^zhurnaly 0.97

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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in volume 0.97 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 = 0.96 ... 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

2012-06-06 - National Park Seminary Statues

~5 miles @ ~9.5 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/Cyparissus_statue_National_Park_Seminary.jpgA deer by Jones Mill Rd runs away in haste when I make kissy sounds at her. I'm a casualty of the Transit of Venus: yesterday I hurt my lower back bending over to bring an old telescope upstairs from the basement (and it was cloudy anyway).

What to do about the lumbar pain? "Up Your Mileage", of course! After the first mile tight muscles begin to loosen up and I accelerate. The 2011-12-17 - Rock Creek Trail - Tempo Run with CM comes to mind when I pass the water fountain in Ray's Meadow near East-West Highway.

During mile 5 on the National Park Seminary grounds I pause to photograph the statue of the dying pet stag being mourned by the naked youth who accidentally shot it (cf. Cyparissus).

The mermaid/horsehead fountain after many dry years actually has water flowing in it. One mermaid in the fountain looks up toward heaven, one demurely downward, and the third casts her eyes to one side. Fond memories: when I began running loops around the neighborhood a decade ago this lovely sculpture was a major reward for my efforts, the midpoint of a then-long ~1.25 mile loop. The beauty remains ...


The Garmin 205 wrist GPS says 5.11 miles at a 9:29 min/mi pace; Runens on the iPhone estimates 5.06 miles at 9:34 min/mi. Comparing splits:

mile GarminRunens

- Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 04:34:15 (EDT)

Brightly, Brightly, and with Beauty

Why I don't know, but the phrase "brightly, brightly, and with beauty" soared into my head as I walked home from the Metro last Friday. It's from Robert A. Heinlein's novel Stranger in a Strange Land and is used at one point by the protagonist, a human who was raised by Martians, to describe doing something well. That's the image that surfaced: a gleaming symmetry, a flash of insight, a blinding joy, ...

(cf. MarryTheOne (2005-05-20), PortraitOfTheArtist (2007-02-08), Hurry Patiently (2008-12-14), Waiting Is (2011-01-17), Find the Beauty (2011-04-03), ...)

- Monday, June 25, 2012 at 04:36:46 (EDT)

That Feeling of Weightlessness

Elizabeth Weil in "She's 350 Pounds and Olympics-Bound" profiles superheavyweight lifter Holley Mangold. The essay ricochets around the 22-year-old's world and concludes with a quote so poetic it inspired me to go out and run five miles in search of a sensation, a glimpse of lightness, an instant of floating along the trail through the woods. It does happen, sometimes. Maybe more often than we notice. Reformatted ragged-right, Ms. Mangold's words:

It's like peace,
There's no struggle.
That's what we're all searching for,
That feeling of weightlessness.

As published in the Sunday New York Times Magazine of 2012-06-24 the final paragraph in its entirety reads:

In London, Mangold does not expect to earn gold. No American weight lifters do. The women's world record for the combined total in the snatch and clean-and-jerk is 326 kilos (719 pounds); Mangold's personal record is 255 kilos (562.2 pounds). She's just hoping for that feeling when the lift comes together, when her body goes down and the bar floats up. "It's like peace, there's no struggle," Mangold said. "That's what we're all searching for, that feeling of weightlessness."

So lovely, so elusive, so clear — I almost felt it again this morning, as I ran ahead of my companions and soared up a hill, relaxed and fast and free ...

(cf. Rock Creek Valley Trail (2004-04-30), CoolColorRightOnRain (2004-12-02), ...)

- Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 16:22:46 (EDT)

2012-06-03 - RCT Ramble with Caren

~10 miles @ ~14 min/mi

"Aubergine!" — my new color Word o' the Day, thanks to comrade Caren Jew who teaches it to me as part of her continuing remedial education aimed at improving my perceptiveness. Caren also points out at least four deer that she spots near Rock Creek Trail during our run, none of which would I have seen unaided. One of them stands watching us intently until I pause behind a tree to commune with nature, at which point she dashes off in haste. Sorry, deer!

In exchange for Caren's lessons I retaliate with mercifully-brief lectures on the history of electromagnetism, David Hockney and his artwork on the iPhone, the physics of anti-theft resonators, the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and the various pronunciations of "Bowie", "Newark", and other ambiguous names. "If you say it wrong, that just shows you're well-read!" I note, which tickles Caren. She confesses to stressing the wrong syllable of "conceit"; I reminisce about mis-pronouncing "finite" in junior high school.

For our 6am start at Lake Needwood I'm the first car in the parking lot when I arrive at about 5:50am; Caren is there a minute or two later. We trek down RCT taking walk breaks as we feel like it, maintaining a sub-14 min/mi pace. We divert to add hillwork on side paths after Caren dares me to dare her, first on the trail across the scary metal grille bridge on which she stumbles and almost falls. We cross the big new pedestrian bridge over Veirs Mill Rd and leap puddles near the soccer fields. The watch says 1 hour but we press on at my request to the 10 Mile marker on RCT before turning back. "We can always run faster on the return trip!"

When we get to the side trail just north of the Route 28 overpass we decide to explore it, and discover trees with slats around them plus parked bulldozers. We step over a construction barrier to cross a makeshift wooden bridge. "DANG", the orange paint says. The trail keeps climbing, so we proceed wondering where it can possibly go. "Lake Bernard Frank?" Caren speculates. I remember that I'm carrying a phone with GPS and mapping software, so we check and indeed that's what is now visible just ahead of us between the trees.

On the remainder of the trek we run whenever we see training groups of new runners heading downstream toward us. "I wish one of them would ask us how we're doing, so we could say, "We started two hours ago!" On the climb back to the fields near Lake Needwood we push to keep the pace on the Garmin GPS under 14 min/mi. At the cars Runens on the iPhone has us at 9.96 miles, and Caren's watch shows 2:14, so we can't resist a final lap around the parking lot to make it 10+ miles and 2-and-a-quarter hours. "It's really sweet running with you!" one of us says, and "I was about to say the same thing!" the other responds.

- Friday, June 22, 2012 at 04:44:32 (EDT)

Prison, Meditation, and Self-Efficacy

From an interview in the Spring 2000 issue of Inquiring Mind, an observation by Kiran Bedi about her experiment with vipassana (mindfulness) meditation in a New Delhi prison:

As a police officer and director general of Delhi prisons, I was responsible for creating security inside the jail, and I saw vipassana as a major measure of peace and harmony. Peace and harmony isn't created by the walls of a prison; it comes from the beings inside, and unless you address individuals, you cannot create a peaceful community. So I introduced programs that would enable individuals to be more peaceful. Vipassana addresses individuals.

As a prison administrator, you can create an enabling environment. If you have no library, you don't enable the individuals to read. When you introduce a library, some still may not read, but you are subtly sending out a message suggesting the value and availability of books. With the vipassana program, I was suggesting, "This is good. Try it."


... vipassana is not Buddhist. It was practiced by a man named Gautama who came to be called Buddha [Awakened One]. There's a very important distinction that we need to make. This program does not turn out Buddhists; it only makes buddhas.

In the same article Lucia Meijer, administrator of a detention site near Seattle Washington, comments on helping prisoners take responsibility and acquire self-efficacy:

I see them understanding cause and effect. If I do this, then such-and-such happens; so if I want things to happen differently, I need to do things differently. This is something we call self-efficacy. It's hard to develop self-efficacy if you grow up in a world where you have no control over anything, where things just happen no matter what your intentions or actions. Many of our inmates have histories of prior physical and sexual abuse, of growing up in very chaotic, drug-infested, violent situations. They haven't developed that self-efficacy because they couldn't make the connection between what they did and what happened afterward. When they sit a vipassana course, that connection may become clear for the first time.

She concludes:

You notice a difference written on the faces. In fact, you can tell if a person is a meditator. He's at peace with himself. He's got a natural smile already, because he's accepting the moment. The others are denying it and quarreling with it. That's the difference. One man is doing time doubly; the meditator is living time, not doing time.

- Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 04:35:32 (EDT)

2012-06-02 - Deliverator to UM

~10 miles @ ~11 min/mi

A pair of polychromatic rocking chairs decorate the bus stop on New Hampshire Av, and I'm tempted to stop and take a photo. A few minutes later temptation beckons again as the local Taco Bell is visible on the opposite corner of the intersection. But I must resist — I'm on a mission! Daughter Gray is staying in a dorm at the University of Maryland for the next few weeks, helping at the National Orchestral Institute, and I've got a package from Amazon.com in hand that arrived for her. Rather than drive it over, I'm running it to her.

