^zhurnal 0.61

Howdy, pilgrim! You're in volume 0.61 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 = 0.60 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z(at)his(dot)com" ... tnx!

Crack Creme

No doubt "Zim's Crack Creme" is so labeled to attract the low-minded (e.g., trail runners) ... and given my surname, and history of chafing in the nether regions during ultramarathons, how could I resist?


When I saw it yesterday at the local grocery store, I had to get a tube. We'll see what effect it has on blisters and calluses ...

(cf. [1] and Parkway Delay (28 Dec 2001), Bottom Power (14 Jun 2002), Rear Admiral Lower Half (1 Jul 2003), Running On The Sun (4 Nov 2005), ...)

- Monday, May 28, 2007 at 05:58:02 (EDT)

Idiosyncratic Fandom

Certain entities have become icons around our house not because of any real-world activity or interest, but rather solely via their video-game connections. Two major examples:

More than a decade later we still shout "Buick!" when we spot one on the street. Today when I read that Bill Elliott would to be driving in a race tomorrow I had to tell the kids; perhaps we'll turn the TV on and try to see him for a few seconds.

(cf. Bluick Game (17 Jun 2000), Fan Fare (26 Apr 2003), ...)

- Saturday, May 26, 2007 at 09:12:18 (EDT)

Solve the Problem

In the May/June 2007 issue of Marathon and Beyond magazine Gay Renouf describes a crucial lesson she learned a bit after mile 50:

... I fall in with three other runners, Paul, Paul, and Kevin, all of whom are feeling nauseated like me. Talking with Kevin, a 100-mile guru, is especially enlightening. I learn that experienced 100-mile runners don't whine about the conditions or how they are feeling. They figure out what their problem is and solve it as best as they can.
Kevin: "So, how are you feeling, Gay?"
Gay: "Ooh, not so good. Sick stomach. Hot, really hot."
Kevin: "What do you think it's from?"
Gay: "Well, I've been drinking a lot, so I think it's salt. At first, I thought it was not enough salt, but now I think it might actually be too much salt. I've been eating a lot of salty stuff, plus taking two Succeeds an hour, and that might be high for someone my size (110 pounds). Every time I wash down another Succeed, that's when I feel worst."
Kevin: "Well, what are you doing about it?"
My conversation with Kevin is a turning point in learning how to run such a long race. What am I going to do about it? Things might be bad now, but they will improve. This is a chance to solve my problem. So I start walking much more (about 50 percent), reduce the Succeeds to one an hour, and take a piece of ginger. By the time I get to the next aid station, it is almost dark, and I'm feeling pretty good. That's the secret, I figure. Get through the bad spots as best as I can by reasoning and fixing the problem, and eventually, eventually, a good spot will come. I am also cheered, as I will be many more times that night, by the voice in the darkness coming out of Coyote Camp. "Ath-a-letes comin' in. Eeee-lite ath-a-letes comin' in." Well, elite we aren't, but, yes, we are comin' in.

That's such a lovely summary of how to live when, as they always do, problems arise: figure out what's going wrong, and solve it as best you can, given conditions you face and resources at hand. "Things might be bad now, but they will improve. This is a chance to solve my problem."

(in Gay Renouf's "One Jot Day at the Javelina Jundred" — pronounce "J" like "H"; cf. Practical Productivity (20 Jan 2004), Touching The Void (2 Jun 2004), Plan Work Learn (19 Nov 2005), ...)

- Thursday, May 24, 2007 at 06:01:10 (EDT)

Old Age

In the 28 May 1840 entry to his journal, Ralph Waldo Emerson observes:

Old Age. — Sad spectacle that a man should live and be fed that he may fill a paragraph every year in the newspapers for his wonderful age, as we record the weight and girth of the Big Ox, or Mammoth Girl. We do not cound a man's years until he has nothing else to count.

(cf. "Age Not Reckoned by Years" in Charles Lambiana (24 Oct 2000), and Life Time Management 2 (17 Jun 2001), Ralph Waldo Emerson (5 Aug 2003), ...)

- Tuesday, May 22, 2007 at 16:28:01 (EDT)

Trail Improvement

On Saturday morning near mile 0.6 of the Capital Crescent Trail [1] a crew of county workers in hard-hats are making noise with a huge earthmover. They're adding crushed bluestone to fix the drainage and remove the ruts that usually mar the CCT in that area. I pick my way around the edge of their work, over a jumble of white mini-boulders, and thank one of them for their good deeds. "No problem!" he replies. Meanwhile, other notes from the past ten days of expeditionary work:

My Goose Is Cooked

12 May 2007 — 6+ miles (~11 min/mi) — The old ticker is beating 180 after I finish a 9:11 mile. I envision the headline: "Unidentified Codger Found at Lake Artemesia". So I walk, drink, wipe the sweat from my brow, and take the next lap at a slightly more sensible 10:23 min/mi pace, after which the heart rate is a less crazy 165. It's a warm, humid Saturday morning and I sympathize with comrade Ken at the Capon Valley 50k, and with Christina and others doing today's MCRRC 5 miler. I've driven my daughter to College Park for her Hindi final exam. The fancy track around the UM soccer field is locked shut, which throws a wrench into my plan to do Yasso 800s. I park on the eastern side of campus near Paint Branch Trail and US Highway 1. After I lock the car I realize that I'm carrying no ID, phone, money, or anything else besides a water bottle. No matter, I tell myself — this is America! I jog downstream feeling great at ~10 minute pace, until the heat kicks in.
As I reach the lake a pair of geese cruise overhead and honk, then skitter to a water landing. Freight trains and the Metro rattle by on elevated tracks. Otherwise it's quiet: there are only a few fishermen scattered along the shore, and during my three circuits of the well-marked LA Loop I encounter a mere handful of dog walkers, joggers, in-line skaters, and cyclists. The geese take off, leaving a dotted line of splashes as their wingtips touch the surface while they strive to gain airspeed, and I regret not having a camera with me. Back to campus, feeling strong. I venture into the Comp Sci building to buy something to drink. The machine gives me two cans of orange juice for my 75 cents. It's all good!

