^zhurnaly 0.9929

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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in volume 0.9929 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 = 0.9928 ... 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

2017-11-11 - Stone Mill 50 Miler

~51 miles @ ~19 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Stone_Mill_great_blue_heron_catches_fish_2017-11-11a.jpg"I'm vicariously enjoying your warm bottoms!" says somebody sitting chilly in the back of the car while those in front enjoy seat heaters set to the max. Drs Kerry and Kristin join me at 0400 to ride to the 2017 Stone Mill 50 Mile Endurance Run. Temperatures are in the low 20's, and icicles soon form on my beard — brrrr!

We start at 0505, after a pause for pre-race selfies. Kerry wears bib 45, a number of special significance in her family history. At mile 3 in the woods a pair of green eyes blink at us, from a deer by the trail. A new Petzl headlamp makes night running much less scary.

At midrace a great blue heron stands tall in the C&O Canal. It plunges its beak into the water with a big splash, and as it come up Kristin shouts, "He got a fish!" A trio of male mallards paddle. Vultures circle overhead.

"That's one marathon down!" says a race volunteer, as we pass mile 26.2 on the towpath. It's K&K's first official ultra, though in training runs we've gone beyond 30 miles already. Today's random-click tarot card is the Six of Wands ("Success"!); the random-click mantra this morning counsels "It is what it is!" Great wisdom!

And our adventure turns out well. After a few dozen miles Kristin begins to suffer significant knee pain and wisely decides to drop at mile ~35, in an aid station where a ride can be summoned to get her back to her car. Kerry perseveres. Our pace is slow and we miss the critical mile ~42 cutoff by ~20 minutes. So we turn in our chips and continue unofficially. At about 9:10PM we finish, total time 16+ hours. It's all good!

Countless comrades pass by and cheer us along the way. Don Libes, on bicycle patrol at the Canal, is specially encouraging and funny.

(photo by A Lin at Pennyfield Lock)

Kerry & Kristin & Kase Guevara & Toni AurilioOn gravel Tschiffley Mill Road at mile ~29 we catch up with cheerful Kase Guevara and Toni Aurilio. This is precisely where I met them four years ago, running with "Tape Girl" Janet Choi during the 2013-11-16 - MCRRC Stone Mill 50 Mile Race. That day I snapped a photo of the trio flying happily along. Deja vu!

"11 - 2 miles — what does that mean?" asks someone as we pass a Seneca Creek Trail milepost a bit later.

"Uh, I think that's really 1 and 1/2 miles, written vertically," says someone else.

"Don't say 'Careful' right after somebody trips!" OK, it's a bad habit, but hard to break. We take turns stumbling. At mile 44 I fall, thankfully into a bush. Stream crossings are mostly uneventful, but some result in wet feet. Temps rise into the mid-30's by afternoon, then drop below freezing after sundown. At aid stations hot food is a delight: grilled cheese sandwiches, tater tots, quesadillas, and vegetarian miso soup. Yum!

In the woods we discover an arrangement of deer skulls wearing witch's hats near mile 40. Kerry poses with them; see for comparison 2014-03-08 - Seneca Creek Greenway Trail Marathon 2014 where they bore Santa caps.

"No way! Sorry to shine my headlamp into your eyes, Kerry, but I had to see your face. You can't be the mom of college kids!" says Ironman Shelley Sinclair. At mile 42 we meet her, exhausted and frustrated from going off course earlier and missing cutoffs. We escort her out of the aid station and guide her through the woods for the final nine miles. Shelley's hip hurts on uphills, Kerry's hip flexor is troublesome on downhills, so we walk along and chat in the dark, sharing candy and stories. At the end of the course we give her a ride back to her car.

Happy ending!



- Wednesday, December 06, 2017 at 05:14:01 (EST)

Pearl Harbor - Relevant and Irrelevant Signals

From Chapter 7 ("Surprise") of Roberta Wohlstetter's Pearl Harbor, good comments on hindsight and the false illusions it encourages:

... it is much easier after the event to sort the relevant from the irrelevant signals. After the event, of course, a signal is always crystal clear; we can now see what disaster it was signaling, since the disaster has occurred. But before the event it is obscure and pregnant with conflicting meanings. It comes to the observer embedded in an atmosphere of "noise," i.e., in the company of all sorts of information that is useless and irrelevant for predicting the particular disaster. For example, in Washington, Pearl Harbor signals were competing with a vast number of signals from the European theater. These European signals announced danger more frequently and more specifically than any coming from the Far East. The Far Eastern signals were also arriving at a center of decision where they had to compete with the prevailing belief that an unprotected offensive force acts as a deterrent rather than a target. In Honolulu they were competing not with signals from the European theater, but rather with a large number of signals announcing Japanese intentions and preparations to attack Soviet Russia rather than to move southward; here they were also competing with expectations of local sabotage prepared by previous alert situations.

In short, we failed to anticipate Pearl Harbor not for want of the relevant materials, but because of a plethora of irrelevant ones. Much of the appearance of wanton neglect that emerged in various investigations of the disaster resulted from the unconscious suppression of vast congeries of signs pointing in every direction except Pearl Harbor. It was difficult later to recall these signs since they had led nowhere. Signals that are characterized today as absolutely unequivocal warnings of surprise air attack on Pearl Harbor become, on analysis in the context of December, 1941, not merely ambiguous but occasionally inconsistent with such an attack. ...

- Tuesday, December 05, 2017 at 05:11:40 (EST)

Mantra - Quiet Fierceness


... the paradoxical combination of power and love, intensity and calm, strength and softness — another perfect dual/non-dual Yin-Yang complement!

... and from Chapter 21 ("Strong and Lasting") of Rick Hanson's collection of essays Just One Thing:

Notice how good it feels to be strong. Feel the pleasure in your body, perhaps a quiet fierceness and resolve. Enjoy the confidence that strength brings, the sense of possibility. Appreciate how your strength empowers your caring, protectiveness, and love.

- Monday, December 04, 2017 at 05:58:50 (EST)

2017-11-06 - Foggy Langley Ramble

~5 miles @ ~12.0 min/mi

"No, that's 'Arrested Development'!" - "No, that's 'The Middle'!" - Cait and Kerry gently disambiguate 'Modern Family' from other TV comedies that hash-table collide in the old mental database. Even with the change to Standard Time morning is dark enough for the Dawn Patrol to need flashlights for the first few miles. A new Petzl ACTIK headlamp is super-bright, beam backscattering in the fog. We share Thanksgiving family traditions ("Boston Market creamed spinach") and film recommendations ("Pieces of April").


- Saturday, December 02, 2017 at 01:54:39 (EST)

2017-11-05 - Phantastic Phall Phat Ass

~13.4 miles @ ~13.4 min/mi

"You get what you get, and you don't get upset!" Dr Stephanie quotes a child's mantra, great wisdom for all ages. We're midway through the "Phantastic Phall Phat Ass" half marathon, discussing self-actualization, aesthetics, relationships, openness, and much more. Trail time with a wise friend encourages such gentle philosophical dialogue. We also plan for upcoming races, report on injuries, and enjoy quiet time scanning for course markings and admiring the scenery. A physicist explains the secrets of the universe. (Hint: it's about patterns -- space, time, matter, energy, ...)

