^zhurnal 0.59

Howdy, pilgrim! You're in volume 0.59 of the ^zhurnal — see ZhurnalyWiki on zhurnaly.com for a parallel "live" Wiki edition; see Zhurnal and Zhurnaly for quick clues as to what this is all about. Briefly, it's the journal of ^z = Mark Zimmermann ... previous volume = 0.58 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z(at)his(dot)com" ... tnx!

Portrait of the Artist

One rainy morning, waiting at the bus stop, I'm immersed in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. A gray-haired gentleman looks over my shoulder. "Oh, you're reading James Joyce," he says.

"Yes," I reply, holding a finger inside the paperback to mark my place while I show him the stained, creased cover. "I found it at the side of the road in College Park. It's a bit soggy."

"So is the weather," he responds, with a smile. "A good day for reading Joyce!"

Portrait is ponderous in places, incomprehensible in others. It's often poetic as it describes the process of intellectual growth. In Chapter 3 the protagonist daydreams over a math notebook:

The equation on the page of his scribbler began to spread out a widening tail, eyed and starred like a peacock's; and, when the eyes and stars of its indices had been eliminated, began slowly to fold itself together again. The indices appearing and disappearing were eyes opening and closing; the eyes opening and closing were stars being born and being quenched. The vast cycle of starry life bore his weary mind outward to its verge and inward to its centre, a distant music accompanying him outward and inward. What music? The music came nearer and he recalled the words, the words of Shelley's fragment upon the moon wandering companionless, pale for weariness. The stars began to crumble and a cloud of fine stardust fell through space.
The dull light fell more faintly upon the page whereon another equation began to unfold itself slowly and to spread abroad its widening tail. It was his own soul going forth to experience, unfolding itself sin by sin, spreading abroad the bale-fire of its burning stars and folding back upon itself, fading slowly, quenching its own lights and fires. They were quenched: and the cold darkness filled chaos.

Joyce conveys the depths of Catholic faith in Portrait via lovely and terrifyingly graphic sermons. He also depicts the joys of philosophy, most strikingly in Chapter 5 during a sometimes-rowdy debate among students over the nature of beauty in art and nature:

— Let us take woman, said Stephen.
— Let us take her! said Lynch fervently.
— The Greek, the Turk, the Chinese, the Copt, the Hottentot, said Stephen, all admire a different type of female beauty. That seems to be a maze out of which we cannot escape. I see, however, two ways out. One is this hypothesis: that every physical quality admired by men in women is in direct connexion with the manifold functions of women for the propagation of the species. It may be so. The world, it seems, is drearier than even you, Lynch, imagined. For my part I dislike that way out. It leads to eugenics rather than to esthetic. It leads you out of the maze into a new gaudy lecture-room where MacCann, with one hand on The Origin of Species and the other hand on the new testament, tells you that you admired the great flanks of Venus because you felt that she would bear you burly offspring and admired her great breasts because you felt that she would give good milk to her children and yours.

... and, after an interruption, the alternative theory:

— This hypothesis, Stephen repeated, is the other way out: that, though the same object may not seem beautiful to all people, all people who admire a beautiful object find in it certain relations which satisfy and coincide with the stages themselves of all esthetic apprehension. These relations of the sensible, visible to you through one form and to me through another, must be therefore the necessary qualities of beauty. ...

Joyce's narrator goes on to discuss those three qualities — wholeness, harmony, and radiance (after Thomas Aquinas, "integritas, consonantia, claritas") — in stylish fashion, interspersed with rude schoolboy banter. Not your usual coming-of-age novel!

- Thursday, February 08, 2007 at 07:03:31 (EST)

My Member Says ...

A neighbor is a Congressional staffer. One evening as we visit, he begins an anecdote with, "My Member says ...". Alas, a crude vision arises when my mind takes those three words out of context. Also to memory come comments by Will Rogers, and Mark Twain's classic: "Suppose you were an idiot. Suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

- Tuesday, February 06, 2007 at 05:36:03 (EST)

Racy Jetsam

Jogging near the University of Maryland one sees litter that's a cut above the ordinary. From the shoulder of University Blvd., among discarded lottery tickets and beer bottles, I snag two juicy paperbacks: James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. Both are beat-up but in readable condition. Woot! Further notes on the past half dozen bouts of ^z pedestrianism:

Bethesda Circuit

14 Jan 2007 — 11+ miles (~11 min/mi) — "Toss me up a sand wedge!" the golfer shouts down from the hillside. He's just outside the fence that conducts the Capital Crescent Trail through the Columbia Country Club, and his ball is perched behind a stick on the mulch at the top of the slope, almost the worst lie I can imagine. At midday it's an unseasonably warm 60° but drizzling intermittently, and my left hip isn't twinging too much, so I decide to set out for a jog. I take one of my usual semi-urban loops: RCT to Cedar Lane to Old Georgetown and then home via the CCT. Along the way I pause to take a few photos of ripples and reflections in the swamp waters near Rock Creek. Just inside the Beltway I venture from Cedar onto a paved path that I've passed many times but never tried. It turns out to parallel West Parkhill Drive and then loop back to Cedar, avoiding a hill at the expense of an extra quarter mile or so. I'm wearing one of my old thin Boston baseball shirts, and when a passer-by sees me he shouts, "Go Sox!"

Suburban GPS Adventure

18 Jan — ~9 miles (~12 min/mi) — I've survived my morning dental appointment with only a mild scolding ("Yes sir, I promise to floss more!"), and it's time to reward myself with a run. I go upstream from Adelphi Manor Park (milepost 4.5 on Northwest Branch Trail) treading carefully on icy patches and across shallow tributary streams to the end of the pavement near mile 7. Then I turn right onto the gravel access road, which I've never tried before. It climbs steeply for a quarter mile and ends at Oakview Drive, just inside the Beltway.
I trot east along Oakview, cross New Hampshire at the light, and continue through the spaghetti mess of apartment-complex parking lots until I get to a dead end. Guided by the rough map on my little GPS screen I cut through a back yard and continue east along Lackawanna St. to Riggs Road. Here I make a small mistake and zig where I should zag. Muskogee St. leads me into a maze of twisty mini-mansion lanes, near the fenced-off interchange and truck scales where I-95 leaves the Beltway for Baltimore. I nervously cut through another unfenced back yard (nobody seems to be home at mid-day in this universe) and navigate south to Buck Lodge Community Park, where a nice bike path takes me under the high-tension power lines and into College Park Woods.
I'm tempted to climb the fence and trespass on what may be a UM experimental farm field, but I refrain and follow the streets. Behind another dead-end I leap across a little creek to reach a UM research complex, from which a driveway takes me to the intersection of Metzerott Rd. and University Blvd. The temperature is still in the low 30's as I return to my car. Thankfully the battery, though weak, starts the engine; I keep it running as I pick up Son Robin at school, take him home, then drop the car off at the garage.