RCT Ramble

13 May 2007 — ~6 miles (~14 min/mi) — Christina and I are online chatting at 4:30am, as the trailing edge of a cold front moves through the area and showers cease. We meet at 0555 at Ken-Gar. A somewhat sketchy looking person at the far end of the lot induces us to drive a few hundred feet up the road and park on Wexford where Rock Creek Trail crosses. We jog north, taking our time and skirting puddles on the path. A barricaded bridge sends us detouring onto Beach Drive, and a small lake forces us to tiptoe across mud flats to bypass it. We make good time after that, from milepost 8 (Dewey Park) to 10 (near Parklawn Cemetery) at ~13:20 pace.
Coming back Chris forces me to run up and down long hills that I would ordinarily have walked. We log a ~12-minute mile, pause to drink, and catch our breath. Then it's stroll, jog, and enjoy the cool morning air — a huge contrast to yesterday's heat and humidity. By the time we're back to Ken-Gar a sizable herd of runners has materialized, prepping for their various training expeditions. Christina greets friends while I get a drink at the fountain. We return to our cars and drive off. I check the post office box, stop at a gas station, and on a whim head for the grocery store in Wheaton. As I get into line to check out, guess who's in front of me in her Annapolis Ten Miler jacket?

Abbreviated Speedwork

16 May 2007 — 2+ miles (~9.2 min/mi avg) — The rains have passed and the waters of Paint Branch are roaring louder in the darkness than I've ever heard before. It's 8:45pm and I'm on the bikeway behind a UM engineering building, with half an hour until time to pick up daughter Gray from a friend's viola recital. The gate to the soccer track is locked, so Yasso 880's it is between mileposts 1.5 and 2.0 on Paint Branch Trail. As usual I start too "fast" and taper from there, with splits of 4:06 + 4:13 + 4:26 + 4:26 plus two minutes of recovery walking between each blitz. The headlamp reveals no scary glowing eyes of deer. One damp brown rabbit scampers across the path in front of me.

Rock Creek Recon

19 May 2007 — 12+ miles (~13 min/mi) — Delightful weather follows a cold front, with temps in the 50's and light breezes. At 7am I leave home and loop through Walter Reed Annex to take Rock Creek Trail southward, as usual a bit too fast (~11.5 pace). Meadowbrook Stables is hosting an equestrian show this weekend, so dozens of horses and their riders are getting ready to trot. At the DC border (cf. Rock Creek Trail Miles 0 To 4) a small herd of three trail runners with a golden retriever precede me onto the Western Ridge Trail. I walk the hills and lose sight of them after a few minutes. A puzzled hiker is studying her map [2] and I help her locate the side trail she's seeking. Then to my surprise near Bingham Dr. and Oregon Ave. I catch up with trio + dog, paused to chat and catch their breath. They blast on and I plod, pausing to refill a water bottle from a tap at the fenced-in gardens.
After ~2+ miles on the WRT I reach Military Road near the ruins of Fort DeRussy [3], traveling the last bit via bike path rather than the official WRT since I miss the green blazes near the Park Police Stables. From there it's only ~0.7 miles east to Beach Drive on the paved path parallel to Military Rd. The blue-blazed Valley Trail leads me ~3 miles north to Boundary Bridge where my Rock Creek Park expedition began. Total Western Ridge Trail + Valley Trail + Military Rd. loop distance is thus ~6 miles, over gentle but interesting terrain. The horse show at Meadowbrook is now in full swing, with dozens of kids perched on ponies and scores of parents proudly watching. At home, after cooldown and a change of clothes I reward myself with a bowl of hot and sour soup.

Sligo Rendezvous

20 May 2007 — 2+ miles (~10 min/mi) — I'm late setting out for Sligo-Dennis Ave. Park where Christina and I are to meet at 4:15pm, so I hurry and cover the distance in a near-record 22 minutes — a mini-speedwork session that leaves me rather winded. Chris has run two (or four, depending on how you count) races this weekend already. Today we walk briskly to the north end of Sligo Creek Trail and back to Forest Glen Rd., then return to the park, chatting and pausing for her to take photos. After 4+ miles of strolling the time approaches 6pm, so Christina gives me a ride home, where I finish my hot and sour soup. (^_^)

(cf. Sharper Image (10 Dec 2006), All Good (13 Jan 20007), Racy Jetsam (4 Feb 2007), Aggressive Resting (17 Mar 2007), Not So Difficult Run (10 Apr 2007), They Bull Run Run (6 May 2007), ...)

- Monday, May 21, 2007 at 05:57:43 (EDT)

Taxonomy of Peril

After seeing too many thriller movies that played the same old tunes too many times, I began to think about categorizing the varieties of Scary Stuff. Some that immediately come to mind:

Other cheap clichéd cinematic excitement arises in Scary Situations, where threats loom of:

Combinations of the above can be particularly effective. Explosions are hot, loud, and fast; as a bonus they can throw sharp and/or heavy objects at potential victims. Wild animals are most terrifying when they have pointy teeth and claws, and when they roar. Drowning is more fearsome when the victim is confined in a dark cave, or is locked in a cage as waters inexorably rise, or is tossed about in the ocean in the midst of an electrical storm, etc.

A film has to work much harder when other types of risks are raised. Poison? Hunger? Extreme cold? All are generally too slow for dramatic effect. Bankruptcy? Don't be silly. Climate change? A tough sell, unless exaggerated to the point of imminent catastrophe. Asteroids? They've gotta be on a near-term collision course. Plate tectonics? Only if it triggers an earthquake and/or sudden volcanic activity, please!

(cf. Action Movie Rules (10 Aug 2003), ...)

- Saturday, May 19, 2007 at 19:40:13 (EDT)

Last Unicorn

Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn (1968) is a striking fantasy novel, noteworthy most for its delightful use of poetic language. The plot could be summarized in a few words, and it's scarcely important — what matters is the journey Beagle takes the reader along. Some representative imagery:

The Last Unicorn echoes, or foreshadows, elements of Cervantes's Don Quixote, Peake's Gormenghast, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Goldman's Princess Bride, Vinge's Fire Upon the Deep, and a host of other fine books. Part of its strength is that it can't be bottled and summarized. I read Unicorn many years ago, and by good fortune picked it up again recently. Perhaps that's the kind of novel it is: one that must be forgotten and then re-read every decade.

- Friday, May 18, 2007 at 05:03:35 (EDT)

Herodotus on the Persian Post

In Book 8 Part 98, Herodotus writes:

... Than this system of messengers there is nothing of mortal origin that is quicker. This is how the Persians arranged it: they say that for as many days as the whole journey consists in, that many horses and men are stationed at intervals of a day's journey, one horse and one man assigned to each day. And him neither snow nor rain nor heat nor night holds back for the accomplishment of the course that has been assigned to him, as quickly as he may. The first that runs hands on what he had been given to the second, and the second to the third, and from there what is transmitted passes clean through, from hand to hand, to its end ...

(from the David Greene translation)

- Wednesday, May 16, 2007 at 22:22:24 (EDT)

Forrest Gump

Last year I been joggin by a basketball court, an a kid playin there call me Forrest Gump. Early this month at work somebody said I minded her of Forrest Gump. Maybe it were my long beard, or my talkin all the time bout runnin a long ways, or somethin else that brung it into her head.

