^zhurnaly 0.93

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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in volume 0.93 of the ^zhurnal (that's Russian for "journal") — see ZhurnalyWiki for a Wiki edition of individual items; see Zhurnal and Zhurnaly for quick clues as to what this is all about; see Random for a random page. Briefly, this is the diary of ^z = Mark Zimmermann ... previous volume = 0.92 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z (at) his (dot) com" ... click on a title link to go to that item in the ZhurnalyWiki where you can edit or comment on it ... RSS

Oddmuse Like Button

Seven months ago a link at the bottom of ZhurnalyWiki pages appeared which says "I like this!" When you click it, a line is appended to the page that reads "1 person liked this". If somebody else clicks it the count changes to "2 persons liked this", etc. How does it work? On 25 February 2011 I posted the naive question:

Alex, I'd like to have a Facebook-like "Like" button extension for Oddmuse to use in my ZhurnalyWiki journal — maybe just the word "Like" at the bottom of the page in the bar near "Edit this page" etc. — when somebody clicks on it, the number in front of it should increment. I could imagine various ways to try to implement this (by analogy with the Comment Count Extension perhaps?) — but instead of that maybe we should chat first about how it should look/work? Or do you already have a "Like" button and I just can't find it?! (^_^) Tnx Alex!

on the Oddmuse wiki page Like Button. Thanks to the magic of friendly collaboration, within a few days the associated page Comments on Like Button had a discussion, followed by a prototype implementation. That soon led to a module by Alex Schroeder and Ingo Belka that I tweaked and put into the Oddmuse directory here on zhurnaly.com:

# I LIKE! --- by Alex Schroeder & Ingo Belka
# trivial mods by Mark Zimmermann to make 'like' counts be <H4> aka ==== ... ====

$ModulesDescription .= '<p>$Id: like.pl,v 0.4z 2011/05/01 20:00:00 zhurnaly Exp $</p>';

$Action{like} = \&DoLike;
$LikeRegexp = qr'====(\d+) persons? liked this====';

sub DoLike {
  my $id = shift;
  my $crlf="\n";
  my $data = $Page{text};
  if ($data =~ /$LikeRegexp/mo) {
      my ($n) = $1;
      $data =~ s/$LikeRegexp/====$n persons liked this====/mo;
    } else {
      $data .= "$crlf====1 person liked this====$crlf";
  SetParam('text', $data);
  SetParam('title', $OpenPageName);
  SetParam('oldtime', $Page{ts});
  SetParam('recent_edit', 'on');
  SetParam('summary', T('I like this!'));

sub PrintMyContent {
  my $id = shift;
  print ScriptLink('action=like;id=' . UrlEncode($id), T('I like this!'), 'like')
    if $id and GetParam('action', 'browse') eq 'browse';

... and that's where the "I like this!" link comes from ...

- Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 04:48:03 (EST)

2011-12-06 - Lemon Road Park Loop

~4.5 miles @ ~8.8 min/mi

Comrade Jean-Michel is in the locker room, just back from his run as I get ready to head out for my substitute-lunch. He did orbits in the parking garage to avoid the rain, but I don't care. Slippery wet autumn leaves decorate the sidewalk. I take the same circuit as on 2011-10-07 - Scott Run, Pimmit View, Griffith, Lemon Road Parks and 2011-10-24 - Pimmit Hills Loop with Sara, pushing the pace and finishing in 39:14, a hair faster than before. A Metrobus passes me but pauses to pick up passengers; I sprint to beat it to the next corner. At the church on Great Falls Rd where the sidewalk vanishes the path is muddy and I slant across to the other side of the street.

- Monday, December 19, 2011 at 04:36:52 (EST)

Friendly Phil

His Honda is a faded rust-red. It reeks of cigarette smoke. The passenger seat is covered with old newspapers that he pushes onto the floor, to join the empty cans and fast-food wrappers there. He says his name is Phil and that he's been unemployed for a couple of years now. Once in a while, for a few off-the-books bucks, he rakes leaves at the neighborhood church or helps a construction crew.

Why he's taken a hankering to me, I haven't a clue. Most mornings at 5:25am, when he drives to the Forest Glen Metro station to pick up his free newspaper, the only person he sees is me — striding along the sidewalk, weather good or bad. He beeps his horn. I look up and wave. Once every month or two he stops to offer me a ride. As a bonus I get a 30-second monologue on what's wrong with the world. I thank him for the lift, for saving me a few minutes.

Just last week, after a few years of this pre-dawn relationship, Phil happens to spy me in the afternoon as I'm walking home. He honks and stops to greet me. "You've got a beard!" I say. "I've never seen your face before!" We both laugh.

(cf. Taillight Obstruction (2008-01-09), ...)

- Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 05:14:21 (EST)

2011-12-04 - Evening Run in CM's Neighborhood

~3.5 miles @ ~10.5 min/mi

There's a lovely sunset on the way to drop Paulette off at a County Library event in Rockville. Cara Marie Manlandro has been ill but is starting to feel better and wants to stretch her legs, so we meet up at ~5:30pm and set off. The GPS trackfile makes a pretty sketch as CM orchestrates out-and-back treks along a couple of major streets. Christmas lights blink in front yards and I almost but not quite run into a few pedestrians on the sidewalk. Mile splits 10.1 + 10.8 + 9.6 and a final fractional ~0.6 mi @ 11.7 pace for an overall ~10.5 min/mi. That almost pays for the Taco Bell calories on the way home.

- Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 06:12:25 (EST)


Slow, slow, slow — that's the overwhelming feel of Crossworld: One Man's Journey into America's Crossword Obsession, by Marc Romano. No doubt he's fast at doing tough puzzles. But does that mean he has to say everything at least two or three times, in somewhat different language, permuted and reordered and paraphrased? Perhaps this 200+ page book is a magazine article that took steroids. Maybe it's an unconscious metaphor for a set of crosswords themselves, with interlocking anecdotes like the obscure vowel-rich words that recur in far too many grids. Or it could be that for somebody who loves the subject, redundancy is comforting rather than distracting.

(cf. TooSlowAndTooFast (1999-09-25), ...)

- Friday, December 16, 2011 at 04:37:16 (EST)

2011-12-04 - Rock Creek Park with Clair

~3.5 miles @ ~13 min/mi

To avoid the shame of arriving late like last time (2011-10-16 - Beach Drive with Clair and Sophie) I'm half an hour early at the parking lot (Broad Branch and Beach Dr) in Rock Creek Park. Clair is on her way, so I scout out a segment of the Teddy Roosevelt side trail and decide it's too steep and slippery for us. Clair has done trails in the western USA but not in the east, so today's excursion is a get-to-know-you intro to autumn-leaf-covered roots and rocks for her. We climb the Western Ridge Trail and pass a couple of equitation rings, following the route that Caren Jew and I did on 2011-09-25 - Western Ridge Trail and Beach Drive and that I tried solo on 2011-11-13 - Rock Creek Park - Valley Trail and Western Ridge Trail. I remember belatedly to turn the GPS on, so we're missing the first half-mile or so of data. Clair leads and shows great talent for blaze-spotting. We debate the color of paint used on the trees: I call it "teal" but Clair prefers "sea foam".

At Military Rd we leave the Western Ridge and turn east along the horse trail — and to my great surprise immediately have to step aside for an actual horse and rider who are approaching, the first and only ones I've ever seen there. It's a lovely horse wearing a lavender blanket. After a pause to survey Fort deRussy we descend the steep hill to Rock Creek and cross back under Military Rd to Beach Dr. A 5k race is underway, but all we see are walkers. After joining the Valley Trail for half a mile or so we've had enough hiking on non-runnable terrain, so we scramble down to Beach Dr. Clair wants to stretch her legs, so we blast along at ~7 min/mi pace for almost a mile back to our cars. Finally I get warm enough to take off the windbreaker!

(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 04:34:59 (EST)

Power of Now

Eckhart Tolle's book The Power of Now is amazingly silly in places, but occasionally it's also rather thoughtful. The basic theme: be here now. In Chapter Two, for example:

Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.

Observe your feelings, Tolle counsels, but don't identify them with your self. "Don't judge or analyze. Don't make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. Become aware ... of 'the one who observes,' the silent watcher. This is the power of the Now, the power of your own conscious presence."

And don't get angry or frustrated when you have to wait. From Chapter Four:

... many people are waiting for prosperity. It cannot come in the future. When you honor, acknowledge, and fully accept your present reality — where you are, who you are, what you are doing right now — when you fully accept what you have got, you are grateful for what you have got, grateful for what is, grateful for Being. Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is true prosperity. It cannot come in the future. ...

Tolle concludes, "So give up waiting as a state of mind. When you catch yourself slipping into waiting . . . snap out of it. Come into the present moment. Just be, and enjoy being. If you are present, there is never any need for you to wait for anything. ..."

So try to ignore Tolle's asides on energy fields, his musings on "why women are closer to enlightenment" because of collective cosmic consciousness, mystical menstrual flow, etc. Just be, now and here.

(cf. PresentTension (2003-06-16), Wherever You Go, There You Are (2008-10-26), Roadside Distractions (2011-04-30), ...)

- Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 04:45:52 (EST)

2011-12-03 - Lakewood - Glen Hills - Hollinridge Ramble with Jennifer

~12 miles @ ~10.3 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Knee_Scrape_z_2011-12-03.jpgJennifer Wieland Zuckman shows me a new route to run today, and along the way I fall down and scrape my knee — though it takes some photographic work to get it to look even slightly ugly. I'm looking over my shoulder as we trot along the shoulder of Glen Rd, and trip on a pothole.