"All we can do is try to be kind!" Everybody has a different hand to play, some tougher, some easier. And kind-worthiness includes oneself as well as others. Autumn leaves flare red-brown-orange-yellow, slippery damp underfoot, concealing stones. A surreal slim statue stands at the edge of a meadow, canvas arms crossed, faceless torso crowned with deer antlers. A young woman holds an umbrella to protect against the drizzle as she sketches a barn. A broken bicycle decorates a tall tree stump.

"You will get wet!" organizer ("using the term loosely") Phil Epstein warns in his pre-race briefing. And he's right, with streams nearly knee deep at some water crossings. Rain yesterday makes "My Muddy Shoes" an apt name for the club that puts on today's event. Stephanie and I start out near the back of the pack and find ourselves alone for most of the morning. Awesome Mike Edwards chases us up the first hill and greets us again at the finish line three hours later. Ultraman Butch Britton is the grim sweeper whom we meet before the start and again at an aid station on our way back.

And it's all good ...


- Friday, December 01, 2017 at 05:22:26 (EST)

Change the Hearts

From Dr Martin Luther King Jr's speech "The Other America" at Stanford University in 1967, thoughts on helping one another become better people:

... although it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. Even though it may be true that the law cannot change the heart, it can restrain the heartless. Even though it may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, it can restrain him from lynching me. And I think that's pretty important also. And so while the law may not change the hearts of men, it can and it does change the habits of men. And when you begin to change the habits of men, pretty soon the attitudes will be changed; pretty soon the hearts will be changed. ...

(cf. Marble Steps (2008-11-06), MLK on Oneness (2015-01-30), ...)

- Thursday, November 30, 2017 at 05:23:02 (EST)

2017-11-04 - Bethesda Murals

~14.0 miles @ ~12.6 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Bethesda_mural_z_2017-11-04a.jpg"POSTfontaine, not Prefontaine!" Barry trots behind a pair of sirens, Gayatri and Rebecca, during a Reverse Taper out-and-back ramble along the Capital Crescent Trail, prep for his next weekend's Disney 10k and half-marathon. He quotes from the new Emily Wilson translation of Homer's Odyssey: "Tell me about a complicated man. / Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost ...". Patti Rich and Julie Trapp laugh at the idea that we could get lost on the linear bikepath.
Child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, brightens the horizon opposite a full moon that peeks between clouds. Hilly Leland Street features skeletons lounging in lawn chairs plus ghosts, cobwebs, and pumpkins. We pause for pics in front of Kelsey Montague murals in a Bethesda Row alley. Median mile split = ~12.4 minutes.http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Bethesda_mural_z_2017-11-04b.jpg


- Wednesday, November 29, 2017 at 05:34:07 (EST)

2017-11-01 - Meta-Blister

~5.2 miles @ ~11.6 min/mi

"A blister within a blister!" Caitlin describes one of the not-so-great memories from her first marathon, the 2017-10-22 - Marine Corps Marathon, run with her father and two of her brothers. And yet it has a happy ending!

Today's trek is a brisk one, as the Dawn Patrol rambles through Pimmit Hills and return via Lewinsville. Inflatable Halloween decorations lie flaccid on front lawns, though a few projectors still cast images of witches and spiders. An all-woman crew of highway workers puts up CAUTION signs along Great Falls Street. Bunny count = 0: apparently creatures great and small are too smart to emerge so early on a chilly morning.


- Wednesday, November 29, 2017 at 05:22:24 (EST)

Lines of a Story

The beautiful essay "These are the lines of a story" by Mary Martin Wiens tells of her body's changes over the years, with aging and carrying children and all the other stresses and accidents of life—and how the changes first troubled her, and then how she came to accept and embrace them as a history. It begins:

Throughout my twenties and thirties, I was able to gain and lose pounds with the best of them. But, I was always proud that the front part of my belly stayed flat and muscled ... a nod to the thousands of sit ups I did as a gymnast when I was a girl. But, having babies, particularly the twins, changed my flat belly forever. Like someone who has lost a hundred pounds, the skin does not go back again. My stomach hangs low. I can gather my belly in my hands, moving and shaping it like the sweetbread dough I make with my mother at Christmas. And then there are the stretch marks covering the whole front of my midsection. They are a hundred rivulets of red rain streaming down a window, pooling at the sill of my C-section scar in half-inch wide scars that look, to me, like burns.

... and when her three-year-old son asks about the lines on her tummy, she realizes the meaning of those scars:

We journey from a seed in our mother's womb until we are planted in the grave with ever-changing bodies. Time scratches out its passage across my looks and the looks of all those I love. All our lives, our bodies manifest evidence of an existence marked by gains and losses. We gain and lose pounds, muscle, bruises, teeth, and hair. We lose elasticity and gain wrinkles. We gain scars. Our bodies process and carry our experiences, not without complaint, but with an unfailing perseverance that is worthy of both gratitude and honor. And one of the very great privileges of this life is to cherish the bodies of those I love through all their gains and losses for as long as I get to have them. We do not get to have those we love forever. In that final losing, every turn of the head and expression of the face becomes poignantly precious. So, may I have eyes to see them now.

... and Mary Wiens concludes:

The healing in this story is not that I have wholly accepted my body or that I will never again attempt to change it. It is that now when rejection rises in me against my body—how it looks, how it feels—I have a fuller answer. I can call up the sounds, smells, movements, scars, wrinkles, and dimples of my dear ones and look at myself through the lens of that incomparable beauty. This gives me access to a programming deeper than my culture that reminds me that my being here in this world in a body matters. The touch of my hand on a shoulder, my hug, the soothing sound of my voice, and the warmth in my eyes are irreplaceable to those who carry me in their hearts. Our physical presence here matters, no matter its shape.

(cf. Shul (2011-06-11), Heartfulness and Mindfulness (2014-12-15), Mantra - Stand By You (2017-10-06), ...)

- Tuesday, November 28, 2017 at 05:06:39 (EST)

2017-10-30 - Northwest Austin Texas

~10.9 mi @ ~10.3 min/mi

"Buckle your seat belts! Stop fighting!" says a voice in the pre-dawn gloom, as kids pile into a minivan. Good advice for everyone! On Halloween Eve front yards feature skeleton families, jack-o-lanterns, spider webs, and ghosts. Children with bulging backpacks slouch on sidewalks awaiting school buses. Deer feast on garden flowers as a Texas sun rises blindingly bright. Ladybugs decorate a mailbox.


- Monday, November 27, 2017 at 04:32:15 (EST)

2017-10-28 - Sounds of Silencer

~8 mi @ ~13 min/mi

"!" and "!", say Emaad and Barry, grabbing their knees after running up "The Silencer", a legendary hill on Rock Creek Trail. Gayatri, more sensibly, arrives shortly after them. She starts early and does an extra loop around the KenGar neighborhood. Two deer watch us pass by.

