Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in volume 0.9919 of the ^zhurnal (that's Russian for "journal") — see ZhurnalyWiki for a Wiki edition of individual items; see Zhurnal and Zhurnaly for quick clues as to what this is all about; see Random for a random page. Briefly, this is the diary of ^z = Mark Zimmermann ... previous volume = 0.9918 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z (at) his (dot) com" ... click on a title link to go to that item in the ZhurnalyWiki where you can edit or comment on it ...
|"Superforecasters tend to be good Bayesians!" My lecture (miles 15-22) to Don Libes meanders, as does the VHTRC "RedEye" 50k trail run on New Year's Day, along the streams and over the ridges of Prince William Forest Park. Huge flocks of European starlings twitter and take wing. Waterfalls splash down rocky channels. Eventually Don escapes the monologue.|
Push the pace for final miles and finish with an overall average of just under 15 min/mi. Inadvertently go off course during the initial spread-out-the-crowd loop as several runners take a wrong turn for a half-mile shortcut. During the final lap, however, atone on the orange-blazed trail and add back the distance. GPS glitch-pauses for ~0.9 miles so total distance is ~31.5 miles.
At the finish a little after 4pm claim to be dead last, but alas another runner appears a few minutes later. Guess I can't even win DFL!
(cf. 2008-01-01 - Red Eye 50k, 2011-01-01 - VHTRC RedEye, 2015-01-01 - VHTRC Red Eye 50k, and this year's trackfile)
- Sunday, January 17, 2016 at 06:26:26 (EST)
A few years ago on Lori Deschene's inspirational domain "TinyBuddha.com", a profoundly optimistic numbered list of "Seven Reasons to Be Happy Even if Things Aren't Pefect Now":
... useful thoughts (albeit a bit overlapping and interdependent?) — and far more important, a gentle reminder at the bottom of that web page:
... a "tiny Buddha" icon that leads to "Read What You Need", Deschene's profoundly wise advice to be mindful of the addictive nature of hypermedia, where clicking from article to article is fast, fun, sometimes educational, but also seductive.
Instead Deschene suggests "... ask yourself whether or not you actually need to read additional content, or if it might be better to disconnect and do something with what you've just read ..." — and thereby "... be more mindful and effective in your life ...".
Yes, and... gotta go now!
(cf. Smile and Listen (2011-08-20), Let Others Be Right (2012-12-31), ...)
- Saturday, January 16, 2016 at 07:44:05 (EST)
"Hot Cocoa Hot Tub? That doesn't sound attractive!" The hum of air pumps accompanies kitschy inflated Xmas lawn art. A big rabbit dashes away as Kristin and I approach. We discover a new pedestrian cut-through and circle back to join Beth for a tour/critique of Pimmit Hills seasonal decorations. Conversation random-walks from speed-solving of Rubik's Cube through competitive eating and into ice sports including Curling, Bandy, and Broomball. "You don't have to be drinking to play, but it helps!" The cooldown walk concludes with an analysis of Pennsylvania Dutch linguistic features such as "I liked that movie til the end" (meaning the final moments redeemed it), "I'll bring your drinks awhile" (instead of "meanwhile"), and dropped vowels as in "prolly" (for "probably").
- Friday, January 15, 2016 at 04:28:44 (EST)
"Does green go on the right and red on the left? Or is that backwards?" Kristin and I are getting ready for a pre-dawn jaunt and on my shoelaces there are now tiny LED "running lights", a gift from dear friend Mary to enhance safety on dark winter mornings. We ramble along Old Chesterbrook Rd with a digression to inspect pastel colored Victorian-style spherical lamps on a side street. Many new houses are under construction and it's fun to peer at the designs as they take shape. Fearless squirrels dash in front of us. Chill northerly breezes begin to blow away some of the unseasonable warmth of recent weeks. We give thanks for being able to run vast distances with friends.
- Friday, January 15, 2016 at 04:23:06 (EST)
... and as artist Paul Cézanne said he felt he was doing late in life: "I work obstinately, and once in a while I catch a glimpse of the Promised Land."
(cf. Conversations in Paint (2000-08-08), ...)
- Thursday, January 14, 2016 at 05:22:25 (EST)
Sundown walkaround and Xmas light viewing with DD — a slow freight train pulled by CSX engines #776 and #5242 heads north on the Georgetown Branch as we pass.
- Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at 05:33:19 (EST)
"You mean 'high dudgeon', not 'high dungeon', no?" Ken and Rebecca and I trot along the Capital Crescent Trail, bantering. A curmudgeonly kvetch about injustice focuses on a late-evening parking ticket in Bethesda. Passing the "muster vs mustard" and running the "gantlet vs gauntlet" are likewise debated. "And The Donald will give you free parking!" provokes chuckles. We all should be less judgmental — especially about things not happening on time or as planned.
Morning is hyper-humid, warming toward record winter high temps. Gray squirrels, brown leaves, black mud, plus a pair of crimson male cardinals. GPS glitches add half a mile or more to the distance estimate. Latest Star Wars movie spoiler: "Luke, I am your Mother!".
- Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at 05:26:51 (EST)
Writing in The Atlantic in 2012, in "What Happened to Silicon Values?" Bill Davidow contrasts recent attitudes with what he recalls in the 1960s and 70s:
The company was focused on delivering advanced technology of great value, then servicing and supporting the customer to make sure he derived value from what he bought. Customers trusted Hewlett-Packard. I remember one customer who so trusted the salesman who took care of his account that he let the sales rep purchase what he needed. That period of trust went on for a long time. The salesman told me his secret: He never bought anything for the customer that the customer did not really need.
At both Hewlett-Packard and Intel, where I next worked, money was important — but it wasn't the top priority. The goal was to do the right thing and do it well. If you did that, over time, rewards followed and shareholders supported your efforts. ...
Many other things have changed in the valley over the past five decades. I've become increasingly concerned about one thing that is seldom discussed: the valley is no longer as concerned about serving the customer, and even sees great opportunity in exploitation. We are beginning to act like the bankers who sold subprime mortgages to naïve consumers. In such an environment, we are less likely to create the role models of the past who guided the valley to its future.
David muses about selfishness and lock-in, power and control, and the people who seem proud to wield these elements as their strategy. He concludes with:
When corporate leaders pursue wealth in the winner-take-all Internet environment, companies dance on the edge of acceptable behavior. If they don't take it to the limit, a competitor will. That competitor will become the dominant supplier — one monopoly will replace another. And when you engage in these activities you get a different set of Valley values: the values of customer exploitation.
... which applies far beyond the high-tech world of the San Francisco Bay area. There's selfish taking-advantage of The Other in big defense contractors working for the government, in large and small businesses selling to individuals, and even in intimate personal interactions. Perhaps it has always been there. That doesn't make it right, or worthy.
So sad, so small, so short-sighted ...
(cf. Universal Flourishing (2001-12-25), How to Succeed (2005-03-11), Big Ideas (2012-05-20), Wingman (2013-03-01), Mantra - For Us (2015-11-18), ...)
- Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 05:57:12 (EST)
Boxing Day neighborhood walkabout with DD, pausing for photos of a local memorial to Juan Carlos Gomez and statuary of Saints Joseph and Mary at Holy Cross Hospital. (... and we skip the ice cream parlor!)
- Monday, January 11, 2016 at 04:29:58 (EST)
"Yeah, we were judging — but she should work on that anger!" A woman in pajamas emerges from her home and removes the cellphone from her ear to excoriate Dr Mary and me, after overhearing a critical comment about her tiny unsupervised kids riding their new electric-powered motorbikes along the sidewalk. She flips us The Finger. Once out of earshot we agree: "Let's stick to safer topics of conversation, like cancer or sex!"
Drizzle has paused and temps are in the low 50's, warm for December but chilly compared to recent days. We walk the first 10 minutes, then run ~5 miles as per Mary's training plan, finishing with a cooldown walk. Fit young folk trot by while we debate a boycott of Taco Bell for its animal rights policy, the dangers of trail erosion from offroad running in wet weather, the challenge of personal perfectionism, and the importance of giving up desire while living in the moment. No easy answers!
- Monday, January 11, 2016 at 04:27:02 (EST)
... remind yourself, especially in dark times or places, that you are worthy, you are good, you are much loved ...
... and treat yourself with the kindness and compassion that you would give to a dear friend!