The cool afternoon weather is irresistible, even though I've already been out this morning (2012-06-02 - Derwood Loop with CM). A bit of online map study suggests a reasonable route: Dale Dr to Colesville Rd to Sligo Creek Trail, thence to NH to University Blvd and so to campus. It's mostly sidewalk, with a bit of bikepath in the middle, but that's ok. Flocks of cyclists and joggers and dog-walkers are out today. After I find Allegeny Hall on campus and hand Gray her slightly-sweaty box I continue to the College Park Metro, where it turns out trains are single-tracking today. The wait is longer than expected. Perhaps I should have taken a bus home?

Runens measurements are a bit more conservative than the Garmin GPS trackfile and give mile splits of 10:44 + 10:46 + 10:46 + 10:46 + 10:54 + 11:05 + 10:41 + 11:42 + 13:09 + 9:49 as I compensate for a slow ninth mile with a faster tenth.

- Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 04:32:42 (EDT)

2012-06-02 - Derwood Loop with CM

~5 miles @ ~11.7 min/mi

Wet tree branches hang low after yesterday's violent rainstorms, and as Cara Marie Manalandro and I run around her neighborhood the leaves brush our hair and moisten our scalps. A rabbit races away before I can take his photo. CM confesses at mile 4 that last night she went to her trainer and told him, "Break me!" and so he did, for 90 minutes — maybe that's why she feels a bit tired today? Great conversation ensues about her lab work and dissertation write-up. Runens on the iPhone says our splits are 11:16 + 11:24 + 10:56 + 11:55 + 11:59; the Garmin GPS trackfile is similar.

- Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 04:30:44 (EDT)


~4.6 miles @ ~10.3 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Robin_on_a_Bus.jpgIn late afternoon Robin runs downtown to get a pulled pork sandwich at Stage Burger, so as soon as I get home I change into shorts and take advantage of the cool evening by trotting off to meet him. So the trackfile map will be more interesting I take Dale Dr to the little trail/bikepath, which I haven't been on since 2007-07-25 - Downtown Silver Spring. I pause the clock for a few minutes when Robin and I meet at Cameron and Colesville Rd, then help Robin eat his french fries. Runens on the iPhone puts my mile splits as 10:07 + 10:08 + 11:25 + 10:30 with a final blitz at 9:43 when I see Robin's bus home pass me with half a mile to go.

- Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 04:27:57 (EDT)

Conceptual Metaphor

In the June 2012 Michigan Quarterly Review poet Heather Christle comments on some notions from cognitive neuroscience/linguistics:

... the most reality-shifting ideas I have encountered have been in the field of conceptual metaphor. Once I became aware of how to listen for its influence and effects, I began to hear it everywhere. Someone says "I get it," and this reveals something about the content of their thinking—they "understand it"—but even more so it reveals the structure of how they imagine knowledge, as a physical object one can grasp, obtain, possess. It's easy to take these structural metaphors for granted, but by becoming aware of them it's possible to imagine other metaphors, or to glimpse ways they might limit our thinking.

V.S. Ramachandran's work on mirror neurons has also enlivened my understanding of what goes on when we read the world, or a poem. These are neurons that "fire" when we perform an action ourselves or when we witness another performing the same action. Theoretically, they could explain social emotions like empathy, shame, pride, and so forth. ...

She continues:

... there's so much incredible work being done right now—in cognitive linguistics and in neuroscience generally—that it does seem a shame not to allow those discoveries to shape our thinking in some way. And it's not just those fields; there's quantum physics, evolution, genetics. I want to think big. I want to understand my own insignificance and all the ways that the world is not what I intuit. For me, science provides a scale of ideas that allows new thoughts to occur. In the end I'm simply interested in what excites my imagination. I am not demanding that anyone else pursue the same course. Like Shelley, I go to science to "find new metaphors for my poetry." (And again, I believe those metaphors are not only or merely figurative.) ...

(cf. ThoughtfulMetaphors (2000-11-08) for Daniel Dennett on metaphor, ...)

- Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 04:45:24 (EDT)

2012-05-28 - 400m Intervals at Blair HS Track

~2.5 miles @ ~9.4 min/mi

Robin wants to get out for some mileage, so in the early evening after picking up Chinese carry-out for the rest of the family we go to the Blair High School track and run some laps — seven 400m repeats in my case, with times starting about 1:55 for a warm-up followed by 1:42 + 1:45 + 1:47 + 1:46 + 1:48 + 1:44 — not too horrible given the warm humid conditions. Robin spies rabbits on the grass nearby but I don't see them. His final speedy test lap is 90.1 seconds — wow!

- Sunday, June 17, 2012 at 21:45:12 (EDT)

2012-05-28 - MCRRC Memorial Day 4 Mile Race

4 miles @ ~8 min/mi

Nobody else wants to run early this morning, so at 8am I'm at the MCRRC event formerly known as Sue & Connie's Run, formerly known as Sue Wen's Run. Betty Smith is there, brightly clad and looking great. So are three old guys, Jim Rich with his Canon camera, George Tarrasco, and Warren Prunella in MCRRC shorts that match mine. Christina Caravoulias is busy at the registration table. Ken Swab introduces his young neighbor Harold Booth, who says he hopes to do ~8 min/mi. I admit that's roughly my goal pace, even though my singlet says "12:00" on the back. At the starting line I'm telling Harold of the 10-year-old girl, Gabriella Ro Capizzi, who rocketed past me near the finish of last week's cross-country race. A fellow standing near us says, "You don't have to worry; she's not running today. I'm her father!"

At the "Go!" signal we're off. Harold dashes ahead. I proceed gingerly on the über-slick wooden boardwalk and bridges, where several people slip. At the mid-course aid station I pour water over my head. At the finish Harold is waiting for me, arriving two minutes earlier. He shows me scrapes on hand and knee from his fall on the asphalt. The official result has me at 32:06.5 total time, 71st place overall, 60th of 139 men, 5th of 14 in the male 55-59 age range. Splits by the Garmin GPS are 7:22 + 7:45 + 8:10 + 8:45. It shows a total of 4.02 miles; the iPhone Runens app says 7:20 + 7:45 + 8:15 + 8:32 and 4.03 miles, close enough.

(for past Memorial Day club races see 2002 Sue Wen Run (34+ minutes), 2006-05-29 - Sue and Connie's Run (~46 min), 2007-05-28 - Sue and Connie's Run (~42 minutes), 2008-05-26 - Rock Creek Trail plus Sue and Connie's Run (~45 min), 2009-05-25 - RCT plus Sue and Connie's Run (~49 min), 2010-05-31 - Sue and Connie's Run (31:04), ...)

- Sunday, June 17, 2012 at 21:39:50 (EDT)

2012-05-27 - Ken-Gar Zig-Zags

~10.5 miles @ ~11 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Box_Turtle_Ken-Gar.jpgKen Swab and I arrive early at Ken-Gar — should it be called Ken-Mark today? — and beginning at 0740 do an out-and-back northward (see GPS trackfile), pushing each other to miles of 10.0 and 8.9 minutes. Then we join Rebecca Rosenberg and Barry Smith and continue the jaunt downstream and back for another ~4 miles at a conversational pace of ~11+ min/mi. A box turtle is scurrying, relatively speaking, across the soccer field near Rock Creek Trail and welcomes us as we return to the start-finish. Ken leaves for family duty, at which point Barry and Rebecca and I add on another ~1.5 miles together upstream, at which point which Barry punches out.
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Rebecca_Christina_birthday_cake.jpgKen and Barry banter has left both Rebecca and me yearning for a few miles at a brisker pace, so we head south again to talk and trek at ~10 min/mi. Today is Rebecca's friend Christina's birthday, and thoughtful Rebecca has brought a cake. She sees Christina's car in the lot. By good fortune, and good planning on Rebecca's part, we overtake and pass Christina on our way out and then catch up with her as we return. Christina is startlingly pretty, perky, prim, polite. She hails from Scandinavia and we chat about my Germanic family heritage. Her partner Dave Bollinger, a faster runner who has just finished his workout, bows down to salute her (and/or the birthday cake).http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Dave_Christina_birthday_salute.jpg

(see GPS trackfile for details of the ~8.5 mile run with Rebecca)

- Sunday, June 17, 2012 at 21:24:07 (EDT)

Rereading Cordwainer Smith

A decade after I write Triple Think (2002-07-25), reminiscing about a striking plot element in an old Cordwainer Smith science fiction tale, a used-book-sale copy of The Instrumentality of Mankind comes to hand. It's a collection of 14 stories by Smith, mostly from the 1958-1963 era. Alas, upon rereading they're poetic but oddly less than I remember — dated, fusty, as yellow around the edges as the pages of the paperback itself. Lots of Nazis and Russians and Chinese villains, thrown into a tangled future. Not a lot of human character development. Hardly any science or technology.