Shooting Starr 2007

20 Jan — 5 miles (~11:20 min/mi) — In spite of strong breezes (15-25 mi/hr gusts) and brisk temperatures (~30°F) there's a good turnout this morning at the MCRRC "Shooting Starr" race in Hillandale. I find Ken at the registration table. He snags bib #500 and suggests that he might insert a decimal point to make it read 50.0, to indicate his obsession with finishing the JFK 50 miler this year. Caren is letting her calf injury heal so she's a volunteer course marshall today. Christina and I line up together at the start with Ken and John Sissala, whom I thank again for measuring and painting the quarter-mile marks along Rock Creek Trail many years ago. Chris and I are among the few who aren't wearing tights and jackets against the cold.
We do the first mile in 10:24 by my watch (having crossed the starting line about 10 seconds after the "gun"), rather faster than our plan, but no matter. Subsequent miles are 10:56 (during which Ken's daughter Hilary and friend Langston pass us; they arrived late for the start), 11:36 (including a water station stop), 12:06 (when we walked with Jeanne to keep her company for a while), and finally 11:19. My left quad is a bit stiff during the first half-mile but otherwise seems OK; it tightens up again after I cool down. Early in the race we pass a huge fallen tree that has taken out some electrical and telephone lines. As we approach the finish a volunteer tells us that we're almost done. "We're just warming up!" I reply. "Doesn't this race start at 9am?" He tells us that he thought so too, which is why he arrived late and got to hold the flag at the final corner.

Snow Run

21 Jan — 5+ miles (~11 min/mi) — In early afternoon I see that it's snowing ... time to go out for a run! I begin with noble ambitions to do a dozen or more miles, but the snow seems to be mixed with sleet or freezing rain and my face, especially the eyes, aren't comfortable. So after half a mile I decide to cut things short and do a brisk hour's jog around a neighborhood loop that I haven't tried for a long time. And No Walk Breaks! From home I take the CCT to RCT north of East-West Highway, then go upstream to the Mormon/LDS temple. I keep running — barely — up the long Stoneybrook hill, where I branch along neighborhood streets past Leafy House, the McKenney Hills Learning Center, and the old red stone Church of St. John Evangelist, back to home base. Paulette takes photos of the icicles on my beard when I arrive.

Snowy Seneca Creek Trail

3 Feb — 12+ miles (~13 min/mi) — After taking 12 days off to let my left quad recuperate, it's time to test the muscle. Today Ed Schultze has organized another run along the lovely Seneca Creek Greenway Trail, between Watkins Mill Road and Black Rock Mill. At 7:20am I drive cautiously along icy, hilly Black Rock Road to the finish point and get a ride to the start in the back seat of Juliet's car, next to her big, friendly black Labrador dog "Taiga". At 7:59am I set out, several minutes ahead of the main group but expecting them to catch up with me at any moment. The trail is covered with half an inch or less of snow, and temperatures are in the mid-20's. Within the first mile I see three big deer bolt down the valley at my approach. I make good time and approach the trail's intersection with Route 355 as the first runners overtake me; maybe they started later than planned? At Riffleford Road there's a cache of munchies that Ed has prepositioned. I arrive in time to greet the main group of runners as they finish eating and drinking. I swallow some salty chips and grab three small peanut-chocolate candy bars, which I consume during the next half-hour. After 157 minutes I rejoin the crowd at Black Rock Mill. (Ed estimates the distance as ~13 miles, but I doubt that I went at 12 min/mi pace considering how much walking I did; perhaps it's more like 12 miles plus a bit?)

Country Road Run 2007

4 Feb — 5 miles (8:55 min/mi) — Lyman Jordan must be the only person whose engine runs hotter than mine; yesterday he passed me on the Seneca Creek Trail wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Today he's bundled up only a wee bit more. As the Master of Ceremonies for the MCRRC "Country Road Run" in Olney he has to stand still and man the mike for an hour in blustery 20-degree weather — brrrrr! He dedicates today's race to Paris Caballero, the fast young MCRRC member who won it two years ago, and who sadly died last week.
The old left quadriceps muscle has been aching since 7 Jan (in spite of my continuing to run on it every weekend!) so I take a break between 21 Jan and 3 Feb, at which point it begins to feel better. After yesterday's longish trail run I'm not expecting much from today's 5 miler, and the result is surprisingly good — an overall sub-9 minute/mile pace for a new personal record at the distance. Maybe there's something to be said for rest and recovery?
Comrade Caren volunteers rather than races today. Before the start she lends me a trail running magazine and a couple of related inspirational movies. I begin near the back of the pack, cross the line ~10 seconds after the "gun", and settle into a brisk trot while chatting with Don Libes and Craig Roodenburg. My splits (8:48 + 8:58 + 8:50 + 8:42 + 9:09) are far faster than anticipated, and the final uphill mile is rather tough. Caren congratulates me at the result, ~90 seconds faster than last year. Panting and sweating, I drop gloves and hat to the ground and help Lyman look up names of runners as they approach the finish line so he can announce them on the loudspeaker.

(cf. Intestinal Infortitude (13 Aug 2006), Baby Gets New Shoes (5 Sep 2006), Viking Railroad (26 Sep 2006), Hat Bulge (23 Oct 2006), Inner Goat (12 Nov 2006), Jfk 50 Mile Run 2006 (20 Nov 2006), Sharper Image (10 Dec 2006), All Good (13 Jan 20007), ...)

- Sunday, February 04, 2007 at 14:30:23 (EST)

Toasty Ovaries

Scrabble, like poetry, can produce moments of high delight when an unexpected connection suddenly appears. Last week in a game with Son Rad Rob the following configuration arose on the lower side of the board:

... ...
T O A S T     ...
... V A R I E S

I can't recall the vertical crossing words (shown above as "...") but I definitely remember the instant when I saw that I could link the two horizontal words "TOAST" and "VARIES" with a simple tangential play:

... ...
T O A S T Y ...
... O V A R I E S
U ...

Sure, it didn't score many points, and I ended up losing the game — but that silly juxtaposition made it all worthwhile!

(cf. Ars Magna (27 Sep 2002), Zen Scrabble (7 Oct 2002), ...)

- Friday, February 02, 2007 at 06:15:19 (EST)

Things to Write About Some Day (0701)

For the record, and so they aren't lost, some samples from the grab-bag of items that have been on my "Think About" list for far too long (more than a couple of years in some cases!):

- Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 06:28:33 (EST)

Spin Cycle

Robert Charles Wilson's Spin is a major-award-winning science-fiction novel published in 2005. Perhaps it's slightly behind Wilson's Blind Lake in my estimation, but nonetheless it's a strong work, with significant echoes of Robert Forward (Dragon's Egg), Vernor Vinge (Marooned in Realtime), and Larry Niven (Protector). As T. S. Elliot said, "Talent imitates, but genius steals!". Sequel to follow ...

