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Explicable and Inexplicable

From Eugenia Cheng's Beyond Infinity, Chapter 4:

I truly believe that trying to explain everything isn't the point. Rather, the point is to explain as much as we can, and, importantly, to be clear where the boundary is between what we can and can't explain. In my mind's eye, the sphere of things we can logically explain is at the center of the universe of ideas, and the aim of mathematics is to move as much as possible into that sphere. So the sphere is always expanding, and as it does so, its surface keeps growing. The surface is where the explicable and the inexplicable meet. ...

- Sunday, August 20, 2017 at 05:46:56 (EDT)

2017-07-22 - Teddy Roosevelt Island

~8.7 miles @ ~13.8 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Teddy_Roosevelt_Island_run_2017-07-22.jpg"Lots of 'F' words!" Lucas notes, reading the FDR Memorial's wall of Four Freedoms. He leads a motley crew, including Janet, Viviana, Sako, Sean, and Tom around the Theodore Roosevelt Island maze o' twisty pathways. We lope along the Swamp Trail boardwalk, pause at the plaza to admire a manly statue of Teddy, then take his eponymous bridge into DC. Temperature and relative humidity are both in the low 80s, Fahrenheit and percent respectively.

"You don't HAVE to run up the stairs to Abraham Lincoln like 'Rocky' - I was joking!" But it's too late, so climb we must. Then Martin Luther King Jr and George Mason watch us pass by on the way to visit Thomas Jefferson. While the rest run onward Sakurako and I take the 14th Street Bridge to get back on time. At the Memorial Bridge suddenly Janet and Sean appear, returning via another route. Cyclists swoop past us on the Mount Vernon Trail. The parking lot that was empty when we arrived at 0630 now overflows with monster trucks.


- Saturday, August 19, 2017 at 05:31:37 (EDT)

2017-07-21 - Reverse Evans Farm

~6.2 miles @ ~12.9 min/mi

"Whoa!" Hazards of texting-while-running: I almost bump into a closed gate at the parking lot entrance. Caitlin and I are circling the office complex while awaiting Kristin, who met heavy traffic on her way in. A thin-sliver crescent moon fades into the background as sunrise paints clouds in persimmon-peach hues. Soon Dr K joins us and we head east.

"Where's the frog prince?" In the Evans Farm complex we spot the sculpture of the crowned amphibian, a marker on the way to a new cut-through path. Enterprise Avenue brings to mind Star Trek. Meanders take us past Bryn Mawr park from a new direction. At the high school track somebody manages a 1:35 lap. Rabbit count = 3.


- Friday, August 18, 2017 at 04:44:48 (EDT)

One Step at a Time

From Chapter 26 ("Not Yet") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart:

Buddhism is not a set of doctrines. It has no dogma. It just teaches us about becoming buddhas. It is a way of spiritual self-development, but above all it is a way of action, first, last, and always. We must do something with this. We don't just sit around and talk about it, or sit on our cushions and gulp it all down for ourselves. We give it away; we radiate it. There are no shortcuts; there are no bypasses. There is no instant magical potion. We must go it on our own, on our two feet alone; yet we are always aware of our interrelatedness. Through each thought, each action, we can help or hinder one another. We take one step at a time, just as in kinhin. Just one step at a time. What we do will not be perfect, we know that. But, as R. H. Blyth says, "Perfection means not perfect actions in a perfect world, but appropriate actions in an imperfect one."

If we approach Zen practice with fixed ideas about what it will do for us, we just get in our own way. "Will this be good for me? Will it get me what I want? Is this what I'm here for? What if I have a wonderful enlightenment experience—will I look silly? What if I fail to have kensho and never understand anything at all? How long will it take for me to come to some realization?" All these ideas are impediments. Why worry about satori? There are people of great Zen spirit and action who have never heard the word satori in their entire lives. There are people who have had satori who behave abysmally. Forget about enlightenment. If we have it, wonderful; we let it go, without a single thought about it. If we don't have it, fine; the accumulated practice of deep samadhi—intense, concentrated sitting, with no pushing, no forcing—penetrates our entire being. This is the most important thing. The path of Zen is not about experiencing some sudden burst of something that is gone in a flash. Having some insight, some kensho, is indeed wonderful, but then we let it go, and we don't talk about it, we don't discuss the experiences we have had with others. Such experiences are just the beginning, not the end of our practice. Even reading about other people's experiences can be a problem, because one can become attached to that description and thing, "Oh, maybe it will happen to me that way." It can only happen as our experience, through our own zazen, in our own life. Then whatever it is we have experienced we give away to others, without saying a word about it. "See, I'm giving you my Zen. Isn't it wonderful?" No!

- Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 05:16:39 (EDT)

2017-07-19 - Wet Trek

~5.7 miles @ ~13.1 min/mi

"That's the sound of water hitting pants!" At mile 5 the Dawn Patrol unanimously pauses to stand in front of curbside lawn sprinklers. Summer morn is warm and hyper-humid. Bunny count = 5, the majority spied by Kristin. Cait explains that raccoons don't wash their food, they wet their paws to make them more sensitive.


- Wednesday, August 16, 2017 at 05:47:53 (EDT)

Austin Texas Graffiti

Graffiti seen in the tunnel under Duval Road near Balcones District Park during the 2017-07-17 - Austin Texas Trekking run:


- Tuesday, August 15, 2017 at 07:00:23 (EDT)

2017-07-17 - Austin Texas Trekking

~11.0 miles @ ~13.5 min/mi

Even at sunrise running is stressful on a warm, humid morning in Austin Texas. Rabbit count = 1, a shy bunny in Great Hills Park; deer count = 3, audacious beasts standing in the street during the final mile.

Boy Scouts have built bat houses; near a playground a faux chimney stands for chimney swifts to nest in. The lake path at Quarries Park leads back onto neighborhood streets. Bright new graffiti decorates the tunnel under Duval Road near Balcones District Park. Follow Big Walnut Creek upstream, then take the railroad tracks to Yett Creek Neighborhood Park and back to the start. Whew!


- Monday, August 14, 2017 at 04:18:33 (EDT)

Howards End - The Wych-elm

From Chapter XXIV of Howards End by E M Forster, lovely description of the tree next to the eponymous home:

... it was English, and the wych-elm that she saw from the window was an English tree. No report had prepared her for its peculiar glory. It was neither warrior, nor lover, nor god; in none of these roles do the English excel. It was a comrade bending over the house, strength and adventure in its roots, but in its utmost fingers tenderness, and the girth, that a dozen men could not have spanned, became in the end evanescent, till pale bud clusters seemed to float in the air. It was a comrade. House and tree transcended any similes of sex. Margaret thought of them now, and was to think of them through many a windy night and London day, but to compare either to man, to woman, always dwarfed the vision. Yet they kept within limits of the human. Their message was not of eternity, but of hope on this side of the grave. As she stood in the one, gazing at the other, truer relationship had gleamed.

- Sunday, August 13, 2017 at 04:42:35 (EDT)

2017-07-15 - CCT with Barry and Rebecca

~13.8 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

"Pain is best experienced solo," says Phil Hill, explaining why he isn't doing a group training program this year. We introduce ourselves on the Capital Crescent Trail, where's he's running ~20 miles alone. "If you feel like that, I'll branch off here!" I joke, and take the side path toward Rock Creek and hilly Leland Street. We laugh as we part ways. A snakeskin-patterned headband lies on the sidewalk. A rising sun paints the clouds with pastel orange hues.