(cf. Underappreciated Ideas (1999-07-06), Bursting the Bubble of Fear (2014-03-26), Without Anxiety about Imperfection (2015-05-21), Wings of Acceptance (2015-05-26), ...)
- Sunday, January 10, 2016 at 06:50:37 (EST)
"Kangaroos and Donald Trump!" or "A sonogram that reveals the pregnancy is a tummy full of grass!" Which is the weirder dream? The Dawn Patrol debates the subconscious mind and rates holiday lights. Two physicists examine a laser projector that's casting a net of red and green spots across one front yard. Might such a system disturb low-flying aircraft?
Headlamp beams backscatter in the fog. Mist turns to drizzle and then light rain as Kerry and Kristin and ^z loop through Pimmit Hills, then join Beth for an easterly circuit. A chain across a sidewalk almost leads to disaster. We finish up with gentle stretching, well-wishes for happy holidays, and an analysis of the challenges of cooking vs baking. It's a ridiculously warm winter morning, with temps in the upper 50s. No White Christmas for DC this year!
- Saturday, January 09, 2016 at 18:08:32 (EST)
"I know whose car that is!" Kerry deduces that a family friend's child must be at a sleep-over in the neighborhood we're running through. McLean HS + Langley HS relationships among kids result at times in a near-Shakespearean parental rivalry just like Montagues vs Capulets. Meanwhile Xmas lights shimmer in peace. A green and red blanket-matrix covers an entire lawn and house-front. "Hope they left enough space to open the door!" (The grid turns out to be from a laser-projector in the front yard.)
Kristin leads the charge while we meander, catching up on news and sharing plans. Venus and Jupiter glimmer faintly through the clouds. As we finish a pastel dawn begins, salmon-orange and robin-egg-blue glowing - ah! - low in the east.
- Saturday, January 09, 2016 at 18:05:52 (EST)
"Not the best bad plan, just the worst good plan!" - and it turns out quite well. Today's trek is longer than originally expected, after a friend calls in sick and can't make a C&O Canal towpath rendezvous to do a few miles together. Temperatures begin in the upper 20's and the sun is brilliant. Frost-diamonds sparkle on the wooden bridge high above Rock Creek.
Dog-water in the bowl by a fountain on the Capital Crescent Trail is frozen solid into a disc. Take the same route as 2015-09-07 - Cheetos at Glen Echo , but instead of fried orange corn curls snag a (relatively) healthier Gatorade at the convenience store. Feathery-ferny rime decorates the surface of the canal in shady spots. Two big mallard ducks swim by.
Zig through Georgetown and zag by the Kennedy Center. Pause for selfies in front of urban wall art and at the Zero Milestone just south of the White House. Remove cap, gloves, and windbreaker as the day warms into the mid-40's. Dodge tourists and take 16th Street due north. Resolve to find beauty in ordinary things. Enjoy the feeling of effortless running for much of the journey, as the tune by One Direction "Best Song Ever" plays on heavy mental rotation.
GPS glitches in the tunnel under Wisconsin Ave, in restrooms, and at the Glen Echo 7-11 combine to add half a mile or more to the computed distance; a conservative estimate is ~25 miles at ~12.5 min/mi overall. Weight at the finish is still >150 lbs, alas. Blame en route consumption of 4 energy gels, 9 Succeed! electrolyte capsules, a bottle of Gatorade, and lots of water.
- Friday, January 08, 2016 at 04:23:27 (EST)
John Baez, physicist and mathematician at the University of California at Riverside, from 1993-2010 wrote and shared a series of articles titled "This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics" (he still blogs at "Azimuth"). Discussing set theory and category theory and tiptoeing toward the meta, in 1996 he noted:
If we think of the universe as passing through the course of history from simplicity to complexity, from neutrinos to nematodes to humans, it's natural to wonder what's at the bottom, where things get very simple, where physics blurs into pure logic.... far from the "spires of form". Ironically, even the simplest things may be hard to understand, because they are so abstract.
Let's begin with the world of sets. ...
... and then it gets much more meta!
(cf. Do Meta (1999-05-08), On Somethingness (2000-01-17), No Concepts At All (2001-02-22), Key to the Treasure (2004-04-23), Approved Methods (2005-11-12), O (2012-12-24), Metacognitive Banter (2014-02-04), ...)
- Thursday, January 07, 2016 at 05:14:29 (EST)
"Woodsmoke and wind chimes!" Kristin names what's tickling noses and ears as we run along Lisle Av in the darkness before 6am. Tysons Corner traffic is polite. Apparently nobody wants to risk running over Santa Claus this time of year! A front lawn chock-a-block full of inflated Xmas sculptures including multiple slowly-rotating mock-airplane propellors graces a house at the corner of Springhill Rd and VA-267. We meander back via Hunting Av and scan the meadows for rabbits, but without luck.
- Wednesday, January 06, 2016 at 04:18:36 (EST)
A mindful thought from the animated film The Incredibles, by the fashion-designer-for-superheroes character "Edna Mode":
|"I never look back, darling! It distracts from the Now."|
(cf. Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), ...)
- Tuesday, January 05, 2016 at 05:31:23 (EST)
"Sorry to disturb you!" Kristin apologizes to the big deer grazing in the gloom of downtown McLean Central Park, eyes glittering green in our flashlight beams. We meander past Kerry's home and send her a GPS-tagged poke as she sits on the runway awaiting her early morning flight to meetings up north. Christmas lights twinkle, with some eye-catching "dripping icicle" effects. There's much mutual thankfulness for the beautiful dawn, the empathetic companionship, the joy of running freely "without effort, analysis, or expectation". Well OK, climbing the hills there's effort!
- Monday, January 04, 2016 at 04:20:40 (EST)
From Ben Orlin's "Math with Bad Drawings" blog (but without the charming illustrations) a wonderful summary of the difference between artisan and artist, titled Good Mathematician vs Great Mathematician:
|A good mathematician wants to know how. |
("Problem solved. So satisfying!")
|A great mathematician wants to know why. |
("Problem ... solved? So unsatisfying!")
|A good mathematician selects the most powerful tool for the job. |
("Welding torch it is!")
|A great mathematician selects the least powerful tool for the job. |
("Nothing a little duct tape can't fix.")
|A good mathematician answers questions. |
("Does it converge? My proof says no!")
|A great mathematician questions answers. |
("OK, so it doesn't converge ... but ... what if we redefine 'convergence'?")
|A good mathematician can make arguments intuitive or rigorous.||A great mathematician can make arguments intuitive and rigorous.|
|A good mathematician can get out of a tricky corner. |
("Phew! Paradox averted!")
|A great mathematician can get into a tricky corner. |
("Ooh ... if I change the problem like this, the paradox gets even worse!")
|A good mathematician solves problems by making them more concrete. |
("Before we build the skyscraper, let's make a model.")
|A great mathematician solves problems by making them more abstract. |
("Before we build the skyscraper, let's study the skyline!")
|A good mathematician inventories what they know. |
("I've got six types of screwdrivers!")
|A great mathematician inventories what they don't know. |
("I'm still missing so many types of screwdrivers!")
|A good mathematician loves math. |
("How was the math today?"
"Good! Even a little better than yesterday, which was already way better than the day before.")
|A great mathematician lives math. |
("How was the math today?"
"f(t) very large! And f'(t)>0, though f"(t)<0.")
(cf. Good Mistakes (1999-09-06), Millennium Math (2002-12-05), Mystery to Me (2003-05-30), Prime Obsession (2004-01-04), Hardy-Littlewood Rules (2004-06-14), EquationsAndReality (2005-02-21), Staying the Course (2005-07-11), Stokes Theorem (2006-01-27), Mathematics and Poetry (2008-11-09), Roads to Infinity (2010-10-06), One to Nine (2011-01-11), Greatest Inventions (2011-06-09), Music of the Primes (2011-08-11), Probability Problems (2013-02-09), Meta-Analogy (2013-03-20), ...)
- Sunday, January 03, 2016 at 08:37:28 (EST)
"Good summer morning!" the gentleman waiting at the bus stop greets Kristin and Kerry and me as we run by. Temps are in the upper 50's, trees are clothed in Xmas lights, and lawns feature inflated polychromatic sculptures. Glowing arcs swoop up at one house to direct Santa to the chimney-top. We discuss how to make prints and ornaments by dipping wee baby hands, feet, or other body parts in paint, and the alternative approach using glue plus glitter. Sounds messy!
