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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 = 0.9924 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z (at) his (dot) com" ... click on a title link to go to that item in the ZhurnalyWiki where you can edit or comment on it ... thank you!



True Buddhism

From Chapter 6 ("Our One and Only Commandment") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart:

... Don't even think about Buddhism. The true Buddhist never says, "I am a Zen Buddhist." We are people who are practicing this universal principle with everybody in the whole cosmos. There is no label, no separation, no statement like "I am Buddhist, he is Christian." True Buddhism embraces the whole universe, without a single label. You must have your own experience of the study and practice of Buddhism, not think thoughts that have been given to you by anybody else, including myself. Forget everything I have said. Depend on yourself. Your own experience of your inner self is what this is about.

(cf. Not Always So (2009-07-04), Zen and Self Improvement (2011-11-19), ...)

- Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 05:36:36 (EST)


2017-01-23 - Cold Wet Fun

~7.0 miles @ ~13.7 min/mi

"The lure of Starbucks is what got me out of the parking lot this morning!" Kerry admits. Chilly drizzle and 30+ mi/hr headwinds make for a brisk adventure, as Kristin leads the Dawn Patrol eastward two miles, then waits outside as two others snag hot coffee. We share family news, report on weekend activities, and discuss aspirations.

"Look — deer crossing!" Kristin points to silhouettes of four big does ahead of us, followed by a tiny fawn, as they pause in the middle of Magarity Road before continuing into the woods. Earlier she spies a wee mouse by the trail. On a dark path I stumble, but Kerry helps me recover balance. "I fell at this spot before!" is the comment at mile 3, and again at mile 6.

(trackfile)

- Friday, February 24, 2017 at 04:40:44 (EST)


2017-01-22 - RCT with RR

~6.6 miles @ ~11.4 min/mi

"No politics!" Irina is Ukrainian, Maria is Russian, and no matter: we're all American runners here, chasing the fast folks along Rock Creek Trail at the back of the MCRRC Sunday Long Run pack. After half a mile I reverse course to meet up with Rebecca. We proceed northward. "I'm not obsessive," I say, after insisting on touching the wooden bridge before turning back. "OK, maybe a little!"

Rebecca describes a lovely "Baldo" comic strip in today's paper, a parable of people helping people and teaching their children to do the same. We laugh at "Brewster Rockit" and the new stress-relief comfort pets in the space station. Talk turns to tattoos and a funny story about a mistake (thankfully temporary). Cute dogs cavort, which brings to mind a way Rebecca learned to separate them if fun turns to fight: lift the hind legs of one and pull it back like a wheelbarrow. Good idea!

(trackfile)

- Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 05:32:03 (EST)


K2

A mountain called K2, aka Mount Godwin-Austen or Chhogori, the second-highest peak in the world. Its name alone, as described by Italian climber Fosco Maraini:

... just the bare bones of a name,
    all rock and ice and storm and abyss.
It makes no attempt to sound human.
It is atoms and stars.
It has the nakedness of the world
    before the first man —
        or of the cindered planet
            after the last ...

(cf. True Names (2003-10-16), The Belay (2004-04-10), ...)

- Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 04:52:42 (EST)


2017-01-21 - Pockets of Happiness

~10.3 miles @ ~12.4 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Kensington_flowerpot_art_1.jpg"Important Safety Tip: do NOT eat 7 feta-and-spinach pierogies before a run — even if the box describes them as 'Pockets of Happiness'!" Ken and Rebecca trot downstream along Rock Creek at a brisk pace. Trail talk topics include future races, gaslighting, upper-body strength development, and what vegetarians might eat at Famous Dave's Barbecue. (Answer: not much!)
"If you're a real carnivore, there's a fresh roadkill deer on the shoulder of Connecticut near Franklin!" A solo trek to the 3pm rendezvous begins with speed-camera strobe lights that catch a zippy car, and includes a pause to photograph flowerpot art-statues on Washington Street. Early arrival at Ken-Gar gives time for a wee bit of hillwork. On the way home there's yet another break to catch two Pokémon near the inspirational Mermaid Fountain at National Park Seminary. "Yes, I'm addicted," I confess to the gentleman walking a tiny dog, "but I'm cutting back!"http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Kensington_flowerpot_art_2.jpg

(trackfile)

- Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 04:57:42 (EST)


2017-01-21 - CJSVT with Stephanie

~7.6 miles @ ~15.2 min/mi

"Ow! She hit me!" Gretchen gives a gentle shoulder-punch as she passes Dr Stephanie and me on the Cabin John Stream Valley Trail. In spite of light drizzle the path is scarcely muddy. Flocks of friends and acquaintances trek up- and down-stream, greeting one another and wishing each other the best. "Trail runners are the nicest people!" Andy Steinfeld recounts his Ironman experiences. Rick salutes Stephanie and ponders her recommendation that they run the Terrapin Mountain ultramarathon soon.

"Do you drive a Miata with NASA plates? Sorry about scratching it!" Ed Masuoka laughs off our teasing when we meet. We park near his car and proceed southward, turning back just after Bradley Blvd. Near the Tennis Center a gnarly-gigantic tree spreads its branches over a fire ring and benches, bringing to mind a similar site at mile 82 of the Devil Dog race last month. Such great shared memories we have, after running together more than 1,000 miles!

(trackfile)

- Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 04:46:11 (EST)


No Knowing

From Chapter 6 ("Our One and Only Commandment") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart:

... We don't sit here and think about what enlightenment is. To think "I must get enlightened" is the greatest impediment. To have some degree of enlightenment is wonderful; to think about it is terrible. "No knowing" is what we do, as in the famous phrase of Bodhidharma. When the emperor of China asked, "Who is this who stands before me?" Bodhidharma replied, "No knowing." No knowing. There is no way that we can take this intuitive mind and quantify it. We can't say, "Here it is, I'm going to give you one month's worth, or two months' worth, and now your course is finished." That's not it. We may see it in an instant, or it may take several lifetimes. This is a practice of endurance and patience. Forgetting all about gaining anything, we are simply trying to see clearly.

What does seeing clearly mean? It doesn't mean that you look at something and analyze it, noting all its composite parts; no. When you see clearly, when you look at a flower and really see it, the flower sees you. It's not that the flower has eyes, of course. It's that the flower is no longer just a flower, and you are no longer just you. Flower and you have dissolved into something way beyond what we can even say, but we can experience this. This kind of seeing, this kind of understanding is "as-it-is-ness." This wonderful intuitive wisdom infuses everything we do, if we just open ourselves up to it, and forget about all our selfish, petty concerns, forget about what we want, what we must get, whether this is doing something for us. Forget it. We are here for the sake of all sentient beings, and we are one with all sentient beings when we come to see this as-it-is-ness. ...

(cf. Not Always So (2009-07-04), ...)

- Monday, February 20, 2017 at 04:37:36 (EST)


2017-01-20 - Cool Coffee and Rain

~6.3 miles @ ~12.3 min/mi

"CHILL" reads a bent street sign, appropriately, on Churchill Road: temps are in the upper 30's, and as the sun rises a few raindrops begin to fall. Kerry and I enjoy iced coffee at a McLean Starbucks. Last night she and her daughter celebrated a Langley High School basketball victory with ice cream — mint chocolate chip!

A rabbit dashes away as we begin our run; a fox races down the lane as we finish. Sorrel Street dead-ends in a gravel driveway with no obvious cut-through. A motion-sensor light turns on as we retreat. Dawn is quiet, peaceful.

(trackfile)

- Sunday, February 19, 2017 at 05:45:40 (EST)


Tautochrone Moby Dick

A fascinating glimpse of deep mathematics rises to the surface and spouts geometrically in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, which mentions the "tautochrone" — a curve along which all sliding objects falling in a uniform gravitational field reach the bottom at the same time. (Starting higher up a body has farther to go, but it also can accelerate to a higher speed, so by making its path steeper at the start like a ski jump it can catch up with another body that starts lower down.)

From Chapter 96, "The Try-Works", describing the kettles where whale blubber is melted:

... Removing this hatch we expose the great try-pots, two in number, and each of several barrels' capacity. When not in use, they are kept remarkably clean. Sometimes they are polished with soapstone and sand, till they shine within like silver punch-bowls. During the night-watches some cynical old sailors will crawl into them and coil themselves away there for a nap. While employed in polishing them — one man in each pot, side by side — many confidential communications are carried on, over the iron lips. It is a place also for profound mathematical meditation. It was in the left hand try-pot of the Pequod, with the soapstone diligently circling round me, that I was first indirectly struck by the remarkable fact, that in geometry all bodies gliding along the cycloid, my soapstone for example, will descend from any point in precisely the same time. ...

Moby-Dick was published in 1851; the tautochrone curve was proved to be a cycloid in 1659 by Christiaan Huygens. The cycloid also is the shape along which a falling object reaches the finish line as quickly as possible, the "brachistochrone", as proved in the late 1600's by one of the Bernoulli brothers who noted:

... Before I end I must voice once more the admiration I feel for the unexpected identity of Huygens' tautochrone and my brachistochrone. I consider it especially remarkable that this coincidence can take place only under the hypothesis of Galileo, so that we even obtain from this a proof of its correctness. Nature always tends to act in the simplest way, and so it here lets one curve serve two different functions, while under any other hypothesis we should need two curves ...