"Slouching toward Bethesda", rabbit Count = 1. A big deer strides calmly across the road in search of a new garden to graze in. At our downtown rendezvous Barry announces, "It's Slurpee Week!" Rebecca recommends an out-and-back on the shady southward side of the CCT, and so we proceed.

"What are the events in a Decathlon?" We ask passing runners, but nobody knows, so eventually the Interwebs tell us. "When the King of Sweden told Jim Thorpe, 'You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world!' he supposedly replied, 'Thanks, King!' ... or maybe that's just a story."

We pause to survey a valley full of invasive ivy, overgrowing the trees like a mass of green octopi. "And yet, think of all the people who can never get out to see this. We're truly blessed!" Speedy cyclists whiz past, some giving warning, most not. It's a soggy-warm summer morning.

Howards EndRoom with a ViewPassage to India — we compare notes on E M Forster novels and the films based on them. Someone reminisces about a dog nip on the derriere, but refrains from exhibiting the evidence. "You could have complained to the County - there's a $500 fine for 'unwanted contact' like that!" We send good vibes and best wishes to comrades doing the Vermont 100 and the Catoctin 50k today.


- Saturday, August 12, 2017 at 04:59:11 (EDT)

Mantra - We've Fallen

We've Fallen
  from Greater

... as a dear friend commented in the midst of crisis: worse things have happened, worse things may happen, and we shall survive — and emerge stronger!

(cf. Parachute Color (2011-12-06), Mindfulness for Beginners (2013-07-18), Up Again (2016-12-04), ...)

- Friday, August 11, 2017 at 05:18:34 (EDT)

2017-07-14 - New Evans Farm Cut-Through

~5.8 miles @ ~14.8 min/mi

"So hard to see things from another person's viewpoint!" Mindful conversation today begins with thoughts on empathy and metacognitive modeling of mental states. A Dawn Patrol Duo heads toward a rising sun, climbing hills and taking cut-throughs. Unusual mansion security features provoke Bayesian analysis of possibilities. Kristin carries the other Dr K's newspaper up to her front doorstep as we loop through West Langley and pause to take pictures.

"We're discovering new ways to escape if the police are in hot pursuit!" A previously-unknown brick walkway leads through a gap in the wall from Enterprise Avenue to Farm Meadow Court. A grassy path starts strong but then fades between Evans Drive and McLean Commons Lane. Bunny count = 4.


- Thursday, August 10, 2017 at 04:46:33 (EDT)

Zazen Mind

From Chapter 23 ("Listening to the Mind") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart:

One of our Sangha members came to me and said she was going away for a few months. "What shall I do? How shall I support my practice?" she asked me. "I am going to Europe, and will be living in hotel rooms, and I don't know how I will carry on" I said, "Sit down and take a deep breath, and you will be right here. We are together wherever we are, when we just sit down and take a deep breath."

We are all supporting each other wherever we are in the world, without saying, "Let me do this for you, you poor thing, how will you get along without us"—no, no. Just by being present. And as I've said many times, your zazen is your best teacher. Zazen washes away all conceptual thought, and makes the mind clear and fresh. You all have your own zazen mind, so listen to it. Your zazen mind teaches you about just how far you are going, just how much you trust, just how willing you are to believe in this mind, just how clearly you are coming to understand with your bones, your skin, your marrow, what this is about.

Through your zazen, you are giving up your discriminating attitudes and becoming absolutely clear and still. Sometimes you experience great pain, yet you remain sitting, sitting, sitting, not giving up, awake to everything. Sometimes it's noisy outside: chainsaws, children playing, people laughing and talking. It's all O.K., because you're awake to everything, to every single thing. If somebody makes a noise in the zendo, it's O.K. If somebody cries, it's fine. Cars go by and beep: no problem. Planes fly overhead: fine. Cats meow, dogs bark: good. Nothing is a disturbance when your zazen condition has become firm and clear. All judgmental attitudes about whether or not those noises are disturbing simply fall away.

It's one thing to sit in ideal conditions in the zendo, but we need to be ready to sit anywhere, on the streetcar, on the bus, anywhere! The world goes on, the sounds go on, the raindrops fall, the wind blows, and we are learning all this acceptance of it through our bodies, which sit still no matter what. If you want to memorize things in books about how to practice, fine, but it's not the same, is it. You don't read the menu to taste the food.

- Wednesday, August 09, 2017 at 05:22:44 (EDT)

2017-07-12 - Pimmit Road Park

~6.2 miles @ ~12.4 min/mi

"Kristin is taking the low ones for the Team, and I'm handling the higher ones!" says Cait, brushing spider webs off her face, as the Dawn Patrol runs down stairs and across a narrow bridge over the creek. It's a humid summer morning, already warm. Rabbit Count = 3, one seen by each of us. We discover a new cut-through, between Arch Drive and tiny Pimmit Road Park.

"Can I get that for my birthday?" Kristin and Cait have been teaching younger family members to make Toy Department wish-lists for the future — good training in deferred pleasure. Lawn sprinklers pop up as we pass. Stiff-legged dogs take their owners out for early walks.


- Tuesday, August 08, 2017 at 04:50:28 (EDT)

Mathematical Illumination

From Eugenia Cheng's Beyond Infinity, Chapter 10:

One of the strange features of mathematics is that it is there whether or not we see or understand it, just like when we're on a train the scenery is there whether or not we look out of the window or know what it is that is going past. Understanding the mathematics that is there can enable people to build better systems and solve more complicated problems. But it can also shed light on how we interact with the world around us, and on how our minds work. Illumination is a more subtle and less dramatic result than solving a specific problem or building a specific technology, but to me it is very fundamental and far-reaching in its quiet importance.

- Monday, August 07, 2017 at 04:24:14 (EDT)

2017-07-10 - Coney Count

~6.1 miles @ ~13.7 min/mi

21 Bun Salute! — the Dawn Patrol this morning spies a score plus one of rabbits as we meander through West McLean and Lewinsville Heights, to tie last year's record coney count (cf. 2016-07-01 - Rabbit Run).

"If you can spell it, I'll tell you what it means and when you can use it!" Kristin explains her house policy toward kids' questions about naughty words. Cait recalls dodging a bullet and NOT being responsible for enhancing her young niece's vocabulary. Kerry reports that she survived a weekend of family luncheons and dinners, thanks in part to running 13 miles on Saturday.


- Sunday, August 06, 2017 at 05:32:49 (EDT)

2017-07-09 - Leland and CCT

~12.0 miles @ ~12.9 min/mi

Bunny count in the 'hood = 10, in front yards along hilly Leland Street on the way to Bethesda. Sako & Barry each spy another during our final mile. Rebecca sends me on a sprint to catch Ken at mile 9 (split 9:11, whew!). Gayatri ran long yesterday and enjoys this morning with us. We discuss the best local restaurants to get samosas and other Indian food.


- Sunday, August 06, 2017 at 05:30:13 (EDT)

Howards End - Night Walk

From Chapter XIV of Howards End by E M Forster, an extraordinary description of a long walk through the night — an amazing, adventuresome walk, that transcends literature and interpretation and just is — a reminder that "words ... are no more than a finger pointing at the moon: Always go for the moon":

Said Helen, "No doubt it's another beautiful book, but I'd rather hear about your road."

"Oh, I walked."

"How far?"