Perhaps, as my wife speculates, Smith was ahead of his time in wrestling with philosophical issues. Now he seems rather backward, except in his sharp-edged wielding of language and metaphor. Or perhaps I've changed, and might change again if I read the same book in another decade?

(cf. Lord Love a Duck (2010-02-15), ...)

- Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 18:08:28 (EDT)

Say No More

"There is a time when nothing must be said and a time when something must be said, but never a time when everything must be said."

(Latin proverb, translated by William Caxton, early English printer, ~1485)

- Friday, June 15, 2012 at 04:40:34 (EDT)

Fine Line

From the 1984 mock rock documentary film This Is Spinal Tap, a friend's favorite distinction:

David St. Hubbins: It's such a fine line between stupid, and uh ...
Nigel Tufnel: Clever.
David St. Hubbins: Yeah, and clever.

(movie directed by Rob Reiner, script writing credited to Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Rob Reiner)

- Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 04:43:07 (EDT)

One Stop Smile

Her name? Not a clue. Nor knows she mine. Most days she boards the fourth car on the subway train at 5:55am, one stop before I leave to transfer at Metro Center. We nod at one another, sometimes wink, rarely say "g'day". Occasionally she sits silently next to me. Her bangs hang asymmetric, Veronica Lake peek-a-boo over one eye. Not a "single-serving friend", since we've been exchanging glances for months now. Neat to have somebody to look for, a brief conjunction, ships passing in the night, momentary synchronicity. When she's not there, I wonder. When I'm not, I wonder if she wonders.

- Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 04:35:42 (EDT)

Prescription for Confusion

A colleague recently explained how to go astray in applying technical knowledge:

To misuse, first misunderstand!

- Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 05:51:45 (EDT)

2012-05-26 - Ramble with Gayatri

~14 miles @ ~11.7 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/burrITOS_tamaLES_pupuSAS_Pattys_Place.jpgAt 5:15am on the way to meet comrade Gayatri Datta the glows of neon signs catch my eye. They're in the front window of Patty's Place, a "Latin Grill" in the industrial park that I trot by en route to the Capital Crescent Trail. Only the right half is powered up. It proclaims, in brilliant color:


At 6am Gayatri and I take über-hilly Leland St back to Rock Creek Trail and then pause at Meadowbrook Stables, where horses await their morning feeding. Several of them appear to need haircuts. Or perhaps they're sporting toupees?http://zhurnaly.com/images/Meadowbrook_Stables_1.jpghttp://zhurnaly.com/images/Meadowbrook_Stables_2.jpghttp://zhurnaly.com/images/Meadowbrook_Stables_3.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/Mormon_Temple_entrance.jpgFrom Meadowbrook Stables we continue upstream along RCT to Stoneybrook Dr, the long Mormon Temple hill. I get a bit ahead of Gayatri and divert to take a photo from the visitor's center parking lot where there's a view of the north side of the Temple that I have never seen before. At the top of one spire angel Moroni points his trumpet toward the sunrise.

Gayatri and I continue the climb together, circle back via Kent St and Old Spring Rd to the water fountain, then return along RCT to the side trail at Suzanna Ln. Gayatri heads for Bethesda; I turn toward home. Sweat-soaked shirt friction on my nipples makes for a bloody chromatography experiment — Ouch! — but the chafing is tolerable, as is the twinge when in the shower afterwards warm water washes more salt into the wounds. (How do you say "That's running!" in French? Surely not "C'est courant!"?)


The Garmin GPS trackfile says mile splits are 11:34 + 10:14 + 10:46 + 10:43 + 16:53 + 11:44 + 10:57 + 14:45 + 11:32 + 10:31 + 11:17 + 11:00 + 10:48 + 10:13 plus a final fragment. The Runens app on the iPhone is stingier, only crediting the course with 13.9 miles. During photo and potty pauses the clock keeps ticking ...

- Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 12:35:21 (EDT)

Victim of Venus

Planetary alignments can be hazardous to one's health: on 2012-06-05 I strained my lower back, lugging my 48-year-old telescope up the stairs from the basement in an effort to observe a transit of Venus. It was cloudy, alas, and the next chance won't be until 2117. A couple of weeks earlier I cracked a molar. Coincidence, or harmonic convergence?

On the brighter side, the next day my dentist fixed the broken tooth, and in the spirit of Up Your Mileage I ran ~5 miles around the 'hood to loosen up the old back. Bending over to tie my shoelaces is still a pain, but tolerable. As long as no further conjunctions take place ...

- Friday, June 08, 2012 at 07:29:30 (EDT)

Old Age Hardening

"Diminished" — the word that came to mind last week, when I ran into an acquaintance whom I had met decades past but hadn't seen for perhaps five years. He was grayer and heavier physically, but that wasn't nearly as striking as the change in his style. Long ago he was confident; now he was arrogant, so sure of his opinions that it felt pointless to disagree with him. Long ago he was crusty; now he was bitter, angry about how the bureaucracy didn't appreciate his genius. It was as if he had hardened, like concrete setting or metal cooling from a youthful heat. He wasn't shrunken, but in a tragic sense he seemed that way. His flaws had grown into gaping cracks. It took half an hour to escape politely from his monologue.

(cf. Arnold Bennett's comments on old age in BennettOnLife (2000-03-19), ...)

- Thursday, June 07, 2012 at 04:49:05 (EDT)

2012-05-20 - RCT With Emaad, Ken, Rebecca

~8 miles @ ~10.4 min/mi

A scrawny rabbit sits in the middle of Rock Creek Trail and only scampers off when we're a few feet away. A big deer bounds across the path. Ken Swab, who set a PR yesterday at the Capon Valley 50k race, does the first five miles with Emaad Burki and Rebecca Rosenberg and me, an out-and-back downstream from Ken-Gar (milepost 7). Then Ken heads off to nearby Goldbergs Bagel Bakery where he scores some great bagels to share with me. The rest of us continue north ~1.5 miles to Randolph Rd and return. I dash ahead of Emaad and Rebecca to attempt photos of them, without great success — they're going too fast! The Garmin GPS trackfile says 8.39 miles; the Runens iPhone app is a hair less, 8.38 mi. Elapsed time includes two detours to my car, to drop off water bottle and pick up money for Ken's bagel purchase. Dehydration knocks my weight down from ~146.2 to ~143.7 lbs in spite of my drinking a pint of water.

- Wednesday, June 06, 2012 at 04:34:00 (EDT)

Edge of Now

Every moment
Stands balanced on the threshold
Where past meets future

(cf. The Brink (2001-04-03), Pause on Each Threshold (2008-11-01), Work of a Lifetime (2009-02-01), ...)

