^zhurnaly 0.94

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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in volume 0.94 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 = 0.93 ... 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

Favorite ... Things

Among the long list of things to give thanks for:

I ... love ... ellipses!

And as for aposiopesis ...

(from Wikipedia, aposiopesis means "becoming silent" and is "... a figure of speech wherein a sentence is deliberately broken off and left unfinished, the ending to be supplied by the imagination, giving an impression of unwillingness or inability to continue ..."; and cf. ThanksFor (2001-11-22), MyAffectations (2003-01-19) AlphabeticSelfdescription (2003-03-09). ...)

- Monday, January 30, 2012 at 04:38:42 (EST)

2012-01-16 - Lady Bird Lake Loop CCW

~10.3 miles @ ~9.4 min/mi

During the pre-dawn drive in my Mom's car to Longhorn Dam in Austin Texas the country-music station plays Chris Young's "Getting' You Home". The song triggers musings on how hard it would be for a computer's natural language system to understand the meaning of the lyric, "When your black dress hits the floor." There's rather a significant amount of context required to parse that! And my processor in turn loops momentarily during today's run around Town Lake. when I espy painted on a trash can the mysterious legend:


What language can that be? But after a few seconds I agnize (ha, another archaic-new word! it means "understand") that it's an acronym for "City Of Austin - Parks And Recreation Department".

Temps today are ~30°F warmer than they were on Saturday morning two days ago, when I started at the same time and it was freezing. A truck delivers new porta-johns to the baseball fields on Riverview St near the old power plant. I pause to enjoy one during the first mile. A pod of cheerfully-huge pregnant strollers smile at me halfway around the loop. Soon another great-with-child rolls into view, but on closer inspection there's a moustache above the big belly — this "she" is a "he". Oops!

I pause at Lou Neff Point to find the brick at the entrance to the gazebo with "Keith & Rita Zimmermann" on it, commemorating my brother's and his wife's donation to the park foundation. Burnt orange shorts, the University of Texas signature color, pull me along pleasantly for miles 5-7 until the wearer branches off to climb the stairs of Congress Avenue bridge and cut her run short. Splits by the GPS trackfile: 10:10 ⇒ 9:06 ⇒ 9:08 ⇒ 9:10 ⇒ 9:31 ⇒ 9:34 ⇒ 9:17 ⇒ 9:27 ⇒ 9:16 ⇒ 8:43 plus a short trot across Longhorn Dam back to the car (~0.38 mi @ ~9:31 pace) to get safely beyond the magic 10 mile total for the day.

(cf. 2006-07-08 - Town Lake Loop, 2010-07-16 - Lady Bird Lake Loop, 2009-07-18 - Austin Town Lake Loop, 2010-09-22 - Lady Bird Lake Loop, 2011-05-25 - Lady Bird Lake Loop, 2011-05-29 - Last Lady Bird Lake Loop, 2012-01-14 - Lady Bird Lake Loops, ...)

- Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 05:14:04 (EST)

Ionian Mission

After enjoying the first couple of Patrick O'Brian's famous sea stories I paused, with minimal desire to read onward. But when The Ionian Mission materialized in a "free, take it" box outside a McLean thrift store? Who am I to resist the magic of "free"? Alas, #8 in the series follows the formula rather too predictably. O'Brian writes wonderfully of Napoleonic era naval technology, but overall there's quite a sameness, a lack of variety in plot and character and atmosphere and theme that sadly withers and stales.

But the sparkles in The Ionian Mission, as in its predecessors, are the sporadic flashes of brilliant prose combined with the the love and banter between co-protagonists Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. And in the course of that, most delightfully, O'Brian winks and offers a glimpse of Johann Sebastian Bach, that greatest of all composers! From Chapter 2, an exchange that begins like a Derek and Clive comic routine:

'Oh well,' said Jack: and then, 'Did you ever meet Bach?'

'Which Bach?'

'London Bach.'

'Not I.'

'I did. He wrote some pieces for my uncle Fisher, and his young man copied them out fair. But they were lost years and years ago, so last time I was in town I went to see whether I could find the originals: the young man has set up on his own, having inherited his master's music-library. We searched through the papers — such a disorder you would hardly credit, and I had always supposed publishers were as neat as bees — we searched for hours, and no uncle's pieces did we find. But the whole point is this: Bach had a father.'

'Heavens, Jack, what things you tell me. Yet upon recollection I seem to have known other men in much the same case.'

'And this father, this old Bach, you understand me, had written piles and piles of musical scores in the pantry.'

'A whimsical place to compose in, perhaps; but then birds sing in trees, do they not? Why not antediluvian Germans in a pantry?'

'I mean the piles were kept in the pantry. Mice and blackbeetles and cook-maids had played Old Harry with some cantatas and a vast great passion according to St Mark, in High Dutch; but lower down all was well, and I brought away several pieces, 'cello for you, fiddle for me, and some for both together. It is strange stuff, fugues and suites of the last age, crabbed and knotted sometimes and not at all in the modern taste, but I do assure you, Stephen, there is meat in it. I have tried this partita in C a good many times, and the argument goes so deep, so close and deep, that I scarcely follow it yet, let alone make it sing. How I should love to hear it played really well — to hear Viotti dashing away.'

So Aubrey has seen bits of the lost St Mark Passion of J. S. Bach! And he's bought some other long-lost Papa Bach compositions, and thinks nothing of it. It inevitably reminds me of Bilbo's mithril armor in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings:

'... Bilbo had a corslet of mithril-rings that Thorin gave him. I wonder what has become of it? Gathering dust still in Michel Delving Mathom-house, I suppose.'

'What?' cried Gimli, startled out of his silence. 'A corslet of Moria-silver? That was a kingly gift!'

'Yes,' said Gandalf. 'I never told him, but its worth was greater than the value of the whole Shire and everything in it.'

Frodo said nothing, but he put his hand under his tunic and touched the rings of his mail-shirt. He felt staggered to think that he had been walking about with the price of the Shire under his jacket. Had Bilbo known? He felt no doubt that Bilbo knew quite well. It was indeed a kingly gift. ...

A hundred pages later in Ionian Mission O'Brian describes Jack's attempt to practice playing one of those extraordinary Bach pieces. The magic of JSB's counterpoint is brilliantly, mysteriously suggested:

Now when the fiddle sang at all it sang alone: but since Stephen's departure he had rarely been in a mood for music and in any case the partita that was now engaged upon, one of the manuscript works that he had bought in London, grew more and more strange the deeper he went into it. The opening movements were full of technical difficulties and he doubted he would ever be able to do them anything like justice, but it was the great chaconne which followed that really disturbed him. On the face of it the statements made in the beginning were clear enough: their closely-argued variations, though complex, could certainly be followed with full acceptation, and they were not particularly hard to play; yet at one point, after a curiously insistent repetition of the second theme, the rhythm changed and with it the whole logic of the discourse. There was something dangerous about what followed, something not unlike the edge of madness or at least of a nightmare; and although Jack recognized that the whole sonata and particularly the chaconne was a most impressive composition he felt that if he were to go on playing it with all his heart it might lead him to very strange regions indeed.

That's wonderful writing. Maybe I do need to keep reading. The "free" box at the thrift store did have a couple of other Patrick O'Brian stories in the series, and I did snag them too ...

