usual Suspects to arrive, the Gang of Four heads east along the Capital Crescent Trail into the rising sun. Banter ensues, including debates over inspirational Teddy Roosevelt quotations, the 1912 Presidential campaign, and proper usage of Comparative vs Superlative ("So what do you call the Middle Child?"). There's also commentary on yesterday's birthday (RR), wedding anniversary (^z), and Tom Green's sad DNF at Wasatch. During the return trek I branch off to take a slightly roundabout way home via Rock Creek Trail, pushing hard to get nicer splits for the GPS trackfile and thinking about next Sunday's half marathon down this path. Runkeeper captures the data.

- Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 04:16:27 (EDT)


It is Thou

From the chapter "The Observing Self" in Charlotte Joko Beck's book Everyday Zen, thoughts about oneness and self-awareness and non-clinging to separation:

I have been asked, "Isn't observing a dualistic practice? Because when we are observing, something is observing something else." But in fact it's not dualistic. The observer is empty. Instead of a separate observer, we should say there is just observing. There is no one that hears, there is just hearing. There is no one that sees, there is just seeing. But we don't quite grasp that. If we practice hard enough, however, we learn that not only is the observer empty, but that which is observed is also empty. At this point the observer (or witness) collapses. This is the final stage of practice; we don't need to worry about it. Why does the observer finally collapse? When nothing sees nothing, what do we have? Just the wonder of life. There is no one who is separated from anything. There is just life living itself: hearing, touching, seeing, smelling, thinking. That is the state of love or compassion: not "It is I," but "It is Thou."

(cf. Unselfing (2009-01-14), Stranger in a Strange Land (2009-12-11), Core Buddhism (2011-10-17), I Q's (2012-04-28), Ground of Being (2013-10-03), Witness Space (2014-07-31), 0-1 (2014-08-29), Nothing But Faith in Nothing (2014-09-07), ...)

- Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 04:29:24 (EDT)


2014-09-05 - WOD Trail Vienna Ramble

~12 miles @ ~11.9 min/mi

"Z-Man!" Paul Ammann greets me as he runs along the W&OD Trail in Vienna. David, Kerry, Kristin, and I have already done almost half a dozen miles together, starting before sunrise at the Vienna Community Center, and I've already told the story of how Paul paused for Oktoberfest beer during the Andiamo race near this very point some years ago, then caught up and passed me a few miles later. (2008-10-04 - Andiamo 2008) Hydration is crucial!

Today is a long run experiment for the office gang, out to Hunter Mill Rd and back, then east past the Beltway before returning. A big 4-point buck dashes across the path just in front of us, and Kristin has to hold her side from laughing as Kerry wonders what she would tell her staff meeting if the deer knocked her down, just two days after her tumble running in McLean. Several miles later two does nibble in back yards by the trail. We pause to admire a giant spiderweb that Kerry spots. Kristin treats us to coffee at Whole Foods after our cooldown. Artwork on the new Tysons Corner metro station glitters in the sunlight on the drive back to the office. Runkeeper records the data.

- Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 04:07:03 (EDT)


Taiji with Weider

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Taiji_with_Weider_0.jpgWeider Young, long-time leader of an informal T'ai Chi lunchtime group at the office, retired a few months ago. His wife Sumei Yang captured a short video of some of us doing part of the 24-form Yang routine on Weider's last day.



(These two still photos are also by Sumei; Weider is in the plaid shirt.)

A few Weiderisms, comments he sporadically offered about Taiji and perhaps-related topics:

... and, referring to individual and group practice of Taiji:

Best memory of all: one day when I asked Weider for a proverb after class, he said, "I have nothing."

"Ah, nothing," I replied. "That's even more Zen!"

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Taiji_with_Weider_1.jpg

(cf. TaiChiRunning (2002-07-21), QiRunning (2006-04-12), Total Immersion Philosophy (2011-09-24), Mini Zen Gardening Kit (2013-01-28), Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain (2014-01-18), Mnemonic Principles of Taiji (2014-03-24), Good Manners and Taiji (2014-04-03), Steel in Cotton (2014-05-13), ...)

- Monday, September 22, 2014 at 04:21:38 (EDT)


2014-09-03 - McLean Dawn Trek

~7 miles @ ~12 min/mi

"Ouch!" Kerry takes a nasty tumble in the dark as we trot along Great Falls Rd, at mile 1 of a Wednesday dawn urban adventure run. Kristin tries to catch her, but there isn't time. David and I join Kristin to huddle around Kerry as she does a quick self-assessment and decides to carry on. We wash dirt off the wounds with ice water from our bottles. When I ask if she has any Hello Kitty band-aids at home to put on the scrapes, Kerry (who has two teen-agers) says, "No, but I've got some non-office-safe bandages with Bad Words on them!" The flashlight comes out for the next couple of miles, insurance against a repeat performance. I demonstrate how blood doesn't show up in the red night-vision LED beam.