"I don't know, nor for how long. It got too dark to see my watch."

"Were you walking alone, may I ask?"

"Yes," he said, straightening himself; "but we'd been talking it over at the office. There's been a lot of talk at the office lately about these things. The fellows there said one steers by the Pole Star, and I looked it up in the celestial atlas, but once out of doors everything gets so mixed."

"Don't talk to me about the Pole Star," interrupted Helen, who was becoming interested. "I know its little ways. It goes round and round, and you go round after it."

"Well, I lost it entirely. First of all the street lamps, then the trees, and towards morning it got cloudy."

Tibby, who preferred his comedy undiluted, slipped from the room. He knew that this fellow would never attain to poetry, and did not want to hear him trying.

Margaret and Helen remained. Their brother influenced them more than they knew; in his absence they were stirred to enthusiasm more easily.

"Where did you start from?" cried Margaret. "Do tell us more."

"I took the Underground to Wimbledon. As I came out of the office I said to myself, 'I must have a walk once in a way. If I don't take this walk now, I shall never take it.' I had a bit of dinner at Wimbledon, and then--"

"But not good country there, is it?"

"It was gas-lamps for hours. Still, I had all the night, and being out was the great thing. I did get into woods, too, presently."

"Yes, go on," said Helen.

"You've no idea how difficult uneven ground is when it's dark."

"Did you actually go off the roads?"

"Oh yes. I always meant to go off the roads, but the worst of it is that it's more difficult to find one's way.

"Mr. Bast, you're a born adventurer," laughed Margaret. "No professional athlete would have attempted what you've done. It's a wonder your walk didn't end in a broken neck. Whatever did your wife say?"

"Professional athletes never move without lanterns and compasses," said Helen. "Besides, they can't walk. It tires them. Go on."

"I felt like R. L. S. You probably remember how in Virginibus."

"Yes, but the wood. This 'ere wood. How did you get out of it?"

"I managed one wood, and found a road the other side which went a good bit uphill. I rather fancy it was those North Downs, for the road went off into grass, and I got into another wood. That was awful, with gorse bushes. I did wish I'd never come, but suddenly it got light—just while I seemed going under one tree. Then I found a road down to a station, and took the first train I could back to London."

"But was the dawn wonderful?" asked Helen.

With unforgettable sincerity he replied, "No." The word flew again like a pebble from the sling. Down toppled all that had seemed ignoble or literary in his talk, down toppled tiresome R. L. S. and the "love of the earth" and his silk top-hat. In the presence of these women Leonard had arrived, and he spoke with a flow, an exultation, that he had seldom known.

"The dawn was only grey, it was nothing to mention—"

"Just a grey evening turned upside down. I know."

"--and I was too tired to lift up my head to look at it, and so cold too. I'm glad I did it, and yet at the time it bored me more than I can say. And besides—you can believe me or not as you choose—I was very hungry. That dinner at Wimbledon—I meant it to last me all night like other dinners. I never thought that walking would make such a difference. Why, when you're walking you want, as it were, a breakfast and luncheon and tea during the night as well, and I'd nothing but a packet of Woodbines. Lord, I did feel bad! Looking back, it wasn't what you may call enjoyment. It was more a case of sticking to it. I did stick. I—I was determined. Oh, hang it all! what's the good—I mean, the good of living in a room for ever? There one goes on day after day, same old game, same up and down to town, until you forget there is any other game. You ought to see once in a way what's going on outside, if it's only nothing particular after all."

"I should just think you ought," said Helen, sitting—on the edge of the table.

The sound of a lady's voice recalled him from sincerity, and he said: "Curious it should all come about from reading something of Richard Jefferies."

"Excuse me, Mr. Bast, but you're wrong there. It didn't. It came from something far greater."

But she could not stop him. Borrow was imminent after Jefferies—Borrow, Thoreau, and sorrow. R. L. S. brought up the rear, and the outburst ended in a swamp of books. No disrespect to these great names. The fault is ours, not theirs. They mean us to use them for sign-posts, and are not to blame if, in our weakness, we mistake the sign-post for the destination. And Leonard had reached the destination. He had visited the county of Surrey when darkness covered its amenities, and its cosy villas had re-entered ancient night. Every twelve hours this miracle happens, but he had troubled to go and see for himself. Within his cramped little mind dwelt something that was greater than Jefferies' books—the spirit that led Jefferies to write them; and his dawn, though revealing nothing but monotones, was part of the eternal sunrise that shows George Borrow Stonehenge.

- Saturday, August 05, 2017 at 06:40:59 (EDT)

2017-07-08 - Rock Creek Ramble

~20.6 miles @ ~13.4 min/mi

"Your parking lights are on!" The lady who answers a knock on her front door at 6:30am is thankful for the tip. Six rabbits dance along Kent Street in Kensington. Spiral around Warner Circle a couple of times to add a mystic symbol to the trackfile. Pause on the way to Rock Creek for a photo of a "Ewell Avenue" sign — Mary Ewell's taunt is responsible for today's mileage. The morning is warm and humid, temps rising into the 80s.

"Just arrived," texts Kerry, 30 seconds before I crest the hill to join her and Cait at Ken-Gar. Lure them into a hill climb until Rebecca appears and introduces us to her neighbor Paul, who was standing patiently by the trail, unrecognized. Trot upstream and back, pick up Barry, then repeat. Escort Caitlin (who has a deadline) back, ditto Barry several miles later, then add bonus distance to get the rest into the 12+ zone.

"Pizza! Iced coffee! Argentinian barbecue! Coke Slurpee!" Conversation turns to comestibles as blood sugar drops. Packs of training-group runners greet us as they sprint along RCT. "Howdy!" to Adeline, Mike, Michele, et al.!


- Friday, August 04, 2017 at 04:10:04 (EDT)

No Separation

From Chapter 22 ("Time Unfolds") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart:

Rain is falling; snowflakes are falling; the sun is shining. Everything is happening right now, at this moment. To talk about it is easy, but to really experience it—this is why we sit, sit, sit. We are told, "You have Buddha-nature from the very beginning, so what is there to do?" But unless we know this from the depths of our hearts, through our strong, disciplined zazen, we cannot express it in our lives. Each one of us must have our own experience. No one else's experience can be superimposed on ours. We are led astray by our egocentric thinking, our dwelling on "me." Of course, our ordinary consciousness has to be involved with what we need to do, what we should wear, where we are going, what food we should eat, where we should live, and so on. But here, during these days of just sitting, we drop all of that. Here, we have everything we need right at this moment. And when we go back to our everyday lives, perhaps we will see more clearly the things we can let go of there, too. Perhaps we don't need quite so much, quite so many things. Perhaps we can be less grabby. Having changed our attitude a little bit after sitting, sitting, sitting, we are able to see more clearly what our life is about.

There is no final realization. In this no-knowing, wondering-on, openhearted condition of mind, we face directly whatever comes—good, bad, ugly, beautiful. We don't push anything under the rug, we don't buffer it with something; we experience it fully. Just listening . . . when somebody strikes the gong, becoming one with that sound, not reflecting, "Oh, that's the sound of the gong," but just being that sound. No separation; nothing but gong, nothing but this very moment.