- Tuesday, June 05, 2012 at 04:37:33 (EDT)

2012-05-19 - Pimmit Run Trail (Downstream)

~8+ miles @ ~15 min/mi

Today's trek begins at John Ferguson's home in McLean, where after a couple of rounds of Dominion (a card game), iPhone app discussion, and Kindle Fire demo, the pizza arrives and I take my leave. Two cans of Coke and handfuls of chips fuel me down neighborhood streets and into the Marie Butler Leven Preserve, a woodsy area near Kirby Rd in über-wealthy McLean Virginia. The maze of twisty little pathways among the trees confuse me, but after a couple of complete loops around the park I finally find my way out to Maddux Lane via a slightly-illegal trespass through a backyard and down a private driveway. The befuddlement continues when I try to follow my map, the official Fairfax Trails & Streams brochure. Another trespass gets me down to Little Pimmit Run but no path is visible. Bushwhacking to the stream and wading across the shallows yields wet socks but no enlightenment. So out through another private estate driveway I go, and then along streets lined with mini-mansions and graced with the names Oakdale, Hardwood, Balsam, Laburnum, Woodacre, and finally Ironwood. At the end of that road I scramble down a steep leaf-covered hill, through a field of wild pachysandra, and finally locate the proper trail again. Onwards downstream, through floody-muddy patches, over tree roots, around deadfalls, and across riprap placed to prevent erosion. A few walkers meet me along the way. Finally the trail takes me to terra cognita, when it passes under the George Washington Memorial Parkway and joins the Potomac Heritage Trail.http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Pimmit_Run_Trail_GW_Parkway_Bridge_graffiti_1.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Pimmit_Run_Trail_GW_Parkway_Bridge_graffiti_2.jpgI take photos of arty graffiti on the piers that hold up the bridge, then turn back. Going upstream the trail is easier to follow, and without misadventure or illegal trespassing I make it back through Marie Butler Leven Preserve. It's not quite two hours since I started and the map shows a further off-road trail extension toward the Potomac School, but at the end of Colleen Lane there's no obvious path to the stream. More bushwhacking gets me onto a faint track with deer hoof prints that suggest it may not be human-made. Half a mile or so later I give up, cut through another back yard — with fingers crossed that the owners aren't armed and trigger-happy — and take neighborhood streets back to John's house, where a soapy shower attempts to remove poison ivy oils from arms and legs.
The Garmin GPS trackfile estimates 8.44 miles; Runens on the iPhone is more generous with 8.71 miles. Included in that figure are a couple of miles wandering off the Pimmit Run Trail.http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Pimmit_Run_Trail_downstream.jpg

(cf. 2012-03-11 - Pimmit Run Trail (Upstream), ...)

- Sunday, June 03, 2012 at 20:15:12 (EDT)

Selection as Service

What hubris: the idea of recording everything, exhibiting everything, then imposing on the viewer all the problems of finding and making sense of the tiny nontrivial subset. As if attention were free, or as cheap as storage seems to be. As if listener is so much less important than speaker. As if everything is equally fascinating. As if the future is free and preserving the past is the only precious thing. As if, some day, it will all make perfect sense — so with treasure provide all the trash, "just in case".

Better to respect the reader: choose the best, frame the best, display the best.

- Saturday, June 02, 2012 at 04:49:58 (EDT)

2012-05-18 - Ken-Gar 5k Blitz

~3.1 miles @ ~8 min/mi

Four big deer stand at the edge of the woods and eye me as I dash past. Robin and I are taking advantage of a nice Friday evening to stretch our legs. We start, as the Garmin trackfile shows, in Ken-Gar at Rock Creek Trail milepost #7. My splits as I race to Randolph Rd and return: 8:01 + 8:07 + 8:07 by that GPS, or a more generous Runens iPhone 7:53 + 8:00 + 7:53 and in each case another speedy fraction to get a bit past 3.1 miles. Robin meets me near Dewey Park, past milepost #8, and chases me back.

- Friday, June 01, 2012 at 04:43:48 (EDT)

Silly Self-Serving Laws

When a celebrity, especially a science-fiction writer, gets their name associated with a "Law" then it's almost certainly either trivial or wrong — e.g., Arthur C. Clarke's "Laws", Theodore Sturgeon's "Law", Jerry Pournelle's "Law". What's the point, other than self-promotion? (Hmmm, should I call this observation "Zimmermann's Law"?)

- Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 04:35:12 (EDT)

2012-05-15 - Wheaton Loop

~10 miles @ ~10.5 min/mi

A rabbit sitting in the middle of Everett St (South Kensington) watches me jog past along the Connecticut Av sidewalk. Walk breaks come frequently: it's a warm afternoon, humid, puddles from morning rains. I've skipped lunch and have just finished routine doctors' appointments including an EKG and various indignities. As usual an optimistic pace fades. At mile four I eat half a melted Snickers bar, and a bit later finish it off, accompanied by a Succeed! e-cap for salt. My weight falls from 146.3 pre-run to 143.6 afterwards, in spite of drinking a quart of water. The Runens iPhone app agrees with the Garmin 205 GPS trackfile. The loop route is my classic one, from home up Sligo Creek, west and south along University Blvd and Connecticut Av, then back home via Rock Creek.

- Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 04:40:59 (EDT)

Hyperbolic Desktop

Imagine a computer screen on which objects shrink as you drag them towards the edge, like in an Escher painting. There's room for an infinite amount of stuff, so you never have to put away anything (file icons, windows, etc.). It can all stay on the desktop, all the time. And the singular point (where things shrink to nothing, which you can never reach in a finite length of time) could be in the center, if preferred. Hmmmm!

(cf. PyramidBuilding (2004-02-11), ...)

- Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 04:44:26 (EDT)

2012-05-13 - Cross Country with Caren

~4.7 miles @ ~14.4 min/mi

After the 2012-05-13 - MCRRC Run Aware 5k XC Race comrade Caren Jew and I head out for some bonus mileage along the Cabin John Stream Valley Trail. We take a double loop around the Locust Grove Nature Center and Pauline Betz Addie Tennis Center near Democracy Blvd, watching out for poison ivy which threatens to encroach upon the trail. Caren trips and falls, scraping hand and knee. Bird watchers greet us. The MapMyRUN GPS app on the iPhone shows our route.

- Monday, May 28, 2012 at 21:26:43 (EDT)

2012-05-13 - MCRRC Run Aware 5k XC Race

~3.1 miles @ ~8.5 min/mi

In the last quarter mile of the MCRRC "Run Aware" 5k cross-country race I catch up with a little girl and, pushing hard, manage to pass her. I feel a little bad about that. But all guilt is soon erased when, finish line in sight, she puts on a burst of speed and sprints by like a rocket. It's 10-year-old Gabriella Ro Capizzi, who comes in 5 full seconds ahead of me. What a kick!

Since 9pm last night I haven't eaten anything, and I've only drunk water. This morning I'm scheduled to get some blood drawn for testing, in preparation for a routine physical exam. After the race I chat with speedy runner John Way and mention my excuse for my pitiful performance. "That's ironic!" John says. "FASTing makes you SLOWer!"

Today's run goes well, and afterwards I accompany Caren Jew for some extra mileage along the Cabin John Stream Valley Trail. Son Robin gets up early and joins me in the race. At my advice he trots along with Caren, and that pace-control strategy results in a good result in his first cross-country race.

The Garmin GPS trackfile shows the snaky route. The MCRRC official result puts me in 57th place of 187 runners, 46th of 95 males, 5th of 6 men 55-59 years old, a total time of 26:32. Had I been in the 60-64 age bracket I'd have been 2nd of 4. So much for hypotheticals!

- Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 04:24:36 (EDT)

Gentlemanly Response

Appropriate reply to an incendiary accusation: Abraham Lincoln (according to Recollections of President Lincoln and His Administration by Lucius Chittenden) once said, "A gentleman of your intelligence should not make such assertions." What a nice riposte!

(see also Cardinal Newman (2001-10-04), Marble Steps (2008-11-06), Team of Rivals (2012-01-07), ...)

- Friday, May 25, 2012 at 04:32:40 (EDT)

2012-05-12 - Bethesda Meet-Up

~10.5 miles @ ~10 min/mi

"Did you run Bull Run?" I ask the buff Asian dude as I pass him near the Rock Creek Trestle. "A few years ago," he admits. Aha! He turns out to be the same fellow I saw clad in the BRR olive-green shirt that matched my garb in Silver Spring during the 2012-04-28 - MBT iPhone GPS Test a fortnight ago! His name sounds like "Eugene", but looking in the VHTRC database afterwards I identify him as Yuji Funakoshi, a NOAA research scientist who finished BRR in 2009 in the amazing time of 8:03 and who appears in many MCRRC races far far ahead of me. (I am not worthy to pass him!) But perhaps he's sandbagging, or doing a long run?