Anyhow, that don't matter. Last week instead of sittin there waitin for my pizza an gyro an fries to get ready, I went to walk to the Post Office. It were maybe half a mile or so. On the way I been goin by a used book store that a fambly friend has there in Kensington. On the cheap cart in front of her store I seen a book called Forrest Gump by a feller name of Winston Groom. He wrote it in 1986. There were a movie made of it too. I went inside an axed Elie what it cost, and she said 50 cents, an I had 50 cents, so I bought it.

I am a idiot, you know what I mean? But hey, lots of fellers are idiots, in they own ways. Anyways, they act like they is idiots a whole lot of the time. So I start to read Forrest Gump an I find the book is tole by a idiot like me! He have a bunch of problems, but he always try to do the right thing, as best he can figger it out. That sound good to me.

The book get real silly in places — like when that idiot been playin chess an thinkin up answers to physics problems an flyin around in a rocket an so on. He don't do no runnin neither, cept for a short ways when he been playin football or tryin to scape from bad fellers. Maybe they is more runnin in the movie, but I have not been to see it yet.

The story of Forrest Gump as it been writ down is fun. It minds me of another book I seen long time ago, name Catch-22. But Forrest Gump got a lot more heart and good kind human spirit in it than any of those people in Catch-22 had. But maybe I disremember that book, I dunno. Forrest Gump do say a bunch of bad words. If that idiot love his Mama like he say he do, he shouldn't be usin them words, not in his story the way he wrote it down. And he do some naughty things too, that I ain't gonna tell about here neither.

While I were readin Forrest Gump a friend tole me that it had a sad endin. Well, I don't like endins like that, specially not on happy books, so I become worried when I were readin that it would be sad. Writers that make somethin bad happen to end they books sudden is not good writers, to my way of thinkin.

Well, I can say that Forrest Gump, he comes out just fine. Thank goodness! He can look back on his life and say he had a good life. An that is a good endin, whether or not you is a idiot like him and me.

(cf. Deathly Cold (5 Jun 2006), ...)

- Monday, May 14, 2007 at 22:38:08 (EDT)

Latent Joy

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his 17 May 1840 journal entry:

Latent heat performs a great office in nature. Not less does latent joy in life. You may have your stock of well-being condensed into extasies, trances of good fortune and delight, preceded and followed by blank or painful weeks and months; or, you may have your joy spread over all the days in a bland, vague, uniform sense of power and hope.

(cf. Ralph Waldo Emerson (5 Aug 2003), ...)

- Sunday, May 13, 2007 at 16:20:05 (EDT)

Suboptimal Performance

The New York Yankees baseball organization ("the best team that money can buy") have fired their Strength Coach, aka "Director of Performance Enhancement", after a series of pitcher injuries. It's probably just a statistical fluctuation, but as usual human nature says to do something rather than just wait it out. Meanwhile, perhaps the team can hire a Director of Athletic Support to help players get their, uh, garments to fit better — so they won't have to adjust them quite so often on the field ...

(cf. Director Of Optimal Performance (1 May 2005), ...)

- Saturday, May 12, 2007 at 15:57:47 (EDT)

Aggressive Aggregation

Need an idea for a newspaper or magazine article? Cookbook recipe #801:

  1. Look around you and pick a commonplace, everyday activity — brushing one's teeth, stepping on the brake of a car, throwing a piece of junk mail into the wastebasket, unlocking the front door, flipping a light switch, looking up a factoid on the Internet, biting a fingernail ... — whatever comes to mind, but the more widespread and frequently performed, the better;
  2. Multiply the number of people in the country (or on the planet) times how often the chosen activity is done times some physical parameter associated with that activity — ergs of energy, milliliters of water, cubic centimeters of landfill occupied, seconds of time spent, micrograms of metal eroded, bits of entropy generated ... — the smaller the unit, the better; and then
  3. Wax wroth over the woeful waste of world resources as, every day, people insist on doing X, and thus cause Y units of irreplacable Z to be destroyed.

Be sure, however, not to look too closely at the benefits of the activity you're decrying — and never compute the costs of not doing it. That would weaken your case!

(cf. Celebrity History (8 May 1999), Basement Worries (15 Jun 2002), That Which Is Not Seen (5 Sep 2002), ...)

- Thursday, May 10, 2007 at 05:18:40 (EDT)

Herodotus on Freedom

In Book 5 part 78 of The History Herodotus observes:

... It is not only in respect of one thing but of everything that equality and free speech are clearly a good; take the case of Athens, which under the rule of princes proved no better in war than any of her neighbors but, once rid of those princes, was far the first of all. What this makes clear is that when held in subjection they would not do their best, for they were working for a taskmaster, but, when freed, they sought to win, because each was trying to achieve for his very self.

(from the David Greene translation; cf. Common Understanding (8 Oct 1999), ...)

- Tuesday, May 08, 2007 at 21:32:50 (EDT)

They Bull Run Run

A week after Bull Run Run 2007 I come down with a horrible cold and cough, accompanied by audible wheezing from my lungs. It's probably a bronchitis that's going around the office. (I don't blame most illness on exercise — I believe in the Germ Theory of Disease!) After five days of hacking and a few hours in the Kaiser clinic waiting room I meet Nancy, an extraordinarily smart and helpful and funny physician's assistant who prescribes inhalers of albuterol (beta agonist) and beclomethasone dipropionate (corticosteroid) plus a short course of antibiotic pills. I'm definitely illegal for the Tour de France and the Olympics now! The meds seem to do little or nothing for me, so after another visit to Nancy I stop taking them and continue to slowly improve. On Friday I start running again, and as usual overdo it. Log entries follow:

Bull Run 50 Miler

14 April 2007 — 50.4 miles (~14.8 min/mi) — see Bull Run Run 2007 and Bull Run Run 2007 Photos

Test Loop

4 May 2007 — ~4 miles (~11.3 min/mi) — Today I've got tons of excuses as I leave home for my usual short neighborhood circuit (Seminary to Forest Glen, Linden, Woodstock connector trail, Ireland, south on Rock Creek Trail, then home via Capital Crescent and Warren Street). It's the first run in 19 days, the course is hilly, I don't take walk breaks (other than a minute when my son calls me as I pass under Rock Creek Trestle), I've been sick, it's too hot, my socks don't fit me, I hurt my fingernail bowling earlier today, etc., etc.! But a video of the [1954 Commonwealth Mile], Roger Bannister vs. John Landy, inspires me to press onward. An unseen woodpecker taps a staccato beat, and cyclists on RCT wish me a happy weekend. The county is resurfacing the CCT near mile 0.5 with nice new crushed bluestone, so I have to crawl around barriers blocking each end of that trail segment. The Nike "Free" shoes I'm wearing feel good for the first 3 miles, but then I start to get pains on the bottom of my left foot. Perhaps they aren't made for street running. My heartbeat is 160 when I arrive home, but after a few minutes it's down to 130. Whew!