It's a hyper-humid morning loop, thankfully with minimal further excitement. Kerry reports on a weekend at Virginia Beach, where crowds gathered for a big race through the town. David, wearing his hot-pepper-themed Culpepper Triathlon shirt, dreads a day of marathon meetings. Kristin & I blast down a steep hill on Magarity Rd and decide not to run back up it (today!). We extend the homeward journey to get mileage on all GPS units safely past 7. Runkeeper records route and pace.

- Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 10:10:52 (EDT)


2014-09-01 - McLean HS Track 10x400m Speedwork

~4 miles @ ~10.1 min/mi

"3:02!" admits Craig Allen when I pressure him to reveal his marathon PB. He's cruising at what looks like an effortless sub-9 min/mi pace at the McLean High School track, lapping me as I struggle through ten 400m intervals. "But that was 36 years ago!" he adds. We introduce ourselves and chat in bursts about upcoming race plans. Crag is looking for something in October; I suggest Richmond. In turn he recommends the Comrades ultramarathon in South Africa, which he confesses to have done once.

Thunder rumbles as I arrive at the track, a short jog from where DD has a violin lesson this afternoon. Raindrops pelt down on aluminum bleachers, demonstrating the shot noise phenomenon. Ten laps are tough, splits 1:46 - 1:40 - 1:43 - 1:45 - 1:44 - 1:45 - 1:44 - 1:41 - 1:42 - 1:43 ... plus ~2 minutes of half-lap recovery walk between each. After the last one I try — and fail — to do a pull-up on the bar nearby. If only I had biceps like the McLean HS mascot "Highlander"! Runkeeper shows the map and its version of mile times.

- Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 10:07:57 (EDT)


P-Hacking

A fun new term: P-Hacking. It refers to manipulating the "P-value", a statistical measure of significance in analyzing the results of an experiment. Traditionally, P is interpreted as the probability that what was observed could have happened by a random fluctuation. Publishable results are supposed to have P < 0.05, that is, less than a 5% chance that the outcome was sheer luck.

Toss a coin five times and get all Heads; that should only happen one time in 25 = 32 trials. Is getting five Heads in a row strong evidence that the coin is double-headed? That depends. Was the hypothesis, "This coin has two heads" selected for testing before tossing began? Was the number of tosses chosen in advance? Were any sets of tosses thrown out from the data before (or after) the one that was used?

Andrew Gelman and Eric Loken have written a lovely paper, "The garden of forking paths: Why multiple comparisons can be a problem, even when there is no 'fishing expedition' or 'p-hacking'". A colleague at work recommended it, and it's definitely worth reading. Gelman in his blog Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science commented further on it earlier this year. The key point is stated at the end of the original manuscript:

... We want our scientists to be creative, but we have to watch out for a system that allows any hunch to be ratcheted up to a level of statistical signicance that is then taken as scientic proof. And we need to be aware of these concerns in our own research, not just in that of others. ...

(cf. Medicine and Statistics (2010-11-13), Statistical Hypothesis Inference Testing (2013-12-01), ...)

- Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 07:30:23 (EDT)


2014-08-30 - DNF The Ring

~40 miles @ ~22 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/The_Ring_2014_mile_13_z.jpgThe Ring — the Massanutten Trail 71 mile loop — again ends for me at mile 40, as in my 2011-09-03 - DNF The Ring experience. I miss the 9:30pm cutoff at Moreland Gap by half an hour.

And it's all good! As I tell friends, "I fail to achieve my one goal, which is to have no goals!"

Maybe that's the value of focusing on "Possibilities, not Expectations" (PnE), of appreciating experience precisely as it is, of not hoping things were otherwise than they are, and of not obsessing over plans that don't work out.

These first two photos are from the first aid station, mile ~13 at Milford Gap. The Massanutten Trail is marked with orange blazes.

Today brings back great memories of past runs and hikes along various segments of the trail — especially 2008-01-20 - Massanutten Mountain South Training Run and 2009-01-04 - Massanutten Mountain Mayhem with Caren Jew. In my first attempt, 2009-09-05 - One Third of The Ring with Kate Abbott, bad blisters and a fall stop us at mile 25.

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/The_Ring_2014_z_Milford_Gap_orange_blaze.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/The_Ring_2014_mile_16_Massanutten_butterfly.jpgA "Red-spotted Purple" butterfly perches on a leaf at mile ~16. Today also features ants, spiders, mushrooms, and a glimpse of what was perhaps a black bear crashing through the underbrush 100 meters away, in Duncan Hollow, mile ~26.