- Thursday, August 03, 2017 at 05:02:05 (EDT)

2017-07-07 - Pine Hill Connection

~5.2 miles @ ~13.8 min/mi

"Coyote Taco was just across the street!" The Dawn Patrol discovers a new cut-through, from Pine Hill Rd to Dolley Madison Blvd, a pedestrian pathway that we've passed by hundreds of times on the other side without noticing. A lovely front-yard garden beckons, graced with pink flamingo statues and flowing water. Echinacea and hydrangeas bloom in profusion. It's already a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Gentle rain patters down.

"Dynamite it?" - "Make it into a flower planter?" - "Carve a statue of a mermaid?" - "Maybe a basketball player?" Kerry seeks ideas for what to do with the remnants of a soon-to-be-removed dead tree in front of her house. Kristin comments on her talkative daughter, whose brother calls her "Motor-mouth!". Cait tiptoes on slippery stones, then jumps off to just run on the mud. An upcoming visit to Dublin for a U2 concert brings to mind the Broome Bridge there, where mathematician Hamilton invented a new number system, the Quaternions. (Maybe that could be a band name?)


- Wednesday, August 02, 2017 at 04:20:15 (EDT)

Rocket Science

Rocket Science is
"Rocket Science"

... the complex, when properly understood, is actually simple ... and vice versa!

- Tuesday, August 01, 2017 at 05:30:09 (EDT)

2017-07-05 - Metro Survey

~5.9 miles @ ~13.8 min/mi

"Whoa!" A misoriented sprinkler suddenly spews a stream across the sidewalk and wets our shins as Dr Kristin and I trot along Idlywood Rd. Oppressive humidity turns into a few drops of light rain. Bunny count in the 'hood is 2, both spied on the path in Pimmit View Park. Looking down from an overpass we speculate about the function of extra rails visible on the Metro tracks between the main rails (guard rails to prevent or limit a derailment?).


- Monday, July 31, 2017 at 04:13:32 (EDT)

Progress in Math

From Eugenia Cheng's Beyond Infinity, Chapter 4:

Mathematics can sometimes seem like a process of never getting anywhere, because every time you work out something new, it just reveals all the other things you don't know. And it's hard to keep track of where we've come from, because once we understand something, it can be hard to remember how difficult it used to be. I often feel like I'm making no progress in math because everything I already know seems easy and everything I haven't done yet is difficult (otherwise I'd already have done it).

- Sunday, July 30, 2017 at 05:18:00 (EDT)

2017-07-04 - Barry Belvedere Hillwork

~8.4 miles @ ~13.4 min/mi

"No puking, Leftenant Smythe!" Barry has just finished running four repeats up the median of Belvedere Blvd, a relentless climb that brings to mind Maryland Heights treks-of-legend by Dr Stephanie. Well, admittedly this is 60' instead of 1200' elevation gain, a 1/20th scale model — close enough, eh?!

We warm up by meandering around the 'hood, reminiscing about songs by Eric Burdon and the Animals. A fleet chipmunk scampers across Woodman Av. Rabbit count = 4, plus one more that Barry spies in his front yard flower bed after the run.


- Saturday, July 29, 2017 at 04:48:26 (EDT)

Howards End - Buildings

From Chapter VI of Howards End by E M Forster, a beautiful image of "progress":

Here he stopped again, and glanced suspiciously to right and left, like a rabbit that is going to bolt into its hole. A block of flats, constructed with extreme cheapness, towered on either hand. Farther down the road two more blocks were being built, and beyond these an old house was being demolished to accommodate another pair. It was the kind of scene that may be observed all over London, whatever the locality—bricks and mortar rising and falling with the restlessness of the water in a fountain as the city receives more and more men upon her soil. Camelia Road would soon stand out like a fortress, and command, for a little, an extensive view. Only for a little. Plans were out for the erection of flats in Magnolia Road also. And again a few years, and all the flats in either road might be pulled down, and new buildings, of a vastness at present unimaginable, might arise where they had fallen.

- Friday, July 28, 2017 at 04:13:56 (EDT)

2017-07-03 - Potomac Random-Walk

~20.5 miles @ ~14.5 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/CO_Canal_Kristin_z_by_choi_2017-07-03.jpg"Plan? Why start now?" At mile 9 Cait responds to my apology for not designing our route in advance. At 0530 on a humid pre-holiday Monday Lucas joins the Dawn Patrol at the Teddy Roosevelt Island parking lot. Soon Janet arrives, after (like me) taking a series of wrong turns and enjoying an unanticipated "area familiarization" tour. While awaiting her we ramble a mile out-and-back. The island itself is closed so the Park Service can remove trees infested with emerald ash borer beetles. "Could we climb the fence? Or swim across? Or leap down from the bridge, ninja-style?" We decide against.
"Let's start with the Potomac Heritage 50k course — backwards!" Cross Key Bridge, hook down to the C&O Canal towpath via Francis Scott Key Memorial mini-park, and head upstream to Fletchers Boathouse. Two great blue herons peer at us as we trot past. Kerry spots three turtles swimming just below the surface of the water. Kristin gently suggests that it might be suboptimal to crawl through the pipe under Macarthur Ave and pick up deer ticks going through the woods along the stream. So we head back down the Potomac, pausing for photos at the Einstein statue, and return to TR Island via the 14th St Bridge and the Mount Vernon Trail. Kerry plans to see fireworks on the 4th of July at the National Mall, for the first time in 25+ years.

Back at our start Janet, with meetings to attend, punches out. Kristin wisely does likewise, after checking her feet and discovering incipient blisters. Lucas, Cait, and Kerry take the Custis Trail out-and-back to add half a dozen final miles.We pause at Starbucks for iced coffee and tea.



- Thursday, July 27, 2017 at 04:23:57 (EDT)

Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman paints nightmares, brilliantly. His short novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013) brings beautiful language and terrifying situations, but like a dream lacks coherence. One thing happens after another, the plot advances, creatures and characters glide out of the mist, new rules appear with arbitrary regularity, and ultimately nothing much matters. As in a dream, there are powerful echoes of myths and fables from the past, poetic voices, memories and mirrors. All nicely done, scary but ... discouragingly empty.

- Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at 04:48:21 (EDT)

2017-07-01 - MCRRC Little Bennett 10k XC

~6.9 miles @ ~10.2 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MCRRC_Little_Bennet_10k_XC_2017_z_Bird_mile_6.jpg"Half a mile to go, Sir!" Not much else to offer a runner who's retching into the bushes beside the trail. Hills, heat, and humidity slow everyone's pace in today's cross-country race, the MCRRC Little Bennett 10k (-ish) held in a park near Clarksburg Maryland. Comrade Barry kindly drives Ken and me there in the codgermobile, fueled outbound by much geezerly banter and during the return trip by a pause at Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins.

"Are we guaranteed to get wet feet? Yay!" My 'tude amuses RD Monika Bachmann as she describes the course pre-event. The race begins at 0730, after an acoustic guitar rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" and applause for the Park Service. Fast runners pull me along at a sub-10 min/mi pace for the first hour, aided by stretches of the course along gravel roads. Little Bennett Creek is only ankle-deep this year, fun to splash-dash across. Roots and rocks make Barry take a tumble and scrape his arm and shin. Ken's close encounter with Nature reminds me of Uncle Toby's wound in Tristram Shandy: when asked where he was injured, Toby always answered geospatially rather than anatomically.