Lost and Found on the CJT

5 May 2007 — 9+ miles (~13 min/mi) — I'm crusing the freeway at 5:40am, the radio is blaring "Touch of Gray", and I'm singing "I will survive" with the Grateful Dead. Caren and I are meeting at dawn to jog part of the Cabin John Stream Valley Trail for an hour or two before today's MCRRC 5k cross-country race. I hear the cellphone ring over Jerry Garcia, but it stops before I can fish it out of my fanny pack. When I get off the highway and pause at a red light I check voicemail and discover that the call is from Mary, who missed the turnoff and needs directions to the park. Caren and I talk her in, and a bit after 6am we set off.
The [CJT] is ill-marked north of Tuckerman Lane and the three of us get lost repeatedly, but eventually we wend our way to the end of the trail (cf. Late October 2005 Jog Log, 30 Oct 2005, the last time I was here). Ken arrives at the parking lot, phones, and heads upstream to rendezvous as the trio turns south and misses the creek crossing. We pause to take pictures of each other crossing a slightly-scary and definitely-rickety bridge over the Cabin John Stream.

(photo by Caren Jew) Cabin_John_Stream_Valley_Trail

As we backtrack to the last set of blue blazes Caren spies Ken on the opposite side. We shout to get his attention and soon join up. Mary and Ken set a brisk pace, so Caren and I hang back, talking and walking. We loop around, chat with the volunteers setting up the race's aid station and when we arrive back at the start/finish area convey their message to Race Director Tom Temin that they need more water. Then it's time to register and shake the dirt out of my shoes. I join Christina and take photos of the little kids at their fun run, and then we line up for the 5k "Hills of Cabin John" XC. Christina leads at a stiff pace, by my standards, on the lovely but challenging course. Our splits are ~11:50 and ~12:35 for the first two miles, that latter including a pause to clamber over a big fallen tree that blocks our way. We finish together in just under 38 minutes, then eat, walk, and talk for a while. I take a short nap after I get home, and waken to find my legs sore and stiff. I will survive!

CCT Speedwork

6 May 2007 — 10 miles (10.9 min/mi) — "Too fast!" I begin complaining as soon as Ken and his fellow Congressional staffer Dina set off in front of me. It's about 9am and we're at the 3.5 mile post on the Capital Crescent Trail in downtown Bethesda. Dina and Ken ignore me and, to my considerable surprise, I'm able to maintain a nearly-11 pace for 10 miles. Maybe I'm distracted by the chance to bore a new pair of ears with my old stockpile of anecdotes? Dina is comfortable trotting along without walk breaks, but as a concession to me she walks perhaps a minute every mile. We chat about our families and jogging experiences, and both agree that Ken is genetically much more talented a runner than we can ever be. (At least, that's my excuse!)
Jim Cavanaugh meets us early during the run and I salute him for his great Promise Land 50k result last week. Ken is planning his first 50k, Capon Valley, next Saturday. I consider the possibility of going with him, but odds are I'll come to my senses before I drink the Gatorade. In compensation I offer Ken my usual "Voice of Doom" unsolicited advice on ultramarathon race strategy. At the Arizona Avenue trestle we see Michelle Price, who has run Capon Valley several times and who will likely be there again this year. Ken pauses to chat with her but soon catches up with Dina and me.
Bicycles are constantly whizzing by. Ken and I try to give positive reenforcement to those who warn us as they approach from behind, thanking them and wishing them a good day. In the final mile of the return trip we see a crowd on the trail ahead: apparently a cyclist has hit a dog. Fortunately everybody seems more-or-less all right as we pass by. At this point I'm definitely suffering, but almost manage to keep up with Ken and Dina's sprint to the finish. After I get home, though, the old legs remind me of my foolishness every time I walk downstairs.

(cf. Hat Bulge (23 Oct 2006), Inner Goat (12 Nov 2006), Sharper Image (10 Dec 2006), All Good (13 Jan 20007), Racy Jetsam (4 Feb 2007), Aggressive Resting (17 Mar 2007), Not So Difficult Run (10 Apr 2007), ...)

- Sunday, May 06, 2007 at 15:07:52 (EDT)


Ralph Waldo Emerson comments in his journal entry of 13 June 1838:

The unbelief of the age is attested by the loud condemnation of trifles. Look at our silly religious papers. Let a minister wear a cane, or a white hat, go to a theatre, or avoid a Sunday School, let a school-book with a Calvinistic sentence or a Sunday School book without one be heard of, and instantly all the old grannies squeak and gibber and do what they call 'sounding an alarm,' from Bangor to Mobile. Alike nice and squeamish is its ear. You must on no account say 'stink' or 'Damn.'

(cf. Ralph Waldo Emerson (5 Aug 2003), ...)

- Saturday, May 05, 2007 at 19:21:27 (EDT)

Freaking the Mundanes


One of my favorite Illuminati cards: "Freaking the Mundanes". The illustration on it, by Shea Ryan, shows a friendly-looking fellow — bizarrely tattooed, multiply pierced, with a mohawk hair style. The idea is to act a bit wild, so that normal folk become uncomfortable. But always be cheerful and non-threatening when doing that, eh?!

(Illuminati is a humorous card game about conspiracy published by Steve Jackson Games; cf. Envelope Pushing (24 Apr 2003), Two But Not Three (24 Sep 2003), ...)

- Wednesday, May 02, 2007 at 21:48:50 (EDT)

Spasmodic Hercules

Anthony Trollope, in Chapter 7 of his 1883 An Autobiography, comments on the value of disciplining oneself to do something almost every day:

... Nothing surely is so potent as a law which may not be disobeyed. It has the force of the water drop that hollows the stone. A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules. It is the tortoise which always catches the hare. The hare has no chance. He loses more time in glorifying himself for a quick spurt than suffices for the tortoise to make half his journey.

Regular practice is what really counts. It doesn't matter much what one does — exercising, writing, reading, thinking, ...

(cf. Dear Diary (19 Mar 2001), Ten Thousand Hours (20 Sep 2001), ...)

- Tuesday, May 01, 2007 at 07:35:47 (EDT)

Herodotus on the Spartans

In The History, book 3 part 46, Herodotus writes of the laconic Spartans:

When the Samians who had been banished by Polycrates came to Sparta, they went to the authorities and made a long speech, in view of the greatness of their need. At the first meeting, the Spartans said in answer that they had forgotten the first words of the request and could not understand the last. After that, the Samians had another meeting with the Spartan government, and this time they said nothing but, carrying a sack, said simply, "The sack needs grain." At this the Spartans answered, "You did not need to say 'sack'." But they resolved to help the exiled Samians.