At the Aid Stations and in the race along the way are a bunch of super-nice folks, including:

Jackie Ong — who planned to run with me in the night but had to drop at mile 35, bad blisters and exhaustion

Leonard Martin — cheerful, steady, funny, experienced

Rachel DuBois — from North Carolina; she lives within 10 minutes of the Umstead 100 miler course where she did her first 100 earlier this year, through-hiked the Appalachian Trail in the 90's, has daughters ages 6 and 13, is fast on the trail and in the dark

David Snipes — suffering today, when I meet him sitting on a rock in the Little Crease notch and he tells me me to pass word at the next aid station that he is dropping and hiking down to the road

Jeff Gura — a friendly gentleman from Potomac, who knows me from MCRRC races

Sean Lawler — suffering today from vertigo, which forces him to drop at mile 25; he's the one who recognized me and said "hi" as a colleague and I were leaving a business meeting a few months ago; he ran the Catoctin 50k last month and finished half an hour ahead of me there

Behind me in this mile ~18 image is the Fort Valley, farmland between the pair of Massanutten Mountain ridges.

Today's trek features some major learning experiences:

running out of water between aid stations (miles 13, 25, 34) — even though I carry three big bottles (and chug a full quart bottle (!) of Gatorade at 0630 before the 7am start!) and consume copious amounts of watermelon and soda at every opportunity. Can I somehow carry even MORE water?

slowing down radically in the dark (to ~30 min/mi) — and still taking several small falls (unlike in the daytime), and being totally unable to keep up with Leonard & Rachel at night

having something to wipe one's face with — esp. on hot/humid days, with sunscreen washing into eyes; perhaps a small towel, washcloth, or handkerchief would help?

mosquito netting — Jackie Ong wears a veil to keep gnats out, and at first I don't recognize her when I catch up to her at mile ~28. Rachel DuBois, with us for some miles there, says, "I'll give you $50 for it!" Smiling, Jackie refuses.

trekking poles for long hikes on rocks — Rachel carries two, Leonard one, and Jackie repeatedly wishes she had brought hers.

carrying a plastic sandwich bag — to fill with cookies or other treats at aid stations, and to nibble from in subsequent miles

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/The_Ring_2014_mile_18__Fort_Valley_z.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/The_Ring_2014_mile_20_z_south_fork_Shenandoah_River.jpgIn the background here is the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, at mile ~20.

Other observations today include:

remembering to "notice the music" — wind in the trees, birds, distant train whistles, feet on the trail, rattle of a rock that I bump off the narrow path when it tumbles down the cliffside (when that happens, think, "Lucky that's not me!")

deliberately touching the trees and rocks — and feeling the connection with the world, as a good friend suggests trying (esp. after dark!)

fierce clouds of gnats between miles 25 and 35 — Leonard Martin says he missed getting a superb photo, dozens of tiny flies forming a halo around a backpacker's head in the sunbeams

climbing the über-steep Waterfall Mountain ahead of Jackie & Leonard, wondering if there should be a defibrillator at every switchback

joking with Leonard, mile ~36 — about following behind him to admire his well-defined calf muscles. I say, "That's why you carry the trekking pole: to fight off the ladies who swarm around you!"

getting a ride back to my car from Moreland Gap (mile 40.7) where I drop, with Caroline Williams (who also takes Tony Escobar and a hilariously foul-mouthed lady runner)

stopping to stay alert on the way home 11pm-1am — in Front Royal to get a chocolate "shake" at a McDonalds drive-through window, and in Haymarket to buy a bag of Corn Nuts at the COLDEST Sheetz one could imagine

weighing 4 lbs less when I get home than when I left home at 4:30am on Saturday morning

Bottom line happy outcomes from The Ring in 2014:

So as always, It's All Good!

- Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 04:40:10 (EDT)


Disciplined Precision

From the end of Chapter 13, "Hard and Soft", in Ezra Bayda's Being Zen:

This is the natural progression of the practice life. We need the discipline to see these layers of judgmental thoughts and mental pictures. And it requires hard effort to stay with the bodily discomfort that comes with these thoughts. Yet we also need to understand how simply breathing into the center of the chest, residing in the quiver of being, and then extending spaciousness and compassion to our struggling, conditioned patterns is the essence of what it means to soften. To soften difficult self-beliefs is to truly understand that these are not the deepest truths about ourselves. As we learn how to make this soft effort around our relentlessly judging mind, as we learn what it means to awaken a sense of heart, we begin to relate in a new, more spacious way to the ancient wound of our seeming separateness. What we're doing is learning to receive and accept the whole of our being, just as it is, no longer judging, editing, rejecting.

Through the disciplined precision of our efforts, we'll come again and again to our edge—the difficult places beyond which we've previously been unable to move. Through the willingness to soften and surrender to what is, we learn that we can gradually move beyond that edge. It is only through this interplay of hard and soft, of effort and letting be, of will and willingness, that we learn to our amazement that we can emerge from the lifelong tunnel of fear that constitutes our substitute life into the nitty-gritty reality of our genuine one.