On the way out to Jennifer's home the Lady Gaga song "Edge of Glory" is on the radio, and I remember hearing it with Jennifer during her great Marine Corps Marathon a month ago. Cara Marie Manlandro is ill and can't join us, so we swing by her home to drop off Italian beer and inspirational reading material (a spare copy of Paula). Jennifer's bruised ankle from the MCM is mostly recovered, but she suffers from a stitch in the side much of the day. She blames it on chocolate brownies last night.

We start and finish at the Thomas Farm Community Center, which I last visited during a solo run (2011-08-17 - Rockville Millennium Trail). Jennifer's loop takes us down narrow country lanes and over rolling hills through nice neighborhoods. An early-morning traffic accident at an intersection summons a speedy ambulance. We jump off the road to avoid being new victims.

(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 05:09:30 (EST)


Paula Radcliffe's autobiography, written with David Walsh, is sweet and revealing and thoughtful and funny and crude. Paula: My Story So Far was published in 2004, shortly after her crash-and-burn marathon DNF at the Athens Olympics. Radcliffe the elite runner recognizes how lucky she has been to make a living out of her toughness, talent, training, and opportunities to excel. Radcliffe the woman devotes long, thoughtful sections of her book to relationships, emotions, and frankly "female" issues.

Paula pushes her body to, and frequently beyond, its limits. The result? A mix of extraordinary successes — including a world's record marathon 2:15:25 set in 2003 — and serious injuries to bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. She also has a daughter and a son, born in 2007 and 2010, and of course had to take time away from competition for them. She talks in her book about medical treatments she has undergone, many of which (massage, chiropractic, homeopathy, acupuncture, etc.) seem quite unscientific and unlikely to actually work. But she and her advisors clearly believe in them. She takes a strong position against performance-enhancing drugs, to the extent of protesting the presence of juicers and dopers in events.

She begins her story with a parable from a James Patterson novel (Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas). As she tells it in Chapter 1:

.. life is about juggling five balls in the air. They are health, family, friends, integrity and career/achievement. These balls are not the same; the important thing to remember is that the career ball is made of rubber but the others are more fragile. You can take more risks with the rubber ball. You may try to throw it through higher and higher hoops because if you do drop it, it will eventually bounce back. Normally, this ball does not suffer long-term damage. The other four balls need to be looked after more carefully. If you drop one of these it will be damaged and it may even shatter. To me it is a valid analogy because it symbolises what is important in life and should be remembered. So long as we have our health, integrity, family and friends we can overcome life's hurdles.

She talks about the euphoria that running brings to her. In Chapter 2:

But it isn't just the competition that appeals to me. Running is something I enjoy, full stop. Being out in a nice part of the countryside, running fast, the breeze in your face, feeling free and just seeing how long you can keep going. There is the sense of escape from the real world, the exhilaration that comes when you run hard, the search to see how far you can push yourself, just being at one with yourself: they are all part of what I love about running. ...

After touchingly cute stories of growing up, school-day friends and rivals, at the end of Chapter 4 young Paula gets past her university entrance exams but is still facing the World Junior Track Championships. She's scared, but quotes comforting words from her coach Alex Stanton, and concludes with her philosophy of life:

Alex is a bit like my grandma. She believes that we only get one life, you should make the most of it — no looking back. Always be true to yourself and treat other people fairly and as you would want to be treated. Enjoy and appreciate it when things go well because you've worked for it. What goes around comes around. Often life doesn't quite work out like that but if you believe it does, it is easier to make sense of it. Of course things still go wrong sometimes, but it's easier to get over these obstacles if you're prepared to learn from them, put the problem behind you and work hard to get back to the good times. It's a philosophy I've always believed in too.

- Monday, December 12, 2011 at 04:41:51 (EST)

2011-12-01 - Pimmit Hills GPS Tests

~5.5 miles @ ~8.5 min/mi

My rough estimate on 2011-11-21 - Pimmit Hills Recovery Run of the distance around the small lunchtime loop near work turns out to be surprisingly close, according to GPS measurements made going clockwise and counterclockwise in succession. At the middle of the excursion I pause at the start/finish line in the office parking lot to change the Garmin from "Smart" recording of data to capturing one point per second — far more wasteful of the device's memory, but is it any more precise? The two methods agree quite well in this test, 2.77 vs. 2.78 miles. Elevation profiles are radically different, but measuring the third dimension is a common GPS challenge. (cf. Wikipedia:Dilution_of_precision_(GPS)) Pace for the first lap is a brisk-for-me 8.8 min/mi, including a couple of pauses at McGarity Rd to let speedy cars blast past. The second circuit, in the opposite direction, is even faster at 8.4 min/mi.

- Sunday, December 11, 2011 at 04:42:04 (EST)

How to Look at Sculpture

Found at the library used-book sale, David Finn's 1989 How to Look at Sculpture is a coffee-table tome scaled down to fit a tea-tray. The text is rhapsodic but rather repetitive in its accompaniment to the pictures, which take center stage. Finn is an outstanding photographer who gets carried away recounting anecdotes of his visits to diverse galleries and repositories of fine art. The vast majority of his focus is on Western European statuary, with only a few tiny illustrations of works from India and Southeast Asia. Finn also breathes quite heavily at times, particularly in the chapter "Naked Beauty", an enthusiastic exploration of fleshy figures. For instance, a single sentence that barely (pun intended!) is quotable here, rated for immature audiences only:

... I couldn't believe the delicacy of the way the breasts were carved, with such gentleness in the curves flowing out to the nipples, the soft flesh below the breasts swelling slightly around the belly and then curving back into the pubic area, the lovely thighs and the perfection of the legs, the beautiful backs and luscious buttocks: they were sculptures that were absolutely spellbinding. ...

"Luscious buttocks"? Hmmm ... perhaps some thoughts are best left unsaid.

But on the positive side, Finn's enjoyment of his subject is delightful and contagious. After reading How to Look at Sculpture one would be hard-pressed not to pause and take a long, long look the next time a statue sways into view. And Finn frequently makes a striking point, as in the introductory chapter "What Makes a Sculpture Great?":

... I believe that a great work of sculpture contains forms that make a powerful impact on the mind, an impact that is sustained, even grows stronger, the longer and more often you look at it. There is a tremendous tension in a great sculpture, a tension that makes every part of the work quiver, from the top to the bottom, the back to the front. The forms may or may not strike you as beautiful, at least beautiful in the traditional sense of lovely or graceful, but their inner strength produces a monumentality that can be overpowering and unforgettable. Like a philosophical idea that gives you a new insight into a fundamental question of life and death, once you have been exposed to a great work of sculpture you feel as if the images in your head will forever bear its imprint. ...

... reminiscent of Franz Kafka's remark, "A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us." Likewise sculpture.

(cf. ArtAndIdeas (2001-09-01), FlyingEagle (2002-04-16), ReallyGreat (2003-11-22), PumpingIron (2004-07-16), EnDehanchement (2006-04-02), UncommonCarriers (2007-04-23), ...)

- Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 04:39:46 (EST)

2011-11-27 - Neighborhood Loop

~4 miles @ ~8.4 min/mi

What begins as a gentle recovery run from yesterday's 2011-11-26 - MCRRC Turkey Burn-Off 10 Miler turns into a speed test, with the first couple of miles at 7.7-8.2 min/mi pace. But on the penultimate climb up from Rock Creek my mojo stays behind to dangle its toes in the water, and I slow to 9+ min/mi. Nevertheless, the old legs are still happy to be out and about.

(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Friday, December 09, 2011 at 04:34:37 (EST)

Schedule Caution

A cute ".sig" line seen recently:

WARNING: Dates on Calendar are Closer than they Appear

... an especially good reminder for procrastinators like me!

(cf. AmigaCheck (2004-05-19), Deadlines (2008-04-09), Five Minutes Early (2009-05-14), Don't Get Ready (2009-12-06), ...)

- Thursday, December 08, 2011 at 04:34:56 (EST)

2011-11-26 - MCRRC Turkey Burn-Off 10 Miler

10 miles @ ~8.1 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Turkey_Burn_Off_2011_z_front_CC.jpgReading Paula Radcliffe's autobiography is a good way to feel guilty about my laziness. Today is a day for redemption via hard work. The GPS trackfile says 10.13 miles but the official USATF certified course is 10.01 (including the 0.1% "short course prevention factor") and I believe the expert measurers more than the little wrist unit. Rebecca Rosenberg and I visit and start together well behind the line.

About 15 minutes pre-race I take an energy gel. At mile 4 I suck down another one, figuring that will give it enough time to take effect during the home stretch. Aid stations offer water and a chance to walk for a few steps. Cheerful Tom Young chats with me about socks as we approach mile 6. On the next downhill I pass him and stay ahead for a couple of miles, but he zooms by on the long climb during mile 9 and beats me.

Friendly photographer Connie Corbett, who ran with me last week at Stone Mill, lies prone in the middle of the road half a mile from the finish line, shooting low-angle photos of runners. "You're a speed bump!" I tell her. She laughs.

(photo on left by Connie Corbett, on right by Ken Trombatore)

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Turkey_Burn_Off_2011_z_rear_KT.jpg"This one's for the ladies!" Caren Jew comments when she sees the photo. (Alas, if only I had better calf definition.) Near mile 7 I overhear a runner reporting that he drank a Sam Adams beer last night. "I had Dos Equis", I tell him. We concur on the virtues of the "liquid bread" method of combined pre-hydration and carb-loading. At mile 8 a big deer crosses our path. Everybody in the small pack I'm with shouts "Deer!". Then another one sprints across the road near us and we all look around to see if there's a third.