(cf. Faster Forward (21 Feb 2002), The Defenders (27 May 2002), Marooned In Realtime (12 May 2006), The Chronoliths (9 Dec 2006), Blind Lake (17 Dec 2006), Bios Fear (15 Jan 2007), ...)

- Monday, January 29, 2007 at 06:07:59 (EST)

Running 2006 — Analysis

A few graphs that show some interesting (to me!) facets of last year's ^z pedestrian expeditions. First, in a few square inches, all 92 of my training runs and races for 2006 (blue dots) along with my weekly training mileage (red line, a triangle-smoothed 2-week FWHM average):


The spike in November is the JFK 50 miler. Other local maxima include the Washington's Birthday Marathon in February, the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon (~28 miles) and the Hinte-Anderson Trail Run (50k "HAT Run") in March, the Wineglass Marathon and the Mad Dog Zimmarathon Plus (~29 miles) in October, and a New Year's Eve reenactment of the Marathon in the Parks.

The data reveal a fascinating relationship between speed and distance, as shown on this chart with a logarithmic horizontal scale for mileage and a linear vertical scale of pace in minutes/mile:


Slower runs on this chart are generally associated with tougher trail terrain or deliberately leisurely outings with friends. As previously discussed, and as the lower envelope of the pace points on the chart confirms, I tend to go ~1 minute/mile slower every time the distance doubles.

Bottom line for 2006: an average of ~21 miles/week, a total of ~1090 miles, and a mean run length of ~12 miles ... and most importantly, no major injuries. A good year — All Good!

(cf. Half Beast (4 Jan 2006), Golden Ticket (6 Feb 2006), Washington Birthday Marathon 2006 (20 Feb 2006), Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon 2006 (5 Mar 2006), Pawing The Earth (12 Mar 2006), Hat Run 2006 (31 Mar 2006), March April 2006 Jog Log (16 Apr 2006), The Avenue (17 May 2006), Deathly Cold (5 Jun 2006), Sponge Bath (29 Jun 2006), Remind Me Never To (23 July 2006), Intestinal Infortitude (13 Aug 2006), Baby Gets New Shoes (5 Sep 2006), Viking Railroad (26 Sep 2006), Wineglass Marathon 2006 (4 Oct 2006), Hat Bulge (23 Oct 2006), Inner Goat (12 Nov 2006), Jfk 50 Mile Run 2006 (20 Nov 2006), Sharper Image (10 Dec 2006), Marathon In The Parks 2006 (2 Jan 2007), All Good (13 Jan 2007), ...)

- Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 20:52:16 (EST)

Bring It!

Idioms get more punch when they're shortened; examples extend back from "My bad!" through "Would you believe?" probably to prehistoric times. Recently my running friend Christina taught me a new one, which she used with her weightlifting trainer:

Bring it!

... perhaps an abridgement of "Bring it on!" — meaning something like, "Challenge me, I'm ready to surprise you!"

(cf. All Your Base Are Belong To Us (28 Aug 2002), ...)

- Friday, January 26, 2007 at 14:23:56 (EST)

Paradise Lost Lost

John Milton's Paradise Lost — what can one say? Perhaps my expectations were too high, or my frame of mind too low when I read it last month. No theme could not be loftier, and there are inarguably striking poetic passages. But the work somehow doesn't work for me, except intermittently.

So what rises to the surface and is flagged for memory, alas, are distractions such as:

Not to mention the heavy theology, misogyny, and psychology. Perhaps it will be better for me next time ...

(cf. Paradise Lost Found (11 Jun 2001), ...)

- Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 05:57:54 (EST)

Dangerous Plaything

Friedrich Nietzsche seems to have had a knack for outrageousness. Some time ago in random browsing I ran across another example, from Also Sprach Zarathustra. In translation:

A real man wants two things: danger and play. Therefore he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything.

Gratuitous misogyny, trapped-in-his time, or über-in-your-face-ism? I don't know, but the echo of the words Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things (title of a 1987 book by linguist George Lakoff; cf. Messy And Neat Categories, 30 Jun 1999) is striking and perhaps not altogether coincidental. I guess Nietzsche has to join the too-long list of classic authors that I need to read some day ...

(above translation by Walter Kaufmann; in the original German, "Zweierlei will der ächte Mann: Gefahr und Spiel. Desshalb will er das Weib, als das gefährlichste Spielzeug."; for other random Nietzscheisms seen in passing, cf. Strong Coffee (7 Jun 2003), Search For Meaning (27 Aug 2005), Years Of Wandering (2 Feb 2006), ...)

- Monday, January 22, 2007 at 11:18:50 (EST)

JFK 50 Miler - 2006 Split Analysis

Of interest to few (if any?!) besides me, some time-distance details of my performance at various points along the course of the 18 Nov 2006 JFK 50 mile run [1]:

Location Mile Elapsed Time Pace (min/mi) Clock Time Comments
Start 0 0:00:00 -- 5:00am Several friends and I sign up for the officially-slow-person's 2-hour-early start to avoid stress (and likely failure) at time cutoffs along the way.
Old South Mountain Inn 2.5 0:36:03 14.4 5:36 This segment is a long climb on highway US Alt-40 from Boonsboro to the crest of South Mountain, where the course joins the Appalachian Trail at an ancient inn, revived now as a trendy restaurant.
Gathland Gap 9.3 2:22:10 15.6 7:22 The sun has risen and I reach the first potential deadline with over an hour to spare (but I would have only been ~8 minutes ahead of the 7am start's deadline here, if I had made the same speed in the light). Comrade Ken Swab and I part ways, as his ITB has begun to flare up. I trot on with scarcely a pause, trying to catch up with Comrade Caren Jew, a strong trail runner.
Weverton 15.5 4:08:10 17.1 9:08 Caren and I descend the switchbacks down Weverton Cliffs together, stepping aside as fast runners from the 7am start begin to pass us. I slip and fall flat on my back on some wet leaves, but fortunately sustain no damage other than a ruptured energy gel packet in my belt pouch. The course transitions here from the steep and rocky Appalachian Trail to the almost dead-flat C&O Canal towpath. I'm surprised to see that I'm still over an hour ahead of the 5am cutoff (theoretically ~22 minutes in front of the 7am time limit). My feet feel great so I decide not to change from trail to road shoes. I drop off my flashlight and greet MCRRC aid station volunteer Jim Farkas. Caren pauses to swap shoes and shirt, and it's the last we see of one another until the end of the race.
Antietam 27.1 6:29:08 12.2 11:29am My pace improves radically on the towpath and I find myself an hour and a half ahead of the 5am cutoff (but still only ~15 minutes in front of the Grim Reaper in an alternate universe where I begin at 7am). Being so far ahead of "schedule" I miss a planned rendezvous at Harper's Ferry with coach and fast marathoner Steve Adams.
Snyders Landing 34.4 8:01:59 12.7 1:02pm I'm still a comfortable ~90 minutes ahead of the time limit at this, the toughest of all the cutoffs to make. (A hypothetical 7am start, however, would have seen me miss the boat by 2 minutes here.)
Taylors Landing 38.4 8:56:08 13.5 1:56 My margin of safety increases enough now that I have no time-trouble worries any more, other than physical breakdown. (I even would have squeaked by the 7am cutoff by ~4 minutes.) I see Ken here — he made it to mile 27 in spite of his knee, but then had to punch out. It's my last chance to pick up some warmer clothes, but I'm feeling fine and don't stop to do so.
Dam #4 41.8 9:37:17 12.1 2:37 Almost 2.5 hours ahead of worst-case schedule, I start to feel a blister developing but realize that I can always walk it out from here. (I'm ~23 minutes within the mock-7am cutoff now.) It's early enough that I'm not required to wear a reflective safety vest, unlike later runners who are likely to be on the road after sundown.
8 to go 42.2 9:46:24 -- 2:46 After Dam #4 the course leaves the C&O Towpath and climbs along rolling, narrow country roads. This marker may have been incorrectly placed, or I may have taken an erroneous split, because the segment pace I compute here doesn't make sense.
7 to go 43.2 9:58:54 12.5 2:59
6 to go 44.2 10:10:46 11.9 3:11
5 to go 45.2 10:24:10 13.4 3:24
4 to go 46.2 10:37:30 13.3 3:38 I'm getting frightfully cold now, since I only have a single thin shirt on and the wind has risen as the sun descends. I estimate that I can make it to the finish in under 11.5 hours now with perseverance, so I start pushing the pace, with the secondary goal of getting warmer. I'm still almost 2.5 hours ahead of the 5am cutoff (and ~22 minutes in front of the notional 7am one).
3 to go 47.2 10:49:23 11.9 3:49
2 to go 48.2 11:01:42 12.3 4:02
1 to go 49.2 11:13:55 12.2 4:14
Finish 50.2 11:25:28 11.6 4:25pm I trot across the line an amazing ~90 minutes better than my near-13-hour result at the only other 50 miler I've attempted, the Tussey Mountainback 2004 event. It's seriously frigid now, so after a few minutes of walking about I go into the school facility, eat, drink, watch the awards ceremony, and then position myself by the front door where I greet Ken, Caren, Bernie Sylvester, and other friends as they arrive. It's All Good!

(cf. Jfk 50 Mile Run 2006 (20 Nov 2006), ...)

- Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 08:08:03 (EST)

New Place

"New Place" is the house in Stratford-on-Avon that Shakespeare bought in 1597; it was his final retirement home. Paulette (my wife) and I are having an extension built onto the modest house we've been in for the past 20+ years. The main idea is to make a space that's "one-floor-liveable", so when we get frail(er) we can generally avoid going up/down stairs, navigating through narrow doorways, and so forth. The extra space will also allow for a basement studio and perhaps better access to books, records, art supplies, etc. See http://www.flickr.com/photos/pdz_house/ for a set of photographs showing the work since its beginning on 30 October 2006. Most of the images were taken by Paulette; she also gets credit for most of the design of the New Place, and the management of its construction. More to follow!

(The default photo sequence is latest-first; to see things in chronological order click on the "Construction" set of pictures ...)

- Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 05:52:48 (EST)

Listen to Him

My favorite line from the 1998 giant-asteroid-approaching-the-Earth doomsday movie Armageddon:

"This is Dr. Ronald Quincy from Research. He's pretty much the smartest man on the planet. You might want to listen to him."

(cf. Lens Manic (16 Jul 2001), Dialogue Density (21 May 2002), Real Genius (23 Jan 2003), Repo Man (10 Mar 2003), Gift For Fiction (15 Apr 2005), Must Love Dogs (27 Aug 2006), Far Too Smart (10 Oct 2006), ...)

- Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 06:42:38 (EST)

Move On

In her report on the 2005 Laurel Highlands 70.5 mile ultramarathon, Rayna Matsuno tells what happened a third of the way into the race, when she and some fellow runners got lost for a while:

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.
You know you're having a good day when you start developing Forrest Gumpism, when you kind of feel like you could just keep running and running and running.

Joyce's words are worth putting into a box and remembering:

"This is where that sense of humor comes in. Sh*t happens. You just have to deal with it and move on."

(cf. Eric Clifton (1 Oct 2004), Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon 2005 (5 Mar 2005), Hat Run 2005 (20 Mar 2005), All Good (13 Jan 2007), ...)

- Tuesday, January 16, 2007 at 06:09:27 (EST)

Bios Fear

Bios, a 1999 science-fiction novel by Robert Charles Wilson, is scary-fine entertainment, a well-written horror story. The plot echoes Harry Harrison's Deathworld and Richard McKenna's classic Hunter, Come Home, updated to reflect advances in biochemistry and quantum physics. The alien world at the center of Bios is a gory nightmare; the story has the feel of a movie script. Alas, it comes nowhere near the thoughtful level of Wilson's Blind Lake or The Chronoliths — but it's an earlier book, and an author's craft should grow with time and maturity. Wilson's has.

(cf. The Chronoliths (9 Dec 2006), Blind Lake (17 Dec 2006), ...)

- Monday, January 15, 2007 at 08:21:16 (EST)

Perimeter Focused

Fascinating: the word "edgy" has in recent years taken on a huge positive set of connotations — novel, provocative, leading, important — while simultaneously a term that seems almost precisely the opposite, "centered", likewise has attracted a constellation of favorable meanings — enlightened, aware, contemplative, wise. Maybe there's something metaphorical-paradoxical-topological going on here, like a Möbius strip or a Klein bottle? "Edgy" applies to ideas. "Centered" refers to people. How do these two worlds come together? Hmmmmm! ... or should one say, Ommmmm?

- Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 20:36:44 (EST)

It's All Good

"It's All Good!" That's Caren's mantra for our mid-December ramble in the woods. She tells me she's inspired by Eric Clifton's words. The [Virginia Happy Trails Running Club] sponsors a "Fat Ass" 50k fun-run this time of year along part of the Bull Run Run (BRR) course. It's free to all; support is minimal; there are no medals. Family time commitments limit us to a bit over six hours, so at our speed we can't do the whole 31 miles. But no matter. It's all good! Likewise, when our aggressive early pace leaves us a bit tired after a dozen miles, and a few times later when we get slightly lost as the Bull Run/Occoquan trail turns a tricky corner, and when our feet begin to twinge. It's all good! Further details of this and other recent runs follow:

Magnus Gluteus Maximus

16 Dec 2006 — ~21 miles (~17 min/mi) — Today is simply a splendid day to be outdoors. We see a great blue heron take flight from the lake upon our approach. We also scare a deer and countless geese. I experiment with taking photos using my new cellphone. Our 45-minute early start lets us reach the VHRTC aid station at Bull Run Marina just before the fastest runners. Michelle Harmon, Ron Ely, Mike Broderick, and others of the MCRRC's JFK 50 miler contingent greet us as they blast past. So does cheerful Rayna Matsuno, whom I haven't seen since the Hat Run 2005. I thank her again for saving my bacon at the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon 2005 when she gave me some of her electrolyte capsules. Today she gives me a hug, then races onward.
A few minutes past three hours into the jog Caren and I reverse course, ~1 mile short of Fountainhead. Back at the start, in the Hemlock Regional Park lodge we celebrate with pizza, bagels, and orange juice, and chat with fellow runners. If the distance estimates on the BRR map are correct we've done almost 23 miles; if the marker posts are accurate, however, our pace was ~15.5 min/mi for the first half and ~18.5 min/mi on the return journey, implying a total of ~21.5 miles. Be conservative and call it ~21. It's all good!