(cf. Softening into Experience (2012-11-12), Ground of Being (2013-10-03), Vaster Sense of Being (2014-08-23), ...)

- Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 04:21:13 (EDT)


2014-08-27 - Orange McLean Orbits

~8.5 miles @ ~11.6 min/mi

"We all got the Orange Memo today!" an appropriately dressed dog-walker points out, as Kristin and I run by him in downtown McLean. Kerry, up ahead, has orange stripes on her shorts. It's a dawn mini-adventure trek, past the elementary school and middle school that Kerry's kids attended. Perhaps some day we'll stretch the Georgetown Pike segment of the route to include a lap around their high school track as well.

At the loading dock pink tinges the horizon. I can't get the Garmin GPS started (bad power switch?), so after a minute's delay off we go without it. Fog hangs low over meadows. Kerry reminisces about picnics, parties, and pushing tots on swings at the playground. A crosswalk delay brings to mind the classic romantic comedy movie "WALK, DON'T RUN" and, when we reach the stream Dead Run, the similar 50's-era fishing film "MAN'S FAVORITE SPORT". Some miles later I toss in a caveated plug for the crude-but-fun "CRANK 2" in the context of car-battery improvised-defibrillator banter.

There are no bunny or deer sightings, but at one point Kristin scolds me, "Slow down, White Rabbit!", as I trot ahead. Then she takes the lead for a strong mile 7 sprint, which she credits to a quad espresso belatedly kicking in. Back at the start "Team We're Not (Too) Obsessive" does an extra 50 meters to get all GPS readings past 8.5 miles. Kerry stops and just smiles at us. Cooldown walk discussion includes tentative plans for long runs on fall/winter Friday morns. Runkeeper shows data on the trek.

- Monday, September 15, 2014 at 04:14:33 (EDT)


David Schramm

About 16 years ago New York Times science columnist Dennis Overbye wrote an essay, "Remembering David Schramm, Gentle Giant of Cosmology". It sketched out a bit of the life and work and style of Schramm, the astrophysicist, professor, and wrestler. Some of Overbye's images:

The first thing you needed to know about David Schramm was that he wouldn't hurt you — not unless you got in his way on a racquetball court or a wrestling mat or unless he had cajoled you onto some mountain with no way down. Not unless you took issue with his classic computations on how the elements were formed in the thermonuclear furnace of the Big Bang at the beginning of the universe, in which latter case he would form a posse from his mafia of astrophysical confederates and perform the intellectual equivalent of beating you to death with a baseball bat.

At 6 feet 4 inches and 230 pounds, his red-topped head cocked bemusedly in his soft chuckle, David Schramm, cosmologist, the Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor in the Physical Sciences and vice president for research of the University of Chicago, indefatigable champion of the Big Bang theory of the universe, one-time Olympic wrestling hopeful and sole proprietor of Big Bang Aviation, was impossible to ignore, especially when he indulged his characteristic habit of lifting his thick arms, as during the heat of argument, as if to squeeze your head. ...

... When Dr. Schramm, 52, plowed his twin-engine Cessna into a Colorado wheat field a week before Christmas and died, cosmologists and astronomers could not believe he was gone. It was as if a mountain had suddenly and inexplicably disappeared from the landscape. Rock stars die in plane crashes. Astronomers are supposed to die in bed, sunken by the gravity of a lifetime of solemn thoughts and shy nighttime excursions into the depths of the cosmos, wreathed in a nebulosity of eminence. In the world of the universe, however, Dr. Schramm was a rock star, ... a gentle giant, a larger-than-life adventurer who played hard at both science and life, and whose energy and optimism inspired those around him to be better than they were.

Around Chicago they called him Schrambo for his physical audacity and feats, but his real daring had been mental, prodding his colleagues and the rest of the scientific world, especially particle physicists, to take seriously the implications of the Big Bang. ... He personified greatness, but it was not a selfish greatness. It radiated outward. In his presence you felt that could be better than you were.

(cf. Late Physicists (2000-09-24), Fast Forward (2002-02-21), Rich Flammang (2002-08-14), Chandra Stories (2004-02-25), Hannes Alfven (2004-10-16), Hans Bethe (2004-11-29), Ray Davis (2006-06-03), Physics Today Obits (2010-10-20), ...)

- Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 04:41:54 (EDT)


2014-08-25 - Pimmit Hills and McLean Treks

~7 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

Two fearless bunnies on Davis St watch Kristin and me during the final mile out-and-back, past zebra grass bundles and a lady carefully pouring mystery liquid onto cracks in her driveway. Rewind to 0535, when I come up the back way and sit in the hall outside Dr K's office, while she awaits me at the top of the regular stairs. We sync up after a few minutes delay, and from the loading dock admire Venus and Jupiter low near a pink horizon before setting out on a loop around campus.