"Icky!" Conversation includes analysis of recently-revealed beyond-inappropriate behavior by male humans in positions of power, plus comments on opioid addiction, political scandals, Einstein's brain, and dental work that several of us have enjoyed not long ago or face in the near future. Final mile is an ~8:10 blitz


- Monday, November 27, 2017 at 04:29:44 (EST)

Mantra - We're the Best

Are the

... no "I", no conflict, no rivalry — pure striving together to achieve greatness and glory ...

You push yourself and he pushes himself harder. I said, 'Naim, you're the best,' and he said, 'No, Valerios, we're both the best.'

(comment by Greek weightlifter Valerios Leonidis, quoted in the New York Times obituary of Turkish three-time gold Olympian Naim Suleymanoglu, from the video by Bud Greenspan "The Historic Battle for Atlanta Weightlifting Gold"; cf. Optimist Creed (1999-04-16), Running through the Wall (2005-01-23), Mantra - Be on Good Form (2016-05-10), Mantra - No Others (2016-06-27), Mantra - We Are One (2017-04-18), Ingressive vs Congressive (2017-07-08), ...)

- Sunday, November 26, 2017 at 06:56:47 (EST)

2017-10-27 - Downtown DC Dawn Patrol

~16.5 miles @ ~15 min/mi

Poolhouse Blues by Aniekan Udofia at Eastern Market Pool"Giant pumpkin centipede!" - "Skeletons!" - "Tombstones!" - "Spiderwebs!" The Dawn Patrol inspects Halloween decorations on Capitol Hill. Starting at Potomac Yard we run along the Mount Vernon Trail past National Airport and take the Memorial Bridge into DC.
Venus glitters next to the Washington Monument in the Reflecting Pool while sunrise begins over the National Mall. In Union Station iced coffee at McDonalds brings chills as temps rise slowly from the low 40's. At Eastern Market we buy cookies and admire artistic murals. Kerry pauses where she and her daughter took photos not long ago.

"Come behind the counter!" offers a happy seafood salesman on the waterfront, and gives us crabs to pose with. "Was this the adventure you asked for when we started today?" asks Kristin.



- Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 05:54:35 (EST)

2017-10-25 - Short Cut

~3.9 miles @ ~12.2 min/mi

"Oh-My-God!" Big startle, as with a mega-THWHACK a newspaper hits the driveway behind us. Dawn Patrol monitors Langley Forest via dark streets, sharing flashlights and memories, stepping aside as cars swoop by. Dr Kerry greets a neighbor who runs past, and who again meets us a mile later. "You must have taken a short cut!" he says. "No, we're just really fast when you're not looking!" we reply. Molly tells of her high school basketball squad, that finished in 6th place - out of 6 teams!


- Friday, November 24, 2017 at 05:45:02 (EST)

Mantra - It's a Blessing

    It's a

Stressful situations, bad news, ongoing problems, looming disasters, ... — alas, there are so many challenges in life! — not least of which is fretting about past woes and potential catastrophes.

But as a dear friend reminds, a crisis is also a chance to change, to remember the good, to touch the ground of existence, to give thanks, to hug one's friends (and self) closer, and to extend lovingkindness to a larger circle.

In the friend's words, re lonely angst and sadness:

"But I need only reach out to you, and you are always there. That makes loneliness turn into a blessing. Loneliness becomes an occasion to be reminded of the wealth I have in my bond ..."

... and to recall that we are never alone!

(cf. Mantra - Help, Thanks, Wow (2015-01-06), Mantra - It Is Our Practice (2015-07-20), Mantra - No Others (2016-06-27), Mantra - We Are One (2017-04-18), Mantra - We Got This (2017-09-13), ...)

- Thursday, November 23, 2017 at 05:59:49 (EST)

2017-10-22 - Marine Corps Marathon

26.2 miles @ ~13.6 min/mi

Marathon Maniac Experiment, Part Two: after yesterday's Baltimore 26.2 miler it's time to test the old legs in northern Virginia and Washington DC! Dawn Patrol buddy Caitlin, with her father Brian and brothers John Paul and Sean, arrive in downtown Rosslyn precisely as planned, at 7:17am, to meet Dr Kristin at the Metro there. Husband Bill and Mother Maureen are crewing, cheering, and chauffeuring.

We amble together to the zone for expected finish time 5.5+ hours, with pauses for photography along the way. Cait's brothers begin farther ahead, anticipating a faster pace; her dad hangs with us. Flag-carrying parachutists descend and US Marine Corps Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft roar low overhead. Crowds are dense and cheery.

before the start of the MCM 2017, Caitlin and Kristin and ^z
"Santa Steve" and ^z at sunrise before the start of the MCM 2017"It's Santa Steve!" Also awaiting the MCM's commencement is a local comrade with similar facial fuzz. We pose for selfies as the sun rises. "Don't Cross the Beards!" Nearby another friend, Sakurako (Sako) Narita, greets us. The howitzers go off, and 20+ minutes later we cross the starting line.

For most of the first half we average ~13 min/mi and arrive at the midpoint in 2:50. Sako runs ahead to join Maryland Marathon Maniac Ambassador amigo Barry Smith. About mile 10 we resync and trek together for a spell. Near mile 17 a spectator offers Oreo cookies. Yum!

On the National Mall we spy Cait's spouse and mom, who applaud and take more photos of us. At mile 20 we make the critical 14th Street Bridge cutoff with half an hour to spare. During a walk break there Nick, from the local training group, appears and taunts in his British accent: "It's the Montgomery County Road RUNNERS Club — not Road WALKERS!" He then awards me a pretzel. Thank you, Sir!

"We should slow down!" For the first 20 miles I'm Dr Jekyll, counseling prudence. Then I become Mr Hyde in the final 10k: "We can go faster!" and "Let's run to the next corner!" Method to the madness: with a bit of pushing, Kristin can make it under 6 hours, a major improvement to her marathon Personal Best.

And she does — brava! — we finish together in 5:56, happy and proud. Brian and Cait come in shortly thereafter, 6:03, with Barry near them. Brothers John Paul and Sean are 5:44 and 5:18 respectively.

Split data by watch and mile markers: 27:53 (first two), 12:50, 11:34, 26:46 (two), 13:07, 25:01 (two), 11:35, 13:40, 13:13, 12:42, 14:42, 13:34, 12:14, 14:30, 13:31, 14:58, 14:39, 13:13, 13:46, 13:49, 14:57, 15:44, 15:20, 2:40 (final 0.2 miles).

Kristin and ^z after finishing the MCM 2017 together


- Wednesday, November 22, 2017 at 04:52:25 (EST)


in the beginning — nothing
      in the end — nothing
            in between:
      "Look! — So pretty!"

(cf. This (2013-03-09), Mantra - This Is How It Is Right Now (2015-04-27), ...)