Official result: 72nd of 116 total finishers - 3rd of 6 in the 60-64 year old male age group, 59th of 81 males - gun time 1:09:52. (photo by J Bird)


- Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at 04:43:46 (EDT)

Beyond Infinity

Eugenia Cheng — category theorist, musician, essayist — is the author of Beyond Infinity: An Expedition to the Outer Limits of Mathematics, a lovely book that describes itself perfectly at the end of Chapter 1:

In a strange way, this book isn't about infinity at all. It's about the excitement of a journey into the abstract unknown. Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth wasn't really about the center of the earth, but about the excitement of an incredible journey. This is a book about how abstract thinking works and what it does for us. It's about how it helps us pin down what we really mean when we start having an interesting idea. It doesn't necessarily explain the whole idea; mathematics doesn't explain everything about infinity. But it does help us become clear about what we can and can't do with infinity.


You can get by perfectly well in life without understanding anything more about infinity than you did when you were five years old. But for me, the usefulness of mathematics isn't about whether you need it to "get by" in life or not. It's about how mathematical thinking and mathematical investigation sheds light on our thought processes. It's about taking a step back from something to get a better overview. Flying higher up in the sky enables us to travel farther and faster.

Let's go.

... and an awesome journey it is! Further quotes and commentary to follow ...

(cf. Transfinite Meaning (1999-07-31), Roots of Commensurability (2000-01-26), Roads to Infinity (2010-10-06), Meta Math by Gregory Chaitin (2011-08-30), Cakes, Custard, and Category Theory (2016-02-14), Roads to Infinity Revisited (2016-06-16), Ingressive vs Congressive (2017-07-08), ...)

- Monday, July 24, 2017 at 04:43:43 (EDT)

2017-06-30 - Code Orange

~6.6 miles @ ~10.7 min/mi

"The Naked Crayon!" Cait's young niece Riley loves the book The Day the Crayons Quit. We remember a classic tale of metacognitive frame-escape, Harold and the Purple Crayon. A Code Orange air quality alert this morning continues the color theme. Salty sweat stings eyes during walk breaks.

"Let's not sit on the horse!" A mustang statue symbolizes George Marshall High School. We meander cross-country to find a way through the maze of fences that protect the track there, then jog a lap (time = 2:10). Three big bunnies hop into the brush at Lemon Road Park.


- Sunday, July 23, 2017 at 06:49:18 (EDT)

We Are One

From Chapter 22 ("Time Unfolds") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart:

The first rule of zazen, handed down from generation to generation, is to have compassion for all beings, and a deep longing to save all of them. We must practice samadhi meditation with great care, promising to ferry all sentient beings over to the other shore. We refuse to practice zazen only for our own emancipation. At the end of each of our activities together, we chant the Four Great Vows, beginning with the vow to save all sentient beings. This vow is based on the fact that we are one with all beings.

(cf. 01 (2013-11-05), Mantra - Ditto (2015-08-30), Mantra - No Others (2016-06-27), Mantra - We Are One (2017-04-18), ...)

- Saturday, July 22, 2017 at 04:40:37 (EDT)

2017-06-28 - Fervent in the Spirit

~6.6 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

"Fervent in the spirit, prudent in counsel, abundant in labors, skillful in winning souls, he was a workman that needed not to be ashamed." So reads the grave site monument to William Watters, "the first native itinerant Methodist preacher in America" (1751-1827). Kerry leads the Dawn Patrol to a tiny urban oasis, the Adams-Wren-Watters cemetery on the grounds of St John the Beloved Catholic Church, where more than 30 are buried.

"Two more rabbits!" Kristin and Cait spy half a dozen today, plus a big fox near Old Dominion Dr. We make plans for the next long run, give thanks for today's cool weather, and share news. At the McLean HS track a couple of us sprint a 1:40 lap. Whee!


- Friday, July 21, 2017 at 04:25:32 (EDT)

2017-06-26 - Sign Language

~7.3 miles @ ~12.2 min/mi

"They were signing to their dogs, and the dogs UNDERSTOOD!" As we cross Route 7 Kerry tells of a weekend encounter at a dog park, where hearing-impaired owners used ASL to communicate with their pets. Cait recalls taking her then-infant niece Riley to the Mardi Gras, where the 18-month-old kept signing "More! More!" when offered beads. We trot through Tysons Corner as the rising sun glints off glass-clad office buildings, air cool and relatively low-humidity. Kristin's kids have kept her well-grounded over the weekend.


- Thursday, July 20, 2017 at 05:17:23 (EDT)

Howards End

Beautiful language, thoughtful insights: Howards End by E. M. Forster (1910) is a classic that one may regret not having read sooner — or perhaps better, feel grateful for having had the chance to read, however belatedly. It resonates with the best of Charles Dickens and P. G. Wodehouse, and sometimes has the feel of the film Stranger Than Fiction, with its omniscient narrator's commentary and its fascinating characters wrestling with what it means to be human. And the themes! Love and strife, poverty and wealth, men and women, art and nature ...

And always, such metaphorical sharpness, such striking prose! For example, in Chapter II a description of the city:

She broke off, and listened to the sounds of a London morning. Their house was in Wickham Place, and fairly quiet, for a lofty promontory of buildings separated it from the main thoroughfare. One had the sense of a backwater, or rather of an estuary, whose waters flowed in from the invisible sea, and ebbed into a profound silence while the waves without were still beating. Though the promontory consisted of flats—expensive, with cavernous entrance halls, full of concierges and palms—it fulfilled its purpose, and gained for the older houses opposite a certain measure of peace. These, too, would be swept away in time, and another promontory would arise upon their site, as humanity piled itself higher and higher on the precious soil of London.

More lovely bits to follow ...

- Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at 04:31:44 (EDT)

2017-06-25 - RCT with Friends

~15.3 miles @ ~12.9 min/mi

"Did you see that big red fox? Awesome!" At dawn the huge predator dashes across Rock Creek Trail between an approaching runner and me. A stag under the Capital Beltway bridge nibbles leaves from a low-hanging branch. A mile later, doe and fawn stand beside the trail. In front of Caitlin's home I text a pic of the GPS map display to her. "Good morning!" she replies. She's at Ken-Gar before me and waves as I approach. Soon-to-be-Grandpa Ken emerges from his car. Gayatri and Rebecca join us for a brisk run upstream and back. We drop off Ken and pick up Barry.

"Suds and Soles!" Volunteer course marshal service at last night's 5k race for Barry included lots of orange traffic cones and free beer. "Want some free coffee?" I offer, in exchange for a ride home (which he would have provided anyway). Cait and Rebecca race ahead as we trot out-and-back, meet/greet flocks of FTM (First Time Marathon) folks doing a long training run, and count 5 rabbits trailside plus more deer.


- Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at 07:16:05 (EDT)

Our Job

perhaps our Job
is to love this World
and All its imperfections
to help Others in their hard times
... and to accept their help in Ours

(cf. Three Thoughts (2004-11-21), Our Job for the Rest of Our Life (2015-07-18), ...)

- Monday, July 17, 2017 at 06:25:32 (EDT)

2017-06-24 - Trolley Trail with Barry and Sako

~8.2 miles @ ~13.0 min/mi

"Before I was human, I was a frog!" Sakurako listens to loud croaks as they carom and echo across the wetlands at KenGar. In downtown Tokyo, when she was an infant and fretful, her mother would calm her by taking her to a local pond where she could hear the frogs calling. We run up the hill together, then circle back to meet Barry and head south. Rock Creek Trail is busy with marathon training groups. Huge puddles on the pathway are the remnants of tropical storm Cindy's passage early this morning.