In any case, I manage to stay slightly ahead of Yuji for the next mile, when I see Ken Swab approaching from the west. We turn back and trot together to the gate at the golf course, then reverse again and stop our watches at the CCT water fountain where Gayatri Datta meets us. Gayatri is clad in pink-trim shoes, socks, shorts, shirt, and chapeau (apologies for forcing that final alliteration). Santa Steve Scheurs stands beside me, and I joke that if observers cross their eyes we'll fuse together into a super-3D image. Barry Smith and Rebecca Rosenberg soon arrive, and so does svelte Sara Crum. Her plantar fasciitis is better now, thankfully. Together we run back through the Air Rights Building tunnel under Wisconsin Av, whereupon Ken leads us on a drunkards walk south to hilly Leland St. We diverge from it and at Beach Dr head north to East-West Hwy and then east again to Meadowbrook Stables for potty breaks.

At that point I apologize abandon the group, taking the long way home to get a distance safely above 10 miles. For the final quarter mile I accelerate to pull the average pace safely under 10 min/mi overall. The Garmin GPS trackfile vs. iPhone MapMyRun comparison gives distances 10.63 vs. 10.73 miles, a ~1% difference. Mile splits likewise fluctuate by 10-20 seconds or so. The Garmin says 9:56 ⇒ 9:14 ⇒ 9:29 ⇒ 10:05 ⇒ 9:27 ⇒ 11:05 ⇒ 10:57 ⇒ 10:23 ⇒ 9:28 ⇒ 10:14 and then 9:14 min/mi on the last fractional mile.

- Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 04:32:07 (EDT)

ZhurnalyWiki Anti-Spam Experiment

Spammers seem to be showing up again and leaving garbage on ZhurnalyWiki pages. The Oddmuse wiki engine's QuestionAsker extension, which I've been using for the past few years, blocks many troublemakers but at the cost of inconveniencing nice people by forcing them to answer silly questions. So a new experiment: using Oddmuse's Page Locking mechanism, from now on everybody will be able to add comments on "Comment on ..." pages, but only those with Editor passwords (or Admin passwords) will be able to edit pages. (If you want to be an editor, just ask! Post a comment requesting privileges, or drop an email to z (at) his (dot) com or any of my other addresses. Tell me what editor password you want, or let me send you one of my choice.)

To summarize the changes to ZhurnalyWiki:

See Spam Patrol for quick and easy instructions on how to get rid of trash yourself; see Oddmuse documentation pages Passwords and Page Locking for details of the $EditPass and $EditAllowed parameters.

- Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 04:37:30 (EDT)

2012-05-11 - Lake Artemesia Circuit

~3.5 miles @ ~8.5 min/mi

Big mistake: passing the fit young fellow who's just ahead of me at about mile 1 of the Lake Artemesia loop. Once the Old Guy is in front competitive juices kick in for both of us. I press to maintain a decent pace, hearing his footfalls close behind and peeking back at intervals to gauge my lead. But with no wrist-GPS to show speed I overdo it and after a mile slow to let him pass. "I'm dying here!" I pant. He pulls out an earbud and says, "It's my first time running this hard here" True, or just kind words meant to comfort an old codger? MapMyRUN on the iPhone afterwards says the splits are 8:41 — 7:42 (!) — 8:04 with a final cooldown fraction at slightly sub-10.

On Friday evening Robin and I drop off Gray's violin for the Prince George's Philharmonic dress rehearsal, then set off in search of someplace to run. We park at the usual place by Community Center and Paint Branch Elementary School and activate our respective iPhone run-tracking apps. I use a plastic cable bag from the new MINI Cooper Countryman glove compartment to protect my phone from sweat. On the way into the Lake loop I find four clean, empty zip-lock baggies on the ground — woot!

At the lake Robin goes clockwise, opposite to me. We meet about halfway around and again another fractional orbit. When I leave the lake to trot upstream on Paint Branch Trail he's not in sight, so I phone and turn back to meet him near the train track pedestrian underpass. He runs ahead to pull his average pace down.

- Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 04:33:28 (EDT)

Big Ideas

A late-night conversation during the long drive home from an ultramarathon ... an online chat with a distant friend ... an early-morning trail run. Chances to talk about important things, stuff that one doesn't usually mention. Maybe obvious. Doubtless better-said by others. Embarrassing to put into words. Kindergarten clichés. Redundant, non-orthogonal, overlapping.

But setting all that aside, there are perhaps three points:

What else belongs on the list?

- Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 18:53:27 (EDT)

2012-05-07 - UM Track Two Miler

~2 miles @ ~7.6 min/mi

Evening trot at the University of Maryland fancy cushioned track: the GPS trackfile says 2.11 miles with splits 7:20 & 7:01 but sticking to Lane #2 my watch shows mile splits of 7:40 & 7:22 which seems likelier. I manage to lap Robin a couple of times, but on the final 100 meters he out-sprints me — what a kick! Our reward, as usual, is salty-greasy food at nearby Marathon Deli in College Park.

- Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 09:16:16 (EDT)

Retirement Tips - 5

Final section from notes I took in a pre-retirement class, October 2010 (see Retirement Tips - 1, Retirement Tips - 2, Retirement Tips - 3 and Retirement Tips - 4 for more thoughts):

- Friday, May 18, 2012 at 04:35:17 (EDT)

2012-05-06 - CCT with Caren

~8.8 miles @ ~13.8 min/mi

"What's that sound?" Caren Jew asks as we approach the high trestle over Rock Creek. We hear something that resembles chirping. "Birds? Crickets? People?" Her last guess hits the target: there's an Avon Walk for Breast Cancer going through the neighborhood this Sunday morning, and from the Capital Crescent Trail we hear the cocktail-party-like chatter of hundreds of hikers streaming along Rock Creek Trail below. The noise reminds Caren of a scene in the film Sneakers — which leads Chatterbox Mark into disquisitions on the theme of impossible plot devices in movies including magic computer chips, time travel, the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics in Source Code, etc., etc. Caren is amused. She's coming back after a bout of bronchitis so we go slowly and, when the walkers join the CCT on the other side of Connecticut Av, engage some of them in conversation.

In downtown Bethesda the river of anti-breast-cancer walkers leaves the CCT to flow toward DC. Caren and I turn back at the sign marking mile 4.5 and on a whim I try to show her the starting point of the Bethesda Trolley Trail, which I visited a month ago (cf. 2012-04-01 - Bethesda Trolley Trail Loop). But after going a few blocks north along Woodmont Av in search of Norfolk Av, I lose confidence in my memory and we turn back, leaving a silly stub on the GPS trackfile. Our conversation continues diverse, fun, and edgy-uninhibited, as I work on being less dainty in my vocabulary among friends. We talk about family, work, career, life-goals, etc. During the homeward trek Caren is startled when a couple of Avon walkers greet her by name. It turns out to be a cluster of old friends. After sweaty hugs we're back on track. We pass the spot at the golf course where we both got stung a couple of years ago (cf. 2009-08-22 - Two Bees, or Not Two Bees) and muse about beekeeping as a possible next-career pursuit.

- Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 04:42:38 (EDT)

2012-05-03 - Lake Artemesia Loop

~2 miles @ ~8.4 min/mi

At 6:45pm Robin and I arrive at College Park to find an event going on at the Uniersity of Maryland track. Plan B: we drive through campus and park behind Paint Branch Elementary School. At the flagpole in front we start down the connector path to Paint Branch Trail, first at a slow warmup jog. Robin alternates minutes of walking and running. I accelerate into a brisk ~8 min/mi trot around the Lake Artemesia loop, where flocks of walkers and cyclists and joggers are enjoying the warm evening. The iPhone GPS shows the route. Robin takes the bridge connector route to save ~1/3rd mile, and we meet for a cooldown walk/jog back to the car and then dinner at Marathon Deli.

- Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 04:37:11 (EDT)

Metro Gate Impatience

Why does it bug me so much when, on the way into or out of the DC subway system, I'm stuck behind somebody who hesitates at the turnstile until it closes after the person ahead of them? They don't need to wait — they could save at least half a second if they just went ahead and scanned their fare card!

And yet I'm happy to pause for slow people to get off the elevator in front of me, and I cheerfully stop to give directions to befuddled tourists, etc., etc. Maybe it's the pointless inefficiency factor of the gate-waiters? Or the involuntary nature of the delay that they impose on me?

- Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 04:34:08 (EDT)

2012-05-02 - Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

~5.5 miles @ ~9.5 min/mi

Midweek in downtown Rockville, after dropping daughter Gray off at music practice: time for supermaniac ^z to do a quick-change into running clothes. No phone booth, so the handicapped stall in the public library restroom suffices. Feed the meter to the max, an hour, and set off down the Pike. Today is Construction Day, with backhoes and shovelers and mountains of dirt and orange cones and closed sidewalks. At the corner of Veirs Mill Rd on a whim branch into the cemetery in search of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. After circling through the northern side of the graveyard finally spy their graves, and learn the author's full name, "Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald". The flat slab on the ground above their final resting place bears the final lines of The Great Gatsby:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Then make haste before the parking meter runs out: Veirs Mill eastward to the Millennium Trail, north to Gude Dr, total a bit farther than planned. Pushing hard gets back with 4 minutes to spare on the ticking time bomb. Whew! The GPS trackfile says pace goes 10:16 ⇒ 8:53 ⇒ 9:23 ⇒ 9:26 ⇒ 9:27 ⇒ 9:01 for the final fraction.

- Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 04:52:36 (EDT)

Getting Things Done - Summarized

In "GTD Times", the official web site associated with David Allen's Getting Things Done time-management/productivity system, late last year a staffer posted an excellent summary of how to make GTD as simple as possible:

(cf. Mind Like Water (2011-12-24), ...)

- Monday, May 14, 2012 at 07:40:12 (EDT)

2012-04-29 - Lake Needwood Loop

~2.6 miles @ ~15 min/mi

"It's all about the trackfile!" I remind Robin and Caren Jew this afternoon as we circumnavigate Lake Needwood, sticking to trails rather than following the road along the eastern side. Caren is recovering from strep throat and bronchitis, so we take our time, walk the hills, and avoid tripping on roots. Poison ivy clings to trees and looms close to the narrow path. Two big geese honk at us. A rusty-cranked pedal boat squeaks along the water. This is the first weekend that kayaks, canoes, etc. are available for rent, according to the County park service. At the boathouse we see that pedal boats go for $6 per half hour; canoes, rowboats, and kayaks are $8/hour. The iPhone GPS trackfile says we cover 2.67 miles; Robin's different app agrees within a percent or two.

- Sunday, May 13, 2012 at 05:42:39 (EDT)

Retirement Tips - 4

From notes I took in a pre-retirement class, October 2010 (see Retirement Tips - 1, Retirement Tips - 2, and Retirement Tips - 3 for other suggestions and observations):

- Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 05:46:47 (EDT)

2012-04-28 - WOD Trail with Mary

~3.5 miles @ ~13.5 min/mi

Another comparison test between Garmin and iPhone gives 3.58 miles vs. 3.63 miles respectively, well within expected errors. Mary Ewell, like Caren Jew, has The Eye for wildlife: she spies rabbits and a groundhog. Other pedestrians point out a woodchuck in a tree, apparently feasting on berries. Mary hasn't run for weeks so today is a comeback. After I visit with comrade Eugene Miya of NASA/Ames and drop him off at Dulles Airport for his flight back to the San Francisco area, I go to Mary's home. We talk about family, and then she drives us to the W&OD trail where we walk 10 minutes to warm up, run 10 minutes, then alternate 5 minutes running and running.

- Friday, May 11, 2012 at 04:37:52 (EDT)

Ceaseless Society

In 2006 Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of several extraordinary books on mindfulness (Wherever You Go, There You Are, Full Catastrophe Living, ...), gave a lecture at MIT that's available on video via iTunes U ("The Ceaseless Society: Is 24/7 Good for Us?") and on the WGBH Forum Network. Kabat-Zinn talks about attention, duality, science, suffering, and the interrelationships between doing, thinking, being, and awareness. His style is gentle and his words are engaging. There are MIT techno in-jokes, musings about his years as a grad student, and thoughts on how mindfulness has helped people in the final stages of their lives. Some snippets, slightly edited for continuity, follow ...

... on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic:

... We work a lot with medical patients who have tremendous suffering. Our track record with the dead is not so good. So one of the sort of cardinal rules of thumb [...] on the people who come to our stress reduction clinic [is] that no matter what's wrong with you and no matter what the doctor sent you for, no matter whether it's prostate cancer, breast cancer, heart disease of one kind or another, back pain — as long as you're breathing, no matter what's wrong with you, from our perspective there's more right with you than wrong with you. OK? ...

... on being in the present:

... "I wish I knew this when I was a young person." It doesn't matter. Now is the only time that we're alive. So now is a good time. And the rest is all thinking. ...

... on Buddhism without Buddhism:

... This approach that we developed 27 years ago now at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center involves training regular people like you and me in Buddhist meditative practices without the Buddhism. Or, you could say, with the absolute heart of Buddhism, because Buddhism is about non-duality. So in a sense, if you make yourself into a Buddhist in your mind, [...] if you think you're a Buddhist, in a sense you're not a Buddhist.

If this is beginning to sound a little bit like Zen, that's why Zen sounds that way. They're trying to point to something that the intellectual capacity that we have can't figure out because it's jumping through another dimensionality ...

... on mindfulness meditation:

... It's about paying attention. Meditation, my working definition of it, to boil it down, [...] it's about paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. And that's called mindfulness, paying attention on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally. Ultimately, it stops being on purpose. ...

... on creativity:

... Creativity is mysterious, but one way to generate or tilt the probability of creativity is to cultivate more spaciousness in the mind, because thought tends to sort of contract and then get [...] stymied, when it can't get to the next thought.

And sometimes, if you learn how to just stand there, at what the Zen people in the Zen archery world call the point of highest tension — nobody could string or hold back Odysseus's bow except Odysseus, nobody — but when you can stand at the point of highest tension with your thoughts going nowhere and hold it in something bigger, wakefully, not necessarily in a dream, but actually wakefully, interesting connections seem to appear because they're already here.

But we are in some sense blind to them because our thinking itself acts like lenses and prevents us from seeing orthogonal opportunities, opportunities that are rotated in some way in relationship to the passive assumptions, to what's already known.

And what science is about is going between what's already known and the next that's going to be known — but how it is going to happen, and part of that is just an incredibly beautiful adventure. ...

- Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 04:55:27 (EDT)

2012-04-28 - MBT iPhone GPS Test

~11 miles @ ~9.7 min/mi

"Great shirt!" I compliment the young Asian guy I meet running along Second Avenue near downtown Silver Spring. By chance we're both wearing exactly the same outfit, an olive-hued Bull Run Run 50 miler finisher's top. Robins hop across the sidewalk. Roses bloom in profusion. Fuel along the way is a single root beer barrel. Breakfast beforehand was a Snickers candy bar and a cup of coffee. A lady on a park bench near Rhode Island Avenue smiles. Noisy cement mixer trucks cruise along Fort Totten Road. The Capitol dome gleams in the distance. The Catholic University law school building inspires, as always, with words of wisdom inscribed along the top of its façade.

The new iPhone 4 has a built-in GPS and so using the free MapMyRun app I set off at 0645 on a cool Saturday morning to compare it with the Garmin 205 wrist GPS unit. The results are quite close: iPhone says 11.23 miles and Garmin estimates 11.17, about 0.5% less. I divert to refill a water bottle at the only fountains seen en route, a community park in the Takoma neighborhood near the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Traffic causes long pauses at a few street crossings such as North Capital. The fishhook at the end of the run is to add a little mileage and avoid red lights. Pace accelerates in the final five miles. Splits by the wrist unit are 10:38 ⇒ 10:07 ⇒ 9:27 ⇒ 9:39 ⇒ 10:04 ⇒ 10:21 ⇒ 9:06 ⇒ 9:48 ⇒ 8:45 ⇒ 8:44 ⇒ 8:53.

- Wednesday, May 09, 2012 at 04:35:29 (EDT)

Empty Cup

The fortune cookie that comes with my egg fu yung on Sunday offers a thoughtful proverb:

The value of a cup is in its emptiness.

(cf. No Method (2010-01-21), Shul (2011-06-11), Zen Soup (2012-02-09), ...)

- Tuesday, May 08, 2012 at 04:50:29 (EDT)

2012-04-26 - Mile at UM

~1 mile @ ~6.9 min/mi

I miss the MCRRC Firebirds Mile track meet tonight (parental taxi duty), so instead after a warmup lap test my legs at the University of Maryland track. The result, after an initial 1:37 too-fast 400m, isn't pretty: 1:43 + 1:46 + 1:48 with that final split including the extra ~9 meters to make a full mile. Total = 6:54. Robin does a 100m sprint in a hair over 14 seconds.