Translator David Greene explains in a footnote:

This is, of course, a reference to the famous Spartan taciturnity and dislike of unnecessary eloquence. In this case, what is probably meant is that, if the they brought the sack with them, it was not necessary to use the word, "sack" in the sentence. One could just point at it and say, "Needs grain." The typical Spartan ephor, Sthenelaidas, as reported by Thucydides, in the conference at Sparta before the beginning of the Peloponnesian War opens his speech by saying, "I do not understand all this talking."

(The word laconic itself comes from Lacedaemon, the part of Greece wherein Sparta lies.)

- Sunday, April 29, 2007 at 21:12:41 (EDT)

Poetry Home Repair Manual

The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser is a warm, gentle conversation with a smart person whose philosophy is one of neighborly helpfulness. "Poetry is communication," he says up front, "and every word I've written here subscribes to that belief. Poetry's purpose is to reach other people and to touch their hearts. If a poem doesn't make sense to anybody but its author, nobody but its author will care a whit about it." Kooser (like physicist Richard Feynman in his Lectures on Physics) has the goal of helping people teach themselves. He focuses on what he calls "the craft of careful writing and meticulous revision".

Chapter One (A Poet's Job Description) begins with a slap of cold realism:

You'll never be able to make a living writing poems. We'd better get this money business out of the way before we go any further. I don't want you to have any illusions. ...

Then Kooser goes on to explain why it is nonetheless important to write poetry: to serve others, to serve ideas, and only then to serve oneself. "Poetry is a lot more important than poets," he argues. Good poetry helps people see things in new ways. And the best way to learn to write better, he suggests, is to read plenty of poetry, daily if possible. After reading comes writing, and after writing comes revision — and then more revision. That's far from drudgery, given the right attitude. Some representative comments:

From Chapter Ten (Controlling Effects through Careful Choices):

When writing even a very brief poem, you have hundreds of decisions to make — choices of words, of syntax, of punctuation, of rhythm, and so on. A poem is a machine of language designed to accomplish something. Whatever the poet hopes to accomplish, the work of writing the poem can't be hurried. Every word must be selected for its appropriateness to the task at hand, just as each part of a machine must contribute to its effectiveness. Each choice the poet makes must bring the poem a little closer to its potential. It is impossible to achieve perfection, but any poem will be more effective if it falls just a little short of perfection rather than a long way short.

In Chapter Eleven (Fine-Tuning Metaphors and Similies):

Poetry has enriched my life in many ways, but perhaps most by helping me see what I call the Marvelous Connections. Uh-oh, you may be thinking, here comes the Spiritual Life stuff! But please, indulge me a little.
Growing older cured the acne of my adolescent atheism, thinned the hair of my middle-aged skepticism, and left me as a doddering geezer with a firm belief that there is indeed a mysterious order to the universe. If I should live another twenty years, I may one day discover that I believe in a god who holds a keen interest in Ted Kooser's personal welfare, though it seems pretty unlikely. But, specific to this chapter, I do believe in a universal order and, when it comes to poetry, the best poems seem to reach through the opaque surface of the world and give us a glimpse of an order beyond.

And winding down, in Chapter Twelve (Relax and Wait):

What's the hurry? The truth is, nobody's waiting for you to press your poetry into their hands. Nobody knows you're writing it, nobody's hungry for it, nobody's dying to get at it. Not a living soul has big expectations for the success of your poem other than you. Of course, you want it to be wonderful — pure genius, beautiful, heartbreaking, memorable — and by coincidence that's just the kind of writing your audience would like to be reading. So let time show you some of the things you've done wrong before you show your poem to somebody and are embarrassed by a problem, or two or three problems, that you couldn't see in the exhilaration of just having written it.
And don't stop writing while you're waiting for one poem to mature. ...

- Friday, April 27, 2007 at 05:39:45 (EDT)


In his journal entry of 13 May 1838 Ralph Waldo Emerson defines a unit of time:

A Bird-while. In a natural chronometer, a Bird-while may be admitted as one of the metres, since the space most of the wild birds will allow you to make your observations on them when they alight near you in the woods, is a pretty equal and familiar measure.

(cf. Ralph Waldo Emerson (5 Aug 2003), ...)

- Thursday, April 26, 2007 at 05:17:14 (EDT)

Herodotus on Play

In The History, Book 2 Part 173, Herodotus describes Amasis, king of the Egyptians:

... the following is how he ordered his way of life: in the early morning, until when the market was full, he would zealously do all matters that were brought to him; but from then on he drank and joked with those who drank with him and was indeed an easygoing and sportive companion. Certain of his friends were aggrieved at this and chid him, saying, "My lord, you do not take due care for yourself in bringing yourself so low. You ought rather to sit solemnly all day on a solemn throne and conduct business, and so the Egyptians would know they were governed by a great man and you would have a fairer fame. What you are doing now is not the least royal." He answered them: "Those who have bows string them when there is need. If they were strung all the time, they would break, and so their owners would not have them to use when they needed them. A man is just like that. If he will be serious always and never let any part of him trifle, he will, without knowing it, become crazy or idiotic. I know that, and so I give each part its due." That was how he answered those friends of his.

(from the David Greene translation)

- Tuesday, April 24, 2007 at 10:06:51 (EDT)

Uncommon Carriers

Uncommon Carriers is a delightful collection of essays and profiles by one of the world's greatest living writers of nonfiction. John McPhee's prose sparkles as he rides along with truckers, towboat pilots, railroad engineers, supertanker captains, and others. Always his companions come across as real people, for whom McPhee has immense respect. Sample snippets follow.

In "A Fleet of One", with a surprisingly literate long-haul truck driver:

"Do you know of a writer named Joan Didion?" he had asked me in North Carolina.
I was too shy to say, "Take the 'of' out."

In "The Ships of Port Revel":

... This evolves into an exchange of French and American expressions for dying. With uninventive phrases like "kicked the bucket," "bought the farm," and so forth, the Americans quickly run up something of a trade deficit, for the French — over the Camembert — mention the gentle announcement "He has stopped eating," and add to that what appears to be the ultimate word on this topic: "He has swallowed his birth certificate."

and later in that same article:

While waves and currents matter plenty, nothing affects these big heavy ships so much as wind. When engineers at SOGREAH (the Société Grenobloise d'Etudes et d'Applications Hydrauliques) were first designing this evident combination of a miniature golf course and Caltech, their most sensitive consideration was wind. In any marine setting — any Atlantic or Mediterranean port — there was too much of it, because wind, like all else, had to be figured to scale. The math said that a ten-knot wind against the models would equal a fifty-knot wind on the actual sea. There was too much wind in the three deep valleys of Grenoble. So the company went to the foothills and found what Philippe Delesalle describes as "a small lake in the middle of nowhere sheltered by a forest." When a breeze ruffles the surface, our wind-speed indicators will read thirty or forty knots, and although the model ships may weight twenty actual tons, they can be blown off course.