Wheaton and Back

23 Dec — ~8 miles (~12 min/mi) — The new pedestrian bridge over the Georgia Avenue on-ramps to the Beltway is rumored to have artwork along it: small sculptures of various animals. Photo op! And Christina wants to do a walkabout this afternoon, to stretch her legs before a race tomorrow. So at 2pm on a relatively warm mid-December day I set out from home with camera in hand. I divert for 10 minutes en route to Sligo Creek Trail to take quick shots of the bronze creatures: rabbit, squirrel, snake, bird, etc. Then I have to hurry in order to make the 3pm rendezvous at the Wheaton Regional Park's indoor ice rink. Pushing the pace to ~11 min/mi, plus delays in crossing major streets, I arrive on time, and while waiting for Chris I manage to persuade a vending machine to accept my crumpled dollar bill and give me a green Powerade. Christina and I walk the classic Run for Roses 5k route plus a mile or so. I get a bit chilled even though the temperature is in the upper 50's, since the wind is gusting 10-20 mph. So when we finish our circuit and part ways I race the ~4 miles homeward to warm up, arriving just after sunset.

Catoctin Trail II

24 Dec — ~11+ miles (~15 min/mi) — Comrade Caren tells me that doing two days in a row of hard training is good for the soul (or soles), so before dawn we meet at Landover Mall and drive to Gambrill State Park, scene of our prior (21 Oct 2006, in Hat Bulge) journey along the Catoctin Trail. It's just as rocky and steep as before but this time we're better prepared and don't get lost. Half a mile into the run my stiff hip has loosened up, and when I look down I see that I still have on two pairs of shorts. That turns out to be good, given temps in the 40's and occasional gusty winds. After ~90 minutes of brisk jogging and hill-climbing we reach a pond, probably within half a mile of Hamburg Road, from which the return trip takes almost precisely the same time. The sunrise above an Appalachian ridge is lovely, as are the streams that we have to cross (and I only get one foot wet!). For the first hour we have the trail to ourselves, but by the later half of our expedition we encounter small hordes of hikers, dog-walkers, and mountain-bikers. During the ride home I start to get chilled. Caren stops at a 7-11 and buys me a hot chocolate. Thanks!

Marathon in the Parks Revisited

31 Dec — 26.2+ miles (~13:40 min/mi) — see Marathon In The Parks 2006 for details of this six-hour ramble with Betty Smith ...

New Year's Resolution 5k

1 Jan 2007 — 3+ miles (~10:50 min/mi) — The Half Beast is back! I arrive early at Philbin's Fitness Center and snag MCRRC bib #333 for another year. Then I visit with Pete (railroad buff and fast runner), Stephanie (who rode back from the JFK 50 with me), Gayatri (whom I tell about my Daughter's studies of Hindi), and others awaiting today's club race. Brian Kim, non-organizer of yesterday's non-official marathon fun-run, awards me a leftover 2004 Marathon in the Parks medal along with leftover commemorative shirts. Christina arrives and we take photos, then line up together at the starting line. The rain has paused but it's still warm (50ish) and quite humid. As usual we set off at too fast a pace and do the first mile in 10:04. Then reality sets in. I snap photos of race leader Pete as he zips by during out-and-back segments of the course. Wayne gets to hear me greet him with the shout "Sandbagger!" as he blasts ahead. Chris finishes strongly a little ahead of me, and as we eat and drink she explains some of the arcane exercise machinery at the sports club.

January Heat Wave

6 Jan — ~12 miles (~14 min/mi) — At 6am Caren and I meet at Seneca Creek and the Route 28 parking lot. It's warm and humid, and yesterday's rains have created huge bogs along the trail. A bright gibbous moon plays tag with scattered clouds. We jog south along the stream and experiment with turning off our headlamps, but although the moonlight is sufficient for general navigation it doesn't reveal the mudpuddles and fallen branches clearly enough for us to be safe at speed. After a brisk mile Caren's calf injury is troubling her, so she wisely suggests that we walk back and try another time. Approaching our starting point we're blinded by the glare of headlights from a car that has driven down the paved entry route to the trail under the bridge. Caren speculates that it's a serial killer looking for new victims, and alludes to various horror movie scenarios. But at this place and time it seems likelier to be Ed Schultze, pre-positioning some food and drink for the trail run group due to arrive here in a few hours — and fortunately that's who it is.
I drive home and nap a bit, and then at 8am go to Ken-Gar to meet Christina. Today is the DC Road Runner's "Al Lewis Memorial 10 Miler", an annual race that I accidentally ran through four years ago (cf. Twelve Mile Brownies, 5 Jan 2003) during a training jog, and that I missed participating in by a day the next year (cf. Lincoln Memorial, 6 Jan 2004). Chris just wants to put some miles on her shoes, and we both know that in this near-record heat (temperature and humidity both in the 60's) we won't go fast. At the back of the pack we visit with photographer friend Jeanne, chat, walk, and finish in 2:18, dead last but happy to find some bagels and water left for us. Christina gets the only cash prize awarded today: $1, which she had left with Priscilla Prunella to hold for her during the race!

Chafing Speed

7 Jan — 7+ miles (~11 min/mi) — I was going to title this "Blistering Speed", but given the effect that the seam of my shorts had on my inner thighs "Chafing" is more accurate. And if that's the worst problem I have, then I don't have any problems! (cf. No Problems) Son Robin has a Boy Scout court of honor to attend at St. Paul's church in Kensington, the temperature is in the comfy upper-40's, and I could use a tempo run ... so at 1:45pm I park in the church lot and trot west for Ken-Gar. With a minute or less of walk-break per mile my splits from milepost 7 to 10 and back are 10:59 + 11:03 + 10:28 + 11:03 + 10:10 + 9:52, plus 9-10 minutes before and after. Wheee!
Along the way I get some unexpected respect. Three skateboarding kids pass me northbound at Randolph Road, take a side trail, and meet me again on my return trip. "You're pretty quick!" one says; I demur. Two dog-walking ladies see me near the usual mud-puddle zone south of Dewey Park, and when I re-encounter them almost an hour later one exclaims, "You've been running all this time?" I reply, "Yes, but slowly." And I come back to Earth when I'm at the church and chatting with Alex, an Eagle Scout. He ran his first marathon in 2006, a sub-4-hour Marine Corps, after a long run of only ~12 miles and a training regime of only ~12 miles/week. Kids!