- Tuesday, May 08, 2012 at 04:48:02 (EDT)

2012-04-22 - Rock Creek Trail

~6 miles @ ~11 min/mi

At Ken-Gar I arrive about 8am. Ken Swab is there a few minutes earlier, Rebecca Rosenberg and Barry Smith a bit later. We trot from milepost 7 to 10 and back (cf. GPS trackfile) with splits 11:17 ⇒ 11:01 ⇒ 11:20 ⇒ 10:55 ⇒ 10:49 ⇒ 10:29. I sprint ahead at the end to get my average pace down a hair below 11 min/mi; the watch reads 1:05:59 when I stop it. Rebecca and Emaad have the Big Sur Marathon next Sunday.

- Monday, May 07, 2012 at 04:39:27 (EDT)

There Are Three Points

A couple of months ago The Economist in an article "The French Elite: Old School Ties" commented about graduates of the prestigious university École Nationale d'Administration (ENA): "So-called énarques, who tend to be fiercely clever and answer questions with the phrase 'There are three points,' shrug off accusations of elitism."

Responding to any question with "There are three points" is, of course, quite proper:

So (with a bit of recursion) three points suffice!

(cf. TufteThoughts (2000-12-18) esp. Edward Tufte's threefold rules for giving a good presentation, ...)

- Sunday, May 06, 2012 at 13:30:28 (EDT)

2012-04-21 - MCRRC 5k Olney-Brookeville Race

~3.1 miles @ ~7.3 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/MCRRC_Olney_Brookeville_5k_2012_elevation.pngGPS trackfile elevation errors and a suppressed-zero graph exaggerate the terrain relief along the "Brookeville Capital for a Day" 5k MCRRC race course. But when running it, the hills are definitely noticeable, especially the huge downhill near the start that I blasted at ~6.5 min/mi, and the long climbs during mile 3 that pushed that pace toward 8 min/mi.
The GPS concurs with the course mile markers and says my splits are 7:00 + 7:08 + 7:40 and then a final ~0.11 mile at 7:08 pace for the overall estimated 7:15 min/mi. Not quite as good as the 2011-05-07 - Brookeville 5k Race result of 22:19 but I'm older, if not wiser, now ...

(photo by Jim Rich)


- Saturday, May 05, 2012 at 06:09:32 (EDT)

Errors vs. Bugs

A thoughtful essay (link thanks to Robin) by "celandine13" on LiveJournal is titled "Errors vs. Bugs and the End of Stupidity". The author begins with her piano master teacher Phil Cohn's clever comment: "A pianist has to be kind of schizophrenic. You have to believe in telekinesis. You have to believe you have the power to move your fingers with your mind." She argues that when you make a mistake at the piano, or elsewhere in life, the best explanation is not that you're a lazy bum of a person or simply bad at the task. And perhaps just practicing harder to get your random error rate down isn't quite the right approach.

Instead, celandine13 contends, a far more productive model is that mistakes are semi-deterministic bugs like those that appear in computer programs, not uncontrollable stochastic errors that come and go. Then a problem doesn't happen because a person is stupid or sloppy or otherwise un-good, but for a specific diagnosable reason, a flaw that can be identified and fixed. Piano teacher Cohn, for instance, approached mistakes deliberately and non-judgmentally. As celandine13 says, "pretending you can move your fingers with your mind is a kind of mindfulness meditation that can make it easier to unlearn the calcified patterns of movement that cause mistakes." Likewise, she suggests, in teaching learning-disabled students:

Maybe nobody's actually stupid. Maybe the distinction between "He's got a learning disability" and "He's just lousy at math" is a false one. Maybe everybody should think of themselves as having learning disabilities, in the sense that our areas of weakness need to be acknowledged, investigated, paid special attention, and debugged.

Sounds a lot like Jon Kabat-Zinn's description: "Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally." Or Ayya Khema's mantra, "Awareness, No Blame, Change", or Adrianna Weisman and Jean Smith's "No Self-Blaming" exhortations. Or Joshua Foer's comments on efficient practice as developing and testing hypotheses about one's failures. Or in a sillier vein the Homer Simpson advice, "You can't keep blaming yourself. Just blame yourself once, and move on."

- Friday, May 04, 2012 at 06:20:24 (EDT)

2012-04-16 - Ten Eighth-Mile Intervals at UM

~2.5 miles @ ~11.6 min/mi

220-yard repeats (halfway around lane #2 of a 400m track) on a Monday evening descend steadily in pace: 52 ⇒ 48 ⇒ 47 ⇒ 46 ⇒ 46 ⇒ 45 ⇒ 45 ⇒ 45 ⇒ 45 ⇒ 44 seconds. Robin is slower, and I wait 5-10 s for him at the end of each so we can walk together the half lap back to the starting line. But on the final interval despite my best effort he sprints ahead and finishes ~1 s in front, while running in lane #5 and thus going ~10m farther than me — bravo!

(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Thursday, May 03, 2012 at 04:44:34 (EDT)

Retirement Tips - 3

Job-hunting strategies, from notes I took in a pre-retirement class, October 2010 (see Retirement Tips - 1 and Retirement Tips - 2 for earlier installments):

- Wednesday, May 02, 2012 at 14:06:32 (EDT)

2012-04-15 - Rock Creek Trail with Rebecca, Emaad, and Barry

~10 miles @ ~10.6 min/mi

"I don't see the attraction of running more than 50k," Rebecca Rosenberg says, an hour or so into our run along Rock Creek Trail.

I laugh and ask, "Do you know how that sentence sounds to a normal person?"

Earlier this morning I'm late leaving home for the rendezvous. I phone Rebecca, who tells me that she and Emaad Burki and Barry Smith are about to start at Ken-Gar, RCT milepost 7 heading north. At Milepost 8 when I park the car they're nowhere to be seen. I walk about, phone, get no answer, try again, and eventually learn that the gang ran faster than anticipated and have already passed by. Forget about milepost 9! I head to the big soccer fields on Veirs Mill Rd near Aspen HIll Rd and start running south at milepost 10. A few steps later they materialize.

Much good conversation ensues as we return together to Ken-Gar where Barry, who last weekend ran two marathons, stops. Rebecca and Emaad and I continue downstream to milepost 5 and then return finally to milepost 7 at Ken-Gar again. Rebecca's offer of a ride back to my car is tempting but I resist. The solo run to milepost 10 where I began is brisk. Splits by my GPS: 10:54 ⇒ 11:54 ⇒ 10:52 ⇒ 13:25 ⇒ 11:00 ⇒ 11:02 ⇒ 11:12 ⇒ 9:00 ⇒ 9:05 ⇒ 8:42 — whew!

- Tuesday, May 01, 2012 at 04:42:51 (EDT)

Small Screen CSS Optimization

On an iPhone's small screen the zhurnaly.com main pages, the ^zhurnaly archive pages, and many ZhurnalyWiki pages are hard to read and/or unæesthetic. The architect of the Oddmuse Wiki, Alex Schröder, has a blog which sometimes comments on mobile device issues, and that recently led me to think about how to improve the zhurnaly.com Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) which advises browsers how to render a wiki page. The Oddmuse CSS discussion was extremely helpful. Changes to http://zhurnaly.css were guided by three principles:

Key modifications of http://zhurnaly.css were focused on making the font used on most pages a reasonable size on the mobile device screen, keeping embedded quotation blocks readable, and handling tables more gracefully. A CSS file can detect an iPhone browser by the logic "@media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px)". In words, the zhurnaly.com CSS now asks an iPhone to:

That iPhone-specific section of the CSS thus looks like:

@media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) {
    body { font-size: 300%; }
    table.user { font-size: small; }
    span.gotobar { font-size: small; }
    div.footer { font-size: small; }

The only other change to the Zhurnaly CSS, which applies to all browsers (not just iPhone's Safari) was to tell browsers to make the font used in quotation blocks relatively "smaller" than normal, rather than the absolute "small" size: "blockquote { font-size: smaller; }". These changes seem to improve the presentation of >80% of ^zhurnaly pages. Bug reports and suggestions for further improvements are welcome. So are comments on how other small-screen devices render pages. Thank you!