(cf. MasterAndCommander (2005-03-04), PostCaptain (2006-10-12), OnTheShore (2006-11-07), ExtremeClarity (2006-12-15), ...)

- Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 05:18:21 (EST)

2012-01-15 - Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park Trail Tangle

~6 miles @ ~14.5 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Walnut_Creek_Park_z_2012-01-15.jpgOn Sunday morning I drive my Mother to her church, then go to worship at mine. Today's services are held at the Walnut Creek Metro Park, where the maze of twisty mountain bike paths humble me as they did when I first visited. (2010-07-19 - Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park and 2010-07-20 - Tangle of Trails)

Following imaginary trails I climb a crumbling limestone cliff and suddenly discover that I've left the park and entered an ancient cemetery. Casting about for the way back turns up a barbed-wire perimeter fence. A biker waiting at the corner helpfully gets me turned around and directs me inside.

From here onward marker posts keep me more-or-less on course. Westward past the "Tangle of Trails", down "Power Line Hill", across the detention dam to "Log Loops", then random-walk "Rock Bridge" back to "Endo Valley". Some heathens have left an empty TrusteX brand condom wrapper on the ground; it gets picked up and put in the trash. A deer crunches through the dry brush. "P" signs point to the parking lot. The closer it is, the more hikers carry vente lattes as they amble. Now it's time to go back and pick up Mom.

GPS trackfile splits: 12:16 ⇒ 18:54 ⇒ 12:33 ⇒ 16:38 ⇒ 15:42 ⇒ 10:52 with that final mile accelerated by the easy path back to the car plus an out-and-back road sprint to make the GPS odometerdisplay a round number.

- Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 04:43:17 (EST)

Odlyzko on Bubbles

Andrew Odlyzko is a brilliant mathematician who has done important work on deep topics such as the Riemann Hypothesis (cf. PrimeObsession, Music of the Primes, ...). He also writes engagingly about gullibility, financial bubbles, and the history of irrationality. Among his recent essays:

These are detailed stories of massive social failures to think. They're well-written but quite long; I've only had time to skim a couple of them so far. Odlyzko mainly blames human emotional failure for these economic booms and busts. Perhaps there are other factors, complex nonlinearities in big systems that make prediction virtually impossible? That's a topic for another time.

(Personal note: I met Odlyzko ~30 years ago when, as a Bell Labs researcher, he was a consultant for some technical studies I was involved in. We didn't get to interact much but I remember him being as charming and precise in person as he now is in print. Cf. OnSingularities (1999-06-07), HopefulRejoinders (2001-06-23), AllYourBaseAreBelongToUs (2002-08-28), BadArithmetic (2004-02-24), NextEconomy (2005-01-31), Back to Normal (2008-11-13), ...)

- Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 04:48:44 (EST)

2012-01-14 - Lady Bird Lake Loops

~21 miles @ ~9.8 min/mi

Son Robin and I fly to Austin Texas to visit family on Friday the 13th, and the first order of business on a frosty Saturday morning is to do penance in advance for all the salty, greasy Tex-Mex food that I plan to consume during the next four days. On the way to Town Lake (now called "Lady Bird Lake") I pass a neighborhood convenience store whose marquee reads:


A bit farther down Springdale Rd "Mr. Catfish" is closed at 7am. Decorative lights are shining, however, at "Planet K" on Cesar Chavez Blvd. From the outside it looks like a dance hall, but apparently it's a local chain "featuring the best selection of imported cigarettes, pipes, vaporizers, incense, underground books, erotica & more". Hmmm!

Country music FM station KASE plays the catchy song "All Over Me" by Josh Turner. The refrain lodges in my head along with the tune for the first few miles: "Bring on the sunshine, bring on the good times, girl let me look at you, / Jump in the front seat, kick up your bare feet, honey let your hair down too". Ducks cruise near shore, dabbling and diving for breakfast. Dog walkers and training groups of runners greet me. Later some say, "Hi again!" upon our next encounter. A slightly-gibbous moon settles toward the western horizon as beams from the rising sun catch the tops of downtown Austin skyscrapers. Graffiti on the pillars of Longhorn Dam advise:


You can almost read tops of some of the words on the current Google Maps street-view; perhaps I garbled them in my notes on 2010-09-22 - Lady Bird Lake Loop, or perhaps they've been repainted and changed over the years? GPS trackfile splits are encouragingly brisk: 10:42 (potty break) ⇒ 9:52 ⇒ 9:36 ⇒ 10:09 ⇒ 10:01 ⇒ 10:42 (water bottle refill) ⇒ 9:37 ⇒ 9:16 ⇒ 9:21 ⇒ 10:11 (another potty break) ⇒ 9:38 ⇒ 9:23 ⇒ 9:17 ⇒ 10:23 (water refill) ⇒ 9:27 ⇒ 9:24 ⇒ 9:23 ⇒ 9:30 ⇒ 9:30 ⇒ 9:33 ⇒ 10:03 with that last including a final back-and-forth crossing of the dam to add a quarter mile and reach a round number on the odometer.

- Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 04:43:08 (EST)

Don't Take Requests

A Baltimore-area classic-rock radio station, WQSR aka "Jack-FM", boasts that it doesn't take listener requests for songs to put on the air. It does, however, play messages from its call-in line. One of those that tickled me was actually a self-referential paradox:

Jack, my request is that you don't take requests.

Now, what can they do? If they don't take requests, they've just taken his; if they do, then they can't.

(cf. DoMeta (1999-05-08), ExceptionsRule (2002-11-29), and anything about Gödel's Theorem ...)

- Monday, January 23, 2012 at 04:36:35 (EST)

2012-01-10 - Ten 800m Intervals at UM

~6.6 miles @ ~8.7 min/mi

Venus gleaming low in the west reminds me of the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon in 2006 with Caren Jew. As evening dusk deepens two ladies share the Ludwig Field/Kehoe Track, each doing her own variety of intervals. Both carry iPods. One wears a bright pink shirt, the other is clad all in black except for a pink headband. Lines between the lanes of the track make me dizzy as I look along them down the straightaway in the gloom. A pair of gulls cry out as they cruise overhead. A police siren wails. I run through the shallow puddle of water in the middle of the north curve of the track, in a deliberate effort to spread it out so it will evaporate quicker. My duck-walk wet footprints are visible the next lap around, then fade. As the sky darkens into night a young man appears and sprints back and forth along one side of the stadium.

I arrive 4:30pm, with an hour until daughter Gray plans to finish work. Plan: ten 800 meters repeats, with half-lap ~2 minute recovery walk between each. The first few take ~3:45 and feel good. As the sun sets I feel chilly and push the pace. For the first four intervals I experiment with GPS set to take a data point every second, after which I change to "smart" recording mode. Jitters on the pace graph are visible for the more frequent data intervals, but overall accuracy seems identical. I stick to Lane #2, which according to various online sources should be 0.505 miles every two laps, i.e. ~407 meters/lap instead of 400 m, roughly ~2% long. The GPS trackfile says the distance is 0.52-0.54 miles, a bit longer yet. Splits by the GPS: 3:46 + 3:46 + 3:42 + 3:45 + 3:42 + 3:43 + 3:40 + 3:39 + 3:37 + 3:31. Does that actually forecasts marathon performance, changing m:ss to h:mm? I'm skeptical.