Rough mile splits based on recalibrated GPS data are 7.9 + 7.9 + 7.9 + 7.8 + 8.5 + 8.0 + 8.0 + 8.4 + 8.0 + 8.1 min — relatively constant except for ugly-slow miles 5 and 8 in the middle. Perhaps things would have gone smoother but for 48 miles of the Stone Mill race last Saturday, or 16 miles of neighborhoop loop two days ago? Excuses, excuses, and no matter — it's a lovely day, everybody is nice, and it's great just to be out running.

Official result: 72nd of 228 finishers, 60th of 128 males, 3rd of 12 in the 55-59 year male cohort. Previously on this course: 2005-11-26 - Turkey Burn-Off @ ~10.7 min/mi, 2006-11-25 - Turkey Burnoff @ ~11 min/mi, 2007-11-24 - Seneca Creek Odyssey and MCRRC Turkey Burnoff @ ~12.4 min/mi, 2008-11-29 - MCRRC Turkey Burn-Off @ ~9.3 min/mi.

Total "gun time" today 1:20:39, from which subtract ~15 seconds to get a rough "chip time". Personal Best for 10 miles remains 1:19:06 at the 2010-02-28 - RRCA 10 Miler during my annus mirabilis.

(photo by Ken Trombatore)

- Wednesday, December 07, 2011 at 04:43:43 (EST)

Parachute Color

After seeing What Color Is Your Parachute? on countless bookshelves I finally picked up a copy when the 2012 edition appeared on display at a local library. Briefly, Parachute is not about job-hunting or career-changing — it's about hope and freedom and life. In the first chapter author Richard N. Bolles reveals the key:

If you are to hold on to Hope you must determine to always have at least two alternatives, in everything that you are doing while looking for work.

... and everywhere else as well, eh? Keep options open; don't single-track. Bolles expands upon the theme in Chapter 3, when he offers three rules for survival:

There is, of course, plenty of information about how to write a better résumé, how to locate job openings, how to prepare for an interview, how to negotiate a salary, etc. Some of it may be useful, and even partly correct. But far more important is Bolles's discussion of how to know yourself, how to find enjoyment in your life, how to be enthusiastic, effective, passionate. Do that, share it with others, and employment will follow as a rather mundane side-effect. The real career you're seeking is to be a better person. And it's not a quest that ends at retirement.

(cf. ChangeYourLife (2002-09-25), No Dogs or Philosophers Allowed (2003-10-13), StrangeLoops (2007-10-06), ...)

- Tuesday, December 06, 2011 at 04:35:02 (EST)

2011-11-24 - Thanksgiving Day Sligo-Randolph-Rock Creek Loop

~16 miles @ ~10.5 min/mi

I'm thankful to survive this afternoon's run: the first ~5 miles feel good, during the next ~5 the tires go flat, and on the final ~5 the wheels fall off. But the GPS trackfile map is kinda pretty, if you ignore the pace chart. The route is almost the same one that Cara Marie Manlandro (CM) and I did many months ago (2011-04-23 - Oh Deer Gate), similar to variations solo in past years (2004-12-04 - Sligo - Glenmont - Rock Creek Orbit, 2006-05-07 - Up Rock, Down Sligo, 2006-09-02 - Ernesto Mist). Turkey Day pedestrians and cyclists are out in large numbers, uniformly polite. Left metatarsals ache intermittently after the first half — thick socks in slightly-too-tight shoes? — and there's a momentary dizzy spell that soon passes. Overall average pace is the fastest I've done for the loop. Sun is low and temperatures are in the 50°F area with light west winds.

- Monday, December 05, 2011 at 04:48:14 (EST)

Modeling the Hot Water

A tiny project to do some day, and an illustration of the power of modeling: analyze and simulate the temperature of the water coming out of the shower here at home.




Results: a spreadsheet-array of temperatures for water and pipes that exhibits behavior like what observations show. Next steps: experiment, numerically, with insulating the pipes, decreasing the flow rate, varying the water temperature coming into the house, heating the basement, etc. Fun: if you like modeling, and maybe even helpful in developing insights into what the most critical features of the situation are. Key: figuring out what are the essential factors, gathering enough data, simplifying the model so that it can be implemented, and then comparing its results with observation to see if it actually works and how accurate it is.

(cf. TechnicalMinded (2003-07-18), Theory of Flight (2008-02-26), Pulsating Hidden World (2009-09-28), ...)

- Sunday, December 04, 2011 at 05:58:46 (EST)

2011-11-21 - Pimmit Hills Recovery Run

~2.7 miles @ ~8.5 min/mi

"Are you going around twice? I'm impressed!" I say, and salute the teal-clad runner whom I meet midway through my short loop through the neighborhood, and again in the parking lot as I'm about to finish. Leaves blanket the sidewalks. Distance estimate, based on timing and "feel", is confirmed by the GPS when measured on 2011-12-01 (cf.). Total time 23:26, pushing hard for redemption after the 2011-11-19 - Stone Mill 50 Miler DNF a couple of days ago.

- Saturday, December 03, 2011 at 06:50:04 (EST)

Again to Carthage

The novel Again to Carthage by John L. Parker, Jr. is a sequel to his Once a Runner tale of elite-level athletic training and racing. The protagonist of the first story has graduated from law school, gotten a job, and is enjoying himself — but then suffers a pre-midlife crisis when a good friend is killed in the Vietnam War. So after ~200 pages of setup it's back to the track, this time to prepare for and suffer through an Olympic-qualifying marathon.

Not nearly as good as its predecessor, alas, Carthage stoops to cardboard-caricature villains to make troubles for the hero to overcome. The lyrical language of Parker's earlier book surfaces only infrequently. One of the exceptions is a thoughtful commentary in Chapter 27 about self-improvement, as mentioned in the course of a letter from the central character to his girlfriend:

But there was one thing I did miss, and when I realized what it was and thought about it, it became something of an obsession. It's something I've never talked to you about, nor anyone else for that matter. It's strictly a runner thing, I think, so I never mentioned it to Winkler, or to any of the other guys I hang out with down there, none of whom had been distance runners.

What it was was this: when you're a competitive runner in training you are constantly in a process of ascending.

That's it.

It's a simple idea, but the more I thought about it, the more profound it became to me.

It's not something most human beings would give a moment of consideration to, that it is actually possible to be living for years in a state of constant betterment. To consider that you are better today than you were yesterday or a year ago, and that you will be better still tomorrow or next week or at tournament time your senior year. That if you're doing it right you are an organism constantly evolving toward some agreed-upon approximation of excellence. Wouldn't that be at least one definition of a spiritual state?

When I was a runner it was something we lived every second of our lives. It was such a part of us that if we had ever given it any thought, it would have been a mental lapse, a sign of weakness. Of course I am getting better every day, I would have said, what the hell am I training for otherwise? As if there were only one alternative, as if the arrow of improvement necessarily parallels the arrow of time, and in only one direction.

A fascinating thought, perhaps applicable beyond the physical realm, eh? But it doesn't acknowledge the inevitable bending of the curve, from improvement into eventual decline. In the next chapter, however, Parker offers a more haunting image during an off-road training run by the protagonist:

Picking his way carefully along the trail, he remembered something he had read about the great alpine climbers. As children they grew up surrounded by a vast landscape of snowy unattainable peaks. As they grew older, stronger, and more skillful, when they looked up, they saw more and more places they had been to and to which they could return at will. That zone of accessibility would grow and grow over the years until the very best of the guides could stand in their village squares and turn full circle, searching the horizon in vain for some tiny forbidden aerie they had not conquered, some remote crag beyond their powers.

It would have to be a wonderful and prideful thing, to feel so thoroughly at home in such a daunting and beautiful landscape. But as they grew older, the climbers who survived would find that some peaks were difficult again, some climbs strangely taxing, some routes quite impossible. They would realize to their surprise that the process was reversible; that it was, in fact, reversing.

You could see the, the aged former heroes sitting sadly in the village square, turning full circle to gaze at a frozen world once again inaccessible to them.

Other parts of Again to Carthage offer a bit of marathon training advice: focus on building endurance, stamina, and speed by targeted workouts, not arbitrary long runs. And perhaps most movingly, there's the observation that what really counts is not the climax, the Big Event — it's all the work to get there. From Chapter 36:

"What I mean is that someone sees a race, and they think that's what you do. They sort of know you had to train, but they weren't watching then, so they don't understand how incredibly much of it there is. But to us, it's almost the whole thing. Racing is just this little tiny ritual we go through after everything else has been done. It's a hood ornament."

And then the hero and his trainer-coach-friend agree that, whatever happens, "Everything else is icing now. It'll be okay. I'll be okay." — echoing some of elite ultra runner Eric Clifton's remarks. The treasure is there, every moment.

(cf. Eric Clifton (2004-10-01), AndThenTheVultureEatsYou (2004-12-09), OnceARunner (2006-09-17), Misogi Harai (2008-02-11), Once a Runner (again) (2010-06-06), ...)

- Friday, December 02, 2011 at 04:37:21 (EST)

New Bits

"Atoms are the new bits!" said an enthusiastic speaker at a recent research conference. He was promoting the notion that, like software, if you can imagine something soon you'll be able to manufacture it by pushing atoms into the right locations — or, more accurately, by making it with a custom small-scale fabrication system. Wired magazine last year had an excited article on the same theme [1].

Really? I'm skeptical, as I am about most such rosy suggestions. The economics of fabricating "stuff" might change radically in the near future, but the price of most objects includes significant costs associated with the energy used to produce them and the raw materials that go into them. It's hard to reduce those basic expenses much. Robotic machine shops and personal 3-D printers aren't going to crank out personal jet-cars tomorrow. But maybe small, relatively simple artifacts — designer swimsuits? smartphone cases? — will become easier to custom-produce.

(cf. TheNewTwenty (2004-02-16), Bespoke (2009-10-07), ...)