(cf. Richard Feynman on Alternative Paths (2017-01-15), ...)

- Saturday, February 18, 2017 at 05:57:13 (EST)


2017-01-18 - Scary Scenarios

~7.1 miles @ ~13.2 min/mi

"Shards of broken glass! And snakes!" The Dawn Patrol reviews some of its members' phobias. "And worst of all: snakes in a serpentarium, breaking out through the glass!" We random-walk around an apartment complex, seeking a hole in the fence without success. Cute dogs cavort on the other side, yearning to be petted. Maybe another day!

"Are those zombies?" Kids stand like statues on the corner awaiting a school bus. Near Jupiter a last-quarter moon peeks between clouds. Kristin and Caitlin discuss default assumptions and their sometimes-humorous consequences. We cut through Tysons Pimmit Park as the sun rises. "Such a wonderful morning — thank you for running with me!".

(trackfile)

- Friday, February 17, 2017 at 04:09:17 (EST)


Set Aside Judging

Chapter 14 ("To Cultivate an Open Heart, Set Aside Judging") of Toni Bernhard's How to Wake Up discusses ways to let go "the heavy burden of judging", to add fewer likes and dislikes and shoulds and shouldn'ts to experience. She cites Seung Sahn's suggestion of keeping Don't-Know Mind, and Thich Nhat Hanh's recommendation to constantly ask Am I Sure? to help pause judging — rather like Byron Katie's reflective suggestions in what she calls "The Work".

And specifically, Toni Bernhard recommends something to do when one notices petty negative opinions surfacing about someone (or oneself!). Silently think a friendly phrase such as:

... all good ways to shift the flow and tone of mind away from judging!

- Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 04:30:08 (EST)


2017-01-16 - Rock Creek with Gayatri and Barry

~17.1 miles @ ~13.2 min/mi

"Take that hill!" Barry's green Marine Corps Marathon shirt brings a martial spirit to a meanering run through the Woodside neighborhood. "Race you to the top!" He drops to the street and does ten push-ups. Oorah!

Earlier, at 6am Gayatri by chance has on an identical MCM shirt as we set out from Candy Cane City, dodging potholes and puddles along Beach Drive by headlamp's glow. In Rock Creek Park three police cars blast past, sirens screaming, crimson-and-blue lights strobing. Sunrise brings out squirrels; a chipmunk scurries across the street in front of us. Two iridescent-green-headed male mallards and a dun female paddle in a tiny trail-side pond. Gayatri tells of a film she saw recently from Maharashtra, the Indian state of which Mumbai is the capital. Last night's spicy Sichuan carry-out from Joe's Noodles fuels her run.

(trackfile)

- Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 04:27:34 (EST)


2017-01-15 - Great Falls Walkabout with Mary

~6.5 miles @ ~19.8 min/mi

"That white dog can jump!" says Dr Mary, as we watch a puppy leaping twice her height toward a stick held overhead.

"Yuki is her name — it means 'snow' in Japanese," says the owner of the little furry ball of energy. It's Cute Canine Day at Great Falls National Park. We hike the Old Carriage Road, the Ridge Trail, and other pathways, where we meet a puggle (pug + beagle cross), a pair of nearly-identical big black Labrador brothers, a beautiful miniature Siberian husky, and countless others.

Trail talk between physicists includes disciplines that we wish we understood better, starting with thermodynamics and fluid mechanics. And advice: "Read Feynman's 1965 Nobel Prize lecture!" It discusses important phenomena that can be computed via methods that seem to be completely different. Maybe that's a clue that something in Nature is Really Important?

(trackfile)

- Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 04:36:29 (EST)


Mantra - Keep Digging

  Keep
Digging

... persist: something good may turn up with the next spade full of earth!

(cf. Posture (2009-06-05), Honor Your Practice (2013-01-04), Strong and Lasting (2013-02-02), ...)

- Monday, February 13, 2017 at 04:43:50 (EST)


2017-01-15_-_Starsailor_Amy_Couch

~18.6 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/starsailor_amy_couch_z_2017-01-15a.jpg"STARSAILOR" says the concrete bench where we pause for a symbolic selfie halfway through this morning's trek. Amy asks for 6-8 miles, but when we're almost home and the GPS reads "10.9" there's nothing to do but laugh and add a few more blocks to go past 11. En route we laugh and talk and dance around puddles on a lovely-brisk morning. (The journey to/from Chez ^z adds ~7 miles.)

"When apart we're still together, and when together it's ok for us to be apart!" We muse about love and the magic of how some people just "click". Sunlight glitters on dewdrops and makes a bush look like it's still covered with Christmas lights. A squirrel with a stub of a tail dashes across a yard. "Socrates was wrong about some things!" we agree, even though it took us both years to figure that out. We knock on Dr Stephanie's door and faux-hide in the bushes before wishing her Good Morning.

"Soften ... Forgive ... Make Space ... Nurture ..." — words to remember when trying to connect, with others and with self. It's not easy to wake up. Good friends can help!

(trackfile)

- Sunday, February 12, 2017 at 05:57:49 (EST)


What is Zazen

From Chapter 4 ("There Are No Repetitions") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart, on not-doing:

What is zazen? Hui-neng defined zazen this way: "In the midst of all good and evil, not a thought is aroused in the mind. This is called 'za.' Seeing into one's self-nature and not being moved at all, this is called 'zen.'" We sometimes say "za" is just to sit cross-legged, but it means more than this; it means to sit with no discriminating consciousness, no dualistic activity. And "zen" is to wake up to our fundamental self, not to be disturbed by anything—just letting it come, letting it go; in-breath, out-breath; just here. Allowing the calm, deep breath to penetrate every part of the body, allowing the hara to fill up, we let go off all fixed notions. We let go of "I." We let it all fall off. We are here to discover a way of relating to one another, rather than to expound a set of doctrines. With this attitude, our sitting is receptive, alert, awake, open, so that we can hear what the silence has to say. We are letting ourselves be the vehicle for whatever teaching may come our way, not forcing or grabbing at anything.

(cf. Waiting Is (2011-01-17), Just Sitting (2011-05-21), Notice and Return (2013-03-11), Mirroring Each Other (2013-05-12), Aspiration, not Expectation (2014-12-12), Just Zazen (2017-01-29), ...)

- Saturday, February 11, 2017 at 05:36:41 (EST)


Nothing Happens Next - This Is It

http://zhurnaly.com/images/gahan-wilson-nothing-happens-next-this-is-it-new-yorker-cartoon.jpg

"Nothing happens next. This is it."

... a marvelously Zen cartoon by Gahan Wilson, from The New Yorker, 1980-08-25 issue.

(cf. Nothing Happens (2005-10-08), This Is It (2008-11-14), Roadside Distractions (2011-04-30), This (2013-03-09), ...) - ^z

- Friday, February 10, 2017 at 04:56:30 (EST)


2017-01-14 - Rock Creek Park Afternoon

~11.0 miles @ ~11.7 min/mi

"I was running in the buff," Barry says. (He's referring to a "Buff" brand tubular scarf.)

"You should talk to Kate — she's a streaker!" (Her series of every-day runs is over 400 again.)

Temps hang a couple of degrees above freezing on a gray afternoon. Rain pauses, then resumes. Puddles dot the pavement. We meet at Candy Cane City and trot along Rock Creek into DC. Barry reports on last weekend's Dopey Challenge that he ran in DisneyWorld: vultures circling over the wastewater treatment plant, race photographers hunkered down in tents to shield themselves from the cold, and fancy-restaurant dinners enjoyed while wearing technical-fiber running shirts since he didn't pack anything else this trip!

(trackfile)

- Thursday, February 09, 2017 at 04:39:12 (EST)


The Reason I Jump

"The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-year-old Boy with Autism" — that's the subtitle of The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida (2007 in Japanese; 2013 in English). It's a moving, unique glimpse of a world full of confusion, love, symbols, lightning, disobedience, panic, and hope. Higashida spelled the book out, letter-by-letter, pointing to characters on an alphabet grid. He asks and then answers 58 questions. David Mitchell, brilliant British author, and his wife KA Yoshida translated the book; they have an autistic son. Mitchell's introduction is breathtaking in its beauty.

Some peeks into Higashida's poetic-chaotic universe:

For a long time I've been wondering why us people with autism can't talk properly. I can never say what I really want to. Instead, verbal junk that hasn't got anything to do with anything comes pouring out of my mouth. This used to get me down badly, and I couldn't help envying all those people who speak without even trying. Our feelings are the same as everyone else's, but we can't find a way to express them. We don't even have proper control over our own bodies. Both staying still and moving when we're told to are tricky—it's as if we're remote-controlling a faulty robot. ...

You never notice. Really, you have no idea quite how miserable we are. ... But I ask you, those of you who are with us all day, not to stress yourselves out because of us. When you do this, it feels as if you're denying any value at all that our lives may have—and that saps the spirit we need to soldier on. The hardest ordeal for us is the idea that we are causing grief for other people. We can put up with our own hardships okay, but the thought that our lives are the source of other people's unhappiness, that's plain unbearable.