(cf. 2007-12-21 - Kehoe 800s, 2010-07-21 - LBJ 800s, 2010-11-21 - Ten 800m Repeats, ...)

- Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 15:54:23 (EST)

Lincoln's Scraps of Paper

How to capture good ideas for later use? If Iowa Senator James F. Wilson's report of an 1863 conversation with Abraham Lincoln is accurate, Honest Abe had an excellent method. As Lincoln purportedly describes it:

... This caused me to examine and re-examine the subject. I gave it a great deal of thought; I examined and studied it from every side; indeed, it was seemingly present with me continually. Often an idea about it would occur to me which seemed to have force and make perfect answer to some of the things that were said and written about my actions. I never let one of those ideas escape me, but wrote it on a scrap of paper and put it in that drawer. In that way I saved my best thoughts on the subject, and, you know, such things often come in a kind of intuitive way more clearly than if one were to sit down and deliberately reason them out.

To save the results of such mental action is true intellectual economy. It not only saves time and labor, but also the very best material the mind can supply for unexpected emergencies. Of course, in this instance, I had to arrange the material at hand, and adapt it to the particular case presented. But that was an easy task compared with what immediate original composition of such a paper would have been. ...

(from "Some Memories of Lincoln" by "Ex-Senator James F. Wilson", in the North American Review, v. 163, n. 481 (December 1896), on pp. 670-671, as per [1] or [2]; and cf. IdeasLikeSparks (1999-09-04), ThinkingOutLoud (2003-02-20), Mind Like Water (2011-12-24), Team of Rivals (2012-01-07), ...)

- Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 09:18:34 (EST)

2012-01-08 - CM's Neighborhood Loop

~14 miles @ ~10.3 min/mi

The clerk at Taco Bell says, "I saw you running down Veirs Mill Road a little while ago!" I plead guilty: Cara Marie Manlandro and I have just finished enjoying a 14 mile loop around her extended neighborhood this morning, and I'm ordering a recovery snack. The GPS trackfile splits read 9:49 ⇒ 9:48 ⇒ 9:51 ⇒ 9:58 ⇒ 9:42 ⇒ 11:07 ⇒ 9:44 ⇒ 9:55 ⇒ 9:46 ⇒ 10:43 ⇒ 11:29 ⇒ 10:20 ⇒ 11:16 ⇒ 9:45. We take walk breaks along the way, especially during the climbs out of Rock Creek's valley, and pause to refill bottles at water fountains.

Our one disagreement: as we near the end of the trek I'm under the impression that we need to go at least a mile farther. I distinctly remember seeing "15" written on CM's wall calendar for today as I fill my water bottle in her kitchen. CM denies it vehemently and swears that this is a 14 mile day. When we get back we discover that we're both right: the long run progression does demand 14 miles but CM wrote the wrong number down. Oops!

- Friday, January 20, 2012 at 04:35:19 (EST)

Constant Kensho

What if right now, this very moment of simply being here, is total enlightenment? All other mental states are distractions, delusions. This is as good as it gets. Would that be discouraging, or delightful?

(cf. NextPlease (1999-11-12), PrinciplesOfEthicalPower (2007-12-16), Life As a Work of Art (2008-11-11), Everything's Amazing, Nobody's Happy (2009-05-01), This Is Water (2009-05-21), ...)

- Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 04:40:35 (EST)

2012-01-07 - DCRRC Al Lewis 10 Miler Race

10 miles @ ~7.9 min/mi

As Joe Henderson says, "Failures are less devastating when expectations aren't excessive, and successes are all the more satisfying when they aren't planned." This Saturday morning was to have been a medium-long run with comrade Cara Marie Manlandro, but her calf's a bit iffy and she suggests we defer it until tomorrow (2012-01-08 - CM's Neighborhood Loop). As CM and I text back-and-forth I recall that there's a DC Road Runners race at 9am. It's close to home (in Kensington) and inexpensive ($5) — why not try it? My expectations are low. A new PR is the result.

Christina Caravoulias greets me at the start, in the Ken-Gar park. The course is simple: begin at Rock Creek Trail milepost 7, run to milepost 2, and return (cf. Rock Creek Trail Miles 0 to 4 and Rock Creek Trail Miles 5 to 9). More training buddies appear as starting time looms: Ken Swab, Emaad Burki, and Rebecca Rosenberg who is talking with Alyssa Soumoff. Alyssa already knows me, and reminds me that I've met her. She calls herself "The Other Alyssa" when I redundantly tell her my name.

At "Go!" we dash off, sun in our eyes. I run mostly alone after the first few miles, when some young ladies of similar pace keep me company. Coming back from the turnaround I'm sure I see dear friend Kate Abbott, but it's a mistake; after the race she turns out to be Cindy Cohen, who ran with me at the 2009-11-01 - Potomac Heritage 50k 2009. Today's GPS trackfile reads long by ~1.3%, Correcting splits accordingly by ~5 s/mi gives rough pace data 7:42 ⇒ 7:39 ⇒ 7:38 ⇒ 7:49 ⇒ 8:07 ⇒ 7:59 ⇒ 7:53 ⇒ 8:01 ⇒ 8:05 ⇒ 7:50 — overall not too horrid pacing, an average of ~7:47 min/mi for the first half and ~7:58 thereafter.

The official race results put me 52nd overall, gun time = chip time = 1:18:41, 44th male, 10th in the 50-59 year old male group. The previous PR for this distance was set in the 2010-02-28 - RRCA 10 Miler, a 1:19:06 performance on a hilly course in Columbia MD.

- Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 04:40:19 (EST)

Dimensions of Inanity

Annoying, clueless clods fall into three overlapping classes:

But better is to focus on the positive side, key characteristics of good people:

What other categories belong on that list?

- Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 06:44:39 (EST)

2012-01-04 - Northwest Branch Icy Night Trek

~6 miles @ ~9.7 min/mi

A crackling in the brush makes me look up. Seven pairs of glowing green eyes, close-set, gleam down from the hillside, retroreflecting flashlight beams. Deer, no doubt, waiting for me to move along so they can amble down to get a drink. The paved path is covered with patches of ice from seepages that have frozen into über-slick sheets. They crunch underfoot as I slow to tentatively walk across them, slipping but not quite falling several times. At the two major tributary stream crossings I step too far to the side and wet my right foot to the ankle during the outbound run, and on the way back do the same to the left foot. Sewage smells waft up from the pipes that parallel the creek. A tree fallen across the trail almost trips me near the county line but I catch sight of it just in time.

It's 7pm on a Wednesday evening, temperature ~32°F, and the first Prince George's Philharmonic orchestra rehearsal of the year is tonight. After I drop daughter Gray off at Northwestern High School I return to the cricket field near University Blvd and park on the street close to milepost 4.5 of the Northwest Branch Trail. The first mile heading upstream is dry, but then wet and icy spots appear, accompanied by frost-heave ridges on the asphalt. Mile splits slow accordingly: 8:40 ⇒ 9:59 ⇒ 11:06 with the third one on the big hill climb to Oakview Dr. Returning is a trifle faster, now that I've already seen where the most treacherous zones are: 10:29 ⇒ 9:28 ⇒ 8:09 — the final mile with an extra out-and-back to make the GPS total come up to snuff.