- Thursday, December 01, 2011 at 04:45:49 (EST)

2011-11-19 - Stone Mill 50 Miler DNF

~48 miles @ ~16 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Stone_Mill_2011_z_by_BG.jpg"Will you rescue me again, pretty please?" And just like last month at the Quad State Quad Buster, dear friend Caren Jew arrives to give me a ride in a race where I drop out. For the first half of the run my feet remain amazingly dry, thanks to lucky leaping across streams and fortuitous stepping-stone tip-toeing. Then a mega-mud-wallow surrounded by thorn bushes forces my hand, or rather, foot, into the muck. The final scary-deep water crossing near near Watkins Rd washes off some grime but leaves socks soaked. Caren insists that it's ok, but I feel guilty dripping on the floor of her nice car.

A DNF ("Did Not Finish") after 48 miles of a 50 miler might sound tragic or foolish, but this one really is neither. At the northern end of the longer-than-planned Stone Mill course there's still at least 5 miles to go. To avoid tripping in the dark on rocks and roots my pace is reduced to a walk. One would think that after multiple failures to complete long night runs — witness 2010-04-03 - Chocolate Bunny and 2010-05-15 - Half Massanutten Mountain Trails and 2010-08-27 - Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness and 2011-09-03 - DNF The Ring and 2011-10-22 - Maryland Challenge, QSQB DNF — I would come to my senses and stop trying.

But if only I had been 1-2 min/mi faster during the day ... and if only the course were a few miles shorter ... and if only my night vision were a trifle better ... and if only I had pushed myself harder during the first half ... and if ... and if ...

So guess I'll just have to keep on truckin' until I finish some day, eh?

(photo by Bobby Gill)

The Stone Mill course goes through lovely terrain via Seneca Creek and Muddy Branch, with short connector segments along Gaithersburg sidewalks and the Potomac River. Today I meet a host of beautiful people. Barb Hrubesh jogs and walks the first 10 miles with me. She drove solo 14 hours from northern Maine just to be here today. Barb is a splendid storyteller and a master sandbagger, having completed 21 hundred-milers in recent years but only admitting it when pressed. She laughs at me for attempting über-tough Massanutten Mountain Trails as my first (and thus far, only) such experiment, and recommends instead the relatively "easy" Rocky Raccoon 100 in Texas. Hmmm, maybe next year?

Connie Corbett begins the run at the back of the pack with Barb and me; she makes 31 miles (and takes some great photographs at next Saturday's MCRRC Turkey Burn-Off). David Goodwin, ultra-cyclist, has never run more than a dozen miles before. He explains randonneuring to Caren and me as we ride back together from mile 48, and says that he did the 1200 km Paris-Brest-Paris Brevet in ~70 hours, napping only a couple of hours during that time. Mary Crann finishes Stone Mill this year, her mega-goal after falling short last time. She wears the same brilliant orange vest that I remember seeing her in when we met at the 2011-03-05 - Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50k.

Alexandra Fitzmorris is the youngest runner here, a student at St John's University in Annapolis. Carolyn Gernand cruises along in her traditional headdress. Matt Kersetter joins me about a third of the way along and tells me he was advised, "If you ever see an old gray-bearded fellow, stick with him and you'll finish!" Alas, not true today. We share brick oven pizza from a friendly spectator at mile 18. At the the C&O Canal Towpath I feel a burst of energy and run ahead of Matt, hitting ~10 minute pace for miles 20-23. We chat again at the end of the day.

At mile ~25 I encounter Jackie Ong, who after finishing a marathon in every state now has taken up trail ultrarunning. Nearby Jonathan Brown is an avid triathlete. Ron Ely at the Route 28 aid station cooks up the best grilled cheese sandwiches I've ever tasted. After grabbing a couple I head out quickly, pass Jim Yi Dang near the Black Rock Stone Mill, then visit en route with Carole Williamson and Bob Phillips. Shortly before we get back to Route 355 there's cheerful Caroline Williams, slowing down and not feeling so great. "Want some candy?" I offer. Two miniature chocolate bars from my stash, in my pockets since the mile 20 aid station, apparently do the trick. Caroline goes on to finish, leading a group of other runners to that same successful conclusion.

After 7pm I'm back at the start thanks to kind Caren, and discover Mike Edwards has just finished. Mike picked me up at 4:30am, drove me out to the race, and now has arranged for his buddy, fast marathoner John "Mugsy" Holten, to take us home. As we leave I shake Race Director Doug Sullivan's hand and thank him. What a fine day!

(photo by Ken Trombatore)


(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 04:52:38 (EST)

Higher Perspective

The first whispers of dawn:
Orion emerges from the clouds —
Sirius on his right hand,
Jupiter on his left —
To gaze down as we awaken to scurry about
Our above-average ball of rock.

- Monday, November 28, 2011 at 04:33:12 (EST)

2011-11-13 - Rock Creek Park - Valley Trail and Western Ridge Trail

~15.5 mi @ ~12.9 min/mi

Three friends are planning to go running with me this morning. Yesterday afternoon one has a flare-up of plantar fasciitis; last night another gets food poisoning; this morning the third experiences sudden severe back pain. Or so they claim. Hmmm, must be a coincidence. Can't be me, eh?

"You're doing God's work — thank you!" I tell the elderly gentleman wielding a scraper-rake to clear off the steps and water-diverters on the Western Ridge Trail near the Nature Center. I'm at mile ~12 of a spur-of-the-moment solo excursion, from home down Rock Creek Valley Trail and back along the Western Ridge Trail. Autumn leaves ankle-deep conceal roots and rocks. A monster burl on the side of a tree reminds me of the poem I wrote seven years ago inspired by that same sight. Today it's a day of free-range dogs, only one or two on leash. Flocks of fast runners zip by. A walker in a polychromatic-sparkly coat and hood greets me. I lose the trail a few times but backtrack and soon recover it. The GPS trackfile shows the route and pace.

- Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 17:24:32 (EST)

Come SAIL Away

Mnemonics aren't the strong suit of Fully Present, an engaging book about mindfulness by Susan Smalley and Diana Winston. In Chapter 4 ("Mindful Movement") they suggest STOP as a reminder to:

Present-moment awareness is indeed a golden key, but an acronym like STOP that includes itself, without deliberate recursive intent, is clunky. Likewise the suggestion in Chapter 6 ("Feeling Bad") to think RAIN:

Those -tion and -ance latinate nouns are far too passive and polysyllabic. "Non-identification" is so negative. Instead, how about simply SAIL?

Short, punchy action verbs. Come SAIL away ... and carry on.

(cf. "Pause On Each Threshold" idea in Meditation Made Easy (2008-11-01), Rebalancing Doing and Being (2011-02-28), Breath and Awareness (2011-03-12), Core Buddhism (2011-10-17), ...)

- Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 08:08:33 (EST)

2011-11-12 - MCRRC Candy Cane 5k

~2 miles @ ~10 min/mi + ~3.1 miles @ ~7.2 min/mi + ~3 miles @ ~10 min/mi

"Snoopy", a big 13-year-old gelding, sticks his white-blazed head out of the stall and eyes me as he munches a mouthful of hay for breakfast. Hopeful sparrows hop about below, gleaning bits of what he drops. At Meadowbrook Stables I nervously visit the loo after a two-mile warmup jog from home. Windshields are covered with frost. A just-past-full moon sets in the west. Golden leaves rain down from the aspens along Rock Creek Trail.

"Twelve minute pace my butt!" a fellow runner exclaims when I pass him about 2 miles into today's 3.1 mile race. I'm wearing my Parks Half Marathon "12:00+" bright orange singlet to provide some amusement to those who have enough energy to read it during the race. Barry Smith lines up with me at the start, after his 2 mile run from downtown Bethesda, and says he'll be right behind me. I chat with Jim Rich and cheer his wife Patti Rich when I see her on the course.

The Candy Cane 5k is an event I've done many times. For the past two years I've tried to push "hard" by my pitiful standards, which means going as fast as I can without falling down. In both 2010 and 2011 the result is virtually identical, a ~7.2 min/mi pace. Does my ~10 pound weight loss this year make up for the aging and lack of proper training? (I'm in the mid-to-upper 140 lbs. zone at the moment.) The GPS record suggests my pacing is relatively level this time: 7:14, 7:16, 7:08, and a final kick of ~6:30.

After the race I grab my knees and breathe, eat half a banana, drink a couple of small cups of water, cheer Don Libes, Michele Price, and all the "ARMY" t-shirt wearers I spot. At the finish one of them, Greg Ervin, chats with me. He came here from Ohio. After I discover he's five years my senior, and thus not in my age group, I tell him we can be friends instead of rivals. I take the long way home and add a hook around the block at the end to make the GPS exceed 3 miles for the cooldown/recovery.

(photo by Ken Trombatore)


Official 2011 results: 71st place of 278 finishers — 63rd of 147 men — 8th of 17 males age 55-59.

Past Candy Cane 5k data:

year time comments
200424:59first time on this course, 84th place overall, 12/14 males 50-54
200530:41with Ken Swab
200628:53taking photos of friends along the way
200733:43with Christina Caravoulias
201022:28weight ~155 lbs.
201122:25weight ~145 lbs.

(GPS records of today's three run segments: [1], [2], [3]; for past Candy Cane 5k reports see 2004-10-23 - Candy Cane 5k, 2005-10-22 - Candy Cane Puddle-hop, 2006-10-14 - Candy Cane 5k Plus, 2007-11-10 - Candy Cane 5k, 2010-11-13 - Candy Cane 5k, ...)