There are also some arch, naughty bits. Those of delicate sensibilities may wish to skip the following clipping from "Tight-Assed River", as a tug pushing a thousand feet of cargo barges in front of it passes a passenger boat on the Illinois River:

... Two men and two women are in the cabin boat. The nearest woman — seated left rear in the open part of the cockpit — is wearing a black-and-gold two-piece bathing suit. She has the sort of body you to go see in marble. She has golden hair. Quickly, deftly, she reaches with both hands behind her back and unclasps her top. Setting it on her lap, she swivels ninety degrees to face the towboat square. Shoulders back, cheeks high, she holds her pose without retreat. In her ample presentation there is defiance of gravity. There is no angle of repose. She is a siren and these are her songs. She is Henry Moore's "Oval with Points." Moore said, "Rounded forms convey an idea of fruitfulness, maturity, probably because the earth, women's breasts, and most fruits are rounded, and these shapes are important because they have this background in our habits of perception. I think the humanist organic element will always be for me of fundamental importance in sculpture." She has not moved — this half-naked maja out-nakeding the whole one. Her nipples are a pair of eyes staring the towboat down. For my part, I want to leap off the tow, swim to her, and ask if there is anything I can do to help. We can now read the name on the transom behind her: Empty Pockets II

Later, as John McPhee speaks to the towboat's pilot:

I say to Mel, "I thought that was just a myth — that it didn't happen."
Mel says, "It happens all the time."

And then there's McPhee's techno-rhapsodic description of the UPS hub in the middle of Kentucky's Louisville International Airport — a dazzling hyperdimensional space of conveyor belts, scanners, and actuators which does the magic of sorting:

... You see packages in every direction moving on a dozen levels and two principal floors, which are perforated by spaces that allow the belts to climb to all levels and descend ultimately to the level of the airplanes. Over all, this labyrinth, which out-thinks the people who employ it, is something like the interior of the computers that run it. Like printed circuitry, seven great loops, each a thousand feet around, are superposed at right angles above other loops. A fly fisherman would admire the proportions of these loops, which are like perfect casts, the two sides close and parallel, the turns at the ends tight. Unending sequences of letters and small packages zip around these loops, while the larger packages follow one another on the belts, each package tailgating the one in front of it but electronically forbidden to touch it. When a collision seems imminent where belts converge, the guilty package stops dead in its tracks and awaits its turn to move on. Collectively, the loops are like the circuits in the motherboards among the interface cards of a central processing unit wherein whole packages seeking specific airplanes are ones and zeroes moving through the chips.

(cf. Sense Of Where You Are (4 Jun 1999), Invisible Writing (16 Dec 1999), Defensive Questions (12 May 2000), World Trade Center (11 Sep 2001), Indian River (30 Jul 2004), ...)

- Monday, April 23, 2007 at 13:49:08 (EDT)

Baseball Odds

Nothing is worse than false precision — a sign on an outfield fence that says both "400 feet" and "121.92 meters", for instance. That distance from home plate was not measured to a fraction of an inch! It may even be off by several feet. Likewise, something's fishy when a chart purports to show the win probability of a team during a game but contains abrupt wiggles and arbitrary fine structure. For example:


Or even wackier:


What's being graphed is, in fact, the result of looking up how ballclubs did during the past decade or so in seemingly-similar situations. Home teams that are ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, say, with two outs and no one on base, maybe have won 1367 times and lost 496 times. So the chart shows a 73% chance of success.

That's clever but bad, for multiple reasons. It ignores a host of important factors, both micro (who's pitching? who's coming up to bat? who's injured? ...) and macro (what are the average strengths of the teams in today's game? what features of the ballpark affect overall offense and defense? ...). Worse, the table-lookup approach relies on small-number statistics yet ignores the big fluctuations in those numbers due to sampling error. Toss 100 coins, and you're not likely to get exactly 50 heads and 50 tails; the square-root-of-N rule says that you'll probably be within plus or minus 10 of the expected value. And still worse, the past-experience method of baseball handicapping requires big databases and can't be done spur-of-the-moment on the back of an envelope or the label of a beer bottle.

So how should one estimate a team's chances during a game? I've started working on that (mostly during boring meetings when I'm sitting at the back of the room). Perhaps some preliminary results will emerge in months to come. Among the key parameters to consider are clearly:

Ideally a good win-probability formula should be simple to evaluate, should roughly match the table-lookup method, and should approach the following boundary case values:

What other mathematical features should a baseball odds-making system exhibit? Are there other inputs that should be considered? How should the formula be adjusted to align with past experience? What is the proper trade-off between simplicity and accuracy?

(sample charts from Washington Post coverage of Washington Nationals baseball, reputedly based on http://winexp.walkoffbalk.com/expectancy/search ; cf. Probabilistic Tragedy (12 Mar 2003), Drawing The Line (11 Jul 2004), Square Root Of Baseball (13 May 2005), In The Big Inning (31 Jan 2006), ...)

- Saturday, April 21, 2007 at 17:35:48 (EDT)

Sublime Night

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his journal entry of 11 May 1838:

Last night the moon rose behind four distinct pine-tree tops in the distant woods and the night at ten was so bright that I walked abroad. But the sublime light of night is unsatisfying, provoking; it astonishes but explains not. Its charm floats, dances, disappears, comes and goes, but palls in five minutes after you have left the house. Come out of your warm, angular house, resounding with few voices, into the chill, grand, instantaneous night, with such a Presence as a full moon in the clouds, and you are struck with poetic wonder. In the instant you leave far behind all human relations, wife, mother and child, and live only with the savages — water, air, light, carbon, lime, and granite. I think of Kuhleborn. I become a moist, cold element. 'Nature grows over me.' Frogs pipe; waters far off tinkle; dry leaves hiss; grass bends and rustles, and I have died out of the human world and come to feel a strange, cold, aqueous, terraqueous, aerial, ethereal sympathy and existence. I sow the sun and moon for seeds.

(cf. Ralph Waldo Emerson (5 Aug 2003), ...)