- Tuesday, November 21, 2017 at 05:42:51 (EST)

Pearl Harbor - Popular vs Alert

From Chapter 5 ("Washington Intelligence") of Roberta Wohlstetter's Pearl Harbor:

... A willingness to play with material from different angles and in the context of unpopular as well as popular hypotheses is an essential ingredient of a good detective, whether the end is the solution of a crime or an intelligence estimate. This sort of flexibility is probably not good for one's reputation as a sound estimator, since one index to sound judgment is agreement with the hypotheses on which current department policy is based. But intelligence will always be confronted with this choice: whether to be popular or alert.

- Monday, November 20, 2017 at 04:19:10 (EST)

2017-10-21 - Baltimore Marathon

26.2 miles @ ~11 min/mi

Baltimore Zoo raven at mile 4Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

As 2500 runners gather for the Baltimore Marathon, little do most of us know that within the first mile we'll pass within a block of Edgar Allan Poe's grave site. While we await the starting signal we're virtually all oblivious to the fact that we're standing within two blocks of Babe Ruth's birthplace. Small world!

The race today is Part One of an experiment in running two marathons on two days in a row. Marathon Maniacs' Maryland Ambassador and comrade Barry Smith lures me into this event several months ago — and then chooses the 5k for himself. Smart man!

And It's All Good! Early on Saturday morning Barry kindly drives me to the race. We pause for photos with other Marathon Maniacs, then go our varied ways.

As we stand near Oriole Park at Camden Yards pre-race a familiar voice calls out: it's Phil Hesser, ultrarunner-buddy. Others introduce themselves and chat. Then suddenly, we're off! Unlike in mega-marathons within two minutes we're across the starting line.

The course climbs northwest from near the harbor to Druid Hill Park where it enters the Baltimore Zoo. A volunteer ornithologist holds a raven perched on his fist — selfie time! Likewise near the exit from the zoo, when another volunteer displays a kookaburra.

After a meander in the highlands it's a long downhill again, back to the Inner Harbor area. We reach the turnaround at Under Armour's waterfront headquarters-campus, close to Ft McHenry of "Star Spangled Banner" fame. Then back around the harbor, across tricky-footing on a cobblestone traffic circle, and — déjà vu — memories arise from 2014-10-18 - Downtown Baltimore Ramble when by chance I was jogging through the marathon three years ago here. Small world, again!

Baltimore Zoo raven at mile 4
Baltimore Marathon medalClimb northwards again, circle Lake Montebello at miles 20-22. Give Succeed! electrolyte capsules to a couple of ladies who are cramping up. Then push the pace on the final glide-slope to the finish.

Cross the line in 4:47:42 net time, for an overall average pace of 10:58 min/mi. Official place 1219 of 2500, 773rd male of 1488, 5th of 29 in the 65-69 male age bracket. Splits from the timing mats:
    -   6.0 miles - 01:06:48 - 11:08 min/mi
    - 10.0 miles - 01:51:59 - 11:11 min/mi
    - 12.5 miles - 02:17:21 - 10:59 min/mi
    - 18.8 miles - 03:25:54 - 10:57 min/mi
    - 21.3 miles - 03:54:34 - 11:00 min/mi

Splits from the watch: 10:56 + 11:48 + 11:19 + 12:17 + 20:21 (two) + 10:48 + 10:29 + 21:10 (two) + 11:46 + 10:51 + 11:26 + 10:27 + 10:59 + 10:36 + 21:54 (two) + 12:36 + 10:54 + 23:30 (two) + 11:46 + 9:15 (?!) + 11:36 + 11:00.

Then find my way to the bus station and ride Peter Pan home. For some reason I have a row of seats all to myself. Hmmmm ...

Tomorrow: the Marine Corps Marathon!


- Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 05:42:50 (EST)

Tips for Aspiring Op-Ed Writers

Bret Stephens a few months ago offered "Tips for Aspiring Op-Ed Writers" in the New York Times — most of which apply to all writing. Slightly abridged, his list:

1) A wise editor once observed that the easiest decision a reader can make is to stop reading. This means that every sentence has to count in grabbing the reader's attention, starting with the first. Get to the point: Why does your topic matter? Why should it matter today? And why should the reader care what you, of all people, have to say about it?

2) The ideal reader of an op-ed is the ordinary subscriber — a person of normal intelligence who will be happy to learn something from you, provided he can readily understand what you're saying. It is for a broad community of people that you must write ...

3) The purpose of an op-ed is to offer an opinion. It is not a news analysis or a weighing up of alternative views. It requires a clear thesis, backed by rigorously marshaled evidence, in the service of a persuasive argument. ...

4) Authority matters. Readers will look to authors who have standing, either because they have expertise in their field or unique experience of a subject. If you can offer neither on a given topic you should not write about it, however passionate your views may be. ...

5) Younger writers with no particular expertise or name recognition are likelier to get published by following an 80-20 rule: 80 percent new information; 20 percent opinion.

6) An op-ed should never be written in the style of a newspaper column. A columnist is a generalist, often with an idiosyncratic style, who performs for his readers. An op-ed contributor is a specialist who seeks only to inform them.

7) Avoid the passive voice. Write declarative sentences. Delete useless or weasel words such as "apparently," "understandable" or "indeed." Project a tone of confidence, which is the middle course between diffidence and bombast.

8) Be proleptic, a word that comes from the Greek for "anticipation." That is, get the better of the major objection to your argument by raising and answering it in advance. Always offer the other side's strongest case, not the straw man. Doing so will sharpen your own case and earn the respect of your reader.

9) Sweat the small stuff. Read over each sentence — read it aloud — and ask yourself: Is this true? Can I defend every single word of it? Did I get the facts, quotes, dates and spellings exactly right? ...

10) You're not Proust. Keep your sentences short and your paragraphs tight.

11) A newspaper has a running conversation with its readers. Before pitching an op-ed you should know when the paper last covered that topic, and how your piece will advance the discussion.

12) Kill the clichés. ...

13) If you find writing easy, you're doing it wrong. One useful tip for aspiring writers comes from the film "A River Runs Through It," in which the character played by Tom Skerritt, a Presbyterian minister with a literary bent, receives essays from his children and instructs them to make each successive draft "half as long." ...

14) The editor is always right. She's especially right when she axes the sentences or paragraphs of which you're most proud. ...

15) I'd wish you luck, but good writing depends on conscious choices, not luck. Make good choices.

... and Be Metacognitive — develop mental models of your readers and their thinking, then think seriously about how your words will change their thinking. Don't antagonize or irritate to make yourself feel better, and don't flatter or fawn to hide flaws.

(cf. How to Write (2000-11-28), Iambic Honesty 1 (2001-04-23), Relentlessly Linear (2005-07-23), Rules for Writing (2010-03-07), Rule of 200 (2010-08-25), Brainpickings Tidbits (2012-07-31), ...)

- Saturday, November 18, 2017 at 05:44:40 (EST)

Spoon-ness and and Ball-ness and Block-ness

A beautiful scene of teaching and attention and love — which may not make as much sense without the preceding hundreds of pages of Roger Zelazny's extraordinary sf novel Lord of Light — wherein one character is trying to help a mentally injured child learn:

The girl sat on the floor, a heap of various objects before her. She was scarcely more than a child, and she hugged a brown and white puppy and looked at Kubera with wide, frightened eyes, until he gestured and she smiled.