- Friday, November 25, 2011 at 04:36:42 (EST)

Make Your Own Luck

What's luck all about? Usually the word involves events of undetermined probability that turn out surprisingly well. How to "be lucky"? Key perhaps: keep lots of paths open — so the ones that are successful ("lucky") can be pursued, and the ones that aren't can be dropped. Diversification, in other words. Like the Feynman sum-over-paths approach to quantum mechanics, where a subatomic particle tries all possible routes from one point to another. When they're all added up properly (including phase and wavefunction interference) what comes out is the classical macroscopic path that a body takes. Lucky!

(cf. FringeOfThings (1999-06-25), UltraMan (2002-05-08), RayTracing (2004-09-08), My Own Weather (2009-04-17), ...)

- Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 09:41:41 (EST)

2011-11-11 - Intervals with CM

~6 miles @ ~12.6 min/mi

Pupils are dilated from this morning's optometrist appointment. The glare is blinding when I take off the cheap plastic throwaway sunglasses that I wear on the drive to Cara Marie Manlandro's home. CM leads me to the Montgomery College (Rockville) track and prescribes speedwork: run 800m, taking a split at 400m; then do 400m faster than that split, while taking a split at 200m; then do 200m faster than that split; then repeat. Our results:

iteration 800m (400m split)400m (200m split)200m
14:22 (2:11)2:00 (0:59)0:54
24:08 (2:04)1:54 (0:55)0:53

We think about doing a third sequence, but CM's back and hip are starting to twinge and I'm freezing. So back to her home we head. CM gives me a couple of big squash that she got from her community supported agriculture (CSA) subscription and doesn't need. I take them home to Paulette, stopping at Taco Bell en route for a recovery gordita. Hmmm, "Little Fat One" — rather an appropriate nickname for me, eh?

(see GPS trackfile, ...)

- Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 04:39:54 (EST)

Mystery Headache

For the record, and in case it happens again (or in case anybody else experiences it): for the past week I've had fascinating asymmetric headaches. They're quite notable when I tip my head down to read a book or computer laptop screen, but they quickly go away when I lift my head or incline it toward the right. At first I thought it was a migraine phenomenon. I had a classic "fortification illusion" aura a week earlier, but it wasn't followed by a headache. I also had scalp tenderness which some sources (e.g., Wikipedia) mention as migraine-related. And there was occasional mild vertigo.

But would a migraine be head-orientation sensitive? Could it be an inner ear infection or a sinus problem? I had no issue with looking downward at the same angle for 12+ hours during a 48 mile trail run a few days ago, watching the ground and trying not to trip.

Frankly, I'm baffled. Fortunately, the pain isn't bad and I have an easy workaround: stop tipping my head down to read!

(cf. Migraine Visions (2001-11-29), OcularMigraines (2004-01-03), ...)

- Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 04:36:50 (EST)

2011-11-08 - West Falls Church Metro Loop

~6 miles @ ~9.5 min/mi

At a narrow sidewalk I dodge into the street and crunch on fallen leaves to give a pedestrian the right-of-way. Puddles slop the path under tropical trees at the apartment complex. Is "Tyndale St" near the church named for early Bible translator William Tyndale? The course today is same as 2011-11-02 - WFC Metro Loop but counter-clockwise: parking lot through slot-in-the-hedge to baseball fields, down Griffith Rd to Pimmit Dr to Route 7 (~17 min), to Haycock — but this time staying on major streets rather than exploring parking lot cut-throughs. After West Falls Church Metro station (~11.5 min) back to Great Falls Rd (~5 min) and via Magarity to the start (~22 min).

- Monday, November 21, 2011 at 04:38:13 (EST)

Zen and Self Improvement

The editor of Katsuki Sekida's 1975 book Zen Training, A. V. Grimstone, writes a fascinating yet puzzling introduction, full of comments on Zen-like experiences associated with epilepsy and psychedelic drugs. But he also comments about one "practical" aspect of Zen Buddhist practice, self-improvement:

... I believe we can find all the reasons we may need for practicing Zen by observing the results of doing so. I have in mind here the quality of the people themselves. I count myself fortunate to have met, in addition to the author of this book, a number of Japanese Zen masters. Without exception, they struck me as wholly admirable people. There was about them a serenity, a dignity, and a spontaneity that I have not encountered in other people. It was not the case that a rigid system of training had produced a uniform product, for the individuality of the person was always strikingly apparent. At its best—and it is, of course obvious that much of what now passes as Zen training is far from being that—the discipline of Zen seems to result in the shaping of enviably complete people. Their quality is manifest not only in their lives and their everyday actions, but in their products—their painting and calligraphy, their buildings and gardens, and so on.

... and later:

... Zen is not mysticism or something esoteric: it is a rational method of helping us to become better people. The territory we have to explore may seem strange at the outset, but Mr. Sekida draws us maps, sets up signposts, gives us instructions. He knows that each of us has to make the journey by himself; he knows that the going is difficult. He has given us more guidance about how to undertake the trip, and what sort of country we shall find ourselves in, than any previous writer. It seems to me that his book will stand as a great pioneering effort.

(cf. OptimistCreed (1999-04-16), ReadingsOnThinkingAndLiving (2001-10-01), SelfImprovement (2002-07-29), MyOb (2002-08-18), BeYourOwnCause (2006-02-04), Meditation by Eknath Easwaran (2010-10-14), ...)

- Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 03:29:57 (EST)

2011-11-06 - Burke Lake Loops

~4.8 miles @ ~14 min/mi

Last week friend Bob Williams retired from Federal Service. Before he goes back to his home in South Dakota I have to visit him and his wife Glenda. Bob and I have long talked about walking around Burke Lake together, so this morning after a tour of Glenda and Bob's lovely home I follow their car to the boat launch parking area. The leaves are near peak autumnal color, and when we arrive a bit after 7am whisps of fog dance on the lake suface. We begin by taking photos of one another, then set off. Bob and Linda surprise me by running large segments of the loop — I thought we would just stroll leisurely along. Bob leads for the first half, then Glenda takes over. She tells me about growing up in Minnesota, a variety of winter blizzard tales, and some of her running experiences. Approaching the end of the trail Bob and Glenda lead me onto a side route to add a fraction of a mile, plus a nice hill climb and descent. They sprint ahead of me back to the start. Whee! (see GPS trackfile for details)

~4.6 miles @ ~13 min/mi

Mary Ewell phones to synchronize watches as Bob and Glenda and I are at the halfway point around the lake. She arrives just as we finish our lap. Mary's trainer has prescribed intervals for her today: two minutes of trotting, two minutes of walk-recovery, repeated 8-10 times. After the first 15 minutes of warm-up jog we start taking the medicine. Nine repeats and we're most of the way back to the start. The GPS pace chart shows a cute square-wave. Mary is working hard, and I try to entertain her with chatter and gossip about mutual friends, including a summary of Kate Abbott's and Jennifer Wieland Zuckman's triumphant Marine Corps Marathon a week ago.

~4.5 miles @ ~9 min/mi

Time constraint looms: daughter Gray has a violin student with a noon lesson, and Paulette needs the car to get her there. When Mary and I finish our circuit I salute her good-bye, tag the MINI Cooper in the parking lot, and set off bushwhacking through the woods to the trail, since I miss the official entrance. It's a tempo run, and the GPS records my approximate min/mi pace on the trail as 9.5 ⇒ 9.2 ⇒ 8.5 ⇒ 8.5 and about 8.7 for the final hilly half-mile. At mile 1 I begin to overheat and unzip the vest, then roll up my sleeves. At mile 2 I discover the water bottle has bounced out of my fanny pack, but there's no way to go back and find it; presumably one of the many hikers will pick it up and either enjoy it or discard it. At mile 3 I overtake a pair of young ladies who are moving slightly slower than my pace. Competitive juices push me along until they're out of sight. (GPS trackfile)

(cf. 2011-01-17 - Burke Lake with Kate, ...)

- Friday, November 18, 2011 at 04:38:04 (EST)

OK on the Big Stuff

A suggestion at last year's pre-retirement seminar: when you reflect upon your life, don't fret about missed opportunities, jobs you should have gotten but didn't, failures to make obscene profits in the stock market, embarrassing accidents, people who insulted you, etc. Instead, look back and see if you can say, "On the big stuff, I pretty much did OK." That's real success.

So what's the Big Stuff that we get graded on? Start with:

The virtues in the Boy Scout "Law" aren't bad character goals to pursue: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, etc. Likewise the clause in the Scout oath: "Help other people at all times."

(cf. My Religion (2000-11-06), SomeGood (2000-12-16), BasementWorries (2002-06-15), ...)

- Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 04:37:54 (EST)

2011-11-05 - Derwood Loop with CM

~5.3 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

"I won't put that into the run report!" I promise Cara Marie Manlandro. She says it would be ok to mention, but I demur. "Maybe within a literal, direct quote of your words," I say, "but only with your approval." Some Trail Talk topics are a bit too delicate to share.

CM and I trek around her 'hood early Saturday morning. It's slow, with walk breaks: she's coming back from weeks off due to hip pain, and I've had tummy trouble for the past day. I don't think it was the 'flu shot I had on Tuesday; perhaps it's something I ate?

We're both envious of Kate Abbott and Jennifer Wieland Zuckman, who went sub-4 hours at the Marine Corps Marathon last Sunday. (see 2011-10-30 - MCM Tempo Run with Kate and Jennifer) CM suggests a speedwork drill from her varsity swimming days: go 1600m but take a split time at the 1200m mark. Then after recovery do 1200m faster than that recorded split, and take another split on the way at 800m. Repeat, descending that way 1600-1200-800-400-200 meters.

I point out that swimming is about four times harder than running, so we should really scale that workout to be 4 miles - 3 miles - 2 miles -1 mile - 1/2 mile, to get the equivalent. Maybe some day ...