"Good evening!" I say through numb lips to a group of walkers I startle near milepost 5. Besides headlamp and flashlight I've got a bright red LED bicycle flasher, gift from brother Keith, clipped to the collar of my windshirt. Back to the start, visit the bushes behind the locked porta-john, up the road to Taco Bell for a quick recovery meal, then return to NWHS and await the end of orchestra practice. Take off wet shoes and socks, then wrap sweaty self in beach towels for warmth as I sit in the car and finish reading Robin's Civil War history book Team of Rivals.

(cf. GPS trackfile, 2007-09-12 - Oakview Hill Work, 2007-11-28 - Northwest Branch Tempo Run and Hill Work, 2008-09-11 - NWB Hill Work, 2010-04-01 - Northwest Branch Trail, 2010-10-11 - Northwest Branch Trail, 2011-08-18 - Northwest Branch Thunder Run, 2011-08-22 - Northwest Branch Trail with Rebecca, ...)

- Monday, January 16, 2012 at 07:11:43 (EST)

Nonattachment to I

Anagrams, like rhymes and quotes-out-of-context, provide no deep wisdom. Recently, in the dark in bed before falling asleep I noticed that the letters in "No Ego" can be rearranged to make "O, Gone". Needless to say, that discovery is not to be taken seriously — even if one writes the leading letter "O" as "0", a Zennish zero.

The original source of the thought, however, is more interesting. In a recent (and somewhat flawed) New York Times magazine article titled "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body" author William J. Broad quotes yoga teacher Glenn Black: "The whole point of yoga is to get rid of ego." Whether true or false about yoga, the notion of de-emphasizing self is fascinating, maybe valuable. In Chapter 5 of Beginner's Guide to Insight Meditation Arianna Weisman and Jean Smith comment (in the section "Attachment to 'I'") on that theme:

... Our attachment to "I" is probably the most difficult to untangle. We have a sure and certain sense of ourselves as "here," as "I did," and as "this is me," but this sense of "I" comes about only through attachment. If we investigate ourselves very carefully, we find thoughts, physical sensations, and feelings of unpleasantness, pleasantness, or neither pleasant nor unpleasant. We find different feelings of joy, love, anger, faith, and envy. We find perception and memory. All of these experiences do not stay the same; even our thoughts of ourselves do not stay the same. So where is the solid "I"? ...

Imagine the wonderful freedom that comes from beginning to have some distance from our "I am this" or "that." If we have no attachment to ourselves, we have no need to defend ourselves. We can live with an open heart and mind. If we have no attachment, we have no need to hoard, lie, or hurt others. We do not need to play out roles that we think we should play as teachers, students, or parents. Rather, we can live as ourselves and as teachers, students, or parents with ease and well-being. Our greatest contraction and isolation are linked to our ownership of and belief in a permanent "I" and the consequent organization of all experiences around it.

(cf. Coming to Our Senses (2009-01-01), Living Yoga (2010-09-28), Beginner's Guide to Insight Meditation (2011-08-05), Insight Meditation for Letting Go (2011-08-16), No Self-Blaming (2011-09-11), ...)

- Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 08:47:41 (EST)

2012-01-02 - Bethesda Trolley Trail with Rebecca

~6 miles @ ~9.7 min/mi

"I disbelieve you!" is my reaction when, at the north end of Fleming Avenue, Rebecca Rosenberg suggests that the Bethesda Trolley Trail makes a zig-zag turn to cross the I-270 spur. My mental map is disoriented and I don't see the signage. Rebecca finds my comment a charmingly polite alternative to the brusque "You're wrong!" that she expects. And in fact, she's correct about the trail route.

Today at about 11am I pick Rebecca up at her home; her car is intermittently overheating (stuck thermostat in the radiator?) and her friend An is fixing it. On our way to the Cabin John Stream Valley Trail via Tuckerman Lane I happen to spy a Bethesda Trolley Trail sign. That provokes an instant change of plans after we overcome my geographical confusion and find our way to Fleming Park, where a year ago (cf. 2010-12-24 - CCT and BTT) Cara Marie Manlandro and I met to take a similar trek.

At NIH Rebecca points out the cherry trees starting to blossom, their reaction to unusually warm winter weather. Chill winds today keep my sleeves rolled down. Scudding clouds reflect off the National Library of Medicine building. At the south end of the trail we meander through neighborhood streets until after an unplanned loop we discover ourselves heading north again. Our splits are, by GPS trackfile, 9:35 + 9:28 + 9:45 + 9:44 + 10:19 + 8:49. After the run I drop Rebecca off at her home, and on my way to Taco Bell witness light snow flurries. The next day orienteering comrade Peggy Dickison tells me that she saw me "and a young lady" running along Old Georgetown Road near her neighborhood. Small world!

(cf. official BTT brochure and BTT map, ...)

- Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 06:20:46 (EST)

Lost Knowledge

A colleague recently lent me her copy of David W. DeLong's 2004 book Lost Knowledge: Confronting the Threat of an Aging Workforce. It's cheerful and chatty but overall rather thin soup, full of big-business name-dropping and repetitive consultant-speak anecdotes about organizational challenges. Yes, expert employees get old and retire — so what should a boss do about it? After almost 200 pages the "Principles for Action" sub-headings in Chapter 10 suggest:

Hmmm ... not exactly rocket science. It would have helped to have at least some semi-quantitative models in the text, some discussion of demographics that went beyond average employee age and years to retirement, some systems analysis beyond a quadrant chart, some evidence deeper than stories about the worth (or worthlessness) of knowledge capture information systems. The MIT "AgeLab", which author DeLong is affiliated with, has a similarly-thin web presence. Is this as good as it gets? Maybe I'm missing something ...

- Friday, January 13, 2012 at 05:15:57 (EST)

2012-01-01 - MCRRC New Years Day 5k

~3.1 miles @ ~7.3 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/New_Years_5k_2012_z_by_KT.jpgClay Wright, young brother of my friend LaNedra, gives me a punch to the shoulder before the start of the race and sends greetings from his sister. He then proceeds to beat me but only by ~7 seconds. I lead him for the first mile, a too-fast 7:06 by my GPS, slow to 7:13 and then ~7:30 returning on the hilly out-and-back, with a kick to near-7 pace on the final fraction. Gayatri Datta accepts my offer of a ride to the race at its new Seneca Creek State Park location. She did ~9 miles yesterday and was up until ~2am cleaning-up after the New Years Eve dinner that she served to Paulette and me plus comrades in her lovely home. I drop her off on the way into the park so she can stand in line for me, turn in last year's timing chip, and get me a bib number and chip for 2012.

In the back of the car I'm carrying a big orange traffic cone marked "MCRRC" that I found in Rock Creek Park, forgotten or misplaced there after a club race. Jim Farkas is directing traffic to the parking area. I slip the cone into a line of them by the road, throwing off somebody's inventory count in an unusual direction. Christina Caravoulias joins me in the jog to the starting area. I've forgotten my gloves and try holding my hands in a Parvati-style mudra to relax them against the chill. A ragged "V" of geese cruise southward overhead at mile 2. The official results give me 66th place among 376 overall, 61st out of 209 males, 7th of 30 in the 55-59 year old male cohort, time 22:48.

(photo by Ken Trombatore)

(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 04:46:43 (EST)

Wiki Scrapbook Bookmarklet

Goal: One-click capture of interesting items of information from web pages, with a reference back to that page.