Slow Sligo Shamble

13 Jan — ~5 miles (~15 min/mi) — My left quadriceps (or something near it) has been "iffy" since last Sunday's jog, so I cancel plans to do Ed Schultze's 17 mile training run on Seneca Creek this morning. Then, of course, the old leg immediately starts to feel better! So when Christina pings me online and asks if I'd like to do a slow hour's ramble along Sligo Creek I figure I can risk it, reserving the option to crawl home at any time. We meet at Sligo Dennis Avenue Park, turn our noses downstream, and do a 4:1::jog:walk at Chris's suggestion. We each dip a toe into Colesville Road, then reverse course, overshoot, tag up at University Boulevard, and after about 75 minutes are back where we started. The jog+walk pattern gives a ~12 min/mi pace, but warm-up, cool-down, and midcourse stretching/drinking lowers our net speed. Dog-walkers are out in force. A passer-by tells us to enjoy the warm weather while we have it; both Christina and I tell him, "No, we like it colder!" My left quad loosens up after a mile and seems ok now; the real verdict will be given tomorrow.

(cf. Remind Me Never To (23 July 2006), Intestinal Infortitude (13 Aug 2006), Baby Gets New Shoes (5 Sep 2006), Viking Railroad (26 Sep 2006), Hat Bulge (23 Oct 2006), Inner Goat (12 Nov 2006), Jfk 50 Mile Run 2006 (20 Nov 2006), Sharper Image (10 Dec 2006), ...)

- Saturday, January 13, 2007 at 17:56:19 (EST)

Magnetic Studs

Modest proposal #112: put strong magnets on the wall studs of houses during construction, so that one could hang a picture by just putting a piece of iron on its back! Better yet, with computer-controlled electromagnets hidden behind the plaster one could wall-mount ferromagnetic objects, cause them to move (by turning adjacent electromagnets on/off in sequence), and even inductively pump energy into objects to charge batteries, run small motors, or activate lights.

Of course, there should probably be an uninterruptable power supply to back up the wall system, lest a momentary electrical outage should occur ...

- Friday, January 12, 2007 at 20:56:03 (EST)

The Extra Mile

Pam Reed is an extraordinary ultrarunner, but not (yet) an extraordinary writer. Her autobiography The Extra Mile: One Woman's Personal Journey to Ultrarunning Greatness is unfortunately disorganized and unbalanced. There's far too much angst and unnecessary detail about her youth, her anorexia, her failed first marriage, etc. There's far too little information about her amazing accomplishments, like winning Badwater in both 2002 and 2003, when she beat all the men as well as the ladies in the legendary 135 mile race from Death Valley to Mount Whitney. Reed's prose needs stern editing (safety tip: don't use "really" and "nice" more than twice on the same page!). The book has an overall feeling of thinness, of excessive whitespace used to pad out skimpy material.

Nevertheless, at times Pam Reed soars above the mundane and offers important, insightful advice. In particular, she observes (Chapter 23):

... To compete in any sport, you need to have a well-developed ego. This is especially true before and during an event. You have to tell yourself that you really can do well, and you've got to believe it. At the same time, if things start going wrong, ego can become a big liability unless you know how to adjust. If you've been telling yourself that you're a great athlete, how are you going to feel when you're passed by someone twice your age? Don't think it can't happen, because it has happened, even to some top runners. When you just don't have it on a given day, the classy move is to recognize it and give yourself a break. You can learn to enjoy the experience of doing less than well. It doesn't mean you're a "loser", a word that only losers use. I've had bad days and tough races, and I think they've made me a better runner and possibly a better person.

(cf. Eric Clifton (1 Oct 2004), Taoist State (12 Nov 2004), And Then The Vulture Eats You (9 Dec 2004), Running Through The Wall (23 Jan 2005), Running On The Sun (4 Nov 2005), ...)

- Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 06:11:11 (EST)

Millions of Tons of Oil

An otherwise-excellent article in the Business section of the Saturday New York Times contained a howler that Paulette spotted and pointed out to me:

... On a per-capita basis, that means Japan consumed the energy equivalent of 2.8 million tons of oil per person in 2004, in contrast to 5.4 million tons per American. Germany, another energy-conscious country, used 3.2 million tons per person. ...

A quick calculation suggests that the author (and editor, and proofreader) erred by a factor of about a million. At the quoted rate of consumption every wasteful American would use a barrel of oil (worth several tens of dollars) every second. Whew! And later in the same piece there's a freshman-physics dimensional error, confounding kilowatts (power) with kilowatt-hours (energy). Times editor Greg Brock responded to my gently prodding note — which began, "Howdy! I presume that you have already heard from many technically-literate readers about the huge mistake ..." — with:

Indeed, we have. Dozens. Ugh. And it is being corrected.
Thank you for reading The Times, Mr. Zimmermann, and for taking the time to write and point this out. (Sometimes it is the opposite — only one reader writes. So don't ever hesitate to alert us to an error.)

... a graceful response to an unfortunate slip.

(cf. "The Land of Rising Conservation" by Martin Fackler, 6 Jan 2007 New York Times)

- Monday, January 08, 2007 at 18:36:32 (EST)

Emerson Eulogizes His Brother Charles

In his journal entry of 16 May 1836, Ralph Waldo Emerson writes of his brother:

Charles died at New York, Monday afternoon, 9 May. His prayer that he might not be sick was granted him. He was never confined to a bed. He rode out on Monday afternoon with Mother, promised himself to begin his journey with me on my arrival, the next day; on reaching home, he stepped out of the carriage alone, walked up the steps and into the house without assistance, sat down on the stairs, fainted and never recovered. Beautiful without any parallel in my experience of young men, was his life, happiest his death. Miserable is my own prospect from whom my friend is taken. Clean and sweet was his life, untempted almost, and his action on others all-healing, uplifting and fragrant. ...
His virtues were like the victories of Timoleon, and Homer's verses, they were so easy and natural. ... His senses were those of a Greek. I owe to them a thousand observations. To live with him was like living with a great painter. I used to say that I had no leave to see things till he pointed them out, and afterwards I never ceased to see them.

A lovely, loving memorial to his late brother. (But a fascinating sidelight: the occurrence in an Emerson essay on Milton of "His virtues remind us of what Plutarch said of Timoleon's victories, that they resembled Homer's verses, they ran so easy and natural." ... and ... "He had the senses of a Greek." Hmmmm!)