"Change is the only constant!" At Beach Drive one of us (guess who?) calls for unpredictability, adventure, something different, a new route. Sako and Barry humor him: Westward ho! At the Bethesda Trolley Trail we turn north, then close the loop via Garrett Park.


- Sunday, July 16, 2017 at 06:04:15 (EDT)

2017-06-23 - Curriculum Circuit

~4.4 miles @ ~11.9 min/mi

"Bottom Line Up Front! Minimum Viable Product!" McLean rain makes for a soggy jog around Dr Kerry's extended 'hood, with dawn's glow low between clouds on the eastern horizon. We muse about elements of a good sales pitch for a new initiative. Little stone statuettes of rabbits are the only bunnies spied this morning. Conversation turns to curricula to enhance thinking and help people analyze hard problems. (As a friend notes later, there's a big difference between teaching individual methods versus designing a proper program of study. "Courses pop up like mushrooms after a rainfall", SMB notes - but they aren't integrated to help learners acquire key "knowledge, skills, and abilities".)

"Wonder who lives there?" Secret Service agents, or clones thereof, stand watch next to black limos in front of a mansion with gold-filigreed gateways. We're thankful for health, families, friendships, and the chance to help others in need.


- Saturday, July 15, 2017 at 05:04:45 (EDT)

Mantra - Deal with It and Move On

  with It
        Move On!

expanding Mantra - Move On, quoting Rayna Matsuno's report on getting lost during an ultramarathon:

Joyce and John Dodds showed up and eventually our large group found the right way back onto the trail. I walked alongside Joyce and expressed my frustration. Joyce looked me straight in the eye and said, "This is where that sense of humor comes in. Sh*t happens. You just have to deal with it and move on." I thought about the time I almost dropped at BRR. Joyce told me back then to just keep moving, and that it was OK to take it easy if I wasn't having a good day. She saved me then and she saved me at Laurel.

As we approached the trail, I was determined to find my groove again, and a mile or so later, I finally did. The rest of the run was incredibly enjoyable. It was amazing to be surrounded by fields of ferns and run between tall rock formations. Everything was so beautiful, and the light rain topped it all off.

... and yes! — everything is so beautiful — this is an awesome world, and offers us all so much ...

(cf. MoveOn (2007-01-16), ...)

- Friday, July 14, 2017 at 04:30:45 (EDT)

2017-06-21 - Summer Solstice Anacostia Adventure

~19 miles @ ~15 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Dawn_Patrol_anacostia_2017-06-21_b.jpg"15 What?" Cait asks as we approach the middle of the National Mall.

"15 Miles!" is the reply. Today is her longest trek ever, a Dawn Patrol summer solstice Anacostia adventure.

Our odyssey tour takes in landmarks of downtown Washington DC: Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln, the World War II memorial, Union Station, and more. We explore part of the new Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. It's a warm day but less humid than some recent soggy ones.http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Dawn_Patrol_anacostia_2017-06-21_c.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Dawn_Patrol_anacostia_2017-06-21_d.jpg"Did the ancient Romans run around the Colosseum? Did the Greeks do hillwork to the Acropolis?" we muse on the climb to the 14th Street bridge. Kerry pauses for selfies at Nats Stadium. Kristin suggests we consider closing the loop via a trail along the east bank of the Potomac.
A red-winged blackbird perches on the South Capitol St bridge. Cait gets gummy bears at Union Station; Kerry and I snag iced coffee; Kristin goes for an ice cream cone.

"Try something new!" counsels the unicorn oracle card drawn last night. We do!



- Thursday, July 13, 2017 at 05:57:26 (EDT)

Systems Dynamics Advice

Humbling thoughts from the introductory pages of John Sterman's textbook Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World, starting in the Preface:


Realistic and useful models are almost always of such complexity and nonlinearity that there are no known analytic solutions, and many of the mathematical tools you have studied have limited applicability. This book will help you use your strong technical background to develop your intuition and conceptual understanding of complexity and dynamics. Modeling human behavior differs from modeling physical systems in engineering and the sciences. We cannot put managers up on the lab bench and run experiments to determine their transfer function or frequency response. We believe all electrons follow the same laws of physics, but we cannot assume all people behave in the same way. Besides a solid grounding in the mathematics of dynamic systems, modeling human systems requires us to develop our knowledge of psychology, decision making, and organizational behavior. Finally, mathematical analysis, while necessary, is far from sufficient for successful systems thinking and modeling. For your work to have impact in the real world you must learn how to develop and implement models of human behavior in organizations, with all their ambiguity, time pressure, personalities, and politics. Throughout the book I have sought to illustrate how the technical tools and mathematical concepts you may have studied in the sciences or engineering can be applied to the messy world of the policy maker.

... and from Chapter 1, Section 1, a metaphor:

The challenge facing us all is how to move from generalizations about accelerating learning and systems thinking to tools and processes that help us understand complexity, design better operating policies, and guide changes in systems from the smallest business to the planet as a whole. However, learning about complex systems while you also live in them is difficult. We are all passengers on an aircraft we must not only fly but redesign in flight.

(cf. Forecasting Lessons from Systems Dynamics (2017-07-05), ...)

- Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 04:32:16 (EDT)

2017-06-19 - Bunnies and Fireflies

~4.7 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

"This singlet must have shrunk!" I refuse to accept any other explanation for my exposed midriff. Cait laughs and recalls similar shrinkage among her husband's shirts. The Dawn Patrol rambles short on a humid-warm morning, orange-tinged clouds to the east, intermittent welcome west winds. In Pimmit View Park we chase a rabbit that refuses to leave the path.

"He thought they were aliens!" Kristin tells of her young dog's amazement at his first firefly encounter. An azure-hued classic car parked near mile 1 features eye-catching, uh, artwork that depicts the undraped feminine form. Decal or painting, one wonders?


- Tuesday, July 11, 2017 at 04:35:40 (EDT)

Listening Practice

From Chapter 22 ("Time Unfolds") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart:

Not resisting, we breathe in the sound of the rain, of the birds, of the gong, of our feet as we walk on this wonderful squeaky floor—not resisting, we breathe these sounds in, we breathe them out. We dissolve into them, and they into us. This is listening practice, just being present with each sound, whatever it is: cars passing by, a fire engine zooming along making a terrific noise, every kind of sound. Nothing is a disturbance, nothing is an intrusion.

- Monday, July 10, 2017 at 04:12:30 (EDT)

2017-06-18 - Rock Creek Ramble with Dean

~10.2 miles @ ~12.6 min/mi

"The hair style of #2 - NOT a runner!" Celebrity-marathoner Dean Karnazes was on the new "To Tell the Truth" TV game show a few months ago, and Dean Palmer quotes the reason one panelist gave for voting against him. We dash along Rock Creek Trail together, pace ~10 min/mi for the first 4 miles today. Parking at KenGar overflows into the neighborhood as a training group arrives early on a hot and hyper-humid morning.

"Rats with hooves!" a lady describes the two big deer who stand by the path. "Four-legged locusts!" Ken and Rebecca catch us, then Gayatri and Barry. We turn back to pick up Sako and Win. A side path beckons at Dewey Park; Gayatri and I explore it until spider webs, poison ivy, and the threat of ticks force us to retreat. Further downstream I investigate it from the opposite direction. We finish up with a sweaty hill climb.