... When you see an object, it seems that you see it as an entire thing first, and only afterward do its details follow on. But for people with autism, the details jump straight out at us first of all, and then only gradually, detail by detail, does the whole image sort of float up into focus. What part of the whole image captures our eyes first depends on a number of things. When a color is vivid or a shape is eye-catching, then that's the detail that claims our attention, and then our hearts kind of drown in it, and we can't concentrate on anything else. Every single thing has its own unique beauty. People with autism get to cherish this beauty, as if it's a kind of blessing given to us. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we can never be completely lonely. We may look like we're not with anyone, but we're always in the company of friends.

... our fondness for nature is, I think, a little bit different from everyone else's. I'm guessing that what touches you in nature is the beauty of the trees and the flowers and things. But to us people with special needs, nature is as important as our own lives. The reason is that when we look at nature, we receive a sort of permission to be alive in this world, and our entire bodies get recharged. However often we're ignored and pushed away by other people, nature will always give us a good big hug, here inside our hearts. ...

... Whenever our obsessive behavior is bothering other people, please stop us right away, whatever way you can. The person who's suffering the most is the one who's causing all the headaches for everyone else—that is, the one with the autism. Even though it looks as if we're frolicking about and having the best time, inside we're aching and hurting because we know we don't even have control over what our own bodies are doing. ...

... We cry, we scream, we hit out and break things. But still, we don't want you to give up on us. Please, keep battling alongside us. We are the ones who are suffering the most in these scenes, and badly, badly want to free ourselves from our own chains.

... Stuck here inside these unresponsive bodies of ours, with feelings we can't properly express, it's always a struggle just to survive. And it's this feeling of helplessness that sometimes drives us half crazy, and brings on a panic attack or a meltdown.

And finally, from the Afterword:

... I hope that by reading my explanations about autism and its mysteries, you can come to understand that all the obstacles that present themselves don't come from our selfishness or from ego. If all of you can grasp this truth about us, we are handed a ray of hope. However hard an autistic life is, however sad it can be, so long as there's hope we can stick at it.

And when the light of hope shines on all this world, then our future will be connected with your future. That's what I want, above all.

- Wednesday, February 08, 2017 at 04:41:38 (EST)


2017-01-11 - Icy McLean Morning

~7.9 miles @ ~13.2 min/mi

"You need a man's pedicure — with a grindstone or a belt sander, in a machine shop!" Dr Kristin prescribes treatment for my calloused left big toe, troublesome for the past few weeks. Caitlin and I compare notes on memorable tchochkes, including cuddly bunnies on a coffee cup and friendly iguana statuettes in a St Croix souvenir shop. A McLean neighborhood saves money by not salting roads or sidewalks, as we discover when we hit icy-slick patches and must cautiously retrace our steps. Kristin leads us at a brisk pace for the first few miles. We meander in fruitless search for pedestrian cut-throughs in another gated community.

(trackfile)

- Tuesday, February 07, 2017 at 04:40:48 (EST)


No Repeats

From Chapter 4 ("There Are No Repetitions") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart, on awakening into the uniqueness of Now:

We are always at the beginning. It is always the very first time. Truly, there are no repetitions. When I play the piano, I often come to a repeat sign. Can that passage be repeated? If I am teaching a piano student and we see a repeat sign, I tell the student that there are no repeats. We return to the beginning of a certain passage, but it's never the same. It's always fresh. Someone asked me, "Don't you get tired of answering the same questions day after day—what is Zen, how do we practice?" Never! It's never the same question, because it's always coming from a different person, in a different moment; and each person asks the question from his or her own state of mind. The words may sound alike, but each time they are coming from somewhere unique.

(cf. Intentional Attention (2014-07-29), Our Job for the Rest of Our Life (2015-07-18), ...)

- Monday, February 06, 2017 at 04:33:41 (EST)


2017-01-09 - Unicorns and Mindfulness

~5.0 miles @ ~14.2 min/mi

"It's called a Mind Jar!" Kristin explains how to make a glitter-and-water mental-calming-awareness metaphor artifact that her kids love. As the sparkles settle down, so do the thoughts and emotions. Temps are in in the mid-teens as we loop through Pimmit Hills, enjoying frosty fellowship and time-to-just-be prior to a busy day. We tread cautiously on icy patches to avoid falling.

"Horses are awesome, and Unicorns are just like horses with a deadly weapon!" Kerry wears a Christmas gift, a unicorn-themed cap with rainbow-striped rim. We discuss upcoming long run possibilities to reconnoiter. Kristin tells of her young puppy's initial snow experience ("This stuff is fun, and edible!"). Trail talk includes slightly-risque Magic Growing Sponge toys, family news, and the importance of staying open to change. All good!

(trackfile)

- Sunday, February 05, 2017 at 06:30:14 (EST)


Mantra - Move On

Move
On!

(cf. Move On (2007-01-06), Mantra - Soften Into Experience (2014-11-26), Mantra - Let It Go (2014-12-27), Mantra - Mindfulness, Nonattachment, Oneness (2-17-01-25), ...)

- Saturday, February 04, 2017 at 10:56:39 (EST)


2017-01-08 - RCT with Rebecca

~6.2 miles @ ~12.5 min/mi

"The problem with wearing a tube scarf over the face is that it pushes moustache hairs into the mouth!" But at 19°F and running into the wind, maybe it's worth it? Today only Rebecca braves the elements for a test of new ^z trail shoes found in the RnJ half-price room during yesterday's snowstorm.

"Total Cash Cows!" R2 explains the economics behind marathons and associated multi-day events held in resort destinations during off-season. We wish our buddies well who are running at Disneyworld this morning. A New Year aspiration, "Talk 2 minutes max", is semi-honored thanks to Rebecca's polite questions during my occasional pauses to breathe.

Icicles decorate the beard when we finish, as temps have climbed to a toasty 22°F. Feet feel great, and nobody falls on the snowy Rock Creek Trail — yay!

(trackfile)

- Friday, February 03, 2017 at 04:34:54 (EST)


Taxonomy of Machine Learning

Hassaan Ahmed's recent article "Is a master algorithm the solution to our machine learning problems?" offers a categorization of "... the different schools of thought of machine learning". It appears to be adapted from the 2015 book The Master Algorithm by University of Washington professor Pedro Domingos, who offers the chart:

Tribe Origins Master Algorithm
Symbolists Logic, philosophy Inverse deduction
Connectionists Neuroscience Backpropagation
Evolutionaries Evolutionary biology Genetic programming
Bayesians Statistics Probabilistic inference
Analogizers Psychology Kernel machines

As Ahmed characterizes the "Five Tribes":

The Connectionists

This school of thought believes in deducing knowledge through the connections between the neurons. The connectionists focus on physics and neuroscience and believe in the reverse engineering of the brain. They believe in the back-propagation or "backward propagation of errors" algorithm to train the artificial neural networks to get the results.

...

Many researchers in the field of machine learning — especially the connectionists — believe that the deep learning model is the answer to all the problems of AI and consider it a master algorithm.

The Symbolists

The symbolists' approach is based on the "high-level" interpretation of problems. The symbolists focus more on philosophy, logic and psychology and view learning as the inverse of deduction. John Haugeland called it "Good Old-Fashioned Artificial Intelligence" (GOFAI) in his book Artificial Intelligence: The Very Idea. The symbolists' approach solves the problem using pre-existing knowledge to fill the gaps. Most of the expert systems use the symbolists' approach to solve the problem with an If-Then approach.

The Evolutionaries

The third school of thought, the evolutionaries, draw their conclusions on the basis of genetics and evolutionary biology. John Holland, who died in 2015 and previously taught at the University of Michigan, played a very important role in bringing Darwin's evolution theory into the computer sciences. Holland was the pioneer of genetic algorithms and his "fundamental theorem of genetic algorithms" is considered the foundation in this area.

The Bayesians

If you've been using emails for 10 to 12 years now, you know how spam filters have improved. This is all because of the Bayesian school of thought in machine learning. The Bayesians focus on the probabilistic inference and Bayes' theorem to solve the problems. The Bayesians start with a belief that they call a prior. Then they obtain some data and update the prior on the basis of that data; the outcome is called a posterior. The posterior is then processed with more data and becomes a prior and this cycle repeats itself until we get the final answer. Most of the spam filters work on the same basis.

The Analogizers

The fifth tribe of machine learning, the analogizers, depend on extrapolating the similarity judgements by focusing more on psychology and mathematical optimization. The analogizers follow the "Nearest Neighbor" principal for their research. The product recommendations on different e-commerce sites like Amazon or movie ratings on Netflix are the most common examples of the analogizers' approach.

... not deep, but perhaps useful — and perhaps even (mostly? partially?) true!

- Thursday, February 02, 2017 at 05:10:38 (EST)


2017-01-06 - Cold Pimmit Loop

~3.9 miles @ ~13.1 min/mi

"John Malkovich often seems so — swarmy!" We analyze meta-movies and some of the actors involved. After comms confusion and successful re-sync the Dawn Partrol starts late and finishes early, to get back in time for Friday morning meetings. North winds gust and puddles freeze with temps in the upper 20's. The glowing mound in a Pimmit Hills front yard is an inflated holiday-decoration polar bear with cubs riding on her back. Kerry kindly shares handwarmers; Kristin discusses her children's recent dinner table conversation, which involves underwear.