Method: Catch information thrown from a bookmarklet, and append that information to an existing ZhurnalyWiki page. See Scrapbook Bookmarklet Version 0.1 for background on what a "bookmarklet" is.

Bookmarklet Code: Create a bookmarklet with javascript like:


When clicked, this produces a URL that looks like:


which would be generated if the user highlighted the words "Oddmuse is a wiki engine" on the Oddmuse main page http://www.oddmuse.org and then clicked the bookmarklet link to execute that Javascript.

Wiki Extension Code: To append information to a page on ZhurnalyWiki, which uses the Oddmuse wiki engine, the following Perl script is an Oddmuse extension module. It puts the reference page URL (from which the highlighted scrap comes) into double-square-brackets, so there's no problem with a trailing "." in a URL. (The Oddmuse parser apparently does what's usually the right thing and doesn't include a period at the end of a URL in the link, since generally it's the end of a sentence.) The code changes newlines into double-newlines so that the copy/paste scrap looks more reasonable in the wiki.

# SCRAPBOOK --- by Mark Zimmermann --- http://zhurnaly.com
# based on like.pl by Alex Schroeder & Ingo Belka with additional help from Alex
# catches inputs from bookmarklet that sends URL and highlighted web text to be saved
# and appends to chosen wiki page
# here's a sample bookmarklet, which appends scraps to the SandBox:
#      javascript:location.href='http://zhurnaly.com/dummy.html>

Next Step: Consider how to allow the user to create a new ZhurnalyWiki page out of a highlighted selection, perhaps by creating a dialog box to put that new page name into (instead of defaulting to the same SandBox (or whatever) page every time).

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Alex Schroeder and comrades on http://oddmuse.org for writing the Oddmuse wiki engine and sharing their enthusiastic expertise in extending it.

(cf. Scrapbook Bookmarklet Version 0.1, http://www.oddmuse.org/cgi-bin/oddmuse/Comments_on_Clipping_Bookmarklet, ...)

- Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 04:44:12 (EST)

2011-12-31 - Millennium Trail Plus with CM

~12 miles @ ~9.9 min/mi

Cara Marie Manlandro is back from Florida — visiting grandma, surfing, eating Italian home cooking — and today she joins me in suffering. An early morning call from her thesis advisor, with a priority request to write part of a research paper with him, preempts our plan to do a loop near the University of Maryland. Instead, after she gets most of a first draft knocked out between 4:30 and 7am, we set off from CM's home to do the Carl Henn Millennium Trail. This is the first time either of us has tried the Millennium Trail counter-clockwise.

CM reports that she had a "religious experience", swimming hard with a team at her high school in Ft Lauderdale. Given her invocations of the Deity during our run, perhaps she has another one today? Her breathing is rough for the first few miles. Then I start to get tired quads. Both of us have intermittent side stitches. I suspect I'm dehydrated. My weight is up a few pounds, into the upper-140s. (CM managed to escape her family visit without gaining.) Neither of us ate a proper breakfast. The glare of the sun in my eyes almost makes me run into a cyclist and a walker. CM with her stylish shades on, warns me just in time.

But the day is pleasant, temperature ~50°, with dampness from early morning showers that passed by. Our last three miles are the fastest of the day, and the toughest on us both. As we finish our cool down walk we see CM's husband George in front of their home. CM leans on him to stretch out her tight calf muscle. I groan as I bend over to pick up the two tall lattes that he set down on their front steps. "This is my cross training!" I tell him as I hand him the cups.

Splits by my GPS: 9:52 + 10:10 + 9:48 + 9:36 + 10:21 + 9:46 + 10:33 + 9:28 + 10:11 + 9:20 + 9:22 + 9:25. CM pauses her GPS at major road crossings where we have to wait. I pause at Taco Bell on the way home. It opened at 10am; I'm the only customer there.

(cf. GPS trackfile, 2011-08-17 - Rockville Millennium Trail , 2011-12-26 - Rockville Millennium Trail Loop, ...)

- Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 04:43:12 (EST)

Chaos Lawn Service

A front-yard sign catches my eye:


... though of course I miss the apostrophe and read the first word as the Greek-root term "CHAOS". Are there other examples of words that are pronounced so differently if one leaves out the single-quote mark? With the possessive case perhaps starting to fade away in common usage [1], will linguistic chaos reign?

- Monday, January 09, 2012 at 04:45:50 (EST)

2011-12-29 - Pimmit Hills Loop

~2.7 miles @ ~8 min/mi

Brrrrrr! Icy puddles keep eyes focused on the sidewalk, as frigid winds redden knees, cheeks, and other bits. Mission: atone in advance for today's lunch at the Vienna Inn with former colleagues, where beer-battered onion rings, greasy french fries, and grilled cheese sandwich do their evil work.

(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Sunday, January 08, 2012 at 05:10:13 (EST)

Team of Rivals

"Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture" — Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln isn't your ordinary Civil War history book. At more than 700 pages of text and 100+ of notes, the paperback that RadRob recommended and lent me was an anvil in my backpack for a few weeks as I read it during subway commutes. It's fascinating and well-written. The basic thesis: Lincoln was wise enough to build his Cabinet out of the politicians who fought him for the 1860 Presidential nomination, smart enough to (mostly) keep them from stabbing one another, and leader enough to harness their diverse managerial talents to win the war, save the nation, and eliminate slavery.

Goodwin's exposition is generally chronological and focuses on the main contenders for the Republican ticket during the crucial pre-war election: William Seward, Salmon Chase, and Edward Bates, who respectively became Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, and Attorney General. Goodwin's portrait of Lincoln is glowing. From Chapter 2:

What Lincoln lacked in preparation and guidance, he made up for with his daunting concentration, phenomenal memory, acute reasoning faculties, and interpretive penetration. Though untutored in the sciences and the classics, he was able to read and reread his books until he understood them fully. "Get the books, and read and study them," he told a law student seeking advice in 1855. It did not matter, he continued, whether the reading be done in a small town or a large city, by oneself or in the company of others, "the books, and your capacity for understanding them, are just the same in all places ... Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing."

As Goodwin describes it, a big part of Lincoln's strength was his ability to let go of the past, forgive those who wronged him, never hold grudges, and turn former enemies into his allies. He also practiced a personal idea-capture technique that's most appealing, as described in Chapter 20 in the context of an 1863 public letter he wrote on a wartime civil liberties controversy:

... "Often an idea about it would occur to me which seemed to have force and make perfect answer to some of the things that were said and written about my actions," he later told a visitor. "I never let one of these ideas escape me, but wrote it on a scrap of paper." Now he would have to cobble those scraps into a cogent argument that the American public would accept.

After reading Doris Goodwin's exposition the tragic necessity of the Civil War now makes a lot more sense to me. My eyes were also opened to a considerable amount of local (Washington DC area) history that I never suspected, including fascinating events that took place on the Blair estate here in Silver Spring, Maryland. The forthcoming movie, which focuses only on the final four months of Lincoln's life, may or may not be worthwhile; this book definitely is.

(cf. GettysburgCoordinates (2002-02-27), FortressWashington (2003-11-28), Lincoln Memorial (2004-01-06), JamesApplewhite (2004-04-08), Marble Steps (2008-11-06), ...)