- Saturday, January 02, 2016 at 08:48:17 (EST)
... new and old: the complementary pair of creativity, of insight, of all mental operations ... analogous to the computer-science Apply & Evaluate pairing of Program & Data ...
(cf. DataVersusProgram (1999-05-01), GreatIdeas (1999-05-03), ...)
- Friday, January 01, 2016 at 06:00:20 (EST)
|"Too many remembrances to remember!" Kerry and Kristin and I watch the sun rise from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial near where Martin Luther King Jr once stood and said, "I have a dream." It's mile 5 of a run that begins before 6am at Potomac Yards, south of Reagan National Airport. We miss a turn on the Mount Vernon Trail and trot past the terminal ("Don't provoke the TSA!") and onto the narrow shoulder of an access road where taxis and cars swoop by. At Gravelly Point inbound jets on final approach cruise low overhead. Kerry recalls bringing her then-infant daughter there to play, more than a dozen years ago. A quiet river mirrors the Capitol dome and DC monuments.|
Crossing the Memorial Bridge we salute a company of young Marines in camo gear dashing toward Arlington Cemetery. Our route goes past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with a pause at the National Academy of Sciences to sit on Einstein's lap. In Georgetown a Starbucks offers hot chocolate and indoor GPS glitches. The Custis Trail is hilly, alternating bridges and tunnels, with pelotons of commuter cyclists. We discuss potential future careers as Victoria's Secret models, inspired as fit young runners sprint by. At the Mile Zero junction with the W&OD Trail a wrong turn awards bonus mileage. Four Mile Run Trail closes the loop to where we began. It's all good.
- Thursday, December 31, 2015 at 05:23:08 (EST)
In a recent post on quantum computing (QC), unfolding and debunking yet another garbled bit of publicity, Scott Aaronson explains nicely how science works:
... I love the way Carl Sagan once put it: "In science, there are no authorities. At most, there are experts." ... When they speak, I listen to them—not because of how much money or how many people they manage or how many awards they've won, but because I can interact with them directly and see for myself the agility of their reasoning and their responsiveness to evidence.
As a general rule, I'll weight the opinion of a single individual whose judgment I admire over the collective decision of an organization of thousands—even if the organization is itself full of individuals whose judgments I admire. I've disagreed vehemently with [another individual] about whether scalable QC is possible at all, but one thing [he] said that's always stuck with me is that "the whole is stupider than the sum of its parts"—so that even in (say) a funding panel composed of brilliant scientists, the tiniest grain of stupidity in each one can get exponentially amplified by the others. This matches my experience.
cf. MissJudgment (1999-05-27), QuestionAuthority (2000-01-18), AuthoritarianButtons (2002-06-07), DrawingTheLine (2004-07-11), Reflective Judgment (2014-04-09), ...)
- Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 04:31:02 (EST)
"You're only critical when you do a book review!" Beth observes. I've just finished a rant about a novel I'm currently reading and feeling annoyed by. "Hmmmm — you're right — I must work on that!" is the reply. The chorus of "Pompeii" (a song by Bastille) runs through my head: "How am I gonna be an optimist about this?"
Kerry and I meet at 0545 and run to meet Beth at the office. A spidery-thin crescent moon creeps above the horizon as dawn begins. The three of us loop through Pimmit Hills, stopping to rate and photograph over-the-top displays of front-yard Christmas lights. Beth confesses that she has begun to add a 25% margin-of-safety to my distance estimates. My response: "I must work on that too!" Today, though, she gets her goal of 3-4 miles. Dr K and I run back to our starting point, meandering along the way and enjoying the sights.
- Tuesday, December 29, 2015 at 05:21:02 (EST)
Rick Hanson in his book Just One Thing expresses beautifully the perfect attitude toward the future: "Aspire without Attachment". Ambitions and hopes are all very well. But clinging to them, expecting and wanting and craving them? Rather less useful. As Hanson says, "Paradoxically, holding your goals lightly increases the chance of attaining them, while being attached — and thus fearing failure — gets in the way of peak performance."
Hanson suggests some ways to "... stay with liking without slipping into wanting":
Good goals for one's goals!
(cf. Pleasant Surprises (2002-08-08), Lose Track (2002-11-11), Buddhism - A Way of Life and Thought (2008-09-30), Not Always So (2009-07-04), Processes not Goals (2014-02-20), 0-1 (2014-08-29), Aspiration, not Expectation (2014-12-12), Mantra - No Goals (2015-07-26), ...)
- Monday, December 28, 2015 at 04:38:06 (EST)
"Earthshine!" Kristin and Kerry and I observe an ashen glow on the dark side of the waning moon. "Light from the sun hits the earth, goes to the moon, and bounces back into your eye!"
It's an awesome quiet morning. Brilliant Venus glitters like a diamond on the tip of an arrowhead, crescent Luna a silver bow drawn back ready to shoot. In a few hours: an occultation as one eclipses the other. Meanwhile on the trail friends run together toward the sunrise.
- Sunday, December 27, 2015 at 06:14:59 (EST)
... stand, sit, live — in worthiness, honor, self-respect, mindful awareness ...
(cf. Bringing the Mind Home (2009-02-26), With Dignity (2010-12-04), Zen and Self Improvement (2011-11-19), ...)
- Saturday, December 26, 2015 at 06:20:14 (EST)
"Lock 7? Didn't we start at Lock 8?" Distances are deceptive on the C&O Canal towpath. Mary Ewell and I are fooled at first, then realize that the lock-keeper's house and the path up the hill are nothing like what we came down an hour ago. Another mile of walking gets us back to our cars. Whew!
It's a fine afternoon and the Potomac River is lovely. After a 10 minute warmup walk we trot to Lock 5, tag the big timber handle that once controlled the water, and then turn back. Mary's coach has requested 50 minutes of steady running and we overachieve the plan with ~4.2 miles at a sub-13 min/mi pace.
Conversation includes metacognition as we talk about teaching physics to naive undergraduates. "Their mental models have a lot of room for improvement!" is the optimistic verdict. Fourteen mallard ducks dabble in the stagnant canal waters, green-headed males paired with their less-gaudy mates. Forty geese swim nearby.
- Friday, December 25, 2015 at 06:36:53 (EST)
"10:02 min/mi pace! If we sprint we can be sub-10!" say I to Rebecca Rosenberg as we approach the end of this morning's brisk run. She unleashes a kick to the final milepost. Alas, when we stop it's clear that the GPS had been reading 10:20 and not 10:02. "Oops!" (maybe if we hadn't paused to chat for a couple of minutes with friends along the way?)
"It's Santa Claus!" a little boy says to his parents at our approach. "Merry Christmas!" I reply. Temperatures are in the lower 30's but the air is still, the sun is brilliant, and we scarcely feel the chill. Great conversation pulls us along faster than anticipated. Cute dogs tug on their owners' leashes all along Rock Creek Trail. Rebecca's knees are almost recovered from last months' inflammation, and my lingering groin/adductor twinges are likewise fading. We plan winter speedwork, admire the stream, discuss recent races, and share news. Orange MCRRC traffic cones line the path where new asphalt has been put down. Afterwards at the KenGar picnic table of orange juice and bananas "Fast Harold" tells us that he just finished a dozen miles at the easy-for-him pace of under 8 min/mi. Wow!
- Friday, December 25, 2015 at 06:34:28 (EST)
A break during the 20 mile run with Drs K&K on 2015-12-11:
(cf. Albert Einstein Memorial, ...)
- Thursday, December 24, 2015 at 04:23:35 (EST)
"Where was I in telling that story?" asks Bob Gaylord. "You had just finished!" I reply. We're two old coots teasing each other, much to the amusement of two young ladies doing their first trail ultra. Today is the aptly-named "Magnus Gluteus Maximus", a Virginia Happy Trails Running Club trek along the Bull Run Trail. Many folks plan on 50k, but I'm enjoying the idea of stopping at milepost 0, Fountainhead Regional Park, where friend Janet Choi's car is parked. Janet is now far ahead in spite of going off course near the Bull Run Marina.