(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 04:33:33 (EST)

Nonrunner's Marathon Guide for Women

Subtitled "Get Off Your Butt and On With Your Training", Dawn Dais's book The NONRunner's Marathon Guide for Women is a fast, fun read. Like the movie Run, Fatboy, Run, it's also sweet. Unlike the movie, it contains useful advice about training and life. Dais explains what motivated her:

How is it that I went from Elmer Fudd to the Road Runner? Well, I came home one day to find a postcard from the American Stroke Association in my mailbox. It showed very happy people very happily running a marathon to raise money for the American Stroke Association (hence their being featured on the association's postcard).

My grandfather had a debilitating stroke years ago and recently passed away. I sat staring at the postcard, feeling as if this were somehow a sign. "Do this marathon," he was saying. "Raise money for this cause."

There was also a coupon for Jimboy's Tacos in my mail. Apparently Grandpa was also saying, "Eat a discounted taco"—a message that seemed more his style.

But still, I could not ignore the sign. When you lose a relative, there's a feeling of wanting to do something—something huge and profound, something that honors a life that shaped and influenced your own. Though I knew I couldn't ever do anything big enough to honor his whole life, I figured this was something proactive and challenging and something that would have made my grandfather proud. And moving my lazy ass for twenty-six consecutive miles—that's pretty profound.

So at age 25, Dawn Dais runs the 2003 Honolulu Marathon in a little over 8 hours, toughing it out in spite of severe ITB pain. Between comic asides she offers some excellent thoughts. She brings to mind Jon Kabat-Zinn's comments on Present-Moment Reality in Chapter Six ("The Moment") when she observes:

More than just one big moment, your marathon will be the culmination of little moments, subtle changes, and noteworthy milestones. Sure, the point of all of these moments is to lead you to the finish line; but if you look a little deeper and get in touch with your Oprah side, you'll find that training can be about a lot more than just one race. Most of the things you'll learn about yourself, your limits, and your abilities won't come during the actual marathon. They'll come during less-obvious times, times that might be overlooked because you're focusing so intently on the marathon itself. They'll come when you lace up and hit the trail, even though the lacing up itself is enough to aggravate your poor sore muscles. They will be the times you exuberantly proclaim, "I only have to run nine miles this weekend!" when a few weeks earlier the mere thought of a nine-mile run would have sent you whimpering into a fetal position. They'll come at times when you run through pouring rain, sideways wind, and scorching heat, because you made a commitment and you intend to keep it, regardless of Mother Nature's rather mean-spirited sense of humor.

Dais concludes her Epilogue with some remarks on challenges and self-actualization:

... I now see that my marathon marked a very real shift between being a person who talks about things and a person who does things. My training wasn't so much about the running as it was about the challenge and how I approached it. It turned out to be the first in a series of challenges I took on. ...

The specific challenges I took on following my marathon aren't really important; what is important is for you to do the same. Recognize what you've done in completing this tremendously difficult task and the inner resources you used to accomplish it. You'll be able to tap those same resources to accomplish other things in your life. ...

Do yourself a favor and review the journal entries and lists you've jotted down while taking on this challenge. You will see that the journey has involved more than just running; you've explored and found ways to take your body and mind out of your comfort zone and into a foreign (and very uncomfortable) land. The resources you used to navigate that land are the same ones you can use to navigate anything else that comes your way. Except don't wait for the challenges to come your way. Go looking for them. And when you do, I guarantee you'll find even more of yourself waiting there for you.

Well done, soldier, well done.

(but I still don't believe in running as fund-raising — cf. For Themselves, ThisSpaceNotForRent, Running to Run, ...)

- Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 04:37:37 (EST)

2011-11-02 - WFC Metro Loop

~6 miles @ ~9.5 min/mi

Skip lunch: after Sunday's hard 10 miles (2011-10-30 - MCM Tempo Run with Kate and Jennifer) the old legs need a stretch. Down Great Falls Rd past Idylwood (~17 min) to Haycock (~5 min) where turn to go by the West Falls Church Metro station. Unfortunately memory of the route to Route 7 is sketchy, so brief confusion near Virginia Tech and George Mason High School. Backtrack a block before the cut-through becomes clear. Then Leesburg Pike leads past strip-malls and across I-66 on-ramps back to Pimmit Dr, which gets me to Griffith Rd and the terra cognata return route (~13 min).

- Monday, November 14, 2011 at 04:25:00 (EST)

My Life on the Run

If only Bart Yasso's autobiography were as nice as he seems to be himself! But alas, My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon ("with Kathleen Parrish") begins with three chapters that paint the author as a pompous self-centered fool. Skip them, as well as "chapters" 18 and 19 of training program charts, sheer padding. And skim or omit chapter 20, thumbnail summaries of "Must-Do Races". Avoid Chapter 10, "Inventing the Yasso 800s", more self-promotion without quantitative evidence or convincing data. And pass lightly over the occasional nudge-nudge-wink-wink leering at the ladies, or accept it as humor that takes a step too far.

Set all that aside: Bart Yasso is a neat guy — cheerful, funny, friendly — who has made a career out of running and who is thankful for his good fortune. His struggles with Lyme Disease and with other personal challenges are fascinating, though not always as well told as they might have been. Reflection and self-assessment aren't his strong suits. But clearly he's a great fellow to run with, an inspirational pre-race speaker. In his youth he was also a fast racer. His life story is engaging, like a series of good magazine articles that follow his adventures around the world.

- Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 05:02:43 (EST)

2011-10-30 - MCM Tempo Run with Kate and Jennifer

~10 miles @ ~8.8 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MCM_2011_Kate_z.jpg"Today you're a leaf on the wind!" I tell dear friend Kate Abbott as I abandon her at mile 18 of the Marine Corps Marathon. Kate goes on to finish in about 3:51:31, a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time — hooray! It's a massive improvement of her prior marathon personal record (PR), more than 10 minutes faster than she's ever run that distance. Yay Kate!

Likewise comrade Jennifer Wieland Zuckman sets a monster marathon PR today, 3:46:19, just short of a BQ for her age/sex cohort. Maybe she can try again at the upcoming Northern Central Trail Marathon, where we met 11 months ago and where she first finished sub-4 hours? Kudos and best of luck, Ms. J!

(photo by Ken Trombatore of ^z and Kate Abbott)

At 7:30am there are thin patches of ice on the bridge over the Beltway as I jog to Forest Glen Metro station. Part of the Red Line is single-tracking on Sunday morning and I arrive in Rosslyn a few minutes behind schedule. Plan: go to the middle of the Key Bridge, mile ~4.5 of the MCM, and expose myself — or more precisely, stand so that my crimson shirt and shorts are visible to the 20,000+ passing racers, in hopes that Jennifer or Kate or someone else who knows me will shout, so I can join them. A photographer nearby recognizes me from MCRRC, and when Rebecca Rosenberg, Emaad Burki, and Ken Swab appear he points them out. I leap from the shore into the current and trot along for half a mile or so. Rebecca and I chat; she's gliding under ~10 min/mi now, and accelerates later to finish in 4:14:04. Ken comes in 4:29:49 and Emaad is 4:20:21. Congratulations to all! (see GPS track file for this segment)

We figure out that Kate and Jennifer are an unknown distance ahead, so just after mile 5 when the course loops back I leave the cheery trio to wait on Macarthur Blvd near mile marker 8. Fast folk blast down the hill. Keith Knipling and several others greet me by name. (Apparently I'm recognizable enough that I shouldn't try to take any shortcuts in a real race.) Many shout their regards to "Santa Claus" or "ZZ Top" or simply "Bearded Man".

Then comrade Abbott materializes — hooray! We run a mile together; Kate's great, feeling strong, building up a time cushion by cruising at ~8:45 min/mi. Besides encouraging words I try to offer candy, gels, electrolyte capsules, etc., but she's doesn't need anything. Then as we descend Wisconsin Av to the Whitehurst Fwy near the Potomac, another surprise: Jennifer appears from behind us! We all run together for a while, but near mile 10 Jennifer wants to go a little faster. With Kate's permission, I accelerate to stay with her.

Jennifer and I talk and trot along at ~8:15-8:30 min/mi pace for half a dozen miles. I bump into her and almost knock her down at mile 12. We compare toenail counts — her 8 trumps my 9. Her son Asher's fourth birthday party is today, so she has to hurry home. We concur on the inspirational virtue of Lady Gaga's song "Edge of Glory" as we pass the end of Hains Point where huge speakers play mega-amplified music. "It's a good day," Jennifer says. "We should be happy that we can run." I concur.

"It's all good," I quote friend Caren Jew, and then cite the proverb, "Any day is a good day on this side of the grass." At an aid station near race mile 12 Jennifer grabs chocolate energy gels and gets icky goo on her fingers. I make her wipe them off on my cotton gloves. About mile 14 we spy Ft McNair across the water, which reminds Jennifer of the time she saw President Obama visiting there. At mile 15 I can't keep up the pace any more and bid her good-bye. She pauses to give me a big hug, then canters briskly out of sight. (see GPS trackfile for segments with Kate and Jennifer)

I catch my breath and tie Jennifer's extra outer shirts around my waist, to take home and wash. Within a few seconds Kate appears again — she was closer behind us than I expected. We run together back to the Lincoln Memorial where the course hooks again and heads along the north side of the Mall. "You're looking more buxom than usual!" I observe. Kate reveals that she's been storing excess gear up there (cf. my analogous anecdote HatBulge).

We make it past mile 18 together, but now I'm close to exhaustion. I take Kate's gloves and cap, give her a heartfelt benediction, and drop into a walk toward Union Station as she turns the corner in front of the Capitol building and heads into the final eight miles of her race. (see GPS trackfile for final segment with Kate)

Flocks of 10k medalists fill the train on the homeward trip. By the time I get back to my station I'm recovered enough to jog home, where I monitor results and vicariously celebrate Kate's and Jennifer's success. Some day maybe I'll go sub-4!