"Kubera," said Yama.

"Koo-bra," said the girl.

"She is my daughter," said Yama. "Her name is Murga."

"I never knew you had a daughter."

"She is retarded. She suffered some brain damage."

"Congenital, or transfer effect?" asked Kubera.

"Transfer effect."

"I see."

"She is my daughter," repeated Yama, "Murga."

"Yes," said Kubera.

Yama dropped to his knees at her side and picked up a block.

"Block," he said.

"Block," said the girl.

He held up a spoon. "Spoon," he said.

"Spoon," said the girl.

He picked up a ball and held it before her. "Ball," he said.

"Ball," said the girl.

He picked up the block and held it before her again. "Ball," she repeated.

Yama dropped it.

"Help me, Kubera," he said.

"I will, Yama. If there is a way, we will find it."

He sat down beside him and raised his hands. The spoon came alive with spoon-ness and the ball with ball-ness and the block with block-ness, and the girl laughed. Even the puppy seemed to study the objects.

"The Lokapalas are never defeated," said Kubera, and the girl picked up the block and stared at it for a long time before she named it.

(a lokapala is a "Guardian of the World"; cf. Josh Wanisko's review-essays esp. "Where there had been darkness...: Roger Zelazny Book Review: Lord of Light, Part VI - The Lokapalas are never defeated", and Hindu vs Buddhist (2008-01-01), Lord of Light (2010-04-12), Science vs. Fantasy (2010-04-28), ...)

- Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 06:31:08 (EST)

2017-10-19 - Croissant Moon

~5.6 miles @ ~11.8 min/mi

"Croissant Moon!" observes Kristin as the Dawn Patrol stretches post-run. The thready 2%-illuminated arc fades into the sunrise low in the east, just below sparkly Venus. "Where's the nearest bakery?" asks Cait. Warm pastries would be welcome after a brisk run in chilly weather! We survey early Halloween decorations in Pimmit Hills and share some Bad Family Nicknames. Kids do sometimes say the dearest-darnedest things!


- Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 04:47:22 (EST)

Passage to India - God Si Love

From Part III Chapter XXXIII of E M Forster's Passage to India, on happiness and the Universe:

Down in the sacred corridors, joy had seethed to jollity. It was their duty to play various games to amuse the newly born God, and to simulate his sports with the wanton dairymaids of Brindaban. Butter played a prominent part in these. When the cradle had been removed, the principal nobles of the state gathered together for an innocent frolic. They removed their turbans, and one put a lump of butter on his forehead, and waited for it to slide down his nose into his mouth. Before it could arrive, another stole up behind him, snatched the melting morsel, and swallowed it himself. All laughed exultantly at discovering that the divine sense of humour coincided with their own. "God si love!" There is fun in heaven. God can play practical jokes upon Himself, draw chairs away from beneath His own posteriors, set His own turbans on fire, and steal His own petticoats when He bathes. By sacrificing good taste, this worship achieved what Christianity has shirked: the inclusion of merriment. All spirit as well as all matter must participate in salvation, and if practical jokes are banned, the circle is incomplete. Having swallowed the butter, they played another game which chanced to be graceful: the fondling of Shri Krishna under the similitude of a child. A pretty red and gold ball is thrown, and he who catches it chooses a child from the crowd, raises it in his arms, and carries it round to be caressed. All stroke the darling creature for the Creator's sake, and murmur happy words. The child is restored to his parents, the ball thrown on, and another child becomes for a moment the World's desire. And the Lord bounds hither and thither through the aisles, chance, and the sport of chance, irradiating little mortals with His immortality. . . . When they had played this long enough—and being exempt from boredom, they played it again and again, they played it again and again—they took many sticks and hit them together, whack smack, as though they fought the Pandava wars, and threshed and churned with them, and later on they hung from the roof of the temple, in a net, a great black earthenware jar, which was painted here and there with red, and wreathed with dried figs. Now came a rousing sport. Springing up, they struck at the jar with their sticks. It cracked, broke, and a mass of greasy rice and milk poured on to their faces. They ate and smeared one another's mouths and dived between each other's legs for what had been pashed upon the carpet. This way and that spread the divine mess, until the line of schoolboys, who had somewhat fended off the crowd, broke for their share. The corridors, the courtyard, were filled with benign confusion. Also the flies awoke and claimed their share of God's bounty. There was no quarrelling, owing to the nature of the gift, for blessed is the man who confers it on another, he imitates God. And those "imitations," those "substitutions," continued to flicker through the assembly for many hours, awaking in each man, according to his capacity, an emotion that he would not have had otherwise. No definite image survived; at the Birth it was questionable whether a silver doll or a mud village, or a silk napkin, or an intangible spirit, or a pious resolution, had been born. Perhaps all these things! Perhaps none! Perhaps all birth is an allegory! Still, it was the main event of the religious year. It caused strange thoughts. Covered with grease and dust, Professor Godbole had once more developed the life of his spirit. He had, with increasing vividness, again seen Mrs. Moore, and round her faintly clinging forms of trouble. He was a Brahman, she Christian, but it made no difference, it made no difference whether she was a trick of his memory or a telepathic appeal. It was his duty, as it was his desire, to place himself in the position of the God and to love her, and to place himself in her position and to say to the God, "Come, come, come, come." This was all he could do. How inadequate! But each according to his own capacities, and he knew that his own were small. "One old Englishwoman and one little, little wasp," he thought, as he stepped out of the temple into the grey of a pouring wet morning. "It does not seem much, still it is more than I am myself."

- Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 05:33:00 (EST)

2017-10-15 - Rock Creek Trot

~12.5 mi @ ~13.4 min/mi

"Philatelists want to stamp out numismatists, to coin a phrase", puns Ken. He and Emaad trot ahead of Barry and Gayatri along Rock Creek Trail. The morning is cool and hyper-humid. Banter includes Big Pharma and the opioid crisis in small-town America ("Why do you think he was called 'Opie' on the 'Andy Griffith Show'?"), injuries ("On a pain scale of 0 to 10, how's your foot?"), and upcoming birthdays and races. We cheer running groups as they pass. Caitlin spots us and texts as she and her husband drive by. Hill repeats are therapeutic on the KenGar neighborhood side trail.


- Monday, November 13, 2017 at 05:28:55 (EST)

Pearl Harbor - Pregnant with Decisions

From Chapter 4 ("Signals and Noise at Home") of Roberta Wohlstetter's Pearl Harbor, a comic-poetic turn of phrase:

The sense of being assailed by conflicting opinions and advice, all aggressively and persuasively expressed, may also have characterized the President's state of mind in these last weeks. At any rate, this state of mind (combined with his absorption in European affairs) makes more understandable the absence from the record of his personal reactions to the Far Eastern situation. In reading the memoirs of the men surrounding the President, one finds a constant preoccupation with the puzzle of what was going on in the President's mind. What did that smile or that raised eyebrow or that grim look actually betoken? A few of these advisers complained that they could not get a straight deal from the President, but most of them watched and waited patiently, as if the President were pregnant with decisions, and only God knew the moment at which the birth was due. ...