Rewind to before dawn, when I get lost on the way to meet Janet and give her a ride to Hemlock Overlook where the run begins. Eventually we locate each other, meander on country roads to the start, sign in, pose for group photos, take selfies, and start down the steep hill to the trail. Frost is thick, but after an hour begins to melt and drip down from the trees onto my bald noggin. Whistles of distant trains echo, along with booms from a nearby firing range. Thick brown leaves conceal rocks and roots and muddy patches. The notion of continuing beyond Fountainhead starts to lose appeal as muscles twinge and a slightly-too-fast pace brings me back to earth. So after less than a dozen miles, no falls and only minor stumbles, it's officially a great day. Many thanks, JC, for running with (and in front of) me!
(trackfile; cf. 2006-12-16 - Magnus Gluteus Maximus, 2007-12-15 - Magnus Gluteus Maximus Minimus, 2009-12-12 - Magnus Gluteus Maximus, 2010-12-11 - Magnus Gluteus Maximus 50k, 2012-12-15 - Magnus Gluteus Maximus Abridged , 2014-12-13 - Magnus Gluteus Maximus, ...)
- Wednesday, December 23, 2015 at 04:19:01 (EST)
A beautiful image from Paul Salopek's "Exploring the World on Foot" in the New York Times (2015-12-13):
... My boots scared up grasshoppers from the brittle grasses. Whirlwinds of swallows swooped to feed. And I felt it: The burning horizons were creaking up to meet me. I was walking, effortlessly, atop a gigantic ball. ...
... I feel it now all the time: a kind of hyper-attentive trance. When it overcomes me, I feel capable of walking to the edge of the world where the water falls off. ...
(cf. WalkAbout (2002-03-09), TwoTowers (2002-12-29), ExpandingUniverse (2003-06-26), TenLeagueLeyLines (2003-11-23), FifteenLeagueLeyLines (2005-01-01), Walk on the Wild Side (2008-12-16), Air Breathes Me (2010-01-13), Snowshine (2010-12-20), ...)
- Tuesday, December 22, 2015 at 05:17:14 (EST)
"You're crazy!" says the construction worker going down the parking garage stairs when he meets me at 0530 heading upward, clad in shorts. Frost is on car rooftops and Jupiter glitters near a waning Moon, forming a line with Mars and Venus that points toward where the Sun will eventually rise. Kerry proposes "Route 29!" Kristin and I concur. The family of panda dolls in the bamboo stand greets us on Great Falls Street. Kristin gently deflects my proposal that we commence speedwork in preparation for winter race season. Kerry looks forward to future adventure runs. I suggest we find more "Milepost Zero" markers to pose at for selfies, perhaps starting with the W&OD or Rock Creek Trail.
- Monday, December 21, 2015 at 04:08:03 (EST)
...a recent fortune cookie:
| You find beauty in ordinary things|
Do not lose this ability
- Sunday, December 20, 2015 at 06:16:20 (EST)
"Deer!" Kristin points out four pairs of glowing eyes near the W&OD trail, reflecting back flashlight beams through the heavy fog. Cyclists swoop past, 80% politely. In the hot yoga studio's picture window Tadasana (Mountain) and Shavasana (Corpse) poses are demonstrated by lithe pre-dawn yoginis. Raindrops patter as they land. We're grateful for warm December weather, the scent of aroma candles, not-slipping on wet leaf-covered slopes, bushes full of chirping birds, cars that pause to let us cross streets, and the chance to begin a day with a quiet run that includes discussions of epistemology, optimism, and kitchen science experiments.
- Saturday, December 19, 2015 at 06:09:59 (EST)
| The most important thing|
is to find out what is
the most important thing
(cf. Ed Brown stories of Shunryu Suzuki; and Not Always So (2009-07-04), Constant Effort (2013-08-05), Everything Changes (2015-04-29), ...)
- Friday, December 18, 2015 at 04:20:51 (EST)
"So what sweet indulgences did YOU commit at Thanksgiving dinner?" Kristin and Kerry and I confess our sins to each other as we follow a new path in the pre-dawn darkness between Route 7 and Great Falls St, past the West Falls Church Metro where we startle not-yet-fully-awake commuters with our bright headlamps and speedy broken-field running. The moon glows faintly through thick clouds. Brake lights flare on Interstate 66 as the morning traffic jam begins. Students await their bus at the street corner. "Let's knock them down like bowling pins!"
- Thursday, December 17, 2015 at 05:25:57 (EST)
|Worry is the interest on a debt not yet incurred||Peace |
|"... if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen ..." - Joseph Campbell|| Genuine |
|I saw my thoughts, just suspended||Aware of |
|My loud rebellious child was shouting, "You can leave! You don't have to stay here!" And I stayed.||Try dropping each thought quietly into a fire|
|* choose a Good experience |
* bring it into consciousness
* enrich it
* hold and absorb it
at the center
of your being
|The sky |
Is a suspended blue ocean.
The stars are the fish
|Vulnerability and Acceptance||We have to find fun||Transform fleeting experiences into lasting ones||No Drama|
|"Going Inside" will either help let things go, or will amplify them so they become clearer||Reclaim your breath||We get so much from enduring and persevering together||We're always hardest on ourselves|
|Always we hope |
Someone else has the answer
Some other place will be better,
Some other time it will all turn out ...
|The joy has burned out the pain||... as you strode deeper and deeper |
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save
- Mary Oliver
|Thank you |
Be kind to your Self
Go in Peace
("Claim and Nourish Your Inner Source of Resilience and Wisdom" was the title of the mindfulness workshop that Patricia Long held on Sunday afternoon (2015-12-13); cf. Meditation Retreat (2014-01-28), Meditation - Sound, Music, Silence (2014-10-06), Mindfulness Workshop 2015 (2015-03-19), ...)
- Wednesday, December 16, 2015 at 04:10:02 (EST)
"I saved his life — is that a mitzvah, Rebecca?" I ask. It's late on Sunday afternoon, and I've just stopped Barry Smith from stepping in front of a speeding truck on Veirs Mill Rd. (And is it another Good Deed if I refrain from pushing him into traffic?) Rains have stopped but puddles remain along Rock Creek Trail. Rebecca Rosenberg is coming back from knee issues, all of us have raced in recent days, and the pace is nonetheless brisk. Barry introduces us to "strides", something like 20-second surges into sprint-mode.
- Tuesday, December 15, 2015 at 04:44:56 (EST)
At page 660, the thought arises: "Oh, no! Hope he doesn't throw in Quiddich!"
At page 797: "Oh no! He did!"
Harry Potter meets Name of the Rose, spiced with bits of Gödel, Escher, Bach and Shardik. Neal Stephenson's brick-thick 2008 sf novel Anathem is an unfortunate combination of young adult action-adventure, rambling philosophy lecture, cutesy word-play, paranoid conspiracy theory, wink-wink juvenile jokes, and sadly garbled physics. No, quantum computers do not work that way. Nor do orbital dynamics, nuclear weapons, biochemistry, or the Many Worlds interpretation. Too many major technical errors, combined with too many transparent plot devices, distract from good writing.
And Stephenson's good writing can be awesome. Near the middle of Part 2:
He slowed and stopped as we rounded the northeastern limb. "Did you know that we live in a beautiful place?" he asked.
"How could I not know it?" I demanded. "Every day, I go into the Mynster, I see the chancel, we sing the Anathem—"
"Your words say yes, your defensive tone says something else," Orolo said. "You haven't even seen this." And he gestured to the northeast.
The range of mountains leading off in that direction was obscured during winter by clouds and during summer by haze and dust. But we were between summer and winter now. The previous week had been hot, but temperatures had fallen suddenly on the second day of Apert, and we had plumped our bolts up to winter thickness. When I had entered the Præsidium a couple of hours earlier, it had been storming, but as I'd ascended the stair, the roar of the rain and the hail had gradually diminished. By the time I'd found Orolo up top, nothing remained of the storm except for a few wild drops hurtling around on the wind like rocks in space, and a foam of tiny hailstones on the walkway. We were almost in the clouds. The sky had hurled itself against the mountains like a sea attacking a stony headland, and spent its cold energy in half an hour. The clouds were dissolving, yet the sky did not get any brighter, because the sun was going down. But Orolo with his cosmographer's eye had noted on the flank of a mountain a stretched patch that was brighter than the rest. When I first saw what he was pointing at, I guessed that hail had silvered the boughs of trees in some high vale. But as we watched, the color of it warmed. It broadened, brightened, and crept up the mountainside, setting fire to individual trees that had changed color early. It was a ray coming through a gap in the weather far to the west, levering up as the sun sank.
