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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in the ^zhurnal (that's Russian for "journal") — see ZhurnalyWiki for a Wiki edition of individual items; see Zhurnal and Zhurnaly for quick clues as to what this is all about; see Random for a random page. Briefly, this is the diary of ^z = Mark Zimmermann ... previous volume = 0.9921 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z (at) his (dot) com" ... click on a title link to go to that item in the ZhurnalyWiki where you can edit or comment on it ... RSS

2016-06-05 - Recovery Ramble

~4.1 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

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


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

How to Say "No"

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

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

Good thoughts, and not just for professional pilots!

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

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

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

~31.0 miles @ ~14.5 min/mi

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

The Beautiful Bureaucrat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oca ola otto.

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

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

She was not in the mood for him to elaborate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016-06-01 - Tysons Loop

~7.3 miles @ ~12.4 min/mi

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

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


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

Bare Attention

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

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

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

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

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

2016-05-30 - MCRRC Memorial Day 4 Miler

~4.0 miles @ ~8.2 min/mi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mantra - As It Is


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

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

As it is ...

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

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

2016-05-29 - Super Sligo Loop with Barry

~6.2 miles @ ~11.9 min/mi

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


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

Roads to Infinity Revisited

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

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

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

And so on ...

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

2016-05-28 - Carolee and Sakurako on RCT

~9.2 miles @ ~14.3 min/mi

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

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


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

ZhurnalyWiki Random Tarot

Tarot? Isn't that ... silly?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016-05-27 - Hot Memorial Long Run

~20.3 miles @ ~14.3 min/mi

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

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

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

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



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

Dive Right In

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

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

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

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

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

~3.0 miles @ ~7.9 min/mi

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


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

Golem and Jinni

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016-05-23 - No Macarons

~5.1 miles @ ~12.3 min/mi

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


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

No Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016-05-22 - Sunday Ramble

~22.3 miles @ ~11.3 min/mi

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

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

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

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


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

Mantra - I Choose


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

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

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

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

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

2016-05-21 - Personalization, Pervasiveness, Permanence

~9.0 miles @ ~8.8 min/mi

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

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

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


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

Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain

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

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

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

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

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

2016-05-20 - Tysons Corner Flowers

~6.6 miles @ ~12.3 min/mi

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


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

Life Partner Criteria Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Thursday, June 02, 2016 at 04:56:44 (EDT)

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