- Monday, April 30, 2012 at 04:46:32 (EDT)

I Q's

Is an I the same as a mind? Or mind + body? Or mind + body + surroundings? Where to draw a line?

Is a mind the same as a brain? Or brain + patterns of nerve impulses in the brain? Or brain + nerve impulses + other context? What happens when unconscious, dreaming, ...?

If an I observes its "own" mind's thoughts, is that observer-watcher the same I? Or a higher-level I?

Is an I necessary for "free will"? "Emotions"?

What are other questions to ask about an I?

(cf. MeanMeaners (1999-07-03), TheMysterians (1999-08-02), BitsOfConsciousness (2000-01-21), AlteredStates (2000-02-03), ColdHardMind (2000-02-09), ThoughtfulMetaphors (2000-11-08), UpheavalsOfThoughtRevisited (2002-12-13), DreamData (2003-03-22), StrangeLoops (2007-10-06), Contemporary Introduction to Free Will (2008-06-15), Buddhism Without Beliefs (2008-09-19), Unselfing (2009-01-14), Einstein on Self (2010-01-31), Valorization of Mind over matter (2010-05-06), The Watcher (2010-11-15), ...)

- Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 05:17:26 (EDT)

2012-04-14 - C and O Canal Towpath with Barry

~5 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/C_and_O_Canal_z_Barry_Smith_2012-04-14.jpgMy legs feel heavy after the 2012-04-14 - MCRRC Spin in the Woods 8k XC but although Barry Smith says his are likewise, he still wants some more mileage. So homeward across the Potomac we go to Carderock, for an out-and-back along the C&O Canal towpath. We branch after a mile onto a side path but it just leads to a parking lot, where a couple of deer wait for us to leave so they can cross. Erosion repairs block the course farther along and divert us up stairs to the Great Falls trail. We stop at about the half-hour point, Barry photographs the river below, and we jog back to his car.

(cf. GPS trackfile, ...)

- Friday, April 27, 2012 at 04:40:54 (EDT)

Emotional States

In Fully Present, a book by Susan Smalley and Diana Winston on mindfulness and meditation, part of Chapter 6 ("Feeling Bad: Dealing with Negative Emotions") muses on background and balance:

When we are not reacting emotionally, we are in a different physiological state of balance. We all know that balanced feeling—not high or low, not fear or joy, not anger or love, but simply nonreactive. Recognizing your bodily and mental experience in this state of not reacting emotionally is like recognizing the space between words printed on this page, or the background elements of a Picasso painting, or the space within a Frank Lloyd Wright building that makes it an architectural masterpiece.

Mindfulness is a tool for improving your discernment of emotional states (and the bodily changes that accompany them) when they arise. You can become a Sherlock Holmes of your feeling and their associated physiological changes. Through investigation, you can detect them earlier and with finer resolution. Lao-Tzu wrote in the Tao Te Ching, "Deal with a thing while it is still nothing." We all remember times when we could have stopped a situation from evolving into a big mess by catching ourselves—whatever it was we said or did—before the situation escalated. Catching your emotional reactions early, when they are still small, is a way to alter your actions to keep them from fueling difficult situations. Think of a time when you reacted emotionally and that led to big problems; later you probably saw how easy it would have been to just say or do nothing (just "act like a log"). When you pause between emotion and action, your words and actions are less likely to hurt yourself or others because you're able to circumvent or at least lessen your emotional reaction. And because we are only aware of the tip of the iceberg of emotional responses (a huge number of emotional reactions occur unconsciously), the process of discovery is likely to be never-ending. There is always an emotional reaction we are likely to miss.

Or, as good advice that someone like me especially needs to remember: pause before sticking a foot into it!

(cf. Rebalancing Doing and Being (2011-02-28), Breath and Awareness (2011-03-12), Come SAIL Away (2011-11-26), Equanimity (2012-02-01), ...)

- Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 05:01:26 (EDT)

2012-04-14 - MCRRC Spin in the Woods 8k XC

~4.7 miles @ ~9.5 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Tree_Scrape_Spin_in_the_Woods_2012_z_Dan_Reichmann.jpgThe GPS trackfile says a bit less than the official distance, but machts nichts as my German grandma would say. It's a lovely day for an intense run up and down the hills of Scotts Run Park in northern Virginia. Barry Smith kindly gives me a ride to the event. Before the start Catherine Howard introduces herself; she's a friend of Mary Ewell and a fast runner whose half-marathon PR is near 1:45. I start with Michelle Price in the middle of the pack. The double-loop loop course is slightly changed from past years (2007-04-07 - Difficult Run, Difficult Run 8k XC 2008, 2009-04-11 - Difficult Run XC) and replaces the super-steep initial hill with a series of lesser slopes that add up to the same elevation gain but reduce the single-track traffic jam somewhat. Nevertheless we're in a forced slow walk near the start until we get to wider spot.

Crawling under a fallen tree trunk I scrape my back as Warren Prunella wisely goes around and photographer Dan Reichmann captures the moment. The second lap I stay lower and survive. Other deadfalls are low enough to leap over or step on top of. GPS errors are fierce today; Barry's unit says 4.6 miles, and a couple of other finishers report 4.8 or so. Pushing hard on the final lap I pass a 10-year-old in the final mile. "Good run, Sir!" I pant. After the finish stinging flies keep us moving.

Arch-rival Tom Young finishes 5 full minutes ahead of me. Catherine Howard is first woman and comes in more than a minute in front of Tom. I pass Alex and Adam Dutchak during the long climb in lap 2 and fist-bump congratulate them after their finish. Ten-year-old Kyle Morin is a fast runner whom I only manage to sneak past during the final mile.

The official result:

50 41/69 3/6 189 Mark Zimmermann M 59 Kensington MD MCRRC 45:07 9:05

That is, 50th overall place, 41st of 69 men, 3rd of 6 in the male 55-59 age cohort, 45:07 total time.

- Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 04:34:25 (EDT)

Billion Wicked Thoughts

StatPorn: that's a one-word summary of A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World's Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire, a 2011 book by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam that I found on the new book shelf at the local library recently. It purports to be a statistical analysis of some huge data sets on Internet use of pornography, mega-samples of information extracted from search engines, surveys and usage logs. But there's no real discussion of self-selection, sampling errors, or bias, e.g., of the likely differences between people in general and the subset who dominate online porn-consumption.

Instead, the authors provide detailed examples and extensive, explicit quotations from a broad spectrum of erotica, along with annotated tabulations of popular search terms and pop-psychological "explanations", overgeneralized just-so stories that aren't justified in spite of the profuse notes and citations that occupy pages 247-383 of the hardback. It's rather reminiscent of the 1967 book The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris, a long-ago best-seller that similarly "explained" large swaths of human behavior based on loose evolutionary/socio-biological arguments. Both traded away rigor and nuance in exchange for drama and (the hope of) big book sales. Lead author Ogas is currently characterized in Wikipedia as "... a cognitive neuroscientist, science book author, and game show contestant". Hmmmmm ....

- Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 04:50:43 (EDT)

2012-04-12 - UM Track Four Miler

~4 miles @ ~7.7 min/mi

Four brisk evening miles in lane 2 of the University of Maryland track — 7:44 + 7:43 + 7:44 + 7:35 — while on the field nearby students practice discus, javelin, and shot put. Robin runs a 5k to test his pace.

- Monday, April 23, 2012 at 04:38:11 (EDT)

Retirement Tips - 2

More highlights from notes I took in a pre-retirement class, October 2010 (see Retirement Tips - 1 for Part 1):

- Sunday, April 22, 2012 at 05:56:01 (EDT)

2012-04-09 - Speedwork at UM

~3 miles @ ~8.5 min/mi

Wild west winds gust to 30 mph during evening laps at the University of Maryland track, with 800m repeats descending in a pretty pattern 3:54 > 3:49 > 3:40 > 3:39 > 3:38. See GPS trackfile for a boring map.

- Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 06:58:25 (EDT)

What Else

Walking to the Metro the other day, thinking about a problem, I caught myself saying, "What else?" to myself. Maybe it's a useful get-out-of-the-box method:

And so forth. What else should be on the list?

- Friday, April 20, 2012 at 04:35:14 (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), 0.9902 (December 2012-February 2013), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2012 by Mark Zimmermann.)