- Thursday, April 19, 2007 at 20:57:59 (EDT)

Bull Run Run 2007 Photos

BRR2007_stream_bur Near the back of the pack, crossing a tributary stream (probably Little Rocky Run) early during the Bull Run Run 50 Miler, Mary Ewell leads as ^z and Nancy Summers pick their way cautiously behind. Blue blazes mark the Bull Run Trail, and additional blue streamers help keep runners on course. This year the mud isn't nearly as bad as it often is. The flowers in the northern end of the course are lovely. Ducks and geese scold racers for disturbing their peaceful repose; fishermen studiously ignore all passers-by. (photo by Mike Bur, some rights reserved)
At the northern turnaround, 9.4 miles into the BRR, Mary Ewell and ^z prepare to reverse course under the watchful supervision of race official Anstr Davidson of the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club. Here the trail winds through meadows of bluebells and crosses narrow, bouncy bridges made of wooden boards. (photo by Anstr Davidson, some rights reserved) BRR2007_mile_9
BRR2007_mile_37 The Fountainhead aid station is first encountered at mile 28.1, just before runners enter the White Loop and then proceed to the infamous Do Loop. After 9.3 miles of rambling alone through the woods ^z is back at Fountainhead, ready to start the final 13.5 miles of the course. He holds a handful of potato chips and his one remaining bottle; the other flask sprayed Gatorade into his eyes when he took a tumble on the trail several miles earlier. (photo by Emaad Burki, some rights reserved)
^z indicates the boo-boo that his knee now exhibits at mile 37.9, the Fountainhead aid station on the return trip. It doesn't look all that bad, does it? Suck it up and move on, you wimp! The purple bruises won't develop until later. (photo by Emaad Burki, some rights reserved) BRR2007_knee_emaad

(cf. Bull Run Run 2007 (15 Apr 2007), ...)

- Tuesday, April 17, 2007 at 21:43:43 (EDT)

Bull Run Run 2007

Trotting downhill, alone in the woods, at mile 33 I trip on a log and tumble to the ground. I try to cushion the impact with my hands, one of which holds a drinking bottle. The overpressure blows the top off and spews a jet of Gatorade straight into my eyes. My right knee is scraped and bruised. For a few minutes I fear I'm going to be yet another casualty of Bull Run. But the bloody knee keeps working, aided by ibuprofen. As I limp onward I recite the poem Face Plant aloud to myself. It comforts me.

Such are the joys of ultrarunning, when on 14 April 2007 the Bull Run Run 50 Miler celebrates its fifteenth "Battle". The BRR this year has 370 entrants, 336 starters, and 301 finishers. I'm 284rd among them, crossing the line at 12 hours 25 minutes 6 seconds, 51st among 58 in the male 50-59 age group. Conditions are near-optimal — fortunately for me, given my pitiful lack of talent, training, and toughness. Contrary to past experience the legendary BRR mud remains a mere legend, the temperature remains mild, and the forecast of heavy rains remains a forecast until a few minutes after I finish. During the afternoon sporadic light sprinkles patter on the dry leaves that carpet the forest floor.

Ironman triathlete Mary Ewell is less lucky today. Three weeks ago we ran much of her first ultra together, the Hat Run 2007. Three weeks before that we both were slip-sliding on the ice and in the mud during the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon 2007. Today is her first attempt at a 50 miler. Mary is a wonderful person to journey with, optimistic, realistic and congenitally cheerful. Runners who meet us remark on her sunny smile. We stick together for the first 28 miles of the BRR. At the Fountainhead aid station I feel strong and press onward, while she pauses to regroup.

Later, I learn what happens next: a mile down the course and only a few minutes behind me Mary slips and falls while crossing a stream: a rock flips out from under her and she goes flying. She twists an ankle and scrapes an arm. Worse, her knee is bruised and then goes "crunchy". It becomes harder and harder to bend. But Mary treks on for another nine miles, until she misses an official time cutoff by one minute and has to withdraw from the race. Indomitable Mary stays happy, however, and is already planning ahead to another 50 miler, and to BRR'08. Brava!

Joyful Moments

Sad Moments

Schadenfreude Moments

Painful Moment

Split Analysis

location miles total cutoff 15 pace ^z time ^z pace
Start 0 0 -- 0:00 0:00 --
Centreville Road 7.2 7.2 -- 1:48 1:46 0:14
Turnaround 2.2 9.4 -- 2:21 2:15 0:13
Centreville Road 2.2 11.6 -- 2:54 2:43 0:12
Hemlock 5 16.6 -- 4:09 4:02 0:15
Marina 4.5 21.1 -- 5:16 5:12 0:15
Wolf Run Shoals 5 26.1 -- 6:31 6:30 0:15
Fountainhead 2 28.1 7:15 7:01 6:59 0:14
Do Loop - In 4.4 32.5 8:20 8:07 8:03 0:14
Do Loop - Out 3 35.5 -- 8:52 8:49 0:15
Fountainhead 2.4 37.9 9:45 9:28 9:27 0:15
Wolf Run Shoals 2 39.9 -- 9:58 10:00 0:16
Marina 5 44.9 11:30 11:13 11:05 0:13
Finish 5.5 50.4 13:00 12:36 12:25 0:14

My overall pace is 14:47 minutes/mile — roughly what I hope for when I create the charts that Mary and I carry. Before the race I vow to go no slower than 15 min/mi but no faster than 14 min/mi, especially early on when great freshness begets great hubris. The plan works.

(huge thanks to Mary Ewell for running with me, to Caren Jew and Ken Swab for taunting me mercilessly in January until I signed up for the BRR, and to the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club for creating and managing the BRR; cf. Tussey Mountainback 2004 (8 Oct 2004), Jfk 50 Mile Run 2006 (20 Nov 2006), Jfk 50 Miler 2006 Split Analysis (21 Jan 2007), ...)

- Sunday, April 15, 2007 at 23:03:36 (EDT)

Enlivened Solitude

Ralph Waldo Emerson in his journal of 26 Apr 1838 writes:

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Cliff with Henry Thoreau. Warm, pleasant, misty weather which the great mountain amphitheatre seemed to drink in with gladness. A crow's voice filled all the miles of air with sound. A bird's voice, even a piping frog, enlivens a solitude and makes world enough for us. At night I went out into the dark and saw a glimmering star and heard a frog, and Nature seemed to say, Well do not these suffice? Here is a new scene, a new experience. Ponder it, Emerson, and not like the foolish world, hanker after thunders and multitudes and vast landscapes, the sea or Niagara.

(cf. Ralph Waldo Emerson (5 Aug 2003), ...)