"That is beginning to sound not totally impossible!" is a comment re the Disney Dopey Challenge currently underway in Florida. It's four days of running in a row, building 5k → 10k → half-marathon → marathon. Drs K&K are starting to slide down the slippery slope to marathon mania ...

(trackfile)

- Wednesday, February 01, 2017 at 04:37:28 (EST)


Mastermind - How to Think like Sherlock Holmes

"I find myself more than a little disappointed in this book by Maria Konnikova," said Sherlock Holmes. "It's a pleasant conceit: to tell the reader, 'You know my methods. Apply them!'. But after a promising prelude heavy on words like mindfulness and motivation, there comes a muddle. Actionable suggestions for better reasoning are scanty. The few quantitative facts that appear are presented with false precision, too many digits to be statistically sound. Obviously: avoid overconfidence, beware premature closure, eschew cognitive fallacies. Of course! But how?"

"And worst of all," the great detective continued, "the entire enterprise of Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes hangs upon a huge fallacy. I am but a fictional character, designed to divert, to sell a product, perhaps tangentially to teach. But taking words written by Arthur Conan Doyle out of context, and loosely linking them to anecdotes about logic? As you yourself quoted me, Watson, in your description of the incident involving the horse named Silver Blaze: 'The difficulty is to detach the framework of fact — of absolute undeniable fact — from the embellishments of theorists and reporters.' Konnikova is an engaging reporter but a weak theorist. Her embellishments undeniably entertain. But the framework of metacognition is missing. Few readers will learn critical thinking from such an ill-structured collection of clippings and commentary."

Watson looked up from his newspaper. "Holmes? Were you addressing me?"

Sherlock Holmes sighed.

(cf. Sherlock Holmes (2005-12-19), Memory Leaks (2011-03-03), ...)

- Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 05:23:22 (EST)


2017-01-04 - Rear View Humor

~9.1 miles @ ~13.0 min/mi

"Is my derrière flashing?"

"Uh, yes — if you mean, is your red blinky tail light working!" <blushes> The Dawn Patrol gathers at 0550 to ramble, no plan whatsoever in mind. It's one of the Latest Sunrise of the Year days, with clouds blanketing the sky. Kristin's feet feel frisky and lead us at a brisk pace along wet sidewalks. Cait reports on a recent wedding (hers! — Best Wishes!). Kerry's left knee has been twingy, but the new brace she's experimenting with seems to do magic.

"How did we get here?" we ask, after an hour, and pause to cross I-66 offramps. "Is it ok to do 7 miles? How about 8? Or 9?" The hot yoga studio picture-window doesn't slow (most of) us down (much). We finish happy.

(trackfile)

- Monday, January 30, 2017 at 06:44:15 (EST)


Just Zazen

From Chapter 3 ("Nothing Extraneous") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart, on letting go of goals and just sitting:

When we practice zazen we give up everything. We give up thoughts. Of course they come, but when they do, we give them up. We give up wanting something from our zazen. We give up any idea of becoming enlightened. To become enlightened is the most important thing in our lives, but to have thoughts about it is no good. We give up all extraneous thoughts about our sitting. When they come, we give them up. And we don't move! When the body moves, the mind follows; and when the mind moves, the body follows. We harm our practice when we move. We have to start all over again. So we take the time to set up our posture, and then we sit absolutely still.

... and the closing words of that chapter:

... We drop off all extraneous matters and just do zazen; just let zazen do us, with absolutely meticulous attention. Attention! Attention! Attention! Nothing more, nothing less.

(cf. Just Sitting (2011-05-21), Attention (2015-03-03), ...)

- Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 21:46:00 (EST)


2017-01-02 - WOD Walkabout with Dr M

~3.8 miles @ ~18.4 min/mi

"But with four of them in the class, they turned into total jerks*!" Mary tells of the meltdown of a Relativistic Quantum Mechanics course long ago, when too many elderly show-offs auditing the class hijacked the lectures by trying to outdo one another's cleverness. No good for the grad students who came to learn!

Umbrella unfurls and hood goes up as misty drizzle turns into real rain at mile 2. The W&OD pathway is virtually empty as we start at scientist-named Michael Faraday Court for a brisk out-and-back walk. Result: soggy socks, wet windbreakers, and wonderful conversation!

* "jerks" isn't quite as, uh, spicy as the actual word Mary uses. Trail talk!

(trackfile)

- Saturday, January 28, 2017 at 07:46:21 (EST)


Benjamin Franklin on Decision-making

An algorithm to assist in making difficult choices, from a letter by Benjamin Franklin to Joseph Priestley, 19 September 1772:

Dear Sir,

In the Affair of so much Importance to you, wherein you ask my Advice, I cannot for want of sufficient Premises, advise you what to determine, but if you please I will tell you how. When these difficult Cases occur, they are difficult chiefly because while we have them under Consideration all the Reasons pro and con are not present to the Mind at the same time; but sometimes one Set present themselves, and at other times another, the first being out of Sight. Hence the various Purposes or Inclinations that alternately prevail, and the Uncertainty that perplexes us. To get over this, my Way is, to divide half a Sheet of Paper by a Line into two Columns, writing over the one Pro, and over the other Con. Then during three or four Days Consideration I put down under the different Heads short Hints of the different Motives that at different Times occur to me for or against the Measure. When I have thus got them all together in one View, I endeavour to estimate their respective Weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out: If I find a Reason pro equal to some two Reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two Reasons con equal to some three Reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the Ballance lies; and if after a Day or two of farther Consideration nothing new that is of Importance occurs on either side, I come to a Determination accordingly. And tho' the Weight of Reasons cannot be taken with the Precision of Algebraic Quantities, yet when each is thus considered separately and comparatively, and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better, and am less likely to make a rash Step; and in fact I have found great Advantage from this kind of Equation, in what may be called Moral or Prudential Algebra. Wishing sincerely that you may determine for the best, I am ever, my dear Friend, Yours most affectionately

B Franklin

(cf. Wikipedia "Decision-making", Franklin's Virtues (2008-05-23), Thinking, Fast and Slow (2013-10-24), ...)

- Friday, January 27, 2017 at 04:29:35 (EST)


2017-01-01 - VHTRC Red Eye 50k

~31.6 miles @ ~14.4 min/mi

Adeline Ntam and ^z at VHTRC RedEye 50k 2017, pre-race"Maybe we're all flawed human beings, confused and just doing the best we can?" A couple is walking along, discussing possible reasons for past failed relationships, divorces, etc., and it's hard not to toss another hypothesis on the barbie as I pass then near mile 16. New Year's Day brings lovely weather to Prince William Forest Park for the VHTRC "Red Eye 50k" — sharp contrast to the ice storm at the Devil Dog 100 a fortnight ago.
"Do you have two broken legs? Otherwise I shouldn't be ahead of you!" Fast runners go slowly, perhaps recovering from past races or resting up for future events. I meet friends old and new, take photos, and send texts — no "^z Lockdown Mode" for today's fun-run! Experiments include Leukotape on one foot, petrolatum on the other, and zinc oxide baby ointment on the, uh, diaper zone. No blisters, no chafing, and no falls today — yay!bright tights on James and Rebecca Moore at the VHTRC RedEye 50k 2017 - RD Gary Knipling between them, giving pre-race briefing

(trackfile)

- Thursday, January 26, 2017 at 05:39:19 (EST)


Mantra - Mindfulness, Nonattachment, Oneness

Mindfulness
  Nonattachment
      Oneness

Like vehicle, highway, destination — and the journey is life.

(cf. My Religion (2000-11-06), Work of a Lifetime (2009-02-01), This Is Water (2009-05-21), Being with Your Breath (2010-02-20), Core Buddhism (2011-10-17), O (2012-10-24), Mindfulness for Beginners (2013-07-18), Clinging Is Optional (2013-08-21), 01 (2013-11-05), 0-1 (2014-08-29), Mantra - Cling to Nothing (2016-04-17), ...)

- Wednesday, January 25, 2017 at 04:41:50 (EST)


2016-12-30 - Year-End Gratitude

~7.5 miles @ ~11.9 min/mi

"Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda!" Dr Kristin prescribes the children's book on in-the-moment awareness as an antidote to anxiety and distraction. Christmas lights are fading, but several homes still feature twinkling displays. We ramble along Route 7, turn away (regretfully, for some!) from the Hot Yoga studio, and take the W&OD Trail as a blossoming pale periwinkle dawn begins to scatter off high lavender clouds.

"Thank you!" and "Thank YOU!" are our grateful Mantras of the Day, as we appreciate the blessings we've enjoyed and hope to help our families and friends and colleagues who are having stressful times, ill health, and work challenges. May they all find peace, insight, safety, health, and happiness in 2017!