"That is the kind of beauty I was trying to get you to see," Orolo told me. "Nothing is more important than that you see and love the beauty that is right in front of you, or else you will have no defense against the ugliness that will hem you in and come at you in so many ways."
From Fraa Orolo, of all people, this was an astonishingly poetic and sentimental remark. I was so startled that it didn't occur to me to wonder what Orolo was referring to when he spoke of the ugliness.
At least my eyes were open, though, to what he wanted me to see. The light on the mountain became rich in hues of crimson, gold, peach, and salmon. Over the course of a few seconds it washed the walls and towers of the Millenarian math with a glow that if I were a Deolater I'd have called holy and pointed to as proof that there must be a god.
"Beauty pierces through like that ray through the clouds," Orolo continued. "Your eye is drawn to where it touches something that is capable of reflecting it. But your mind knows that the light does not originate from the mountains and the towers. Your mind knows that something is shining in from another world. Don't listen to those who say it's in the eye of the beholder." ...
So lovely, and so true. It makes up for hundreds of pages of incoherent philosophical discourse and flying-around silliness. Well, almost ...
- Monday, December 14, 2015 at 04:16:53 (EST)
"Your sign should say 'Run quickly' not 'Run quick'!" Mr Picky Grammar Cop tells the girl at mile 4.5 of the Montgomery County Road Runners Club 10 mile Turkey Burn-Off race.
"I told you so!" says her father. A few minutes later they've squeezed in the extra letters.
A deer dashes through the woods. "She's off course — disqualify her!" A coughing fit provokes hip adductor and groin muscle twinges. This year's result is ~9 minutes slower than the 2013-11-30 - MCRRC Turkey Burn-Off 10 Miler and ~6 minutes slower than the 2014-11-29 - MCRRC Turkey Burn-Off 10 Miler. A ~10 pound weight gain accounts for ~3 minutes slower, and aging for a ~1 minute annual deceleration. Must train harder!
(Official results: 150th place overall of 310 finishers, 106/172 males, 9/17 males age 60-64, midcourse time 44:23, gun time 1:28:53, chip time 1:28:29 — trackfile)
- Sunday, December 13, 2015 at 08:00:06 (EST)
In the last chapter of Volume 1 of the Feynman Lectures on Physics, Richard Feynman discusses "Symmetry in Physical Laws" and concludes with a great mystery:
So our problem is to explain where symmetry comes from. Why is nature so nearly symmetrical? No one has any idea why. The only thing we might suggest is something like this: There is a gate in Japan, a gate in Neiko, which is sometimes called by the Japanese the most beautiful gate in all Japan; it was built in a time when there was great influence from Chinese art. This gate is very elaborate, with lots of gables and beautiful carving and lots of columns and dragon heads and princes carved into the pillars, and so on. But when one looks closely he sees that in the elaborate and complex design along one of the pillars, one of the small design elements is carved upside down; otherwise the thing is completely symmetrical. If one asks why this is, the story is that it was carved upside down so that the gods will not be jealous of the perfection of man. So they purposely put an error in there, so that the gods would not be jealous and get angry with human beings.
We might like to turn the idea around and think that the true explanation of the near symmetry of nature is this: that God made the laws only nearly symmetrical so that we should not be jealous of His perfection!
(Trivia: "Neiko" doesn't seem to be a Japanese place; John Ptak speculates that the correct word is "Nikko", and the gate may be the Yomeimon Gate at the Nikko Tosho-gu shrine.)
- Saturday, December 12, 2015 at 19:00:53 (EST)
"We are the champions, my friend!" I tell Kerry, in honor of Freddie Mercury who died 24 years ago yesterday. Kerry remembers an awesome performance by a Queen tribute band at a friend's wedding. We're at mile 6, climbing the hills of Churchill Rd, pausing to pet dogs and chat with neighbors as the sun rises. The Grateful Dead's "Uncle John's Band" loops inside my head.
It's a frosty morning, almost-full moon low in the west as we begin. Two deer eye us from the far side of a meadow. Kerry's calf is mostly recovered from the Potomac Heritage misstep at mile 11 a fortnight ago. Her son Fletcher gets back this afternoon, his first visit home from college. Tomorrow is a Turkey Trot in which they have competed for the past 7 years. So we skip speedwork on the Langley High School track and plan 5k race strategy. Best of luck, Mom!
- Friday, December 11, 2015 at 04:23:36 (EST)
The 2013 BBC News item "Children should be allowed to get bored, expert says" by Hannah Richardson suggests that solitude and lack of scheduled activities can catalyze creativity. British author Meera Syal reminisces about her childhood:
You begin to write because there is nothing to prove, nothing to lose, nothing else to do.
... what Teresa Belton in the article calls "stand-and-stare time".
(cf. Imagination as Animal (2013-06-08), ...)
- Thursday, December 10, 2015 at 05:29:47 (EST)
Two vigilant doggies in a bay window bark at Kristin and me as we run past on Anderson Rd at sunrise. A 45-minute parkway traffic delay (deer vs car, both sides lost) makes for a late start, and Kerry's early meetings mean she can't join us. Temps are in the lower-30s, winds are brisk, and puddles are covered with a layer of ice. After we finish Kristin reveals that she burned her left hand rather badly reaching into the oven last night, during an extravaganza of baking. Ouch!
- Wednesday, December 09, 2015 at 04:26:39 (EST)
|Listen and Smile|
(cf. How to Win Friends and Influence People (2008-05-17), Smile and Listen (2011-08-20), Ground of Being (2013-10-03), Vastness, Equanimity, Selflessness (2015-06-04), ...)
- Tuesday, December 08, 2015 at 05:30:57 (EST)
"Watch out — there's a banana peel!" I caution Amy, who's running behind me on the sidewalk. A comic pratfall at mile 6 might amuse onlookers but would be less happy for the victim. Temperatures are dropping, the northwest wind is gusting, and we pause to put jackets back on.
The neighborhood loop takes us down a woodsy section of Sligo Creek. "It's a bit sketchy here, but you can defend my honor," Amy says. "And you can protect me from attackers!" I reply. Trail talk includes training plans, cold body parts, world politics, hydration backpacks, chrysanthemums, healthy diets, and houses where we lived many years ago. The Parkway Deli serves breakfast all day; we thaw out there post-journey.
- Monday, December 07, 2015 at 04:18:50 (EST)
"... and THAT's why we have eyelashes!" says the woman in the bright artichoke-shamrock tutu to her similarly-clad friend. Dr Beth and I are at mile 6 of the 10k "Run for Shelter" in Alexandria, and with a pair of ladies in funny green skirts we've just encountered fierce winds swirling around the local office buildings, blowing sand and leaves and dust into our faces. It's a lovely morning, temps in the upper 40's, partly cloudy. Beth tells me about Krave, a chocolate-filled cereal that I must try ASAP, and with her friend Alexis we discuss whether custom varieties of Pocky candy could be produced using 3-D printing (additive manufacturing) technology. The sub-12 min/mi pace is perfect.
- Monday, December 07, 2015 at 04:16:20 (EST)
The recent essay "15 Critical Habits of Mentally Tough People" by Travis Bradberry offers a list — flawed, but fascinating — of characteristics that perhaps are correlated with happiness, health, productivity, and self-actualization:
Not a great taxonomy — too much fuzziness and redundancy — and full of assertion with no citations to real evidence. The article also includes an optimistic Thomas Edison quote, likely apocryphal, when he witnessed his factory complex destroyed by fire: "There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew." The New York Times article on 1914-12-10 doesn't mention those words or anything close to them.
But nonetheless: some good advice!
(cf. Optimist Creed (1999-04-16), Thirty Things (2013-10-01), ...)
- Sunday, December 06, 2015 at 19:16:02 (EST)
A big Thanksgiving Turkey arrives at Mary's front door early Saturday afternoon — and besides me, there's a bird that I deliver for next week's holiday. Intervals on neighborhood sidewalks are fun, with brisk breezes and soaring buzzards, colorful leaves and shiny copper church steeples. We dodge cars at road crossings and photographers on the boardwalk at the local lake. Conversation includes musings on chafing and on why some people seem so negative. On the way back home I stop at the Circle K for gasoline and a icy-slushy soda. Jumbo jets on final approach to Dulles International Airport glide across a rising gibbous moon.