- Friday, November 11, 2011 at 19:52:43 (EST)

Strategic Plan

Turns out that not everybody in business is enamored of bureaucratic exercises in pursuit of excellence, total quality management, six sigma, etc. A proverb by Herb Kelleher (former founder and leader of Southwest Airlines):

We have a strategic plan. It's called Doing Things!

- Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 04:49:08 (EST)

2011-10-24 - Pimmit Hills Loop with Sara

~4.5 miles @ ~9.9 min/mi

"Want to run? Today?" I text Sara Crum early in Monday morning. "Yes!" she replies. Sara and I met and ran with the "Bethesda Rebel Runners" in Maryland (cf. 2009-01-02 - Frigid CCT, Beach, Leland), but this is the first time that our schedules have sync'd up in her McLean 'hood. We meet in the office parking lot and do the same loop as I did solo a fortnight ago (2011-10-07 - Scott Run, Pimmit View, Griffith, Lemon Road Parks) around Pimmit Hills via Griffith Rd, Idlywood Rd, and Great Falls St. Our pace is comfortably brisk, marginally conversational. I quote mutual friend Rebecca Rosenberg's observation (2011-08-10 - RCT with Rebecca) that she goes faster when she's talking. "I go faster when I'm mad!" says Sara. "Shall I insult you?" I ask. "You don't need to; I'm almost always peeved at my husband!" she replies. We finish the loop and tag Sara's car in 44.5 minutes elapsed time.

- Wednesday, November 09, 2011 at 04:34:46 (EST)

It's a Book

Yesterday my wife Paulette passed along a link to a short video, "It's a Book", by the Friends of the Library Montgomery County. It reminded me of a "Zippy the Pinhead" comic strip by Bill Griffith from 15 years ago:


Rather ahead of its time!

(cf. [1], ...)

- Tuesday, November 08, 2011 at 04:43:09 (EST)

2011-10-22 - Maryland Challenge, QSQB DNF

~40 miles @ ~17.3 min/mi

"He doesn't look like an axe-murderer," I reassure friend Caren Jew via my cellphone. I'm hitchhiking with a total stranger to get back to meet Caren, who is volunteering at the 2011 Quad State Quad Buster. It's dark, and after crossing Maryland on the Appalachian Trail ("The Maryland Challenge") I'm sane enough to drop from the race at mile 40. When I reach Harpers Ferry I carefully bend down to touch West Virginia soil, then reverse course to re-cross the Potomac River via the pedestrian bridge. On nearby Sandy Hook Road a gentleman offers me a lift to the liquor store parking lot on Keep Tryst Rd, where Caren awaits. (The "axe-murderer" bit alludes to 2007-01-06 - January Heat Wave, when Caren and I were running in the dark along Seneca Creek and were startled by an off-road pickup truck, which turned out to be driven by comrade Ed Schultze.)

"And I have a baby in back," says the kind man. He was hiking on the Maryland Heights Trail, carrying his infant grandson, and just returned to his car as the sun set. His wife recently had hip replacement surgery and can't do strenuous trails. "Sometimes I just have to get out someplace steep!" he tells me. We find Caren's car without incident.

Then Caren drives me to the official QSQB finish line where we cheer Alan Gowan as he emerges from the dark woods. We ride together back to Weverton Cliffs, the race staging area. Bob Fabia is cooking a gourmet feast for runners and volunteers there — he's recently retired and is focusing his energies on culinary arts now — but since I have to leave promptly to pick up son Merle at BWI Airport Bob gives me a spicy black bean burger to go, with cooked spinach and lentil toppings.

How did I get here? After meeting at Weverton Cliffs before dawn ~15 runners squeeze into volunteer vehicles and ride for most of an hour to Pennsylvania. At 7:15am we start running, just north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Within a couple of miles everybody else is out of sight ahead of me. Twenty small cattle, some with long sharp-looking horns, eye me at the meadow near mile 8. Big wet land-mines decorate the pathway. I accidentally turn off my wrist GPS unit for a few minutes near mile ~12 when rolling a sleeve down. A pair of chipmunks scurry away through the leaves.

"I'm entirely self-sufficient," I assure the volunteers as I arrive at each aid station. "You don't have to stay open for me." But even though I'm going incredibly slowly, they insist on hanging around until I pass through. My progress is ~1 minute/mile slower than it was last year in the 2010-10-23 - Quad State Quad Buster. Weather is great, but sharp rocks on the Appalachian Trail all seem to be standing on edge, covered by leaves. My aversion to falling and breaking bones is high. (See 2008-10-14 - JFK AT Familiarization, Humerus Fracture, etc.) And this year I don't have Caroline Williams or Karen Taber pushing the pace. On the other hand, the uphill segments don't seem as steep as they were before. Perhaps my gradiometer has been recalibrated by the 2011-10-09 - Catoctin Trail with Caren last week, or the 2011-09-03 - DNF The Ring trek on Massanutten Mountain last month?

At mile ~18, the I-70/US-40 aid station, I catch up with Doug Sullivan who is schmoozing with Kerry Owens. Doug is doing the Mountain Masochist 50 miler next weekend, so he's proceeding cautiously today and only going ~23 miles. Kerry is taking over then and doing the last half of the course.

At Gathland Gap, mile ~30, the only question is whether I should stop when I get back to my car parked at Weverton (mile ~37) or continue on the easy final ~3 miles to West Virginia. It's much too late to consider the final ~4 miles across WV and into Virginia on the steep Loudon Heights Trail. To commit myself I foolishly tweet "#QSQB Gathland Gap - plan change, will stop at Harpers Ferry, Maryland Challenge, so kind Caren can go home and I can pick up son at BWI". Now the pressure is on. Pace improves on the Towpath. My watch and the GPS concur in the final verdict: ~11.5 hours to cross Maryland, ~40 miles total. And this year I didn't get lost once!

(see GPS trackfile for details)

- Monday, November 07, 2011 at 04:31:57 (EST)

Wired Geek Lists

Wired magazine is trendy, boring, and full of ads, but occasionally publishes an entertaining bit or two for list-lovers. Among the "100 Quotes Every Geek Should Know" I'm sad to admit that I recognize a majority, but happy to see that the known/unknown ratio isn't much over 1. Sequels to the original Star Trek and Star Wars are hugely over-represented among the trivia items, as are popular TV shows. Critical editing could have helped trim the floss. Likewise sub-über geeky: the recent Wired list "9 Equations True Geeks Should (at Least Pretend to) Know". The set begins solidly with complex numbers, entropy, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, etc. — but soon devolves into the narrow, uninteresting, unimportant. Someone should have been embarrassed.

(cf. SevenBasicPlots (2005-05-02), FoodFashionFitnessFinance (2007-08-13), Pulp Fiction Rules (2008-10-20), ...)

- Sunday, November 06, 2011 at 05:19:37 (EST)

Fifth Things to Do When You Turn Fifty

Embarrassingly bad: >80%. At least 40 of the 50 chapters in Fifth Things to Do When You Turn Fifty are literally sales pitches, pep talks, logical fallacies, or otherwise humorless silly self-promotion by their authors. Perhaps the editors had space to fill, or were afraid of their semi-celebrity contributors? Whatever the reason, the majority of writers in this collection should be seriously ashamed of themselves.

That leaves a few good essays, on themes like awareness, freedom, maturity, and coming to peace with one's life. Garrison Keillor ("Stop Complaining") and Harold S. Kushner ("Trade Strength for Wisdom") provide thoughtful first and last chapters. Quotable sentiments are scarce, but Susan Seidelman (director of Desperately Seeking Susan) offers one after tooting her own horn: "Hopefully you've made peace with whatever direction your life has taken you, so there is no longer that pressure to have to prove anything to yourself or the world."

- Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 06:04:28 (EDT)

2011-10-19 - McLean Loop

~4.5 miles @ ~8.7 min/mi

Instead of lunch, gotta run! Yesterday's yoga class and last evening's gardening (lots of day lilies and other plants to put into the ground) left twinges to work out. Rain tapers off to a cool drizzle. The new route, suggested by an anonymous predecessor's printout, heads east-northeast along sidewalks through downtown McLean (Magarity, Great Falls, Chain Bridge Rd) past multiple restaurants that I remember from going-away luncheons over the years. New segment: the bumpy asphalt bike path from near the corner of Old Dominion and Dolly Madison connects back to Enterprise Av and Pathfinder Ln. A big dumpster blocks the beginning of it, but I manage to tiptoe around that barrier through mud and puddles. Enterprise to Wasp Ln gets me back to Chain Bridge Rd and that goes past apartments to Anderson Rd and my starting point again.

(GPS trackfile)

- Thursday, November 03, 2011 at 04:46:06 (EDT)

Two Second Delay

Minor mystery: a month or so ago the car radio in the MINI Cooper began to show a new phenomenon. Normally, punching a preset button jumps to the chosen station almost instantly. But for button #3, set to FM frequency 94.7 MHz, there's now a significant chunk of dead air time — about two seconds — before the sound begins. Why? Did something change inside the receiver after all these years? Perhaps there's a minor miscalibration and it now takes a while to find the signal. Or did something change with the radio station? Perhaps it's out of place, or using a different modulation scheme, or doing something else that makes lock-in take longer. Both hypotheses seem improbable. But the phenomenon has been consistent for several weeks now. What's going on? Something else entirely?

(cf. MINI Cooper Wiper Ratio (2009-06-19), ...)