- Sunday, July 09, 2017 at 04:27:44 (EDT)

Ingressive vs Congressive

Eugenia Cheng is a thoughtful person, a mathematician, a musician/artist, and a writer (cf. her book Cakes, Custard, and Category Theory). In mid-2017 she spoke on a podcast "Greater Than Code" with Coraline Ada Ehmke, Rein Henrichs, Jessica Kerr about important issues of society, archetypal male/female styles, collaboration, organization, and life:

... I decided that we should have new words to replace masculine and feminine and I brainstormed with an amazing friend of mine for ages about this. We finally came up with ingressive and congressive. Ingressive is to replace masculine and congressive is to replace feminine.

The idea is that ingressive is about going into things and not being waylaid by what people think or by emotions and congressive is about bringing people with you and bringing people together and unifying and making connections between things. ...


... broadly speaking, I've come to think that congressive behavior is basically better for society but that ingressive behavior is rewarded more by society because society is based on competition. It's based on how you present yourself so for things like competing for a job, you have to be ingressive to put yourself forward for promotion and to talk about how great you are. Whereas, when you're actually doing some work with people, then it's really helpful to be congressive because then you bring people together, you understand people. ...


... There are ways to be congressive and deal with ingressive behavior. It's just hard and I'm figuring them out as I go along and what I hope is that we can gradually getting more in touch with our congressive side and find a way of diffusing ingressive behavior so that congressive behavior can be more valued because the trouble is that ingressive behavior is kind of louder. It's like the fact that the loud people are always the loudest. They're the ones who get heard. While ingressive people aren't in charge of everything, they will continue to reward ingressive behavior as well. I think that is one of the big reasons why women are underrepresented in politics, in management, in academia, and dare I say it, also in crime because I suspect that ingressive behavior is also related to really, really being focused on winning and not really caring about losing ...


... the ingressive people aren't put off by being wrong. They're really spurred on by the joy of being right and that, I think means that there is an accidental filter that puts off congressive people and keeps ingressive people in. I think this could lead to why women are still underrepresented in math. I think that we can change that by presenting math in a congressive way early on, instead of an ingressive way. There's so many mathematical outreach activities that I look at them and go, "That's really ingressive and there are ways that you could turn it into something congressive." But you know, if you said that about boys and girls instead of ingressive and congressive, you would sound ridiculous because then you would end up saying, "This outreach activity appeals to boys and not girls." Doesn't that sound stupid? Whereas ...


... There are two kinds of argument — well, there are lots of kind of argument — but there's an ingressive argument where everyone is trying to win and the way you win is by showing that you're clever than the other person and that they're wrong. Whereas, I really like congressive arguments where the aim is to understand something. Then it doesn't matter who is right and who's wrong because whatever happens, you learn something and you've understood it. ...


... I think a lot of the writing about how women can be successful is about teaching them how to be ingressive so that they can compete with men. That works for some people and I've met plenty of really ingressive women who become successful at that and who are proud of themselves for having done it. But I think there's another way, which is to find ways of congressively dealing with ingressive behavior and I fantasize, and this is a kind of abstract dream again, where I fantasize about not an all-women institution. I've worked in all-women institutions and all that happens is there are ingressive and congressive women and the ingressive women take control and that's that.

What I fantasize about is an all-congressive institution, where everyone is chosen because they're congressive and everyone works together congressively and though, staff are working at congressive, I'm not quite sure what it would be like because it so far from things that I know. But I've tried to set some things up small microcosms like that for myself. For example, any class I teach is very, very congressive. I try to make it explicitly congressive so that it's all about understanding things. ...


... if we think ingressively, then we think about blame. But if we think congressively, then we see a system as a whole. Then we realize that it's a system that we should be thinking about, not the individuals. I think that's a congressive way of thinking. ...

(cf. Proverbs, Rules, Bureaucracies (2000-07-12), Talent for Collaboration (2001-12-08), Keith Johnstone Improv Quotes (2012-12-06), Mantra - Yes, and... (2016-01-30), ...)

- Saturday, July 08, 2017 at 05:20:40 (EDT)

2017-06-17 - Leland Street with Barry

~10.4 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

"I thought you were supposed to be pulling me along!" Barry and I take turns taking the hills of Leland St on a warm-and-humid morn. Six rabbits nibble front lawn grass; three chipmunks dance across the road. We follow a narrow trail along the west bank of Rock Creek, brush against nettles, and pause to rinse legs using water from our bottles.

"Mundanes might freak out at the sight. Weak ones could swoon," I explain, as I put my singlet back on when we return to civilization or what passes for it. Earlier, on the solo run from home to our rendezvous I push hard and do mile two in 8.3 minutes by the GPS. Waiting for others to arrive I meander around downtown Bethesda. An exhausted runner sits outside a shop and catches her breath. The verge of the art-fountain-sculpture quotes Winnie the Pooh: IT IS MORE FUN TO TALK WITH SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T USE LONG, DIFFICULT WORDS BUT RATHER SHORT, EASY WORDS LIKE "WHAT ABOUT LUNCH?"



- Friday, July 07, 2017 at 04:32:39 (EDT)

2017-06-16 - Dr Amber Visits

~6.5 miles @ ~11.7 min/mi

"You carried those shoes across the Atlantic Ocean just to run with us? Thank you!" As rain begins to patter down the Dawn Patrol welcomes Dr Amber, in town for work and up early on the last day before her return flight. Kerry reports on a long night of high school graduation parties. Cait's raccoon trap caught two critters yesterday. We meander through Langley Forest and assess the local mansion construction boom. Snaky roots threaten to snag ankles on dirt cut-throughs between neighborhoods; pathways are narrowed by flourishing bushes. We pause at the Heather Brook Court statue of mermaids to send a group selfie to Dr Kristin, who can't join us today.


- Thursday, July 06, 2017 at 06:58:22 (EDT)

Forecasting Lessons from Systems Dynamics

From the textbook Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World by John D Sterman, Section 16.5 ("Implications for Forecast Consumers"):

The results suggest important lessons for forecasters and especially for managers and decision makers who must choose which forecasts and forecasting methods to buy.

First, most forecasts are not very good. Forecasts are most accurate when the underlying dynamics are stable, as when predicting the influence of regular phenomena such as seasonal variations. But forecasting methods are particularly poor when there are changes in trends, noise, and other sources of turbulence. These are precisely the times when people are most interested in forecasts.

Second, most forecasting methods frequently miss changes in trends and turning points in cycles, lagging behind rather than anticipating them. The systematic errors in forecasts of inflation, commodity prices, energy use, and other variables strongly suggest adaptive expectations and simple trend extrapolation often dominate professional forecasts. These methods do correct errors over time, but because they involve smoothing past data, they inevitably introduce delays that cause the forecasts to miss key turning points and shifts in growth rates.

Third, smoothing and extrapolation of the past trend in the variable itself seems to dominate other considerations in forecasting. Though forecasters often claim to (and indeed may) examine a wide range of variables in making their forecasts, past values and past trends strongly anchor their forecasts. The influence of other variables is weak because their connections to the target variable are poorly understood, unstable, noisy, and ambiguous. Forecasters often behave as if they were using simple smoothing and naive extrapolation even when they are using complicated formal models. They adjust the parameters and values of exogenous inputs until the output of the model is "reasonable," that is, until it matches their intuition. Intuition, however, is biased by a variety of judgmental heuristics and tends to be strongly anchored to recent trends.