Climbing the driveway-hill I caution, "Look out for that car ahead — we wouldn't want Kerry to run us down on her first day back from vacation!" And, coincidentally, it is Dr Kerry, arriving early to join us. She and her husband Clay had a great time in the Caribbean, scuba diving and enjoying the beaches. We interrogate her during the trot down Anderson Rd and along Pimmit Dr, but happily there are no horror stories this trip. But she does have a thousand messages to deal with in her inbox. Arghhhhh!

As we turn from Route 7 onto Magarity Rd the rising sun reflects off distant buildings and recalls the song "Red Rubber Ball", the chorus and a verse of which I attempt to sing, much to my fellow travelers' amusement. I tell Kristin about Hash House Harriers and some of their naughty-quaint traditions. She recounts a good "Tot Story" or two from the weekend's adventures with her kids. Runkeeper reckons the route.

- Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 06:55:59 (EDT)


Byron Katie

Byron Katie is a writer/speaker whose self-inquiry method — "The Work" — teaches a Buddhist-like radical questioning of one's believed thoughts. As she summarizes her approach, you begin by writing down "... judgments about any stressful situation in your life—past, present, or future—about a person you dislike or worry about, a situation with someone who angers or frightens or saddens you, or someone you're ambivalent or confused about...". Then you "... put each written statement—one by one—up against the four questions and let each of them lead you to the truth." The four questions:

  1. Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
  2. Can you absolutely know that it's true? (Yes or no.)
  3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

And then: Turn the thought around. (rewrite the statement, changed as if it were about you instead of somebody else, or inverted to the extreme opposite statement, or swapping subject and object, as appropriate) "Then find at least three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true for you in this situation."

Is Katie totally enlightened, all the time? In A Thousand Names for Joy, a book with her husband Steven Mitchell in which she comments on the Tao Te Ching, Katie says at the end of the Introduction:

I'm open to all that the mind brings, all that life brings. I have questioned my thinking, and I've discovered that it doesn't mean a thing. I shine internally with the joy of understanding. I know about suffering, and I know about joy, and I know who I am. Who I am is who you are, even before you have realized it. When there's no story, no past or future, nothing to worry about, nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to be, it's all good.

... and, at the end of Chapter 13:

People used to ask me if I was enlightened, and I would say, "I don't know anything about that. I'm just someone who knows the difference between what hurts and what doesn't." I am someone who wants only what is. To meet as a friend each concept that arose turned out to be my freedom.

(cf. Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Coming to Our Senses (2009-01-01), 0-1 (2014-08-29), ...)

- Friday, September 12, 2014 at 04:37:59 (EDT)


2014-08-24 - Sligo Creek with Stephanie

~4.8 miles @ ~13.5 min/mi

Gentle Sunday morning Sligo Creek ramble with Dr Fonda, returned yesterday from family visit to NY and sadly suffering from lower back pain: we discuss the potential benefits of changing pelvic orientation (I'm confused re "Cat" vs. "Dog" tilt), mindful Taiji upright posture, drugs, shoe-shopping therapy, etc. The standard runner's prescription — "Up Your Mileage!" — is perhaps suboptimal treatment.

At the Silver Spring International Middle School track we join a flock of walkers and trot one lap, saunter halfway around, then run another circuit at Stephanie's insistence. Two buff young men sit on the sidelines facing each other and doing synchronized foot-leg twirls together. I reminisce about scary-limber ladies performing yoga stretches there a few years ago (see 2010-06-19 - Boys of Summer Speedwork and 2010-11-21 - Ten 800m Repeats). Funny what sticks in the mind! Stephanie teaches me how to pronounce one of my favorite words, "lithe".

The Reward (besides delightful conversation): breakfast at the Woodside Deli near Amy Couch's home, where we start and end today's trek. Blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs with cheese, potato latka, fine coffee — yay! Stephanie has scrambled eggs with salami, "and 15 pieces of bacon. Food to heal the back...". Data is stored at Runkeeper.

- Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 04:17:36 (EDT)


Two Kinds of Thoughts

The first chapter ("Beginning Zen Practice") of Charlotte Joko Beck's book Everyday Zen offers a sharp distinction between productive mental activity and the usual tangled knot inside the mind:

There are two kinds of thoughts. There is nothing wrong with thinking in the sense of what I call "technical thinking." We have to think in order to walk from here to the corner or to bake a cake or to solve a physics problem. That use of the mind is fine. It isn't real or unreal; it is just what it is. But opinions, judgments, memories, dreaming about the future—ninety percent of the thoughts spinning around in our heads have no essential reality. And we go from birth to death, unless we wake up, wasting most of our life with them. The gruesome part of sitting (and it is gruesome, believe me) is to begin to see what is really going on in our mind. It is a shocker for all of us. We see that we are violent, prejudiced, and selfish. We are all those things because a conditioned life based on false thinking leads to these states. Human beings are basically good, kind, and compassionate, but it takes hard digging to uncover that buried jewel.

- Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 04:25:49 (EDT)


2014-08-22 - Kristin's Georgetown Pike Adventure

~8 miles @ ~12 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Shrubbery_Duck_Cooper_Middle_School_McLean.jpg"Duck!" We climb the hill toward Cooper Middle School and pause to photograph the beaked tree and the low fog blanketing the meadow. It's a lovely hyper-humid morning.

When I get to her office at 0540, Kristin is already mapping out a candidate route for today's trek — and the funny thing is, it's exactly the path I was going to suggest! Instant consensus achieved, off we go. Just above a lavender-pink horizon, Venus and Jupiter line up to point at a fingernail-clip moon. In McLean Central Park two big deer flee at our approach.

"Imagine: in an hour we'll be heading back along this same path," I warn, "so let's take our time now!" In spite of walk breaks and traffic-light pauses we stay ahead of our ~12 min/mi goal pace. Chafing anecdotes and a few seconds of work-related conversation fill in between noticing the music of birds, traffic noise, and airplane rumbles. A beautiful end to the week! Runkeeper and Garmin record the route.

- Tuesday, September 09, 2014 at 04:16:42 (EDT)


2014-08-20 - Kerry's Loop Backwards

~7 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

"Adventure Run!" After Kerry's intro to the Dead Run Stream Valley Trail on Friday, and our exploration of the same route in reverse on Monday, Kristin identifies other connector trails on the map and suggests we try those today.

A last quarter moon emerges from clouds as we set out towards a pink glow on the eastern horizon. From the Churchill Rd crossing of Dead Run we first follow a new trail downstream, but it dead-ends at Ingleside Av and there's no obvious way forward through the brush. Backtrack, then west past a fearless front-yard rabbit to Churchill Road Elementary School, where we do a lap around the miniature track behind the playground. Then meander toward a big tree that's shaped rather like a duck, up the hill to Cooper Middle School near the Beltway and Georgetown Pike where a big bunny flees at our approach.

South along the shoulder of Balls Hill Rd, admiring old stone façades and new mini-mansion construction, stepping aside for commuter cars. Pass Kerry's street and discover a neat nursery with a scarecrow standing amidst rows of blooming flowers. It's Mehr Brothers Flowers at the corner of Balls Hill Rd and Old Dominion Dr.

Return along Old Dominion, with walk breaks to pour water over our heads and admire the sunrise. Stop the GPS's when all exceed 7 miles, then regret that decision as the cooldown walk turns into a sprint down Chain Bridge Road! Runkeeper and Garmin capture the data.

- Monday, September 08, 2014 at 04:14:56 (EDT)


Nothing But Faith in Nothing

A 1998 unrequited-love hit song by the alternative rock band Eve 6 is titled "Inside Out" and has a catchy chorus that begins:

I would swallow my pride,
I would choke on the rinds,
But the lack thereof would leave me empty inside.
I would swallow my doubt,
Turn it inside out,
Find nothing but faith in nothing.
...

... and how Zen! To believe, but only believe in nothing — non-attachment, non-judgment, non-clinging, non-doing, non-trying, non-caring, non-... — the empty-set {} foundation upon which everything else is built ...

(cf. On Somethingness (2000-01-17), No Concepts At All (2001-02-22), Nothingness Shows Through (2005-12-06), Not Care (2006-02-13), Joy of Sets (2010-06-25), Untitled (2012-07-29), O (2012-10-24), 01 (2013-11-05), 0-1 (2014-08-29), ...)

- Sunday, September 07, 2014 at 06:43:11 (EDT)


2014-08-18 - Kerry's Loop Extended

~7 miles @ ~11.8 min/mi

"Get lost?!" says Doug going into the gym at 0540, when he overhears me telling Dr Kristin that maybe we should try Kerry's Loop backwards, "... if we don't get lost." Does he assume we're clueless, or that we're about to run some vast distance? Unclear.

After admiring the moon peeking through clouds overhead and the first pink glow of dawn, once GPS lock is established off we go. "Notice the crickets chirping!" Kristin admonishes, and "Hear the birds!". We cut through park paths to Hwy 123, pause for morning commuters racing to work, and at McLean Central Park and the Dolley Madison Library pick up the Dead Run trail heading downstream.

At Churchill Rd a spotted fawn, two does, and a two-point buck nibble somebody's front lawn. We pause to photograph the historic marker at the Colonial-era "Bienvenue" house, zig-zag back across 123 and along Chain Bridge Rd, and soon find ourselves at McLean HS track. Kristin insists on "a few" laps, which turn into 4. Then after a bit of meandering in search of a water fountain or unlocked restroom, it's back to our starting point. K spots two rabbits on Davis St in the final mile. She adds a parking lot loop to get all GPS readings safely over 7, including Runkeeper and Garmin.