- Saturday, December 05, 2015 at 04:34:56 (EST)
From a friend-of-a-friend at a post-Thanksgiving Saturday dinner:
| "I Want Happiness!" you say?|
Take away "I" and "Want" ... what's left?
(cf. Unselfing (2009-01-14), Unselfing Again (2009-11-01), Lovingkindness - The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (2015-07-12), Happiness Is (2015-07-28), ...)
- Friday, December 04, 2015 at 04:18:46 (EST)
"Feet up!" Kristin warns as she climbs the connector trail to Windy Hill Rd and steps over a root. "Oof!" is my reply a second later, as I stumble and manage not to fall. Laughter ensues.
After humoring me in our route choice on Wednesday, today Kristin picks the path, a new out-and-back through western McLean. We give thanks for the crisp air, the beautiful earth, and the gift of the sunrise. On busy Old Dominion Dr we "lean back" (a rap song allusion) and hug the guardrail to let commuter cars swoop by.
Kerry is wisely resting a strained calf muscle, so as we pass her home we text her a cheery "GM!" plus our GPS location. An Unidentified Woodland Creature (groundhog? raccoon?) dashes across Benjamin St in front of us. We explore dead-end Whann Ave, where a hypermodern-design house perches on stilts in a valley. On the way back we give chase to a young buck with a small rack of antlers. On Mottrom Dr across the street from a gated mansion an acorn falls from on high to thunk against my skull.
- Thursday, December 03, 2015 at 04:52:50 (EST)
| Let Go|
... from the last page of Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach ...
- Wednesday, December 02, 2015 at 04:33:33 (EST)
"You go ahead — I've got your back!" Kristin kindly offers, as we pick our way along the faint path. In the gloom just before dawn it's a Scotts Run adventure run, on a rough trail between the Capital Beltway and the stream near West Langley. We wade through sand beneath the overpass and emerge at what seems to be a dead-end of thorn bushes. Brilliant graffiti on the underside of the I-495 implies a local route to civilization, perhaps via a water crossing that we can't find in the darkness? Backtrack time!
- Tuesday, December 01, 2015 at 05:15:35 (EST)
Margaret Atwood's 2003 book Oryx and Crake is nice. Just nice. Not strikingly poetic in language; not cleverly visionary; not dizzyingly insightful in politics. It's an allegory, a heavy-handed sermon on the dangers of bioengineering. Plot devices abound, characters move along rails to make the author's points, and surprises are sparse.
And technical errors distract: within a few pages the protagonist recalls drinking rubbing alcohol, thinks visible stars are millions or billions of light-years away, and and imagines that during "the dark of the moon" somehow the moon rises at night but is invisible. An engineer friend who read it was annoyed at the notion that in the near future the earth's crust could be depleted of metals to the point that a post-collapse civilization would be unable to rebuild — ignoring the question of what happened to all the extracted metals. And the economics of Atwood's future society? Implausible, incoherent, and likely impossible.
Short-listed for a Booker Prize? Maybe as a nod to the author's reputation, or to applaud her message? Perhaps there's more to Oryx and Crake than meets the eye — but, like John Williams's drab story Stoner, even so it's simply not novel enough.
- Monday, November 30, 2015 at 04:27:12 (EST)
"And here we are again!" Kristin notes, as our meandering path takes us once more to Kent Gardens Elementary School. The dawn is beautiful today, the air is crisp, the frost glitters on parked cars, and the run is brisk and smooth and easy. It brings to mind some words of Holley Mangold, superheavyweight Olympic lifter: "It's like peace, there's no struggle. That's what we're all searching for, that feeling of weightlessness." (see That Feeling of Weightlessness) We discover a new little greenspace, Bryn Mawr Park, and a new cut-through path in the McLean Manor neighborhood. Five high contrails decorate the sky. "Let's run up the hill to that pickup truck!" Kristin says, and sprints ahead.
- Sunday, November 29, 2015 at 07:08:48 (EST)
Since we are One, it's totally ok to take turns and let a friend (or anyone else!) carry the load for us sometimes — and likewise, it's fine for us to pick up the check for others, without any thought of compensation or reward. We're all in this together!
... and as Sylvia Boorstein notes in It's Easier Than You Think:
... I used to think that if I began seeing all beings as my kin, it would be a big burden. The opposite is true. When someone I know is doing something admirable I don't feel I need to be doing it. She is doing it on my behalf, or as me, relieving me of that particular task. Mary and Chodren are being nuns for me, Alex is teaching for me in remote places, Itzhak Perlman is me playing the violin, and Joe Montana is me, too. So is his mother.
... and as the protagonist realizes in the finale of the film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, when he discovers the Power of Self-Respect, if we're all one then with the right attitude there's neither self-sacrifice nor selfishness. There's simply another chance for unselfing ... for letting go ... for realizing that clinging is optional ... for discovering freedom ... for centering ... for erasing boundaries ... and for just being with nothing and everything and all the changes between ...
- Saturday, November 28, 2015 at 06:12:31 (EST)
|"Cheese burn — Ow!"|
Molten cheddar leaks onto fingers at the mile 27 aid station from fresh-off-the-camp-stove grilled cheese sandwiches. "First time I've had that injury during a trail run!"
|Today's Stone Mill 50 miler is fun and tough, a new Personal Worst — though after adjusting for age, weight, lack of talent, recent illness, injuries in unmentionable places, and a unique combination of under training and overtraining maybe it's really a world record result?|
|The longer the run, the nicer the people are. Stone Mill is no exception. Taking an early start, 45 minutes ahead of the official time, allows almost everybody else ample opportunity to overtake and greet, including kind trail friends Adeline Ntam, Mike Edwards, and Stephanie Fonda. Aid station volunteers are über-helpful.|
|The woods are beautiful, the hills are steep, the air is brisk, the leaves are thick, and in spite of a few stumbles there are no falls. Most water crossings are low enough to make it safely across on stepping-stones or with short leaps.|
|The Stone Mill course includes a four-mile segment on the flat C&O Canal towpath alongside the lovely Potomac River, between the mouths of Muddy Branch and Seneca Creek. It's smooth and nearly level, a chance to make good time if one so desires.|
Walking most of the final 20 miles brings to mind thoughts shared by Gary Dudney in a 2004 essay, wherein he quotes Dave Olney: "Instead of feeling like I had to run, run, run and feeling guilty every time I was reduced to a walk, I assumed an almost Taoist state of calm. I realized that I could walk the hundred miles at a good clip, and whenever I felt like running I could put a little extra time in the bank."
Likewise today, mental math suggests that a brisk stroll will make it under the cutoffs (thanks to the aforementioned 45 minute head start). All is well. It's a blessing, being able to ramble through the forest alone, enjoying a quiet autumn day, thinking about life and peace and love and mindfulness.
|The midpoint of the course is a fine place to pause, comb out the beard, and ask a friendly fellow runner to take a photo.|
As Amy Pope Fitzgerald says , "... ultras allow you to do something that's awesome, but you do it at your own pace." After a low spell for a few miles when feet get wet at a stream crossing, the day is an ultra-happy one in spite of ultra-slowness.
- Thursday, November 26, 2015 at 07:49:39 (EST)
Tiny (1%?!) epiphany: if devoting ~15 minutes per day — about 1% of the 24 hours — in mindful Not Doing results in the remaining hours being 1% better — more productive, creative, calm, happy, insightful — that completely pays for the meditative-time. Anything more than 1% improvement is pure "profit". What a great return on investment!
(cf. Wherever You Go, There You Are (2008-10-26), Dimensionless and Therefore Infinite (2010-02-03), Breath and Awareness (2011-03-12), No Beginning, No End (2013-03-24), Ground of Being (2013-10-03), ...)
- Wednesday, November 25, 2015 at 04:55:51 (EST)
"And what kind of loop is this going to be?" Beth wonders, as the GPS passes 2.5 miles and we're still outbound on a "4 to 5 mile" ramble. "Maybe the curvature of the Earth will get us back?" I speculate. We agree to blame Kristin for the overrun this time. Venus and Jupiter glitter bright at the start, with Mars faint between them, dawn's glow strengthening on the horizon, and airplane lights crawling sporadically above the trees. Coughing triggers groin muscle twinges, not a great portent for tomorrow's Stone Mill 50 miler.
- Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 04:10:51 (EST)
From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Chapter 12 ("Dealing with Distractions II"), thoughts on the real goal of meditation and how to get there:
Mindfulness is the most important aspect of meditation. It is the primary thing that you are trying to cultivate. So there is really no need at all to struggle against distractions. The crucial thing is to be mindful of what is occurring, not to control what is occurring. Remember, concentration is a tool. It is secondary to bare attention. From the point of view of mindfulness, there is really no such thing as a distraction. Whatever arises in the mind is viewed as just one more opportunity to cultivate mindfulness. Breath, remember, is an arbitrary focus, and it is used as our primary object of attention. Distractions are used as secondary objects of attention. They are certainly as much a part of reality as breath. It actually makes rather little difference what the object of mindfulness is. You can be mindful of the breath, or you can be mindful of the distraction. You can be mindful of the fact that you mind is still, and your concentration is strong, or you can be mindful of the fact that your concentration is in ribbons and your mind is in an absolute shambles. It's all mindfulness. Just maintain that mindfulness and concentration eventually will follow.
The purpose of meditation is not to concentrate on the breath, without interruption, forever. That by itself would be a useless goal. The purpose of meditation is not to achieve a perfectly still and serene mind. Although a lovely state, it doesn't lead to liberation by itself. The purpose of meditation is to achieve uninterrupted mindfulness. Mindfulness, and only mindfulness, produces enlightenment.
(cf. Mental Noting (2009-05-03), Try It for a Few Years (2009-05-19), Breath as Vehicle (2009-06-17), Karma (2009-07-15), We Are the Pot (2009-08-13), Calm Technique (2011-05-07), No-Self and the Space of Wonder (2014-10-20), ...)
- Monday, November 23, 2015 at 04:20:04 (EST)
|"Mark, get your ass up that hill!" Quattro Hubbard admonishes as he catches up after starting an hour behind me. Today's Potomac Heritage 50k is a lovely walk (with a wee bit of running) in the woods. Dr Kerry pulls me along for the first dozen miles, but wisely passes the torch at the Chain Bridge aid station after a bad step on slippery leaf-covered rocks injures her left calf muscle.|
|Amy Couch takes over for the next dozen miles, to the American Legion Bridge and back. With both kind friends the conversations are splendid and wide-ranging — everything from ontology to trail-running strategy, with digressions to reminisce about past races and share thoughts on life. We take detours for photos at a house where Kerry lived decades ago and for Amy to pose inside a lone stone chimney standing by the Potomac River.|
|Pacing is perfect, good enough to achieve the honor of DFL and excellent preparation for the upcoming Stone Mill race. To make the cutoffs there will either require more speed or fewer selfie pauses. Hmmmmmm...|
- Sunday, November 22, 2015 at 06:11:01 (EST)
Philip Tetlock's research into better thinking (see Expert Political Judgment) is extraordinarily important. From his new book (with Dan Gardner), Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, some characteristics of people who are good at overcoming biases and fallacies in their thinking:
(from  and ; cf. Thinking, Fast and Slow (2013-10-24), Fundamental Attribution Error (2013-11-13), Metacognition and Open Mindedness (2015-11-15), ...)
- Saturday, November 21, 2015 at 09:52:53 (EST)
|Walkabout morning! — a fun meander near RFK Stadium in DC with DD Gray!|
The "4.01k Race for Retirement" is sponsored by Prudential Insurance Company to raise awareness of long-term financial planning (and potentially sell annuities and other products). Originally scheduled for a couple of weeks ago, it was delayed when Hurricane Joaquin threatened the area. Today there's intermittent light drizzle, but nothing serious. Gray and I speed-walk the course with a few thousand others, and get some nice swag including commemorative shirts. The "Holy Crepes" food truck provides a sweet recovery snack afterwards.
Before the 4.01 km trek we stand in line at a small pavilion where local artists draw caricatures. Mine is by Dan Ginter of Baltimore, who does an amazing job in just a few minutes. (click on the image for a larger higher-resolution version)
- Friday, November 20, 2015 at 04:23:16 (EST)
| Let Others Be Right|
Let Others Be Generous
(cf. How to Win Friends and Influence People (2008-05-17), Smile and Listen (2011-08-21), Let Others Be Right (2012-12-31), ...)
- Thursday, November 19, 2015 at 10:19:03 (EST)
"Maybe your crotch problem?" suggests Mary, rather indelicately, to explain my sub-par performance at the 5k race a couple of days ago. "Oops, I meant to say 'groin' or 'hip adductor'." But no matter — we've done 50 milers together, we're trail friends, we can say anything!
Today Mary's coach prescribes four repeated intervals of 9 minutes running + 1 minute recovery. We execute to perfection along the W&OD Trail in Reston on a Sunday afternoon, averaging ~12.5 min/mi pace for 40 minutes. Cars stop politely and cyclists give warning as they swoop past. Conversation as always is thoughtful and frank.
And afterwards: a shopping expedition to Trader Joe's for wine and chocolate and kefir!
- Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at 04:04:21 (EST)
From Chapter 2 of Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana:
Meditation ... is an investigation and an experiment, an adventure every time. In fact, this is so true that when you do reach a feeling of predictability and sameness in your practice, you can read that as an indication that you have gotten off track and are headed for stagnation. Learning to look at each second as if it were the first and only second in the universe is essential in vipassana meditation.
Worth putting in a box to remember:
|"... look at each second as if it were the first and only second in the universe ..."|
(cf. Meditation Made Easy (2008-11-01), Present-Moment Reality ((2008-11-05), Dimensionless and Therefore Infinite (2010-02-03), ...)
- Tuesday, November 17, 2015 at 05:13:01 (EST)
"Choice!" is the mantra of the day, as philosophical conversation about self-actualization, running, love, and life dominate the agenda. So much better to choose for oneself and find worth, instead of having one's value dependent on other people or external events. (OK, the Stoics said that a few thousand years ago; doesn't make it wrong!)
Frost rimes the tops of cars as we set out, Jupiter aligned with Mars, brilliant Venus dominating both. Stephanie lets me hold the leash for Louis ze French Bulldog in his walkabout. Two does dash across our path, and a few miles later an 8-point buck, then another with an equally handsome rack. (And then there's typical banter about front-mount hydration pack flexible bottles — no comment!) We walk the hills and keep the pace near the ~13 min/mi goal. Hip adductors are slightly achy, much less troublesome than during 3 October's trek on almost the same route. Every cough, however, twinges the old pulled groin muscle. Perhaps, as Coach Fonda suggests, rest and recovery would be wise to try some day? (But there are races coming up soon!)
We round Lake Needwood at sun rise with pauses to take photos of the fog. I help Stephanie tear open a packet of "Generation UCAN" complex carbohydrate endurance-fuel drink mix but make the mistake of blowing into it and get a blast of fine white powder in my face — oops! Trail talk brings to mind the movie Fight Club and the line, "After fighting, everything else in your life got the volume turned down." We agree that running is precisely the opposite: it cranks up the volume, of joy and self-awareness.
The GPS inadvertently pauses and omits ~0.7 miles during the return trip. Quotes from Henry V lead to a mini-tutorial on naughty Shakespearean slang. At Strathmore we fist-bump and part ways, Dr Fonda to do another 10+ miles along Rock Creek. What an awesome day to share with a friend!
- Monday, November 16, 2015 at 04:25:43 (EST)
A 2012 essay in The New Yorker by psychology professor Gary Marcus, "Happy Birthday, Noam Chomsky", describes a good personality characteristic:
Nine academics out of ten never change their mind about anything; most (though there are salient exceptions, like Wittgenstein) lock into a position earlier in their careers and then defend it to the hilt. Chomsky, in contrast, has never stopped critiquing his own theories with the same vigor with which he has criticized others. For fifty years, his search for linguistic truth has been relentless.
Earlier, in 2007, responding to the Edge.org question "What Are You Optimistic About?", Marcus wrote in "Metacognition For Kids":
... The average person tends to have a shaky grasp on logic, to believe a lot of what he (or she) hears unreflectively, and to be overly confident in his (or her) own beliefs. We tend to be easily fooled by vivid examples, and to notice data that support our theories—whilst forgetting about or ignoring data that go against our theories. ...