- Sunday, January 07, 2007 at 08:34:58 (EST)

Darwin in Conclusion

In the final section of The Origin of Species (Chapter XIV, "Recapitulation and Conclusion") Charles Darwin reflects upon some of the psychological reasons for opposition to his theory:

But the chief cause of our natural unwillingness to admit that one species has given birth to other and distinct species, is that we are always slow in admitting any great change of which we do not see the intermediate steps. The difficulty is the same as that felt by so many geologists, when Lyell first insisted that long lines of inland cliffs had been formed, and great valleys excavated, by the slow action of the coast-waves. The mind cannot possibly grasp the full meaning of the term of a hundred million years; it cannot add up and perceive the full effects of many slight variations, accumulated during an almost infinite number of generations.
Although I am fully convinced of the truth of the views given in this volume under the form of an abstract, I by no means expect to convince experienced naturalists whose minds are stocked with a multitude of facts all viewed, during a long course of years, from a point of view directly opposite to mine. It is so easy to hide our ignorance under such expressions as the "plan of creation," "unity of design," &c., and to think that we give an explanation when we only restate a fact. Any one whose disposition leads him to attach more weight to unexplained difficulties than to the explanation of a certain number of facts will certainly reject my theory. A few naturalists, endowed with much flexibility of mind, and who have already begun to doubt on the immutability of species, may be influenced by this volume; but I look with confidence to the future, to young and rising naturalists, who will be able to view both sides of the question with impartiality. Whoever is led to believe that species are mutable will do good service by conscientiously expressing his conviction; for only thus can the load of prejudice by which this subject is overwhelmed be removed.

A few pages later Darwin concludes his book on a note of profound optimism:

In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.
Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual. When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled. Judging from the past, we may safely infer that not one living species will transmit its unaltered likeness to a distant futurity. And of the species now living very few will transmit progeny of any kind to a far distant futurity; for the manner in which all organic beings are grouped, shows that the greater number of species of each genus, and all the species of many genera, have left no descendants, but have become utterly extinct. We can so far take a prophetic glance into futurity as to foretell that it will be the common and widely-spread species, belonging to the larger and dominant groups, which will ultimately prevail and procreate new and dominant species. As all the living forms of life are the lineal descendants of those which lived long before the Silurian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken, and that no cataclysm has desolated the whole world. Hence we may look with some confidence to a secure future of equally inappreciable length. And as natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.
It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

(cf. Light Of Evolution (24 Apr 2006), Darwin On Skillful Breeders (11 Aug 2006), Darwin On The Struggle For Existence (26 Aug 2006), Darwin On The Face Of Nature (1 Sep 2006), Darwin On Cats And Flowers (20 Sep 2006), Darwin On The Tree Of Life (1 Oct 2006), Darwin On The Fossil Record (17 Oct 2006), Darwin On Altruism (31 Oct 2006), Darwin On Extinction (14 Nov 2006), Darwin On Taxonomy (5 Dec 2006), Darwin On Rudimentary Organs (20 Dec 2006), ...)

- Friday, January 05, 2007 at 06:08:14 (EST)

New Year's Resolution

Not do — Be!

(or maybe, "Not be"!?; cf. Achieve New Balance (17 Jul 2002), My Ob (18 Aug 2002), Dalai Lama Birthday Gift (24 Aug 2004), Eat The Orange (28 Nov 2004), Not Care (13 Feb 2006), ...)

- Thursday, January 04, 2007 at 06:02:56 (EST)

Marathon in the Parks 2006

Betty Smith is a wonderful person; she's also good at throttling down an obsessive-compulsive Type-A companion to a rational pace during a long training run. Several weeks ago Brian Kim proposed a New Year's Eve reenactment of the Marathon in the Parks (aka MitP), one of my first and favorite marathons — only this time as a fun run with no guaranteed en route support, no club affiliation, no insurance, and no prizes. The official MitP existed from 2001 through 2004, when it died through lack of sponsorship.

Sure, why not reenact the Marathon in the Parks? But if I do it, I want to do it right, every step of the 26 mile 385 yard course, with no shortcuts or omissions (did someone say "obsessive-compulsive Type-A"?). That's why the evening of 30 December 2006 found me putting a big X with duct tape on the Kensington Parkway 18 meters south of telephone pole #778429-9947, to mark the turnaround point of one dogleg subsegment of the race.

On New Year's Eve morning I'm up at 4am to get ready, and by six I'm on the road, pre-positioning grocery bags near miles 18 and 22. They're full of candy, cookies, salty potato chips, and bottles of Gatorade — the kind of junk that somebody might crave if s/he has just expended a few thousand kilocalories and has miles yet to go. Next to the food caches duct-taped to trees I attach big brown trash bags to minimize litter, plus crudely lettered signs that read: "Marathon Aid Station - For Marathon Runners - Do Not Remove Until 3pm". A big rabbit and three deer lurk in the pre-dawn gloom, their eyes retroreflecting my headlight beams as I drive by. I hope that clear plastic bags surrounding the food sacks will keep such woodland critters out, and that the signage will deter grazing by random passers-by.

More than an hour ahead of schedule I park at the Shady Grove Metro station. I walk to the MitP starting line and inspect it, then return to sit in my car, drink homemade electrolyte mix, and wait. Soon Betty Smith arrives; she had corresponded with me a few days ago and expressed the wish to have someone run with her, since she gets uncomfortable in isolated sections of Rock Creek Trail (RCT) when alone. Betty has done 50 marathons and is typically faster than me by a minute or two per mile, but today she's in no hurry. At about 7:45am we find non-event non-organizer Brian at the other end of the parking lot, along with a few dozen others. Ultrarunner Jim Cavanaugh, who passed me at the Bull Run fun run a fortnight ago, greets me; we chat about the Promise Land 50k that running buddy Caren and I are contemplating ("Not easy!" Jim advises). There's a mini-debate about what version of the MitP course to follow. The majority elects to use an old variant that cuts half a dozen road miles off the initial part, to be made up at the end by following the Capital Crescent Trail from Bethesda to the DC Line and back. I insist on the official USATF-certified course, and Betty along with half a dozen others agree. At 8am, we're off!

Betty and I stick together, plus or minus a few dozen meters. After two brisk miles the rest of the gang are out of sight. Our first hours are pleasant on the pavement (I find a penny heads-up and pause to pick it up) except when we have to dodge dangerously fast Sunday morning traffic on the narrower lanes. Then at mile 10 we reach RCT and really begin to enjoy ourselves. The forest pathway flows by uneventfully and after about 2 hours 40 minutes we reach the halfway point. Betty and other kind souls have stashed Gatorade and water here, so we fuel up and continue.

My goody bag at mile 18 has been severely depleted by the faster folk ahead of us, but enough remains for me to be happy. Betty is a healthy vegan and doesn't see anything she wants, but she's carrying enough in her waist pouch to be quite self-sufficient. Her body fat is only 8%, she tells me; her resting pulse is only 28. I mistake the steady chirping of her Chi Running pace timer as a heart-rate monitor's beeps, and am surprised at how steady her pulse is until she explains. We increase our walk breaks and enjoy the streets of Kensington, including our hairpin turn at my big duct-tape X. At mile 22 my groceries are untouched; apparently by this point nobody ahead of us is following the precise official MitP route, down the gravel detour that bridge construction compelled the trail to take prior to 2003.