- Saturday, September 06, 2014 at 07:06:16 (EDT)


Work as Practice

From Being Zen by Ezra Bayda, Chapter 12 ("Work and Practice"):

Even if we like our work, or at least have no intention of leaving our present job, there are always ways in which we can make awareness practice a greater part of our workday. Perhaps more than anything, this requires a shift from how we normally relate to our work—as separate from practice—to seeing our work as our path. We often forget what our real job—our life job—is. Our life job is to become awake to who we really are. When we remember this, we will be less likely to separate our work from our practice. We'll begin to understand that it's possible to practice with everything we encounter, even at work. To make this shift challenges our long-standing conditioned views and habits; consequently the best way to transform the relationship with our workday is by taking small steps. This is where mindfulness practice, in which we bring attention to the texture of the present moment, can be particularly helpful.

Applying mindfulness is the blue-collar work of practice. There is nothing romantic, mystical, or even exciting about dealing with the nuts and bolts of our mundane daily routine, beyond the subtle satisfaction that comes with beginning to understand that it's possible to practice with everything. We see that picking up a ringing phone, closing a door, becoming aware of sounds, or even going to the bathroom can all be used as reminders to be awake in the moment. Our work then becomes an opportunity to wake up.

(cf. Work of a Lifetime (2009-02-01), Being Zen (2014-05-26), Extended Retreat (2014-07-19), ...)

- Friday, September 05, 2014 at 04:30:50 (EDT)


2014-08-16 - Rock Creek and CCT with Gayatri

~28 miles @ ~12 min/mi

GPS tunnel glitches exaggerate distance and pace. As dawn breaks, walk backwards up the hill from Rock Creek, scanning the eastern horizon for planets. Alas, none seen. At mile ~3.5, approaching Bethesda on the Capital Crescent Trail, meet up with Sam (Sandra) Yerkes, Jennifer Wieland, and Gayatri Datta beginning their 21 mile loop. Report spying two rabbits already. Jennifer counters with one sighting, plus "another that my cat threw up!"

The cool day spawns flocks of cyclists, runners, inline skaters, and pram-pushers who swarm the path. Sam and Jennifer trot ahead with the blessing of Gayatri and me, since their pace is ~1 min/mi faster than what we can comfortably maintain. Gayatri glimpses them leaving Thompson's Boat Center just as we arrive. Buy a Cherry Pepsi from the vending machine and promptly drop it on the ground, making for a bit of foaminess.

Fill water bottle from the garden hose and walk slowly up the Potomac, while Gayatri waits in line for the ladies' room. At a flat concrete green-and-gray meditative labyrinth set in the ground commence treading the maze, but only get a quarter of the way before Gayatri materializes and we continue running together. At a high horizontal bar pause to stress-test the puny arms. They can only achieve half of a complete pull-up.

After ~23 miles belatedly begin to feel slightly energetic and with Gayatri run faster to get her back to her starting point. The rest of the journey home is good with a final sprint to pull the Garmin average pace estimate down to an integer. OCD? No, some of us prefer to alphabetize the letters and call ourselves CDO. Runkeeper and Garmin track the trek.

- Thursday, September 04, 2014 at 04:18:14 (EDT)


The 100/0 Principle

A colleague at work recently recommended Al Ritter's 2010 book The 100/0 Principle. Its subtitle is "The Secret of Great Relationships", and it's a thin book that's even thinner, given large print, small pages, generously spaced layout, and repetitive anecdotes. That doesn't mean, however, that the key theme isn't brilliant:

Take 100% responsibility for a relationship, and expect nothing in return.

As the author admits, this sounds paradoxical but "When you take authentic responsibility for a relationship, more often than not the other person quickly chooses to take responsibility as well." And even if they don't, since you expect nothing you haven't lost anything. And even if they don't, you've learned something. And even if they don't, something good will happen anyway.

In other words: love, don't judge. The concept is great, and applies to work, friends, family, and everywhere else in life. It meshes with the author's rather explicit Christian beliefs, and of course with Buddhist metta ("lovingkindness") and other religious-philosophical doctrines. But alas, The 100/0 Principle is so cheerily redundant that in spite of being a fast and friendly read it's quite frustrating. (And yes, I take 100% responsibility for feeling frustrated — I'll work on being less judgmental!)

(cf. 01, 0-1, ...)

- Wednesday, September 03, 2014 at 04:14:44 (EDT)


2014-08-15 - Introduction to Kerry's Loop

~7.2 miles @ ~11.4 min/mi

A rabbit scampers across the parking lot at 0545 as Kristin and I do warm-up loops, admire Venus and Jupiter low in the east, identify Auriga's bright star Capella halfway up, and tip heads back to peer at a third-quarter moon high overhead. Kerry arrives and leads us along beautiful woodsy paths through McLean back yards, winding along small streams and past the community center and library and playgrounds, where her kids first learned to ride their bikes.