He concludes with the recommendation:
... start with a course in what cognitive scientists call metacognition, knowing about knowing, call it "The Human Mind: A User's Guide", aimed at say, seventh-graders. Instead of emphasizing facts, I'd expose students to the architecture of the mind, what it does well, and what it doesn't. And most important, how to cope with its limitations, to consider evidence in a more balanced way, to be sensitive to biases in our reasoning, ...
(cf. DoMeta (1999-05-08), MetaMan (2001-11-14), ReflectiveStudents (2004-03-17), KeyToTheTreasure (2004-04-23), One Transcend Suffices (2009-10-14), Never Say ... (2011-12-28), Metacognitive Banter (2014-02-03), ...)
- Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 15:18:59 (EST)
"Best costume? But I'm not, uh, ..."! At the MITRE/McLean Halloween 5k-ish fun run I win a door-prize pumpkin and a weird whirling-orange-flashlight-thingie toy. The course is the same as it was for the 2015-05-20 - MITRE McLean 5k-ish Run, about 15% long and a bit hilly. In spite of near-optimal cool weather the result is sadly slower by about 45 seconds/mile. Excuses abound: bad sniffles, bad hip flexors, bad groin strain, marathon five days ago, etc. But no matter, it's all good and 6th place among a dozen or so participants isn't shabby, behind a young woman dressed as a unicorn and a Count Dracula running in his socks.
- Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 03:21:29 (EST)
Meta-remarks by Ralph Waldo Emerson on "Quotation and Originality":
... In the highest civilization the book is still the highest delight. He who has once known its satisfactions is provided with a resource against calamity. Like Plato's disciple who has perceived a truth, "he is preserved from harm until another period." In every man's memory, with the hours when life culminated are usually associated certain books which met his views. Of a large and powerful class we might ask with confidence, What is the event they most desire? What gift? What but the book that shall come, which they have sought through all libraries, through all languages, that shall be to their mature eyes what many a tinsel-covered toy pamphlet was to their childhood, and shall speak to the imagination? Our high respect for a well-read man is praise enough of literature. If we encountered a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he read. We expect a great man to be a good reader; or in proportion to the spontaneous power should be the assimilating power. And though such are a more difficult and exacting class, they are not less eager. "He that borrows the aid of an equal understanding," said Burke, "doubles his own; he that uses that of a superior elevates his own to the stature of that he contemplates."
We prize books, and they prize them most who are themselves wise. Our debt to tradition through reading and conversation is so massive, our protest or private addition so rare and insignificant, — and this commonly on the ground of other reading or hearing, — that, in a large sense, one would say there is no pure originality. All minds quote. Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote. We quote not only books and proverbs, but arts, sciences, religion, customs, and laws; nay, we quote temples and houses, tables and chairs by imitation. ...
... from "Letters and Social Aims", a collection of Emerson's essays, ~1876.
(from  and ; cf. ByHeart (2001-11-28), Three Stages of Quotation (2013-12-10), ...)
- Friday, November 13, 2015 at 04:39:29 (EST)
"What do they teach in this elementary school?" I ask, when Tiara Chapel and Dr Beth point out a pool table by the dumpster. It's a dark damp dawn, and we've just picked our way gingerly across the leafy-slippery Pimmit Run bridge to Lemon Road Park. A rabbit peers at us with demonic retroreflecting eyes in the light of our headlamps. Tiara has just finished the Marine Corps Marathon, her first, and is stretching her legs. A few front lawn Halloween tableaux are still lit, but the giant tree-stump grizzly bear statue stands quietly undecorated. Forecast rain pauses long enough for us to finish the loop, and thankfully nobody falls down on the wet sidewalks.
- Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 05:13:20 (EST)
... attend to the space between thoughts ...
... notice the void between objects ...
... watch the pause between event and choice ...
... examine the moment between stimulus and response ....
... and just observe ...
(cf. Emotional States (2012-04-26), Ground of Being (2013-10-03), Pause and Breathe (2014-07-25), No-Self and the Space of Wonder (2014-10-20), Vastness, Equanimity, Selflessness (2015-06-04), Mantra - Remember to Remember (2015-09-07), ...)
- Wednesday, November 11, 2015 at 07:01:26 (EST)
For back issues of the ^zhurnal see Volumes v.01 (April-May 1999), v.02 (May-July 1999), v.03 (July-September 1999), v.04 (September-November 1999), v.05 (November 1999 - January 2000), v.06 (January-March 2000), v.07 (March-May 2000), v.08 (May-June 2000), v.09 (June-July 2000), v.10 (August-October 2000), v.11 (October-December 2000), v.12 (December 2000 - February 2001), v.13 (February-April 2001), v.14 (April-June 2001), 0.15 (June-August 2001), 0.16 (August-September 2001), 0.17 (September-November 2001), 0.18 (November-December 2001), 0.19 (December 2001 - February 2002), 0.20 (February-April 2002), 0.21 (April-May 2002), 0.22 (May-July 2002), 0.23 (July-September 2002), 0.24 (September-October 2002), 0.25 (October-November 2002), 0.26 (November 2002 - January 2003), 0.27 (January-February 2003), 0.28 (February-April 2003), 0.29 (April-June 2003), 0.30 (June-July 2003), 0.31 (July-September 2003), 0.32 (September-October 2003), 0.33 (October-November 2003), 0.34 (November 2003 - January 2004), 0.35 (January-February 2004), 0.36 (February-March 2004), 0.37 (March-April 2004), 0.38 (April-June 2004), 0.39 (June-July 2004), 0.40 (July-August 2004), 0.41 (August-September 2004), 0.42 (September-November 2004), 0.43 (November-December 2004), 0.44 (December 2004 - February 2005), 0.45 (February-March 2005), 0.46 (March-May 2005), 0.47 (May-June 2005), 0.48 (June-August 2005), 0.49 (August-September 2005), 0.50 (September-November 2005), 0.51 (November 2005 - January 2006), 0.52 (January-February 2006), 0.53 (February-April 2006), 0.54 (April-June 2006), 0.55 (June-July 2006), 0.56 (July-September 2006), 0.57 (September-November 2006), 0.58 (November-December 2006), 0.59 (December 2006 - February 2007), 0.60 (February-May 2007), 0.61 (April-May 2007), 0.62 (May-July 2007), 0.63 (July-September 2007), 0.64 (September-November 2007), 0.65 (November 2007 - January 2008), 0.66 (January-March 2008), 0.67 (March-April 2008), 0.68 (April-June 2008), 0.69 (July-August 2008), 0.70 (August-September 2008), 0.71 (September-October 2008), 0.72 (October-November 2008), 0.73 (November 2008 - January 2009), 0.74 (January-February 2009), 0.75 (February-April 2009), 0.76 (April-June 2009), 0.77 (June-August 2009), 0.78 (August-September 2009), 0.79 (September-November 2009), 0.80 (November-December 2009), 0.81 (December 2009 - February 2010), 0.82 (February-April 2010), 0.83 (April-May 2010), 0.84 (May-July 2010), 0.85 (July-September 2010), 0.86 (September-October 2010), 0.87 (October-December 2010), 0.88 (December 2010 - February 2011), 0.89 (February-April 2011), 0.90 (April-June 2011), 0.91 (June-August 2011), 0.92 (August-October 2011), 0.93 (October-December 2011), 0.94 (December 2011-January 2012), 0.95 (January-March 2012), 0.96 (March-April 2012), 0.97 (April-June 2012), 0.98 (June-September 2012), 0.99 (September-November 2012), 0.9901 (November-December 2012), 0.9902 (December 2012-February 2013), 0.9903 (February-March 2013), 0.9904 (March-May 2013), 0.9905 (May-July 2013), 0.9906 (July-September 2013), 0.9907 (September-October 2013), 0.9908 (October-December 2013), 0.9909 (December 2013-February 2014), 0.9910 (February-May 2014), 0.9911 (May-July 2014), 0.9912 (July-August 2014), 0.9913 (August-October 2014), 0.9914 (November 2014-January 2015), 0.9915 (January-April 2015), 0.9916 (April-July 2015), 0.9917 (July-September 2015), 0.9918 (September-November 2015), 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.)