- Saturday, January 07, 2012 at 06:23:14 (EST)

2011-12-26 - Rockville Millennium Trail Loop

~10.7 miles @ ~9 min/mi

When will I learn? Half a mile down Rockville Pike, intent on getting to Taco Bell for a recovery $2 Value Meal, I suddenly realize that I've left my fanny pack on the roof of the MINI Cooper. In it are cellphone, water bottle, and miscellaneous candy bits. Unlike on 2009-07-05 - Catoctin Trail with Caren, today when I stop at a red light, set the parking brake, and get out, I see it's miraculously still there, balanced precariously. Whew!

Today, on the Monday holiday after Xmas, I plan to go to the laundromat and do the family's dirty clothes — the washing machine in the basement isn't quite installed yet, leveling feet aren't right — but then I learn that daughter Gray has a violin practice session in Rockville. It's a run opportunity, a chance to redeem myself after the summer meltdown 2011-08-17 - Rockville Millennium Trail jog. I park again at the CVS on Wooten Parkway near Rockville Pike, tag the car, and start my GPS as I join the trail at mile marker 5.0 on the sidewalk there.

What a difference 40°F makes! It's a chilly day and even with pauses at major road crossings that add a few minutes I manage to blast along comfortably fast, with splits 8:41 + 9:05 + 8:51 + 9:14 + 9:09 + 8:32 + 9:07 + 9:55 + 9:15 + 8:26 + 8:40 according to today's GPS trackfile Quite a contrast to the crawl last August. Packs of young ladies run by the other way, many in University of Maryland shirts. I recognize the route that Jennifer Wieland and I took on our 2011-12-03 - Lakewood - Glen Hills - Hollinridge Ramble with Jennifer a few weeks ago.

- Friday, January 06, 2012 at 04:56:36 (EST)

Models of Happiness

From Chapter 7 of Fully Present by Susan Smalley and Diana Winston, some thoughts on the meaning of meaning in life:

Psychologists suggest that happiness arises with a sense of fulfillment, with living a meaningful life. Tools that promote meaning will therefore promote happiness. Under this model, there are four key components of meaning: purpose (a connection to future events), values (ideas that enable you to decide whether actions are right or wrong), a sense of efficacy (a belief that you can make a difference), and self-worth (a belief that you are good and worthy). ...

- Thursday, January 05, 2012 at 04:49:45 (EST)

2011-12-25 - Bethesda Tempo Loop

~11 miles @ ~8.6 min/mi

"Merry Christmas!" I greet walkers out to take the air. It's mid-afternoon and the sun is already setting. Temps in the 40s and intermittent breeze makes me glad I'm wearing gloves and long-sleeve shirt. Shorts are adequate except when heading into the wind. Setting off I hope to see how long I can maintain a sub-9 pace. Glancing at the GPS after a fraction of a mile, "8:30 min/mi" is scary to see. Too fast? But onward it is, and except for slowing during the long climb up from Rock Creek along Cedar Lane speed remains decent with splits of 8:33 + 8:34 + 8:26 + 8:55 + 9:09 (boo!) + 8:34 + 8:31 + 8:01 + 8:23 + 8:51 + 8:49 and a sprint for the final ~0.13 mile to the front steps. Pause to take a few sips of water at the fountains along Rock Creek. Skip the downtown Bethesda zig-zag and proceed straight to the Capital Crescent Trail tunnel. A long line waits to get into the Bethesda Row Cinema. In this weather they're probably not queuing up for ice cream at the Häagen Dazs outlet next door.

(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Wednesday, January 04, 2012 at 04:34:55 (EST)

Zen, Words, and the World

In Zen Training by Katsuki Sekida the editor A. V. Grimstone notes rather poetically in his preface:

The medium of our thoughts is language. Words are the means by which we handle reality. This ability to use words has been one of the main reasons for man's prodigious success as an animal. It is also, seemingly, the source of our troubles, for the ability to use words and concepts, while so plainly of enormous value, all too readily becomes hypertrophied. Unconsciously, we come to suppose that to give something a name is to gain some measure of control over it. We come to live in a world of words and thoughts, which takes the place of direct contact with reality. We say, "There is a tree," but do not really see the tree. Indeed, as Iris Murdoch has put it: "Our minds are continually active, fabricating an anxious, usually self-preoccupied veil which partially conceals the world." To see the world as it is we have to check this all too pervasive mental activity, to empty our minds, to relinquish what we imagine to be our verbal hold on the world.

(cf. Zen Training (2011-10-29), Zen and Self Improvement (2011-11-19), ...)

- Tuesday, January 03, 2012 at 04:37:30 (EST)

2011-12-24 - Metropolitan Branch with CM

~10 miles @ ~10 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Metropolitan_Branch_run_2012-12-24.jpgCara Marie Manlandro stretches her tight calf muscle on the curb at Gallatin St waiting for the light to change so we can cross North Capitol. She's leaning in typical runner pose, hands on the light post, back to the street, derrière sticking out as traffic blasts by inches away.

"Maybe you should move to the other side of the pole?" I suggest. "It wouldn't make a good obituary headline to get hit by a car in the, uh, ...". Then the light changes and we continue on.

Today's run begins at dawn as a local rabbit watches us from the middle of the street in front of my home. CM is wearing a bright pink technical shirt. The chill breeze scares me at first, but after a mile I have to take off the windbreaker, and half a mile later remove my cap. Then as the sun rises CM gives me her gloves and headband to tote.

In Takoma Park I insist on diverting half a block to visit DC boundary stone Northeast #2 on Maple Av (see [1] for photo and coordinates). CM has sharper eyes than mine and keeps us on course as we scan for Metropolitan Branch Trail signs, which are scarce and hard to spot. At Ft Totten she runs ahead as I step off the road and inadvertently into a puddle. We admire the Catholic University law school building where words like "Justice", "Wisdom", "Peace", and "Liberty" decorate the façade.

At mile 8 I note that we might be able to pull our average pace down to a nice round number if we start to kick. CM goes into "intense" mode, and neither of us is very conversational at 8:53 and 8:50 for the last two miles. The irregular wooden stairs down to L Street are tricky but neither of us falls.

By CM's GPS we make the 10.00 mile mark in 1:39:59 with just 1 second to spare. My GPS is a bit more generous today. As we await a train in Union Station CM reads off our splits and I text-message them to her for the record: 10:18 + 10:26 + 10:00 + 9:58 + 9:55 + 10:54 + 10:20 + 10:20 + 8:53 + 8:50. After the Metro ride to Forest Glen we jog the 0.8 mles back home. The temperature has dropped a couple of degrees, from mid- to lower-40's, and the wind is brisk. At home I weigh myself and am down 3 lbs. Alas, I have gained more than that during recent weeks, and need to work them off to get back into the mid-140s.

(cf. GPS trackfile, 2010-06-12 - Metropolitan Branch Trail, 2011-06-12 - Metropolitan Branch Meet-Up, 2011-08-21 - Metropolitan Branch Trail to Clair, ...)

- Monday, January 02, 2012 at 09:47:55 (EST)


The new Holiday Season sensation at the Dickerson-Zimmermann household: Falafel Cookies! Just add excess water to the powered chickpea-spice mix when making falafel, as I did on Christmas Eve, so the batter is too liquid to cohere. Bake in the oven at 375°F for ~20 minutes, flip to brown the other side, and — voilà!