- Saturday, April 14, 2007 at 02:13:06 (EDT)

Peloponnesian War

In Donald Kagan's introduction to The Peloponnesian War he summarizes his mission:

In this book I attempt a new history of the Peloponnesian War designed to meet the needs of readers in the twenty-first century. It is based on the scholarship employed in my four volumes on the war aimed chiefly at a scholarly audience, but my goal here is a readable narrative in a single volume to be read by the general reader for pleasure and to gain the wisdom that so many have sought in studying this war. I have avoided making comparisons between events in it and those in later history, although many leap to mind, in the hope that an uninterrupted account will better allow readers to draw their own conclusions.

Among the observations that Kagan makes, one of the more striking appears in Chapter Four, "The Decision for War (432)":

Such considerations were foremost in Pericles' mind, but his decision rested also on the strategy he had formulated for fighting the war. Strategy is not merely a matter of military plans, as tactics may be. Peoples and leaders turn to war to achieve their goals when other means have failed, and they formulate a strategy that they believe will attain them through force of arms. Before the outbreak of war, however, different strategies can have different effects on the very decisions that bring on the war or avoid it. In the crusis of 432/1 both Sparta and Athens chose strategies that inadvertently helped foster the war.

The Pelopopponesian War is quite readable, but suffers from poor cartographic design: its 29 maps are sometimes redundant (e.g., map 5 and map 20 are identical), occasionally omit key information, and frequently are hard to find due to poor placement relative to the text which references them. Better would have been to put a few good maps at the front or back of the volume.

(cf. Sicilian Defense (3 Apr 2007), ...)

- Thursday, April 12, 2007 at 05:50:23 (EDT)

Not So Difficult Run


(Scott's Run, 7 April 2007; click for larger image)

The "Difficult Run 8k", a cross-country race sponsored by the MCRRC, is rather imprecisely named:

But no matter! Recent entries, including "Difficult Run", from the jogging logbook:

Wheaton Loop

17 March 2007 — ~10 miles (~11.5 min/mi) — Yesterday's surprise sleet/snow storm causes the cancellation of this morning's MCRRC 10k race, so come late afternoon I set out to jog a big circle: from home via Forest Glen Rd. to Sligo Creek Trail, upstream to University Blvd., west through Wheaton along University, south on Connecticut Ave. to Rock Creek Trail, and thence home again. It's brisk, temperatures in the mid-30's, but after the first half mile the hat comes off (I stuff it into my shorts) and soon thereafter I doff the windshirt while waiting to cross Georgia Avenue.
Then, of course, the northwest wind begins to gust and I spend the next hour debating whether or not to put the outer layer back on. Sidewalks and trails are mostly clear, but wooden bridges along Sligo are still rather icy. Most woodland creatures are smart enough to hide, but I disturb flocks of ground-feeding robins near the Mormon Temple. I leave out the walk breaks and measured mile 8 is a fast 10:30. The trail access route near the new National Park Seminary is eroded and impassable, so I cut through the construction site back to Linden Lane.

Boggy Wallow

24 March — 31+ miles (15+ min/mi) — see Hat Run 2007 ...


31 March — ~9 miles (~14 min/mi) — Like a candle in the wind, the moon gutters and fades as it sets into the clouds. At 5am I prepare to swerve off Route 28 into the usually-empty Seneca Creek parking area, and am startled to see the gravel lot almost full of pickup trucks, with more coming in. I squeeze into a space next to Caren, and we discover that it's the first day of trout fishing season. The anglers tell us that they plan to work the waters upstream, so we head south. There are a few boggy areas, but nothing like four weeks ago at the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon 2007, and far short of last week's Hat Run 2007.
The top of my right foot and the extensor tendon of that big toe is still slightly sore, perhaps from a too-tight shoe at the HAT, perhaps from the effort of lifting the foot out of sole-sucking mud in Susquehanna State Park. So I try my Nike "Free" slippers, and they work wonders on the soft ground. I lead most of the way, with occasional near-stumbles on tree roots. My socks are damp after we cross small streams and bedewed meadows.
The darkness is spooky (my headlamp needs new batteries) but even though most of the faded teal blazes are invisible we manage to follow the trail and reach Berryville Road in a little over an hour. Soon after we reverse course the sun rises and we can turn off our lights. The return trip is faster, as we now can see what's tripping us. Ken phones a bit before 7am and heads our way, to keep Caren company for the remainder of her long run. We reach our cars at the parking lot and while awaiting Ken have a pleasant chat with an elderly gentleman who tells us he used to be a runner but now focuses on fishing, a "cradle to grave" sport that offers many lessons for life — like running!

Difficult Run

7 April — ~5 miles (~12 min/mi) — Caren and I converge on Ken's house at 8am and carpool to the MCRRC race site in northern Virginia. An overnight snowfall dusts the vegetation and makes for lovely scenery, but leaves the winding trails clear. I snap silly photos (see [2]) of sundry participants and jog along with Caren; Ken and Lorrin sprint ahead, while Emaad and Pam cruise behind us. Just before the halfway point of the double-loop course we step aside for the winner to blast past on his final descent. During most of the race I tell Caren that we're doing a 13-14 min/mi pace, but about a mile from the end I sense that we're far ahead of that schedule and might squeak through in less than an hour. So I sprint ahead with Caren's permission; she's planning a long trail run the following day, and prefers not to risk injury. My watch as I cross the finish line says 59:59 but the official results show me at 1:00:00.

(cf. 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), Racy Jetsam (4 Feb 2007), Aggressive Resting (17 Mar 2007), ...)

- Tuesday, April 10, 2007 at 06:18:28 (EDT)

Fabulous Formulæ

Dr. Euler's Fabulous Formula (2006) by Paul Nahin isn't so much a book as it is a pamphlet full of fascinating trivia and deep truths — but it's a pamphlet padded out with reams of step-by-step derivations that really belong on scratch paper. The "Fabulous Formula" of the title, of course, is:

e + 1 = 0

... the basis of Fourier analysis and a host of other useful, important, beautiful mathematics. Electrical engineer Nahin clearly enjoys it all, and conveys his excitement well — at intervals between pages of boring turn-the-crank algebraic manipulation. If this "book" could have existed without the filler material it would have been a real gem. Perhaps the economics of publishing makes that impossible.

- Sunday, April 08, 2007 at 10:50:30 (EDT)

Out of Puff

Oddly enough (or perhaps not so) a plethora of songs, some pretty good and some quite obscure, are dedicated to lungs and airflow. An incomplete sampling:

Apparently for lyricists resipration = inspiration ...

(thanks to running comrade Ruth for teaching me the British-English term "out of puff" for shortness of breath; cf. Lyric Notes (29 Mar 2002), ...)

- Saturday, April 07, 2007 at 06:57:55 (EDT)

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-April 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), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2008 by Mark Zimmermann.)