(trackfile)

- Wednesday, January 25, 2017 at 04:15:33 (EST)


Practicing for the Universe

From Chapter 2 ("Ordinary Mind") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart, on removing the I from the Quest (and then removing the Quest):

... our dualistic, discriminating mind disappears. We no longer think, "I am doing this work. I am doing this practice. This is my practice." All of this melts, and we come to feel that subject and object, in-breath and out-breath are one. We inhale the whole universe, exhale to the whole universe; there is no gate between us and it.

(cf. Coming to Our Senses (2009-01-01), No Beginning, No End (2013-03-24), 0-1 (2014-08-29), Listen to the Traffic (2014-11-12), Our Job for the Rest of Our Life (2015-07-18), ...)

- Monday, January 23, 2017 at 04:43:21 (EST)


2016-12-28 - Post-Xmas Trek

~6.4 miles @ ~13.9 min/mi

"Oh, and we're getting a puppy!" Kristin shares the dreaded words she heard last month — to be followed, of course, by many nights of getting up every two hours for dog-walking and many days of cleaning up messes, rescuing precious toys from chewing, applying firm but gentle discipline, etc., etc. Beth & I sympathize.

Jupiter fades into the dawn as we patrol Lewinsville Heights and Pimmit Hills. Trash cans at the curb overflow with empty boxes and gift-wrap paper. Lawn decorations slowly inflate as a laser-projected countdown timer reads "00 days 00:00:00 until Christmas!"

(trackfile)

- Sunday, January 22, 2017 at 05:59:49 (EST)


Student ID Cards

Identification cards from ^z's
final year as an undergraduate
at Rice University and from
subsequent years of grad school
at Caltech ...
http://zhurnaly.com/images/student_ID_cards/student_ID_card_zRice73.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/student_ID_cards/student_ID_card_zCaltech74.jpghttp://zhurnaly.com/images/student_ID_cards/student_ID_card_zCaltech75.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/student_ID_cards/student_ID_card_zCaltech76.jpghttp://zhurnaly.com/images/student_ID_cards/student_ID_card_zCaltech77.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/student_ID_cards/student_ID_card_zCaltech78.jpghttp://zhurnaly.com/images/student_ID_cards/student_ID_card_zCaltech79.jpg

(cf. College Collage 1 (2000-09-29), College Collage 2 (2000-10-03), College Collage 3 (2001-09-29), ...)

- Saturday, January 21, 2017 at 06:44:35 (EST)


2016-12-26 - Boxing Day 10x800m Speedwork

~6.6 miles @ ~9.0 min/mi

"Hello, Speedwork, my old friend / I've come to run with you again / And soon the quads are softly crying / And the lungs and heart are dying ...". Lane 2 at the local middle school track is wide open. A Latina girl in bright orange shoes and green college hoodie practices high-kick martial arts moves. Two soccer players zig-zag around puddles that dot the infield. A father and young son try to get a quadcopter to take off without success.

Ten 800m intervals flow nicely by, with half-lap 2 minute recovery walks. Split times = 3:57 + 3:57 + 3:54 + 3:53 + 3:53 + 3:56 + 3:50 + 3:52 + 3:49 + 3:42 (a final banzai!) ...

(trackfile)

- Friday, January 20, 2017 at 04:30:47 (EST)


Mantra - Don't Be the Fixer

Don't Be
  the Fixer!

... you can't heal every broken bird, you can't protect people from themselves, you can't solve the world's problems, and you can't make everybody happy all the time (if ever!) — so, as Toni Bernhard advises (Sublime States), when tempted to "fix" try instead to think something like:

... and since we can't even fix our self (and "Unselfing" is so hard!) maybe just say "Forgiven, Forgiven, Forgiven" to oneself more often — and more sincerely!

- Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 04:51:09 (EST)


2016-12-24 - Mormon Temple Lights

~10.0 miles @ ~14.3 min/mi

"I'm off duty — if you break a leg you'll have to call 9-1-1 yourself!" says Wheaton Rescue Squad member Sakurako, as we run along Kensington sidewalks in rapidly deepening gloom. When we begin our evening circuit it's too bright for Christmas lights to be lit at the Mormon Temple. When we return the traffic jam of cars waiting to see them stretches more than a quarter mile down the hill. A bright red Santa cap catches the eyes of children and adults.

"Have a Klondike Bar!" offers Robin Zimmermann. We accept, with gratitude. Construction work and trail maintenance block our path through Wheaton Regional Park, so ice cream is the midcourse reward. Neighborhood houses feature crawling red-green laser light-show decorations. Sako's first marathon is only two weeks away, so we navigate cautiously by headlamp light. "Don't fall down!".

(trackfile)

- Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at 04:29:22 (EST)


Carrying Our Own Stuff

From Chapter 2 ("Ordinary Mind") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart, on letting-go and not being The Fixer:

... we must each carry our own stuff, and grow and learn from it, and ripen. When we are sitting at the gate, if we are ripe, we will know when to offer help and when to allow the person to carry his or her own burden, do his or her own work. We are here to help one another, to support one another, but not to interfere, and not to take on someone else's pain or burden. We feel one another's pain, since we are of one body, one mind, but we must allow each other our own experience, and contribute in our own way.

(cf. Functional Thinking versus Ego Thinking (2014-11-01), Simple Mind (2015-09-16), Holding Space (2016-07-22), Sublime States (2017-01-05), ...)

- Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at 04:55:44 (EST)


2016-12-23 - Soft Sunrise Xmas Eve Eve

~11.6 miles @ ~14.8 min/mi

"We run these streets!" The Dawn Patrol takes dominion over McLean, striding down the middle of the roads. Cars hesitate to threaten Santa Claus & Co. on Christmas Eve's Eve: a long white beard and red cap with white trim instead provoke thumbs-up salutes by passing drivers. In McLean Central Park we meet runners with half a dozen dogs on leash, eyes glowing in pairs of green, orange, red, white — different colors each.

"There's the garage without a driveway!" Maybe it's for a hovercraft? Front yard holiday decorations range from mega-kitsch-overload to appropriately modest. Animated lights race up tree branches to emulate firework displays. We discuss issues of graceful letting-go of judgments, softening versus increased rigidity with age, mindful challenges in family gatherings. Sunrise glows cerulean and tigerlily along the horizon, as a waning Moon chases Jupiter across the sky. Drs Kristin, Kerry, and Beth wish one another the Happiest of Holidays and the Bestest of New Years!

(trackfile)

- Monday, January 16, 2017 at 04:38:46 (EST)


Alternative Paths

The book QBism: The Future of Quantum Physics Hardcover by Hans Christian von Baeyer explores an unconventional interpretation of quantum mechanics: "Quantum Bayesianism". Instead of collapsing wavefunctions or Many Worlds, "QBism" focuses attention on observers and on how to update their subjective probability estimates of quantum events via Bayes Theorem.

Von Baeyer's book is by turns frustratingly vague and fascinatingly inspirational. Perhaps the most important idea, however, is buried near the end, in Chapter 22 ("The Road Ahead"): a summary of some comments by physicist Richard P. Feynman made during his 1965 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

Feynman's words are a mere aside — but they're so insightful that they deserve to be highlighted and pondered.

I would like to interrupt here to make a remark. The fact that electrodynamics can be written in so many ways — the differential equations of Maxwell, various minimum principles with fields, minimum principles without fields, all different kinds of ways, was something I knew, but I have never understood. It always seems odd to me that the fundamental laws of physics, when discovered, can appear in so many different forms that are not apparently identical at first, but, with a little mathematical fiddling you can show the relationship. An example of that is the Schrödinger equation and the Heisenberg formulation of quantum mechanics. I don't know why this is — it remains a mystery, but it was something I learned from experience. There is always another way to say the same thing that doesn't look at all like the way you said it before. I don't know what the reason for this is. I think it is somehow a representation of the simplicity of nature. A thing like the inverse square law is just right to be represented by the solution of Poisson's equation, which, therefore, is a very different way to say the same thing that doesn't look at all like the way you said it before. I don't know what it means, that nature chooses these curious forms, but maybe that is a way of defining simplicity. Perhaps a thing is simple if you can describe it fully in several different ways without immediately knowing that you are describing the same thing.

And at the conclusion of his Nobel lecture, Feynman reprises and expands upon that crucial theme:

Many different physical ideas can describe the same physical reality. Thus, classical electrodynamics can be described by a field view, or an action at a distance view, etc. Originally, Maxwell filled space with idler wheels, and Faraday with fields lines, but somehow the Maxwell equations themselves are pristine and independent of the elaboration of words attempting a physical description. The only true physical description is that describing the experimental meaning of the quantities in the equation — or better, the way the equations are to be used in describing experimental observations. This being the case perhaps the best way to proceed is to try to guess equations, and disregard physical models or descriptions. For example, McCullough guessed the correct equations for light propagation in a crystal long before his colleagues using elastic models could make head or tail of the phenomena, or again, Dirac obtained his equation for the description of the electron by an almost purely mathematical proposition. A simple physical view by which all the contents of this equation can be seen is still lacking.