They look just like oatmeal cookies, but they taste just like falafel. Instant Cognitive Dissonance! Next year maybe I'll put colored-sugar sprinkles on them for a festive glow. Paulette calls them "falookies". And strangely enough, they don't vanish like ordinary cookies. The next day there were plenty of them left for me to nibble ... and the day after ... and the day after that.

- Sunday, January 01, 2012 at 04:52:06 (EST)

2011-12-21 - Mormon Temple Hillwork

~8.2 miles @ ~9.6 min/mi

Yet another GPS accuracy debate breaks out on the MCRRC-Discuss listserv, provoked by my post re Gina Kolata's somewhat-silly New York Times column on the subject recently. So when I finish up early at the dentist on a Wednesday afternoon it's out to gather some data. After all, "It's all about the trackfile!" as I often say. But alas, post-run the Garmin 205 gets hinky and spurns my attempts to upload. A total reboot, flushing contents, is required. Bummer! And without that evidence, who will believe that as the rain stops I run from home to the base of the big Mormon Temple hill and, along Stoneybrook between Beach Dr and Kent St, manage five brisk climbs and descents?

I look like a mime, white gloves glowing in the dusk. Winter Solstice Eve is unseasonably warm; I'm clad in shorts and thin short-sleeved shirt. During recovery downhill jog #2 a lady in the group of three walking up the hill spies me. "Hi Mark!" she says; I can't recognize her in the gloom. I pass the gals on the next climb, when suddenly a myriad of decorative lights for the LDS Temple drive-through creche are lit. It reminds me of the warning in the movie Surviving Christmas raised to a high power: "I can smell my eyeballs burning." — "Very important: don't look directly at the tree!"

Data: five repeats, climbs 4:57 + 4:55 + 4:54 + 5:08 + 4:58 and descents 4:22 + 4:22 + 4:29 + 4:27 + 4:44. According to the GPS display the distances each way are 0.50 to 0.51 miles. The route from home is outbound 1.60, return 1.63 miles.

(cf. 2008-12-24 - Temple Hillwork, 2009-06-18 - Mormon Temple Hillwork, 2009-09-23 - Mormon Temple Hillwork, 2010-12-05 - Mormon Temple Hillwork, ...)

- Saturday, December 31, 2011 at 05:18:04 (EST)

Level Up

A surprisingly insightful article appeared recently in Cracked online: "4 Stunning Revelations An Idiot Has About Running". Author Robert Brockway describes in hilarious fashion his discoveries:

  • It's Not an All or Nothing Scenario — walk breaks are fine, and you don't have to run miles on day one
  • The Clothes Actually Do Something — modern shoes and technical fabrics make running far more pleasant than in years past
  • Runners Aren't All Lying Scumbags — it really does feel good to run, after one gets used to it and can go for at least a few minutes
  • It's True: Bodies Actually Are Capable of Improvement

Brockway explains that last observation via a gaming metaphor, "You're leveling up your bodies." Specifically:

... now that my body (kind of) does (almost sort of) work (a little bit), I actually do get to see the improvement in return for the work. It's pathetic, small-scale, incremental improvement, but it is improvement. And that's something I can deal with, because I've played these games before: You start out puny and insignificant, crawling around the dumps and sewers, just looking for rats to slay. But if you keep at it, concentrating on finding the fun where you can, and beat enough of those low-level monsters, someday you'll find yourself cleaving Liches in twain with ease. And you'll look back at the ratter days, covered in the blood and ichors of those foolish enough to oppose you now, and you will laugh.

Precisely. It's the same point that John Parker, Jr. made in Again to Carthage: "... if you're doing it right you are an organism constantly evolving toward some agreed-upon approximation of excellence ...". What the Greeks called arete, and the Romans termed virtue. Be all that you can be. Excel. Achieve. Level up.

(cf. MyOb (2002-08-18), GuYaJia (2002-12-27), PracticalProductivity (2004-01-20), Warrior Mind Training (2009-09-16), Virtuosic (2009-11-10), ...)

- Friday, December 30, 2011 at 04:40:56 (EST)

2011-12-18 - MCRRC Seneca Slopes XC

5.4 miles @ ~9.3 min/mi

"Trample the Weak — Hurdle the Dead" reads the fluorescent lime-green shirt of the runner in front of me at the start of this morning's cross-country race. The outside edge of my left foot hurts. Did I over-stress it in yesterday's jog, or bump it into something last night? Ken Swab doesn't have to DNF in order to game the tiebreak system for the Montgomery County Road Runners XC series competition, as he beats his arch-rival comfortably. I push hard the whole way and find the hills challenging. Dee Nelson starts ahead but I squeeze by her after a mile. Peggy Dickison in her yellow goggles and orienteering shirt pulls me along for the middle miles, then slows slightly on a climb near the end. Official result: 62nd of 118 finishers, 4th of 10 in the male 55-59 year group, 50:04 minutes for an initially-advertised "8k" course that was ~5.4 miles around Clopper Lake in Seneca Creek State Park.

(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 04:57:29 (EST)

Never Say ...

A friend I'm chatting with online has had an unpleasant first half-marathon experience and swears that he'll never try to run one again. "Never say Never!" I tell him.

"Never say, 'Never say Never!'!" he responds.

As everybody knows, I can't resist the game of "Anything you can do, I can do meta" — and so my inevitable reply has to be the infinite recursion:

"Never say 'Never say "Never say ' ... '!"!'!"

(cf. MetaMan (2001-11-14), ...)

- Wednesday, December 28, 2011 at 04:36:50 (EST)

2011-12-17 - Rock Creek Trail - Tempo Run with CM

~8 miles @ ~9.6 min/mi

"Holy Mary Mother of God!" Cara Marie Manlandro pants, bent over to catch her breath at the end of our run this morning.

"Are you Catholic?" I ask, as I help her refill her bottle at the water fountain on Rock Creek Trail near East-West Hwy.

"I am today!" CM replies.

The GPS trackfile gives our splits: 10:03 + 9:54 + 9:56 + 9:51 + 10:35 (at the turnaround where CM takes a hit from her asthma inhaler and I suck down a GU energy gel) + 9:33 + 9:28 + 9:04 — the last two quite stressful to CM, who's getting back into shape after significant illness in November and earlier this month. Lots of other runners are out today, training along Rock Creek in the early morning. We start and finish at Ray's Meadow. I wear tights for the first time this season; a chill breeze makes my eyes water. CM has lost her cool sunglasses and hopes that her husband George takes the hint and gets her a new pair for Christmas. (He does.) I remind her that the trail segment at our start/finish is where she first ran a mile in under 8 minutes (see 2008-11-26 - CM's Mile PR).

- Tuesday, December 27, 2011 at 04:41:50 (EST)


Recently I realized that "Daylight Savings Time" should really be called "Night Wasting Time". When one turns the clock ahead an hour between March and November, the result is to miss more hours of darkness. That's especially tragic during the summer months when night is so short and scarce.