Fourth, forecasters tend to underestimate uncertainty in their forecasts, often failing to provide a range, alternative scenarios, or a list of factors to which their forecasts are sensitive (see the overconfidence bias, section 8.2.5).

How then can managers improve the value they get from forecasts? Fight against the overconfidence bias by explicitly challenging assumptions and asking how your expectations might be wrong (for practical examples, see Russo and Schoemaker 1989). Require forecasters to document their assumptions, make their data sources explicit, and specify the methods they are using. Don't allow forecasters to use add factoring (chapter 21 discusses standards for replicability and rigor in modeling).

Even so, improving forecast accuracy is difficult. The best way to improve the benefit/cost ratio of forecasting is to reduce the cost. The projections of expensive forecasting services and models tend to be dominated by smoothing and trend extrapolation. Managers can save a great deal of money by smoothing and extrapolating the data themselves. Forecast accuracy may not improve, but the cost of acquiring the forecasts will fall.

Finally, focus on the development of decision rules and strategies that are robust to the inevitable forecast errors. The real value of modeling is not to anticipate and react to problems in the environment but to eliminate the problems by changing the underlying structure of the system. Modelers and their clients should be designers, not diviners. In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupèry, "As for the future, your task is not to foresee, but to enable it."

(cf. Transient Behavior (1999-05-11), Fifth Disciplinarians (2000-09-10), ...)

- Wednesday, July 05, 2017 at 04:49:55 (EDT)

2017-06-14 - Tale of Peter Rabbit

~7.3 miles @ ~13.7 min/mi

"Now I'm just smiling!" It's a natural reaction to the sight of me carrying an ultra-cute plush toy Peter Rabbit under my arm for the last few miles of today's Dawn Patrol. The big doll is standing by Dempsey St with a sign that says "FREE", so of course someone must rescue it! The Dawn Patrol rambles toward a rising sun, thankful that the morning isn't as warm and humid as the day will soon be. Opalocka Dr demands a detour to admire the bungalows. Three real bunnies nibble front lawn grass.

"Don't eat that bead! Don't lick his ear!" Kristin describes attempts to curb the over-enthusiastic antics of her family's puppy. Cait tells of testing a slip-n-slide and reports on the status of raccoon-trapping activities in her yard.


- Tuesday, July 04, 2017 at 06:25:02 (EDT)

Mantra - Beliefs Are Knobs, Not Switches

The Big Problem — the root cause of so many mistakes and fights and wasted resources — is the natural human tendency to imagine that beliefs are true or false. This is (almost always) wrong:

Belief is a Knob
    Not a Switch!

Outside of definitions and math (and even within much math) there are degrees of certainty, odds and likelihoods, ranges of numbers rather than specific answers, errors distributed across a zone, a universe of multiple possibilities.

When new information comes in — evidence — it's vital to update beliefs rather than throw them away. "Turn the Knob", more or less, based on the balance between the weight of prior knowledge and the strength of new data. That's Bayes Theorem, in a qualitative nutshell.

Don't be too sure!

(cf. Statistics - A Bayesian Perspective (2010-08-13), Introduction to Bayesian Statistics (2010-11-20), Fallibilism (2013-05-14), Adventure of the Bayesian Clocks - Part One (2013-12-04), Adventure of the Bayesian Clocks - Part Two (2014-01-05), ...)

- Monday, July 03, 2017 at 03:50:44 (EDT)

2017-06-12 - Cut-Through Confirmation

~6.7 miles @ ~13.6 min/mi

"And they just flat-out lied!" Trail talk today includes lots of head-shaking and face-palming, as we analyze how not to handle professional issues. The Dawn Patrol confirms a great new cut-through discovered last week between Windy Hill, Elmwood, and West Langley communities. Kristin spies two rabbits; Cait and I are fortuitously color-coordinated in orange, lime, and black gear. Kerry's neighbor greets her and recommends Greenberry's coffee, but the line at Starbucks is short and iced java there gives a quick boost for the final miles.


- Sunday, July 02, 2017 at 05:44:32 (EDT)

2017-06-10 - OSS-CIA 50 Miler DNF with Stephanie

~13.3 miles @ ~15.2 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/OSS_CIA_50_miler_PWFP-Hord_Stephanie_z_2017-06-10.jpg"Banana!" says John Hord at mile 8, running a few steps behind me.

"Is that the safeword?" I ask. "Will it stop the suffering? Banana! Banana!"

We're doing the OSS/CIA 50 miler, a night race that begins on a warm and humid Saturday evening in Prince William Forest Park. Dr Stephanie sets a fast pace over rocks and roots, 13-15 min/mi, a bit too brisk for me to sustain given temperature and terrain. This is a free run for me, since I won (if "won" is the right word!) an entry in the DC Capital Striders lottery a few months ago.

Charlie Poffenberger introduces himself; we chat and share running and family stories. Dipak Bhattacharyya, who played leapfrog with me along the C&O Canal towpath six weeks ago, greets us. With a few dozen others we take the 6pm early start, so headlamps aren't needed until mile 9. Ever-cheerful Gary Knipling gives us fist-bump encouragement.

"Bad news!" Stephanie reports at the 2 hour point. Her ankle injury from a Maryland Heights fall a couple of months ago has healed, but the other foot now is hurting, and getting worse, possibly with plantar fasciitis. With a big race next month, now is not the time for further injury. We tread cautiously for a few more miles, witness a copperhead snake slithering off the path (I wanted to take a selfie with it, but it got away!), and at the next aid station withdraw from the race. Toni Aurelio accepts our bibs, and Bernard Pesjak gives us a ride back to the starting line.

A beautiful moon rises in front of us as we drive home, and reminds us what's more important than finishing a race.


- Saturday, July 01, 2017 at 04:55:52 (EDT)

2017-06-07 - Stumble Tumble Scrape

~4.5 miles @ ~12.2 min/mi

"Or I could have shoved you into that pile of dog poop?" On the Paxton Road sidewalk near Pimmit Drive: stumble, stagger, nearly-recover, then fall. Oops! Kristin considers giving me a nudge toward the lawn but wisely refrains. I aim for grass but miss.

Thankfully, the tumble results in nothing worse than scraped knee and knuckles plus a bit of hip rash. Superman ring on badge chain cracks iPhone screen, but a new model is due out in a few months. Kerry and Cait offer condolences. We reminisce about injuries. The Dawn Patrol spies four front-yard rabbits as drizzle starts and stops.


- Friday, June 30, 2017 at 04:40:27 (EDT)

Mantra - Uncertainty, Kindness, Peace, Hope


(cf. Underappreciated Ideas (1999-07-06), ...)

- Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 05:15:17 (EDT)

2017-06-04 - Burmese Food

~8.3 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

"Welease Wodewick!" and then "A hospital? It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now." Barry quotes from the films Life of Brian and Airplane; I recite a bit of Gerard Manly Hopkins. On a sultry Sunday afternoon we meet at General Getty Park and ramble up Sligo Creek Trail. At Colt Terrace Neighborhood Park we pause to exercise on the children's playground equipment, then hook back via neighborhood streets to return downstream. A big deer peers at us, and a chipmunk dashes across the path. My lunch with DS Merle at the Mandalay Cafe — Burmese samosas, KaYann Thee Hin (eggplant onion curry), and Tofu Ohnno Hin (with coconut-cream curry) — was a tasty but perhaps suboptimal pre-run repast.


- Wednesday, June 28, 2017 at 04:15:04 (EDT)

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