Therefore, I think equation guessing might be the best method to proceed to obtain the laws for the part of physics which is presently unknown. Yet, when I was much younger, I tried this equation guessing and I have seen many students try this, but it is very easy to go off in wildly incorrect and impossible directions. I think the problem is not to find the best or most efficient method to proceed to a discovery, but to find any method at all. Physical reasoning does help some people to generate suggestions as to how the unknown may be related to the known. Theories of the known, which are described by different physical ideas may be equivalent in all their predictions and are hence scientifically indistinguishable. However, they are not psychologically identical when trying to move from that base into the unknown. For different views suggest different kinds of modifications which might be made and hence are not equivalent in the hypotheses one generates from them in ones attempt to understand what is not yet understood. I, therefore, think that a good theoretical physicist today might find it useful to have a wide range of physical viewpoints and mathematical expressions of the same theory (for example, of quantum electrodynamics) available to him. This may be asking too much of one man. Then new students should as a class have this. If every individual student follows the same current fashion in expressing and thinking about electrodynamics or field theory, then the variety of hypotheses being generated to understand strong interactions, say, is limited. Perhaps rightly so, for possibly the chance is high that the truth lies in the fashionable direction. But, on the off-chance that it is in another direction — a direction obvious from an unfashionable view of field theory — who will find it? Only someone who has sacrificed himself by teaching himself quantum electrodynamics from a peculiar and unusual point of view; one that he may have to invent for himself. I say sacrificed himself because he most likely will get nothing from it, because the truth may lie in another direction, perhaps even the fashionable one.

But, if my own experience is any guide, the sacrifice is really not great because if the peculiar viewpoint taken is truly experimentally equivalent to the usual in the realm of the known there is always a range of applications and problems in this realm for which the special viewpoint gives one a special power and clarity of thought, which is valuable in itself. Furthermore, in the search for new laws, you always have the psychological excitement of feeling that possibly nobody has yet thought of the crazy possibility you are looking at right now.

So what happened to the old theory that I fell in love with as a youth? Well, I would say it's become an old lady, that has very little attractive left in her and the young today will not have their hearts pound anymore when they look at her. But, we can say the best we can for any old woman, that she has been a very good mother and she has given birth to some very good children. And, I thank the Swedish Academy of Sciences for complimenting one of them. Thank you.

Hmmmm, arguably a sexist/ageist metaphor at the end — but the punch line remains: "... I don't know what it means, that nature chooses these curious forms, but maybe that is a way of defining simplicity. Perhaps a thing is simple if you can describe it fully in several different ways without immediately knowing that you are describing the same thing."

And best of all to remember:

      I
  Don't
Know

(cf. The Mysterians (1999-08-02), Many Worlds Demystified (1999-10-24), QuantumNondemolition (2000-02-05), Hans Bethe (2004-11-29), Schrodinger's Catastrophe (2008-01-26), John Archibald Wheeler (2008-04-15), Introduction to Bayesian Statistics (2010-11-20), ...)

- Sunday, January 15, 2017 at 06:28:28 (EST)


2016-12-21 - Soften and Breathe

~5.6 miles @ ~15.9 min/mi

"A Gnarly Ball of Personality Disorders!" Dawn Patrol this morning enjoys a beautiful baby-blanket-hued sunrise, electric pinks and pacific blues, as we meander the streets of Pimmit Hills and listen to each other mindfully. Frustrations fade. "Cheaper than therapy!" — and likely far more effective for some. A toppled front-yard flamingo tries to bury its head in the lawn. Inflatable Christmas decorations lie collapsed in flaccid heaps, their air compressors off. Drs Beth & Kerry & Kristin laugh at the world together. "This is what friends are for!"

(trackfile)

- Saturday, January 14, 2017 at 06:07:22 (EST)


Death Practices

Chapter 12 ("Death Awareness Practice") of How to Wake Up by Toni Bernhard describes four ways to reflect upon the ultimate destiny of all life:

Bernhard concludes:

Finally, living with conscious awareness of death is making each day more meaningful to me. I feel as if I'm living more purposefully and that I'm more open to my moment-to-moment experience—awake to life as it is. Just this moment. Just this.

(cf. Bennett on Stoicism (1999-04-24), Nothing There in the First Place (2015-05-31), ...)

- Friday, January 13, 2017 at 05:10:07 (EST)


2016-12-19 - Coconut Run

~3.4 miles @ ~13.6 min/mi

"Hot Cocoa?" suggests Kristin. We're brainstorming a codename for another upcoming 100 mile ultramarathon race, a euphemism to use in order to avoid jinxing the performance (see Wikipedia re "The Scottish Play"). Perhaps it should be called "The Coconut Run" — after the Marx Brothers film "The Cocoanuts", coconut oil, and other usages that include the letters "C" & "O"?

Weather has again turned brisk, temps in the lower 30s. Brilliant Christmas lights shift through the spectrum on a Hunting Avenue tree. Dr K reports on the long lines at Children's Hospital on Sunday, kids all with stomach-virus woes. The other 99% of the "conversation" is a recap of weekend fun in Prince William Forest Park, including unmentionable details ("trail talk") that can't appear in the official race report!

(trackfile)

- Thursday, January 12, 2017 at 05:14:10 (EST)


Stand by You

"Stand by You" is a pop song from 2015, with lovely lyrics about loyalty:

Hands, put your empty hands in mine
And scars, show me all the scars you hide
And hey, if your wings are broken
Please take mine so yours can open, too
'Cause I'm gonna stand by you

Oh, tears make kaleidoscopes in your eyes
And hurt, I know you're hurting, but so am I
And, Love, if your wings are broken
Borrow mine 'til yours can open, too
'Cause I'm gonna stand by you

Even if we're breaking down, we can find a way to break through
Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through Hell with you
Love, you're not alone, 'cause I'm gonna stand by you
...

It's by Rachel Platten and colleagues; the associated music video is likewise uplifting ...

(cf. At Your Side (2009-05-11), ...)

- Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at 04:32:41 (EST)


2016-12-17 - Devil Dog 100 Miler DNF

~42 miles @ ~18 min/mi + ~20 miles @ ~24 min/mi

In freezing rain, the start of the Devil Dog 100 - Stephanie Fonda in orange jacket, ^z following in white windbreaker - photo by David Potts"Mark, will you come with me?" quietly asks Stephanie, standing by me in the dark.

It's 0540 on Sunday morning. She's at mile 81.5 of a 101 mile race. Her legs are worn out from slipping on sheets of ice and layers of mud, clambering over roots and rocks, falling down and standing up again, tip-toeing across streams, scrambling up hills and descending into valleys. She's racing the clock and has just made the crucial 24-hour cutoff — but only by 30 minutes. No sleep since 3am the day before. Tummy trouble from chugging energy drinks to stay awake. Dashing through Aid Station checkpoints, constantly pushing the pace. No time to waste if she's going to finish within the final 32 hour limit.

"Of course!" I reply. "Give me five minutes to get ready. And — thank you for asking."

Saturday evening I drop out of the race after taking ~12.5 hours to cover 42 miles, the first two laps of five. I hang around to help at an aid station, applaud runners as they head out, and commiserate with those who, like me, DNF (Did Not Finish). At ~1am on Sunday I give ultra-buddy John Hord a ride homeward, and return at ~3am to nap in front of the fire for a few fitful hours. Dr Stephanie arrives at 0530, speedily changes into dry gear, refills bottles, and prepares to head out.

"Let's go!"

The "Devil Dog Ultras" include 100k and 100M runs on the trails of Prince William Forest Park. It all turns out ok, in spite of crazy-wild weather. As King Lear says, "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! ... Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!" The elements do their best, but nonetheless ~70% of the 100k runners and ~40% of the 100 milers finish.

In a midnight conversation Race Director Toni Aurelio explains the title "Devil Dog" (her husband is a Marine — "Not a retired Marine", I correct her — "he's always a Marine!") and the Aid Station names: "Toofy" is the nickname of her family's "Teufel Hund" ("Devil Dog" in German), "Gunny" is Toofy's brother (and the nickname of every Marine gunnery sergeant), and "Remi" was the mother of both, who sadly died a year ago. Oh, and there are "Devil Dog" creme-filled devils-food cakes at the aid stations. Yummy!

How did we get here? The evening before, Stephanie's daughter teaches me how to make an omelette, and Stephanie teaches me how to tape my feet to prevent blisters. At ~4am on race morning ultra-buddy John Hord meets us. We load gear into Stephanie's van. During the hour-long drive to the race, I take a Vow of Silence. It lasts for only 5 minutes, but my companions find it strangely disturbing. Hmmmmm ... must try this again!

Trying not to slip on the ice, ^z coming into the Aid Station at mile 16 - photo by Hai Nguyen
Stephanie Fonda, proud finisher, Devil Dog 100 Miler, 17-18 Dec 2016Initiate ^z Lockdown Mode! Stephanie's orders: for me to have a chance to finish a 100 miler, it's got to be all business. No chasing Pokémon in the woods. No lollygagging at Aid Stations. No selfies by the stream. No stopping to chat with tourists.

"You've got One Job!" Stephanie admonishes. And perhaps I'll finish that job another year. The ice storm that begins before dawn slows everybody down. Some are strong and brave enough to keep moving fast enough to make the cutoffs. Many are not. Trails are slick; falls and injuries abound. Park roads become sheets of black ice. Runners get down on all fours to crawl across. Cars can't get in to set up at least one aid station.