We pause at "Benvenue", a colonial farmhouse that was also a Civil War field hospital, and at Starbucks where Kerry insists on buying us coffee. On the way back, we're overtaken by a pack of ~40 McLean High School cross-country runners. Kerry recognizes one of her daughter's friends. The school parking lot is blocked off and marked for marching band practice. Kristin recalls long-ago days as a majorette.

Runkeeper and Garmin record progress.

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

- Tuesday, September 02, 2014 at 04:11:08 (EDT)


Giving Up Hope

Charlotte Joko Beck in Everyday Zen (chapter "Practicing This Very Moment") suggests:

I once said something in the zendo that upset a lot of people: I said, "To do this practice, we have to give up hope." Not many were happy about that. But what did I mean? I mean that we have to give up this idea in our heads that somehow, if we could only figure it out, there's some way to have this perfect life that is just right for us. Life is the way it is. And only when we begin to give up those maneuvers does life begin to be more satisfactory.

When I say to give up hope, I don't mean to give up effort. ...

And maybe that applies to ultrarunning, especially distances beyond one's capabilities, and to work, and health, and relationships, and everything else in life. Don't have goals or expectations or plans. Just be open to possibilities, accept whatever happens, and be happy in the moment.

And from the film Fight Club, "And then, something happened. I let go. Lost in oblivion. Dark and silent and complete. I found freedom. Losing all hope was freedom."

(cf. Lose Track (2002-11-11), All Good (2007-01-13), Expectations vs. Possibilities (2013-08-13), Let Go (2013-10-18), Processes not Goals (2014-02-20), ...)

- Monday, September 01, 2014 at 09:11:40 (EDT)


2014-08-13 - Pimmit Hills and McLean HS

~5.8 miles @ ~10.2 min/mi

Kerry and Amber both leave for family holiday Saturday, so much of today's conversation revolves around vacation readings. Kerry again mentions The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson, which her kids in high school are enjoying; it involves cyborg-human philosophical issues. I put in plugs for P. G. Wodehouse's humor, Liz Williams and Roger Zelazny for literary sf, and the early cyberpunk works of Vernor Vinge, William Gibson, and Neil Stephenson. Amber has recently suggested Winter's Tale and Oryx & Crake, which she offers to lend me. We loop through Pimmit Hills, pause at the office to unlock for colleagues, and then at Kerry's suggestion trot to McLean HS for a lap around the track to jazz up the GPS map. Runkeeper and Garmin capture path and pace.

- Sunday, August 31, 2014 at 13:45:12 (EDT)


2014-08-11 - Falls Church Sunrise

~5.6 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

Three big bunnies and four deer greet new comrade Peter Mörtl, Kerry, Kristin, Amber, and me for a dawn neighborhood loop near the office. Kristin starts early and has ~1.5 miles already in the bank when I meet her for an orbit of the parking lot. At the loading dock then we pick up the others at 6am. The cut-through path takes us across Pimmit Run to Lemon Rd Elementary School, where Kristin points out lovely low fog on the meadow. As she crouches low beneath tree branches in front of the church I say, "You should practice 'Snake Creeps Down'!" (a T'ai Chi form). Amber reports on her long bike ride with family over the weekend. Kerry rolls an ankle on Idlywood Rd, fortunately not too badly. Runkeeper and Garmin record our actions.

- Sunday, August 31, 2014 at 13:41:27 (EDT)


2014-08-10 - Sligo Creek with Dr Mary

~6 miles @ ~15 min/mi

As Mary Ewell and I are about to start our run at Sligo-Dennis Rec Center a woman passerby says, "Hi, Mark!" It's fast Theresa Allio, whom I ran with last month and of course fail to recognize. "I'm sorry, but you'll have to embarrass me a few dozen more times before I learn your name and face!" I sadly tell her. (cf. 2014-07-13 - Meet Theresa).

Three rabbits flee during a warm and humid Sunday afternoon trek, as Mary and I alternately walk and sprint along Sligo Creek. A digression on natural-surface trail and neighborhood roads takes us to the big millpond near Dennis Av that Barry Smith showed me last year. Fun conversations touch upon the value of lovingkindness (metta) meditation, upcoming race plans, the challenges of working for an unenlightened boss, the benefits of weight training, and the importance of listening to one's spouse. The payoff: a Chinese feast at Palais du Lune that includes eggplant in garlic sauce and veggie egg fu yung. Runkeeper and Garmin show the way.

- Saturday, August 30, 2014 at 03:37:23 (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), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2014 by Mark Zimmermann.)