- Monday, December 26, 2011 at 07:05:37 (EST)

2011-12-14 - Pre-Dawn Neighborhood Loop

~4 miles @ ~9.3 min/mi

It's too cloudy to see any Leonid meteors, or to get much moonlight, at 5:40am when I set out for a local circuit from home via Rock Creek Trail. Trash cans are menacing figures. Chill wind makes eyes water. Weak flashlight batteries cause nervous moments when crossing cracks in the pavement or leafy-muddy areas. An off-leash dog runs away from my approach. Arms and legs and delicate parts in between are frigid; head under cap is sweat-soaked. Splits 9:17 + 9:17 + 9:07 + 9:36 with a kick at the end.

(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Sunday, December 25, 2011 at 19:04:16 (EST)

Mind Like Water

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity is an entertaining book by David Allen about how to be organized and happy when one's life is too full of complexity — appointments, projects, interruptions, conflicting missions, etc. Getting Things Done is optimistic and full of good advice. A big idea it suggests for personal time management may be the most important discovery in human history (after language):

Write It Down!

... or as the author admonishes, "Get it all out of your head!" Don't try to juggle a mental To-Do List, don't fret over all the tasks that you've delegated to other people, don't freak out about the train wreck of meetings that next week is going to bring. Write everything down — and then you can relax stop worrying (so much) about it.

Agreed, it also helps to have some simple organizational principles. Allen suggests ways to do that. He recommends binning material into a few big categories:

  • calendar, for things that have to happen at a particular time
  • next actions list, to be worked on when feasible
  • tickler file of things to think about maybe someday
  • reference archive to put material where you can retrieve it when needed

But simply writing things down brings profound mental relief. Chapter 1 describes the goal:

In karate there is an image that's used to define the position of perfect readiness: "mind like water." Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn't overreact or underreact.

A few pages later Allen expands:

- First of all, if it's on your mind, your mind isn't clear. Anything you consider unfinished in any way must be captured in a trusted system outside your mind, or what I call a collection bucket, that you know you'll come back to regularly and sort through.
- Second, you must clarify exactly what your commitment is and decide what you have to do, if anything, to make progress toward fulfilling it.
- Third, once you've decided on all the actions you need to take, you must keep reminders of them organized in a system you review regularly.

In my own case, simplest is best. I try to:

  • carry a pen or pencil, and an index card or scrap of paper, to jot down a few words down when a striking thought comes to mind or an attractive image floats into the field of view
  • keep a FiloFax/DayTimer calendar-notepad handy, to schedule events, take notes during meetings, record reminders, etc.
  • use a personal wiki like this one to record musings and observations, links and tidbits, in a diary where they can be easily searched and retrieved, random-walk browsed, edited and improved, ...

Those three simple tools for thought help me be more relaxed, creative, energetic, and joyful. Or so I imagine, anyway!

(cf. ThinkingToolsDefined (1999-04-06), IdeasLikeSparks (1999-09-04), TechnoTime (2001-11-05), TripleThrills (2003-01-11), PracticalProductivity (2004-01-20), HelpfulHomilies (2007-09-02), Earning Red Checks (2011-11-28), ...)

- Saturday, December 24, 2011 at 04:53:23 (EST)

2011-12-11 - MCRRC Jingle Bell Jog 8k Race

~4.95 miles @ ~7.7 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Jingle_Bell_Jog_2011_z_KT.jpgAs I park my car comrade Caren Jew runs by and waves. Ken Swab discusses endgame tactics for the MCRRC Championship Series and Cross Country Series, where the complex ranking and qualifying and tiebreak system might make it advantageous for him not to finish next week's race in order to beat an opponent.

At the start I stuff my hat into my shorts, since my head isn't what gets chilled, but it slips out and I have to dart back a few steps to pick it up while dodging other runners. I carry it for the rest of the race folded over one hand like a big mitten. Half a mile along I pass friendly rival Dee Nelson and gasp out, "I'll pull you along for a while, then you can pull me!"

Total time is 37:51, with approximate splits from the GPS trackfile 7:16 + 7:34 + 7:41 + 7:37+ 7:58 (boo!) — 83rd place overall, 69/71 men, 10/22 in the male 55-59 year bracket.

(photo by Ken Trombatore)

(cf. 2004-12-12 - Jingle Bell Jog and Sinkhole Sally, 2005-12-11 - Jingle Bell Jog, 2006-12-10 - Jingle Bell Jog, 2007-12-16 - Jingle Bell Jog 8k, 2008-12-14 - Jingle Bell Jog, ...)

- Friday, December 23, 2011 at 04:36:38 (EST)

O Tannen-Bomb

Tired of year-after-year Christmas Tree decorating? Tacky tinsel and tangled strings of lights too boring? Just play O Tannen-Bomb! and the holiday season will take on a whole new meaning! Using your WII or Kinect controller you fling ornaments at a virtual tree to make the prettiest pattern. Shatter your opponents' glass pickles to score bonus points. Build your skills to gain new decoration types, offensive and defensive — until at Level 10 you're hurling godlike lightning-bolts, fireballs, and exploding supernovæ at a cosmic Yggdrasil tree light-years high, while alien armadas counter-attack. Can you save Christmas for the Galaxy?

(cf. DemeritBadges (2002-05-09), PowerSponge (2003-09-18), IpodMiniCooperAccessory (2004-07-06), Night Glasses (2009-12-31), ...)

- Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 04:39:34 (EST)

2011-12-10 - Magnus Gluteus Maximus Minimus

~11.7 miles @ ~20 min/mi

Not a race, but more like a hike: this year's VHTRC "Magnus Gluteus Maxiumus" fun run is a chance to get to know Jackie Ong and stretch my legs before tomorrow's 8k MCRRC road event. At 0635 I'm at Fountainhead a few minutes ahead of schedule, so as the sky begins to brighten I help Gary Knipling tote water and munchies to the little aid station in the woods there, near the entrance of the Do Loop horse trail. At 0645 Jackie arrives. We leave her car parked on the shoulder of the road and I drive us to Hemlock Overlook, where after sign-in we set off at 0730, half an hour ahead of the official crowd. Paul Ammann and a few other friendly folks do likewise.

Jackie and I met three weeks ago, at the 2011-11-19 - Stone Mill 50 Miler DNF where we both failed to finish. She's an amazing 10-star Marathon Maniac: marathons in all 50 states, hit 30 states within a single 52-week time frame, and is getting ready to do four marathons in four days during the Christmas-New Year's Day week in Florida. She also did 69 miles last Sunday as part of a 24-hour event. So today is a recovery day for her, and I have no ambitions either. We're passed by just about everybody as we trek along. At a couple of corners we miss turns and add a little bonus mileage.

Near Fountainhead I suggest we stop, so I can get home early and fix the water heater (it has a burnt-out control board again). Caroline Williams meets us and gives us both big hugs; she's enthusiastic as always. My GPS reads 11.7 and Jackie's says 12.1 miles. Andy Gingrich hitches a ride with us back to Hemlock Overlook. On the way he tells us about his races, including a 3:15 for his first and only marathon. ("Throw him out of your car, Jackie!" I say.) He did the Bull Run Run 50 miler in 2011 and is planning some longer races soon. Jackie has a heavy schedule of marathons and ultras coming up in 2012, including Zion and Vermont. She tells me about the free Philadelphia 100 miler in early April, and it sounds like fun. Perhaps we can do it together!

(cf. GPS trackfile, 2009-12-12 - Magnus Gluteus Maximus, 2010-12-11 - Magnus Gluteus Maximus 50k, ...)

- Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 04:54:14 (EST)

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