"Like a billion jewels on all the twigs!" The sun comes out mid-afternoon and glitters off the forest canopy. Ice melts from the trees and drips onto runners. Narrow trails turn to slippery mud.

Speed-walking together, Stephanie and I talk. A lot. A pacer becomes a metaphor for a life-friend, a helper-guide and fellow-traveler, a Buddha-Buddy on the quest for awakening. The silly Magical Unicorn Oracle card drawn a day before the event, as weather forecasts become increasingly grim, gives the not-so-silly advice, "Wait Until Morning". The random card picked for the race itself reads simply: "Love".


Happy ending: Stephanie finishes the inaugural Devil Dog Ultra, all 101 miles of it, in less than 31 hours. Brava! It is my deep honor and joy to accompany her for a part of that awesome journey.

Splits (Lap 1 = 22.5 miles, Laps 2-5 = 19.5 miles each):

Lap SF Time SF Pace ^z Time ^z Pace Comments
15.9 hours 15.7 min/mi 6.5 hours 17.3 min/mi mostly ice
25.1 hours 15.7 min/mi 6.0 hours 18.5 min/mi mostly mud
35.9 hours 18.2 min/mi --darkness
46.3 hours 19.4 min/mi --darkness
57.7 hours 23.7 min/mi 7.7 hours 23.7 min/mi together

At Mile 22.5 ultra-friend Janet Choi records a two-minute video interview with me. The transcript:

JC - How's it going? I want to do an interview!
^z - OK, but don't take a picture of me without my shirt on!
JC - Oh, I already did.
^z - Ah!
JC - No, wait. From the neck up! There you go.
^z - Ha, ha, ha!
JC - So, you just did 23. How was it? Icy out there!
^z - All is well!
JC - Did you fall?
^z - A few times, but not horribly.
JC - And you're feeling good?
^z - Bruised, but unbroken!
JC - So you're going to come through here every 23 miles or so?
^z - 19 and a half, actually.
JC - OK.
^z - Are you filming?
JC - I am; it's an interview!
^z - Wow!
JC - You know, I only do this for the elite athletes.
^z - Well, I haven't signed a model release so you're going to have to negotiate with my agent.
JC - Did your beard freeze?
^z - My beard? Yes, there were icicles on it, but they've melted.
JC - You're feeling good? Your feet are good?
^z - Feet are 90% ok, a little rub on the left foot. I've gotta get outta here!
JC - Can I help you with anything?
^z - Thank you so much. If you wouldn't mind, seal up this bag.
JC - I can do that, I can do that.
^z - Now windbreaker, get my gloves, put the pack on, fill the pockets, and I'm outta here!
JC - All right! I'll seal that.
^z - Thank you, thank you, thank you!
JC - You're going good!
^z - May not need the windbreaker, but it might get chilly. Is the wind supposed to pick up?
JC - I don't think so, but it's going to get warmer.
^z - Warmer is good, but, well ...
JC - It was sheets of ice this morning! I don't know how you guys even ran on that.
^z - A lot of people fell; a lot of people went slow. But we're OK.
JC - All right!
^z - Thank you for being here, Janet. And you ... Jeff?
JC - No, it's Sean.
^z - Sean, Sean, Sean. I'm so bad with names, so horrible.
JC - No, you've got a lot going on.
^z - Thank you!
JC - OK, good job! Woo-hoo! Go, Mark!
^z - Bye! <waves>

(for other 100 miler DNFs see 2010-05-15 - Half Massanutten Mountain Trails, 2012-04-07 - Philly 100 Endurance Run, 2013-04-27 - C-and-O Canal 100 DNF, 2013-10-12 - Tesla-Hertz Run - 100 Miler DNF, 2014-04-26 - CO Canal 100 Miler DNF, 2015-03-28 - Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run (75 mile DNF), ...)

- Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at 04:48:53 (EST)


Buddhism and Love

From Chapter 1 ("The Illusion of 'I'") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart, on the real meaning of Buddhism:

... Some people think that Buddhism doesn't have much to do with love. It has everything to do with love. It just doesn't sentimentalize it. It doesn't get icky, or gushy, or oozy. It's very practical, this selflessness and love practice. Don't give me a long speech about love, but show me by your action what is in your heart. Don't weep sentimentally about something and the next minute crush an insect.

With deep practice, with more and more understanding, we come to realize that we are not punished for our sins. This is not part of our way of being. We are not punished for our sins, but by them. Whatever we do that is not loving, that is selfish, that is egocentric, that is grabby, comes home to roost. If we are in pain, if we suffer, we need to examine where it comes from. Probably it issues from some activity that is not unselfish, that is selfishly motivated. We suffer because we want so much, because we think that situations should be different from the way they are.

(cf. Steadiness of Heart (2011-07-13), Mindfulness As a Love Affair (2013-08-10), Opening to Love (2013-09-27), 01 (2013-11-05), It is Thou (2014-09-24), Radical Acceptance (2015-05-13), ...)

- Monday, January 09, 2017 at 04:50:40 (EST)


2016-12-09 - Justice and Fairness and Paychecks

~5.0 miles @ ~13.7 min/mi

"... happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance ...". The Dawn Patrol remembers George Washington's 1790 letter "To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island". A college friend, Jewish immigrant from South Africa, is fearful. We hope for peace and safety for all, as did our first President.

"Somehow it seemed so much bigger in Paris!" The Eiffel Tower stands in a McLean front yard, lit white near other holiday decorations. Cait declines the opportunity to pose by it; Kerry and Kristin chuckle. We miss a connecting path, explore Hooking Road to its end, then backtrack. Brisk winds and temps in the upper 20s make for a chilly trek.

"Smoke and mirrors!" and "A shell game!" are some semi-cynical assessments of a recent corporate lecture on salary issues. Compensation is a human system, with imprecise and subjective elements but noble goals: fairness and long-term group good. Justice is tough to achieve — we must all keep trying!

(trackfile)

- Sunday, January 08, 2017 at 08:39:53 (EST)


Mantra - Be Time

  Be
Time!

"Me Time" is a popular concept: setting aside a block of minutes to reward one's Self. And sure, that's important, maybe vital.

But in addition/instead, perhaps try to experience a bit of Be Time — to just be, without subject or object, without end or beginning, without future or past, without purpose or goal, ...

Or maybe try to Be Time itself — that strange dimension orthogonal to "... the depth and breadth and height / My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight / For the ends of being and ideal grace ...".

(cf. Power of Now (2011-12-14), Being Zen (2014-05-26), Swiss Cheese (2014-07-04), ...)

- Saturday, January 07, 2017 at 06:16:47 (EST)


2016-12-07 - Guilt Trip

~5.0 miles @ ~13.2 min/mi

"In the middle of the night, if you're thinking about quitting just remember that you are our inspiration!" Drs K&K prepare to apply the three levers of peer pressure, guilt, and shame, in anticipation of a 100 miler scheduled for Prince William Forest Park in 10 days. We'll see how well that works!

"Scrambled Legs" is a new running group at the office, preparing for a springtime half-marathon. Kerry and Kristin discuss possible training with them, perhaps segments of longer Dawn Patrol runs. We loop through McLean, critique a flashing Santa Claus, greet early morning walkers, and enjoy a newly-resurfaced asphalt path. A neighbor friend who grew up with Kerry's daughter awaits the school bus. As we finish a brilliant sunrise begins. Lovely!

(trackfile)

- Friday, January 06, 2017 at 04:48:58 (EST)


Sublime States

Chapter 13 ("The Psychological States of Awakened Beings") of How to Wake Up by Toni Bernhard lists four "radiant emotions" — though the middle pair seem to really be just positive and negative aspects of one fundamental concept. Bernhard's catalog, which she explores in further detail in Chapters 15-18:

... and importantly: apply those "divine abidings" to one's self!

- Thursday, January 05, 2017 at 05:05:22 (EST)


2016-12-05 - Self-Compassion Run

~6.0 miles @ ~13.1 min/mi

"All that is old becomes new again!" — or maybe, "Have we been here before? I don't remember!" The Early Xmas McLean Dawn Lawn Decoration Survey rediscovers a Santa with polychromatic-glowing hot-air balloon instead of sleigh, supplemented with drifting red-green laser light-show and giant flickering lollipops.

We meander, loop, and eventually find ourselves. It's cool and damp with puddles left by overnight rain. Kristin reports on a busy-good weekend with minimal soreness after Friday's 30 miler. We share reminders to practice self-compassion — tough as that is given all the confusion, need, and sadness in the world. Sometimes it's so hard to be one's own best friend, and to refrain from trying to "fix" everything. But "it is what it is", and that's ok!

(trackfile)

- Wednesday, January 04, 2017 at 04:39:38 (EST)


Subtle Sound

Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart is a collection of talks by the late Canadian-American Buddhist master, mother, and concert pianist who was sometimes called "Ma Roshi". It's edited by Roko Sherry Chayat. The Foreword by Edward Espy Brown begins:

Reading over these talks by my friend and teacher Maurine Stuart Roshi, I am struck by a simple fact. There are no secrets here. Nothing is revealed. If you are seeking to get an insight or saying that does something for you, you will find nothing in these talks. What is found will be in your yourself, your own treasure. As Dogen Zenji said about a good teacher, "Even if the wood is bent, placed in skilled hands its splendid merits immediately appear." Maurine wants you to know the splendid merits that are yours.