Betty and I walk the final two miles as a cool-down, and she tells me about growing up in this Chevy Chase neighborhood during an era of intense racial segregation. The local pool was closed to her as a child. She was the first African American to attend Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, and huge barriers still existed then: to play golf or go bowling with the B-CC team required her to get a "Letter from God" for admission to the golf course or bowling alley. And even a Divine Letter wasn't enough to let her eat at the same diner with her classmates after practice!

Betty points out houses along Coquelin Terrace once occupied by liberal American politicians Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern; she played kickball and shot hoops with their children during the 1950's. We chat about the changes that have happened in society, and other changes that are still underway. At the MitP finish line we part ways, Betty to get a bagel and me to take the subway back to Shady Grove, then drive home with detours to remove my duct tape X and retrieve my "aid station" bags.

The next day I meet Brian Kim at an MCRRC 5k race and he awards me a leftover 2004 MitP medal plus a couple of surplus MitP volunteer t-shirts — so there were prizes after all!

(see [1] for the official map; cf. Coordinate Collection (19 May 2002), Marathon Coordinates (3 Oct 2002), Rocky Run (17 Nov 2002), Marathon In The Parks 2003 (11 Nov 2003), ...)

- Tuesday, January 02, 2007 at 08:58:12 (EST)

Kavalier and Clay

Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a true pleasure: extraordinarily well-written, fast-moving, rich in ideas and imagery, and populated throughout with strong, fascinating characters. It doesn't always make sense, mind you, and the ending is less than satisfying, but no matter! The journey is reward enough. Along the way are such poetic paragraphs as the description in Part III Chapter 10 of a major character's abode:

There was something unmistakably exultant about the mess that Rosa had made. Her bedroom-studio was at once the canvas, journal, museum, and midden of her life. She did not "decorate" it; she infused it. Sometime around four o'clock that morning, for example, half-disentangled from the tulle of a dream, she had reached for the chewed stub of a Ticonderoga she kept by the bed for this purpose. When, just after dawn, she awoke, she found a scrap of loose-leaf paper in her left hand, scrawled with the cryptic legend "lampedusa." She had run to the unabridged on its lonely lecturn in the library, where she learned this was the name of a small island in the Mediterranean Sea, between Malta and Tunisia. Then she had returned to her room, taken a big thumbtack with an enameled red head from an El Producto box she kept on her supremely "cluttered-up" desk, and tacked the scrap of paper to the eastern wall of her room, where it overlapped a photograph, torn from the pages of Life, of Ambassador Joseph Kennedy's handsome eldest son, tousled and wearing a Choate cardigan. The scrap joined a reproduction of Arthur Rimbaud at seventeen, dreaming with chin in palm; the entire text of her only play, a Jarr-influenced one-act called Homunculus Uncle; plates, sliced from art books, of a detail from Bosch that depicted a woman being pursued by an animate celery, of Edvard Munch's Madonna, of several Picasso "blue" paintings, and of Klee's Cosmic Flora; Ignatius Donnelly's map of Atlantis, traced; a grotesquely vibrant full-color photo, also courtesy of Life, of four cheerful strips of bacon; a spavined dead locust, forelegs arrested in an attitude of pleading; as well as some three hundred other scraps of paper bearing the numinous vocabulary of her dreams, a puzzling lexicon that included "grampus," "ullage," "parbuckle," and some entirely fictitious words, such as "luben" and "salactor." Socks, blouses, skirts, tights, and twisted underpants lay strewn across teetering piles of books and phonograph albums, the floor was thick with paint-soaked rags and chromo-chaotic cardboard palettes, canvases stacked four deep stood against the walls. She had discovered the surrealistic potential of food, about which she had rather pioneeringly complicated emotions, and everywhere lay portraits of broccoli stalks, cabbage heads, tangerines, turnip greens, mushrooms, beets — big, colorful, drunken tableaux that reminded Joe of Robert Delaunay.

Much later, in Part V Chapter 14, another protagonist muses about the meaning of his life and that of his cousin/collaborator:

He thought of the boxes of comics that he had accumulated, upstairs, in the two small rooms where, for five years, he had crouched in the false bottom of the life from which Tommy had freed him, and then, in turn, of the thousands upon thousands of little boxes, stacked neatly on sheets of Bristol board or piled in rows across the ragged pages of comic books, that he and Sammy had filled over the past dozen years: boxes brimming with the raw materials, the bits of rubbish from which they had, each in his own way, attempted to fashion their various golems. In literature and folklore, the significance and the fascination of golems — from Rabbi Loew's to Victor von Frankenstein's — lay in their soullessness, in their tireless inhuman strength, in their metaphorical association with overweening human ambition, and in the frightening ease with which they passed beyond the control of their horrified and admiring creators. but it seemed to Joe that none of these — Faustian hubris, least of all — were among the true reasons that impelled men, time after time, to hazard the making of golems. The shaping of a golem, to him, was a gesture of hope, offered against hoope, in a time of desperation. It was the expression of a yearning that a few magic words and an artful hand might produce something — one poor, dumb, powerful thing — exempt from the crushing strictures, from the ills, cruelties, and inevitable failures of the greater Creation. It was the voicing of a vain wish, when you got down to it, to escape. To slip, like the Escapist, free of the entangling chain of reality and the straitjacket of physical laws. Harry Houdini had roamed the Palladiums and Hippodromes of the world encumbered by an entire cargo-hold of crates and boxes, stuffed with chains, iron hardware, brightly painted flats and hokum, animated all the while only by this same desire, never fulfilled: truly to escape, if only for one instant; to poke his head through the borders of this world, with its harsh physics, into the mysterious spirit world that lay beyond. The newspaper articles that Joe had read about the upcoming Senate investigation into comic books always cited "escapism" among the litany of injurious consequences of their reading, and dwelled on the pernicious effect, on young minds, of satisfying the desire to escape. As if there could be any more noble or necessary service in life.

- Friday, December 29, 2006 at 20:06:45 (EST)

Dickerson-Zimmermann Family Photo 2006


(click on the image to see a higher-resolution version)

- Wednesday, December 27, 2006 at 15:04:21 (EST)

Pure Coincidence

What an amazing conjunction of events! The cover story of a major magazine focuses on an actor who just happens to have a movie coming out this month. The prime guest on a talk show is an author who, by chance, has a new book about to hit the stores. Likewise for recording artists, corporate chieftains, rising politicians, et al. who mysteriously appear in "news" media at moments correlated with something they have to sell, including themselves. Hmmmmm ... maybe it's time to start reading more books — and not books with prominent paid product placements either.

(cf. More Fun Less Stuff (1 Oct 2002), Something To Sell (14 Apr 2002), For Themselves (8 Jun 2003), ...)

- Monday, December 25, 2006 at 19:01:57 (EST)

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