- Sunday, November 12, 2017 at 08:15:16 (EST)

2017-10-13 - Weenie Beenie and Mount Vernon

~20.9 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

"That's 0-for-Friendly!" observes Kristin, after the first four cyclists swoop by without returning our "Good morning!" greetings. At 0538 the dynamic Dawn Patrol duo meets at Potomac Yard Center and begins with a brisk trek upstream along Four Mile Run. At Mile Zero of the W&OD Trail we visit the one and only original "Weenie Beenie" and pause to study the menu. Not much vegetarian fare!

Backtrack, and at ~0700 join Eileen. As the sky brightens, proceed down the Mount Vernon Trail to mile marker 6. Gulls and herons decorate the Potomac River; skeletons climb up the outside of a townhouse in Alexandria. Back at Four Mile Run, Eileen heads north to log additional miles. Brava!


- Saturday, November 11, 2017 at 02:24:16 (EST)

2017-10-11 - Ballet Fatigue

~6.6 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

"I'm all Nutcrackered out!" says Molly, having seen far too many children's recital performances of the Tchaikovsky ballet. The Dawn Patrol rambles past McLean High School, does a segment on the track, and continues via cut-throughs into nearby neighborhoods. Intermittent drizzle slowly ramps up toward light rain. Kristin recaps Sunday's Army 10 Miler and sketches out plans for a potential long run on Friday. As we pass our starting point at mile 3.8 Molly peels off. Kids await school buses in the gloom. We greet dogs guarding their homes and admire tropical plants in front yards.


- Friday, November 10, 2017 at 06:05:41 (EST)

Emily Wilson's Odyssey

Emily Wilson, professor of classics at the University of Pennsylvania, has made a new translation of Homer's Odyssey into English. It begins:

Tell me about a complicated man.
Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost
when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy,
and where he went, and who he met, the pain
he suffered in the storms at sea, and how
he worked to save his life and bring his men
back home. He failed to keep them safe; poor fools,
they ate the Sun God's cattle, and the god
kept them from home. Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.
Find the beginning. ...

And from Wilson's "Translator's Note":

... The poem is concerned, above all, with the duties and dangers involved in welcoming foreigners into one's home. I hope my translation will enable contemporary readers to welcome and host this foreign poem, with all the right degrees of warmth, curiosity, openness, and suspicion.

There is a stranger outside your house. He is old, ragged, and dirty. He is tired. He has been wandering, homeless, for a long time, perhaps many years. Invite him inside. You do not know his name. He may be a thief. He may be a murderer. He may be a god. He may remind you of your husband, your father, or yourself. Do not ask questions. Wait. Let him sit on a comfortable chair and warm himself beside your fire. Bring him some food, the best you have, and a cup of wine. Let him eat and drink until he is satisfied. Be patient. When he is finished, he will tell you his story. Listen carefully. It may not be as you expect.

(cf. Slaughter in the Hall (2006-01-11, ...)

- Thursday, November 09, 2017 at 05:35:27 (EST)

2017-10-09 - Monday Dawn Patrol

~4 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

"Like Oz!" Kerry describes magical-wonderful sights at a weekend equestrian event near Asheville NC that she attended — followed by a wild night drive up a winding mountain road, a flat tire, a foggy return trip in a big pickup truck, and even more adventures. And it all ends well! Ditto Kristin's tough Army 10 Miler yesterday, where despite heat and humidity and dense crowds the run is fun and fast. Brava! And this morning, gloomy drizzle turns into solid rain as the Dawn Patrol meanders through Pimmit Hills, sharing and enjoying. And it all ends well!


- Wednesday, November 08, 2017 at 05:51:28 (EST)

2017-10-08 - Home Run

~12 miles @ ~12.2 min/mi

"... aimed directly at a picture of Max Scherzer that stands more than 500 feet away on the right field concourse!" Ken quotes Thomas Boswell's description of a titanic home run at last night's baseball game, then goes on to recount the pitch-by-pitch story of the 8th inning that he witnessed. Barry and Rebecca trot alongside. The remnants of Hurricane Nate make for a hyper-humid warm morning with intermittent light showers. Following the Capital Crescent Trail we ramble to the DC line, then turn back.

"Look!" Barry spies a huge red-brown fox crossing the CCT; we pause to admire it as it lurks near Little Falls Branch. Earlier on the way to Bethesda a friendly 1.5-foot-long eastern garter snake slithers across Rock Creek Trail toward a swamp. Further downstream half a dozen deer saunter in the opposite direction seeking a suburban garden buffet.


- Tuesday, November 07, 2017 at 04:48:52 (EST)

2017-10-07 - Virtues and Flourishing

~12.2 miles @ ~15.3 min/mi

"Every time I finish a 100 miler, I shed something!" Dr Stephanie observes. Perhaps like a snake, shedding its skin in order to grow? We philosophize along the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail. Virtues are praised: intelligence and generosity; energy and equanimity; patient kindness, passionate love and personal growth; spiritual beauty and wise judgment. So few people possess more than a few. We resolve to make more time to cherish those who deserve our respect, and give thanks for friends who help us flourish and bring out the best in others.

"Rust and chartreuse!" Ferns crowd the pathway, fading into autumn hues. A fuzzy brown-and-black caterpillar curls up like a comma when cradled in the palm. High grass makes for tick-lish anxious moments as it brushes against calves. Highway traffic rumbles on bridges overhead. Blisters tingle and tendons twinge.

"I look up to you, Mike!" Fist-bump congratulations punctuate a happy surprise meeting at mile 7. Jet-lag plus an alarm set to California Time explain a late start. We take turns leading the way back, chatting about lessons-learned in various races, sharing hopes and plans. Moleskin, benzoyl peroxide, and Tailwind compete with Leukotape, Cheetos, and Gatorade. The battle of compliments and self-deprecation ends in a draw. Fun on the trail!