This is Maurine's great gift, her genius, her realization—to give you your independence rather than taking it away. This is far more difficult than it sounds. The temptation to which many teachers succumb is to offer insights and understandings, brilliant and articulate words that often leave the student feeling dumb and unworthy, dependent on the teacher for the next spiritual fix, for the right understanding. Maurine is careful to let you stand on your own: "We are working together, sitting together, helping each other, but not in a way that we become dependent on each other's help. . . . We have a clean, clear friendship, without expectations and without demands." (From "The Illusion of 'I'") Maurine was not someone who needed to impress or dazzle anybody with her understanding. She was simply intent on awakening others to what was already theirs.

Editor Sherry Chayat in her Introduction tells of Maurine Stuart's complicated life. Their meeting is charmingly auspicious:

My first encounter with Maurine was at a weekend sesshin at the Zen Studies Society's New York Zendo Shobo-ji. It was in the early part of 1970, soon after I had become a member. During sesshin, we women slept on the carpeted floor of the second-floor library. We would stow our sleeping bags and other belongings in a walk-in closet, where we also kept our meditation robes. That first morning, having been thrust by the shrill tones of the shinrei (wake-up bell) into a mixture of grogginess and panic, I rolled up my sleeping bag, got in line to use the bathroom, then scurried into the closet to change into my robe. Certain I couldn't last through pre-dawn morning service and zazen without something to eat, I pulled a bag of dried fruit from my coat pocket, and sat down among the sleeping bags underneath the coatrack.

An imposing woman with beautiful red hair came in as I was furtively nibbling away. Caught, I held out the bag to her. Picking out one apricot with exquisite grace, she smiled, and suddenly all my ill-defined, stomach-clenching sesshin fears melted away. After sesshin ended, I had a chance to speak with her, and was struck again by her warmth, dignity, and humor.

Excerpts and images to follow ...

(cf. Not Always So (2009-07-04), No Beginning, No End (2013-03-24), Charlotte Joko Beck (2014-08-18), No Expectation (2015-01-02), ...)

- Tuesday, January 03, 2017 at 05:29:36 (EST)


2016-12-04 - NWB Trek with Mary

~9.2 miles @ ~20.0 min/mi

"Some were better!" Dr Mary acknowledges Framer George Mason's great gifts to the early USA, but notes that others did more — and didn't own slaves. We ramble upstream along Northwest Branch Trail, enjoying the crisp morning and greeting cute dogs out walking their masters. Conversation covers psychology and plumbing, politics and sinusitis, whaling and mindfulness.

"Three sugar cubes?" At Wheaton Park Stables a kind equestrian instructor gives us something to boost blood sugar. A girl rides slowly around the indoor dressage arena. The octagonal sign on the road outside says "WHOA" instead of "STOP". We meander past the Brookside Nature Center and return via the left bank of the stream, a much hillier route with more tributary rills to cross, some via stepping-stones and others over small logs.

Finisher rewards: lunch at California Tortilla and grocery shopping at Trader Joe's!

(trackfile)

- Monday, January 02, 2017 at 05:20:32 (EST)


Audaz - December 2017 Meditation Retreat

¡Audaz!
    ... bold
          ... audacious
                ... venturesome
"I love creating beauty, relationships, connections ... discovering hidden places and treasures.""I love harmony, and expansiveness, and sharing — especially sharing joy."
"I love finding refuge, shelter, safety — a solid place to stand, a calm center in the storm."" Thank you —
      I know,
          I love it,
... and I want more!"
"I love ideas, and helping others, and most of all transcending — going beyond.""I love giving and nurturing ... and I need someone to take care of me, to emotionally nurture me ... and I don't have that in the Intimate Space. Now I recognize how important authentic connection is to me — I deserve it, I need it, and I will seek it out."Be generous —
      to your Self!

Audaz — the emergent mantra for the mindfulness meditation workshop led by Patricia Long on 2016-12-11. Half a dozen participants gather in Bethesda Maryland to "polish souls" — to let go, find purpose, and bathe in the luxury of awareness. Some arrive with no goals; others seek strength, or need to recover from injury, or wish to share gratitude, or crave escape from the planning-thinking-worrying that dominates so much of modern lives. We chant, soften, find opportunity. We talk about what we love and share diverse answers.

"Music is the space between the notes," said Claude Debussy. We sit in silence, expanding into the universe — emptiness, in the center, surrounding and embracing ...

(cf. Meditation Retreat (2014-01-28), Meditation - Sound, Music, Silence (2014-10-06), Mindfulness Workshop 2015 (2015-03-19), Meditation Retreat - December 2015 (2015-12-16), Mindfulness Retreat - August 2016 (2016-08-31), ...)

- Sunday, January 01, 2017 at 05:21:10 (EST)



For back issues of the ^zhurnal see Volumes v.01 (April-May 1999), v.02 (May-July 1999), v.03 (July-September 1999), v.04 (September-November 1999), v.05 (November 1999 - January 2000), v.06 (January-March 2000), v.07 (March-May 2000), v.08 (May-June 2000), v.09 (June-July 2000), v.10 (August-October 2000), v.11 (October-December 2000), v.12 (December 2000 - February 2001), v.13 (February-April 2001), v.14 (April-June 2001), 0.15 (June-August 2001), 0.16 (August-September 2001), 0.17 (September-November 2001), 0.18 (November-December 2001), 0.19 (December 2001 - February 2002), 0.20 (February-April 2002), 0.21 (April-May 2002), 0.22 (May-July 2002), 0.23 (July-September 2002), 0.24 (September-October 2002), 0.25 (October-November 2002), 0.26 (November 2002 - January 2003), 0.27 (January-February 2003), 0.28 (February-April 2003), 0.29 (April-June 2003), 0.30 (June-July 2003), 0.31 (July-September 2003), 0.32 (September-October 2003), 0.33 (October-November 2003), 0.34 (November 2003 - January 2004), 0.35 (January-February 2004), 0.36 (February-March 2004), 0.37 (March-April 2004), 0.38 (April-June 2004), 0.39 (June-July 2004), 0.40 (July-August 2004), 0.41 (August-September 2004), 0.42 (September-November 2004), 0.43 (November-December 2004), 0.44 (December 2004 - February 2005), 0.45 (February-March 2005), 0.46 (March-May 2005), 0.47 (May-June 2005), 0.48 (June-August 2005), 0.49 (August-September 2005), 0.50 (September-November 2005), 0.51 (November 2005 - January 2006), 0.52 (January-February 2006), 0.53 (February-April 2006), 0.54 (April-June 2006), 0.55 (June-July 2006), 0.56 (July-September 2006), 0.57 (September-November 2006), 0.58 (November-December 2006), 0.59 (December 2006 - February 2007), 0.60 (February-May 2007), 0.61 (April-May 2007), 0.62 (May-July 2007), 0.63 (July-September 2007), 0.64 (September-November 2007), 0.65 (November 2007 - January 2008), 0.66 (January-March 2008), 0.67 (March-April 2008), 0.68 (April-June 2008), 0.69 (July-August 2008), 0.70 (August-September 2008), 0.71 (September-October 2008), 0.72 (October-November 2008), 0.73 (November 2008 - January 2009), 0.74 (January-February 2009), 0.75 (February-April 2009), 0.76 (April-June 2009), 0.77 (June-August 2009), 0.78 (August-September 2009), 0.79 (September-November 2009), 0.80 (November-December 2009), 0.81 (December 2009 - February 2010), 0.82 (February-April 2010), 0.83 (April-May 2010), 0.84 (May-July 2010), 0.85 (July-September 2010), 0.86 (September-October 2010), 0.87 (October-December 2010), 0.88 (December 2010 - February 2011), 0.89 (February-April 2011), 0.90 (April-June 2011), 0.91 (June-August 2011), 0.92 (August-October 2011), 0.93 (October-December 2011), 0.94 (December 2011-January 2012), 0.95 (January-March 2012), 0.96 (March-April 2012), 0.97 (April-June 2012), 0.98 (June-September 2012), 0.99 (September-November 2012), 0.9901 (November-December 2012), 0.9902 (December 2012-February 2013), 0.9903 (February-March 2013), 0.9904 (March-May 2013), 0.9905 (May-July 2013), 0.9906 (July-September 2013), 0.9907 (September-October 2013), 0.9908 (October-December 2013), 0.9909 (December 2013-February 2014), 0.9910 (February-May 2014), 0.9911 (May-July 2014), 0.9912 (July-August 2014), 0.9913 (August-October 2014), 0.9914 (November 2014-January 2015), 0.9915 (January-April 2015), 0.9916 (April-July 2015), 0.9917 (July-September 2015), 0.9918 (September-November 2015), 0.9919 (November 2015-January 2016), 0.9920 (January-April 2016), 0.9921 (April-June 2016), 0.9922 (June-July 2016), 0.9923 (July-September 2016), 0.9924 (October-December 2016), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2017 by Mark Zimmermann.)

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