- Wednesday, November 02, 2011 at 04:42:36 (EDT)

2011-10-16 - Beach Drive with Clair and Sophie

~3 miles @ ~12.5 min/mi

A pair of deer, presumably mom and daughter, canter across the street just in front of us. Another mom and daughter pair is running with me: Clair plus 10-month-old Sophie in a racing stroller. We're two miles into an out-and-back along Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park on a brisk Sunday morning. Clair arrives ahead of me at our starting point, the parking lot at Broad Branch and Beach Dr just north of Peirce Mill. (I pause on the way to pick up bagels and bialys for the starving masses at home.) We head upstream to the Park Police headquarters, loop around the parking lot island there, and return. Sophie is tolerant for most of the run, but suggests near the end that we should have maintained a faster pace. (She's also a wee bit hungry and tired, it turns out.) Clair is training for a stroller-friendly 5k coming up on Thanksgiving Day.

(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Tuesday, November 01, 2011 at 18:34:01 (EDT)

Names of Games

Why do certain terms appeal so much? As per FascinatingWords, some strings have artful letter- or sound-patterns — "Liam", "Midlothian", "chthonic", "Rhiannon". And as Ptwo Pnew Pwords mused, "pnictide" and "psoas" are strangely eye-catching. And then there are the appellations with alluring associations, like "callipygean", "rubenesque", or "déhanchement". They inherit their attraction from what they allude to.

Other phrases work startlingly well as titles. For instance, two video game names that resonate: "Akuji the Heartless" and "Altered Beast". What is it in the conjunction of words that makes for poetic resonance?

(cf. PhysicsWords (2001-10-22), VoicedPostalveolarFricative (2003-09-27), BirdlessSilence (2004-06-05), RubensesquePassersBy (2004-07-24), ...)

- Monday, October 31, 2011 at 04:37:02 (EDT)

2011-10-09 - Capital Crescent Trail with Mary

~6 miles @ ~13.4 min/mi

"I'd never go out like that!" Mary Ewell whispers to me. At the tunnel under Wisconsin Ave a young lady has just zipped by us, ponytail swinging. She's wearing striking little, and that little is strikingly snug. "Well, except during a race," Mary concedes. I refrain from comment.

At ~11am Mary drives us from home to the 0.3 mile unofficial starting point of the Georgetown Branch/Capital Crescent Trail. We trot to Bethesda and tag Woodmont Av before turning back. Cyclists seem unusually polite today and mostly announce "On your left!" before they pass. Post-run we attack an egg foo young at the Chinese restaurant on Grubb Rd. Then Mary visits with the Dickerson-Zimmermann family, always a pleasure.

(photo by Caren Jew, effect via "Hipstamatic for iPhone")


(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Sunday, October 30, 2011 at 05:44:36 (EDT)

Zen Training

Reading Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy by Katsuki Sekida (1975) feels like watching a genius from four centuries ago analyze a transistor radio. The intelligence is there, the scientific method is mostly there, but the technical-engineering context just doesn't exist yet. Sekida writes brilliantly, even poetically at times. But his attempts to explain conscious brain activity blend mysticism and misunderstanding.

Nonetheless, Zen Training is an important book, one that bears study and re-reading. A few striking samples:

from Chapter One, "Orientations":

The basic kind of Zen practice is called zazen (sitting Zen), and in zazen we attain samadhi. In this state the activity of consciousness is stopped and we cease to be aware of time, space, and causation. The mode of existence which thus makes its appearance may at first sight seem to be nothing more than mere being, or existence. However, if you really attain this state you will find it to be a remarkable thing. At the extremity of having denied all and having nothing left to deny, we reach a state in which absolute silence and stillness reign, bathed in a pure, serene light. Buddhists of former times called this state annihilation, or Nirvana. But it is not a vacuum or mere nothingness. It is utterly different, too, from the unconscious state of the patient under anesthesia upon the operating table. There is definite wakefulness in it. It is a condition of existence that recalls the impressive silence and stillness that we experience in the heart of the mountains.

from Chapter Ten, "Three Nen-Actions and One-Eon Nen":

Time completely disappears in absolute samadhi, and so does space. Causation also disappears. There is only a row of events. This state of no time, no space, and no causation is simply realized, without discussion, as an immediate experience in absolute samadhi.

Our ordinary consciousness has been brought up and domesticated to live and behave in a world that is fenced in by the limits of time, space, and causation. These distinctions have given rise in turn to the world of opposition and discrimination in which we ordinarily find ourselves. The ordinary consciousness never dreams of the possibility of a world of other dimensions, but this ordinary attitude of mind is in fact projecting a topsy-turvy world of delusion. In absolute samadhi, time, space, and causation have fallen off, and thus our habitual way of consciousness collapses. What follows? There is a sudden realization of the world of nonopposition, when we experience the oneness of all things. It is said in the sutras that the Tathagata sees Buddha Nature with his naked eyes. Face after face, like corn in the field, is looking at us, and they are all the faces of the Buddha.

at the end of Chapter 11, "Existence and Mood":

Contemporary man prides himself on his elaborately developed consciousness. I hope that this may be developed still further. Human consciousness is still far from satisfactory. The activity of the universe, through thousands of millions of years up to the present, can be regarded as a blind but not unreasonable attempt to produce this elaborate consciousness of man. I say "blind" because existence is not aware of whether or not it has an object until it is equipped with consciousness. Although the universe may seem to be moving without a purpose, from the anthropocentric point of view it has progressed fairly well. It has, of course, made innumerable trials, and produced innumerable failures, but it made a hit in producing consciousness. And this consciousness is now asking itself, "What is existence?" In the campaign to realize itself, consciousness invented the "I." However, this "I" is not yet perfectly developed. We must still look forward to the full elaboration of consciousness and the construction of the true "I." Obviously, what is required is research: physiological, psychological, biological, biochemical, and other kinds of research to explore the still mysteriously shrouded wilderness of Zen. Why do I say "wilderness"? Because, absurd though it may seem, almost no research has so far been done in the field of Zen. What an attractive, virgin territory for exploration!

- Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 18:36:42 (EDT)

Earning Red Checks

Motivation is a challenge sometimes. In order to keep myself moving forward throughout the day I list the tasks to be done in my filoFax (DayTimer, notebook, etc.). When I finish one, I flag it as complete with a big red checkmark. Along with important meetings and hard missions I'll also include some tiny, easy actions — go to the credit union, email a sick friend, whatever. When done, they get checks that are as big and bright as the tough stuff. At the end of the day even if I haven't made much progress it's still psychologically rewarding to see at a glance all the Red Checks I've earned. And in a more serious vein, months later I can look back and generate a list of accomplishments. That helps my boss help me (and the team) sometimes when Higher Authority asks what we've been up to.

(cf. Carry On, TouchTheFlagpole, ...)

- Friday, October 28, 2011 at 04:47:20 (EDT)

Limits of Introspection

Watching one's own mind is an attractive way to study consciousness — what could be closer than direct perception? — but it has its pitfalls. For instance, consider the process of falling asleep. Various mental engines shut down or become disrupted and unreliable. As soon as the process that records new memories stops running you won't be able to recall anything that happens thereafter. As you lose consciousness you might consistently see flocks of pink eagles and perceive the taste of chocolate-coated newspapers — but you'd never remember it!

(cf. ThoughtfulMetaphors (2000-11-08), DreamData (2002-03-22), MarvinMinskySpeaks (2004-03-25), Falling Asleep (2009-06-23), ...)

- Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 04:48:51 (EDT)

Three Keys to Success

At a department meeting yesterday my new boss mentioned three factors associated with success when a group or individual takes on a new project:

As a hyper-enthusiastic personality (who also loves alliteration) I applaud this analysis!

- Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 04:33:52 (EDT)

Picking Up Litter

In recent years, a tiny habit I've gotten into: once a day, during a walk or run, I try to pick up one piece of trash, however small. Sure, it doesn't make a significant dent in the total volume of garbage beside the road or trail or on the floor. But I tell myself that it's like a Kantian categorical imperative: if everybody did it, it really would help clean things up.

The practice also reminds me of the sweet "Starfish Story" that wise gentle friend Nancy Pruett Searles told me long ago. A little girl walking along by the ocean is picking up starfish that the tide has left on the sand and throwing them back into the water so they won't die. An observer points out that there are so many starfish on the beach that her tiny efforts can't make any difference. She thinks about it for a moment, then tosses another one into the sea and observes, "Well, it made a difference to that one!"

(cf. Wikipedia:Categorical_imperative, Wikipedia:The_Star_Thrower, ...)

- Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 04:36:00 (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-May 2007), 0.61 (April-May 2007), 0.62 (May-July 2007), 0.63 (July-September 2007), 0.64 (September-November 2007), 0.65 (November 2007 - January 2008), 0.66 (January-March 2008), 0.67 (March-April 2008), 0.68 (April-June 2008), 0.69 (July-August 2008), 0.70 (August-September 2008), 0.71 (September-October 2008), 0.72 (October-November 2008), 0.73 (November 2008 - January 2009), 0.74 (January-February 2009), 0.75 (February-April 2009), 0.76 (April-June 2009), 0.77 (June-August 2009), 0.78 (August-September 2009), 0.79 (September-November 2009), 0.80 (November-December 2009), 0.81 (December 2009 - February 2010), 0.82 (February-April 2010), 0.83 (April-May 2010), 0.84 (May-July 2010), 0.85 (July-September 2010), 0.86 (September-October 2010), 0.87 (October-December 2010), 0.88 (December 2010 - February 2011), 0.89 (February-April 2011), 0.90 (April-June 2011), 0.91 (June-August 2011), 0.92 (August-October 2011), 0.93 (October-December 2011), 0.94 (December 2011-January 2012), 0.95 (January-March 2012), 0.96 (March-April 2012), 0.97 (April-June 2012), 0.98 (June-September 2012), 0.99 (September-November 2012), 0.9901 (November-December 2012), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2012 by Mark Zimmermann.)