- Monday, November 06, 2017 at 04:45:51 (EST)

Passage to India - Beauty and Form

From Part II Chapter XXXII of E M Forster's Passage to India, echoes of James Joyce in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man commenting on structure and æsthetics, necessity and chaos and creativity:

Egypt was charming—a green strip of carpet and walking up and down it four sorts of animals and one sort of man. Fielding's business took him there for a few days. He re-embarked at Alexandria—bright blue sky, constant wind, clean low coast-line, as against the intricacies of Bombay. Crete welcomed him next with the long snowy ridge of its mountains, and then came Venice. As he landed on the piazzetta a cup of beauty was lifted to his lips, and he drank with a sense of disloyalty. The buildings of Venice, like the mountains of Crete and the fields of Egypt, stood in the right place, whereas in poor India everything was placed wrong. He had forgotten the beauty of form among idol temples and lumpy hills; indeed, without form, how can there be beauty? Form stammered here and there in a mosque, became rigid through nervousness even, but oh these Italian churches! San Giorgio standing on the island which could scarcely have risen from the waves without it, the Salute holding the entrance of a canal which, but for it, would not be the Grand Canal! In the old undergraduate days he had wrapped himself up in the many-coloured blanket of St. Mark's, but something more precious than mosaics and marbles was offered to him now: the harmony between the works of man and the earth that upholds them, the civilization that has escaped muddle, the spirit in a reasonable form, with flesh and blood subsisting. Writing picture post-cards to his Indian friends, he felt that all of them would miss the joys he experienced now, the joys of form, and that this constituted a serious barrier. They would see the sumptuousness of Venice, not its shape, and though Venice was not Europe, it was part of the Mediterranean harmony. The Mediterranean is the human norm. When men leave that exquisite lake, whether through the Bosphorus or the Pillars of Hercules, they approach the monstrous and extraordinary; and the southern exit leads to the strangest experience of all. Turning his back on it yet again, he took the train northward, and tender romantic fancies that he thought were dead for ever, flowered when he saw the buttercups and daisies of June.

(cf. Art and Ideas (2001-09-01), Make Mistakes (2013-02-27), Winter's Tale on Music Everywhere (2014-12-23), ...)

- Sunday, November 05, 2017 at 05:47:25 (EST)

2017-10-06 - Pre-Taper

~7.7 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

"Oooh, a new Bake Shop!" Kerry exclaims. But wait a mo: peering through the gloom, upon closer exam it's a new BIKE Shop on the far side of Route 7. Bummer! So the Dawn Patrol continues in its quest for Starbucks. After a pause and iced coffee at mile 3, feet lead along the W&OD trail into a peachy-pastel sunrise. Cait describes her little niece Riley's latest adventure, wee hand reaching up over her head to grab a cup from the high table. Bicycles zip past, giving polite warning.

"Later today!" Kristin promises to begin her taper for Sunday's Army 10 Miler. A gibbous moon pokes through the clouds as Venus sparkles near Mars. Somebody reports on his proud self-restraint: "I didn't buy ice cream yesterday on the way home - only sorbet and gelato!"


- Saturday, November 04, 2017 at 05:22:15 (EDT)

Thinking in Systems

Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows (1941-2001) is an enthusiastic introduction to system dynamics — sources, sinks, stocks, flows, delays, and all the other elements that make up causal feedback loops both positive and negative. The book is also a labor of love by friends who pulled it together after her untimely death. It's impossible to summarize, but a list from Chapter 6 ("Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System") gives some of the flavor, a summary of where to think productively at the systems level:

12. Numbers—Constants and parameters such as subsidies, taxes, standards
11. Buffers—The sizes of stabilizing stocks relative to their flows
10. Stock-and-Flow Structures—Physical systems and their nodes of intersection
9. Delays—The lengths of time relative to the rates of system changes
8. Balancing Feedback Loops—The strength of the feedbacks relative to the impacts they are trying to correct
7. Reinforcing Feedback Loops—The strength of the gain of driving loops
6. Information Flows—The structure of who does and does not have access to information
5. Rules—Incentives, punishments, constraints
4. Self-Organization—The power to add, change, or evolve system structure
3. Goals—The purpose or function of the system
2. Paradigms—The mind-set out of which the system–its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters–arises
1. Transcending Paradigms

That last (or first?!) one is especially important and powerful and meta — and worth pondering. In more detail:

There is yet one leverage point that is even higher than changing a paradigm. That is to keep oneself unattached in the arena of paradigms, to stay flexible, to realize that no paradigm is "true," that every one, including the one that sweetly shapes your own worldview, is a tremendously limited understanding of an immense and amazing universe that is far beyond human comprehension. It is to "get," at a gut level, the paradigm that there are paradigms, and to see that that itself is a paradigm, and to regard that whole realization as devastatingly funny. It is to let go into not-knowing, into what the Buddhists call enlightenment.

People who cling to paradigms (which means just about all of us) take one look at the spacious possibility that everything they think is guaranteed to be nonsense and pedal rapidly in the opposite direction. Surely there is no power, no control, no understanding, not even a reason for being, much less acting, embodied in the notion that there is no certainty in any worldview. But, in fact, everyone who has managed to entertain that idea, for a moment or for a lifetime, has found it to be the basis for radical empowerment. If no paradigm is right, you can choose whatever one will help to achieve your purpose. If you have no idea where to get a purpose, you can listen to the universe.

It is in this space of mastery over paradigms that people throw off addictions, live in constant joy, bring down empires, get locked up or burned at the stake or crucified or shot, and make impacts that last for millennia.

In a metacognitive box:

... to "get," at a gut level, the paradigm that there are paradigms, and to see that that itself is a paradigm, and to regard that whole realization as devastatingly funny. It is to let go into not-knowing ...

Yes, and ...

(cf. Transient Behavior (1999-05-11), Mean Meaners (1999-07-03), Complexity from Simplicity (1999-08-05),In Stability (1999-08-20), Multiplier Fallacies (2000-03-21), Epistemological Enginerooms (2000-08-10), Fifth Disciplinarians (2000-09-10), Invisible Instabilities (2001-02-24), OptiMizers (2001-04-01), Ceteris Paribus (2003-09-14), Feed or Feedback (2004-09-06), Control Theory of Taiji (2014-07-23), Feedback Loops and Delay Lines (2010-11-10), Forecasting Lessons from Systems Dynamics (2017-07-05), Systems Dynamics Advice (2017-07-12), ...)

- Friday, November 03, 2017 at 05:57:35 (EDT)

2017-10-04 - Dry Ice and Marshmallows

~4.9 miles @ ~15.4 min/mi

"The ground here is just too slippery!" Caitlin declares. Acorns and walnuts decorate the pathways and make for treacherous footing, so the Dawn Patrol extends walk breaks and watches the eastern sky brighten through blushing pink into nectarine orange. Kerry describes weekend plans for an epic odyssey, a solo drive to join her sister in Asheville NC for a top-level equestrian event. Deer amble across Windy Hill Road in the gloom.

"Dry ice and marshmallows!" Kristin tells of a "Mad Scientist" kids' educational Halloween show. Cars zip by as we step as far out of the way as we can along a sidewalkless commuter route. One honks, long and loud, after it has passed us. A school bus backs into a dead-end side street to safely reverse course.


- Thursday, November 02, 2017 at 05:16:55 (EDT)

Pearl Harbor - Ambiguity

From the end of Chapter 3 ("Magic") of Roberta Wohlstetter's Pearl Harbor:

The point is that the puzzle is never complete. The signals that the local commanders later argued were muffled and fraught with uncertainty are the ones they viewed before the event. The signals that seem to stand out and scream of the impending catastrophe are the ones learned about only after the event, when they appear stripped of other possible meanings.

All decisions are made in the face of uncertainty, even those that depend simply on an understanding of natural phenomena. But decisions based on reading the intentions of others, and in particular, the intentions of an enemy, are especially difficult. These intentions are complicated and shifting, and subject to change between the time the intent is signalized and the time of the intended act. Sometimes they are also deliberately obscured, or invented to mislead, as in the case of bluffing. At least in reading natural phenomena, we have Albert Einstein's famous assurance that God is subtle but not plain mean. The same cannot be said for the enemy.

- Wednesday, November 01, 2017 at 04:19:32 (EDT)

2017-09-29 - Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run

~100 miles @ ~17.5 min/mi


With a dear friend, five months after the 2017-04-29 - C and O Canal 100 Miler, starting on my 65th birthday: another 100 miler finish, in a little over 29 hours. Like the first: no expectations, no goals. It is as it is. We just say "Yes". And it's all good.

Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run - photo of Stephanie Fonda and Mark Zimmermann by Glenn TachiyamaAt 2am Dr Stephanie Fonda begins singing classic-rock oldies with me: "Brown Eyed Girl" - "Here Comes the Sun" - "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" - "Bad Moon on the Rise" - "Homeroom Angel" - "Peace Train" - "Moonshadow" - "Goin' to Carolina in My Mind" - and more. When we don't remember the lyrics we make them up, or mumble.

We're at mile ~75 of the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run, and we're having fun together. The Yeti follows the lovely Virginia Creeper Trail, a rail-to-trail path near the Tennessee and North Carolina borders in southwestern Virginia. Our journey begins at 7am on Friday morning, after a van ride to Whitetop Station. The course is simplicity itself: start at Whitetop, run ~33.5 miles to Abingdon, turn around and go back to Whitetop, then return to Abingdon to finish.

Yeti race director Jason Green has an awesome Zen attitude. He prefaces the event with an inspirational speech:

This is a straight shot. Remember, trains don't make left or right turns. At every intersection you'll see a brown sign with a train on it. Every weekend, 8-year-olds start here and they end up in Abingdon. Don't be that person.

Thank you, everyone, for coming. It means the world to me. It means the world to my family. All your hard work is appreciated today.

It's your f***ing day — enjoy it!

And then, we run. The reward: a big belt buckle.

2017 Yeti 100 mile finisher's buckle
Jarian Rich and ^z at Damascus VA, mile ~50 of the 2017 Yeti 100 milerIn the gloom at the back of the pack Stephanie Fonda and I begin. The first 25 miles of the course is an almost-imperceptible downhill, ~1900 feet of descent that translates into an average ~1.4% negative grade. We trot at a comfortable pace for ~0.4 miles and then walk ~0.1 miles. Repeat that 50 times. Five hours later, we've finished a quarter of a hundred miler.

But wait a moment — if this could be sustained it would result in a 20 hour finish time. No way! Our quads begin to twinge. The next ~9 miles takes us ~2 hours. At Abingdon, one third done in ~7 hours, we check in and reverse course.

Cheery: we arrive at the Damascus mile ~50 aid station about 11 hours into the race. Volunteer Jarian Rich is there, bedecked in unicorn horn, lavender tutu, and glitter beard-of-lights. His ultra-positive energy is ultra-contagious.

Less cheery: Stephanie is starting to develop troublesome blisters. A good friend of hers, who wishes to remain anonymous, crews for us. He's a godsend, driving us to the race and back, meeting us at aid stations and road crossings, cheering us along, checking on our status, and basically going far beyond anything that could be asked. Call him "Mr Supererogation" — Supe for short. Mid-race we pause for 20 minutes while he doctors the Fonda feet. Then onward and upward, into the night.


Flashback: after packet pick-up, the evening before the race we eat at "Hey Joe's" in Damascus. Then Supe drives me to Abingdon where I stay with ultra-nice Cheryl and Dennis Clay, whom I met and became friends with in April at the C&O Canal 100 where their daughter Emily managed the corps of volunteers. Clay family hospitality extends to after the Yeti, when Stephanie and I literally must crawl, groaning, into (separate!) tub and shower to rinse off grime before kind Supe chauffeurs us home. Thank you all!

The Virginia Creeper Trail passes over ~45 trestles, some only a few feet long, others stretching a fair fraction of a mile. Above us through the night glitter brilliant stars and a first quarter moon. Trailside waterfalls cascade noisily downslope over boulders. We open and close gates to keep cattle in their place as the path takes us though meadows. (Stephanie has to stare down one cow that menaces her.) A toad hip-hops around our feet; a chipmunk dashes across the way.

On an adjacent mountainside a tree farm features pines in regular rows and columns. A valley filled with fog reflects our headlamps. As night progresses my usual no-sleep "hallucinations" begin: the pattern-matching visual neural net goes into overdrive and random shapes made by tree branches become bridges, hypermodern-architecture office buildings, piñatas, and walls. Shadows on the ground spell out words in curly fonts: "Lego", "Exit", etc. Distances and perspectives shift: the ground curves upward and we're walking at the bottom of a bowl. Approaching runners are 20 feet tall. Sometimes by glancing away and then looking again the illusions are dispelled; other times, they persist. Weird!

Jarian Rich and ^z at Damascus VA, mile ~50 of the 2017 Yeti 100 miler
Jarian Rich and ^z at Damascus VA, mile ~50 of the 2017 Yeti 100 milerThroughout the race we meet the nicest people. During the long dark cold climb back to Whitetop, Louisiana residents Kerrie and her friend Ron lend us gloves and entertain us with conversation, as do others. Aid station volunteers are uniformly helpful, though distances between food and drink are farther than some might have expected.

At packet pickup the evening before the Yeti we visit with ultra-legend Tom Green, the only other participant over age 65. During the race we see him again, pushing a perambulator with locomotive-bright lights that slice through the darkness. Dead last, in the position of honor, he finishes — yay!

The Virginia Creeper Trail mostly consists of crushed stone, with black grit that gets on socks and legs. In places it's paved, and oddly there are stretches with jagged stones sticking up through the asphalt. Rather a hazard to some runners, who might trip. I stumble early, on a root at mile ~2, but stagger and recover as Stephanie catches my elbow. Others nearby cheer.

At mile ~85 muscles in my lower back spasm. When it begins to look as though we might not make the final 30 hour cutoff, at my insistence Dr Fonda trots on ahead. A timely result is crucial for her, to qualify for next year's Vermont 100 and perhaps other ultras.

A couple of miles from the finish line, ever-awesome Supe meets Stephanie and escorts her in. Her official time is 28:16:58, good for 109th place overall, 44th woman to finish. Brava!

Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run - finish line photo of Stephanie Fonda by Glenn Tachiyama
Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run - finish line photo of Mark Zimmermann by Glenn TachiyamaWith my back glitching I resemble a zombie more than a yeti as I stagger toward the finish line, pausing to stretch sideways every few paces. Based on mile markers by the trail, starting at mile 90 my splits in minutes are 18.1 + 21.3 + 23.6 + 23.4 + 27.0 + 27.2 + 25.6 + 30.4 + 25.5 + 26.9 for mile ~99. (No data for the last mile.)

My official time = 29:00:59, 125th place overall, 71st male. Whee!

Overall, the 2017 Yeti has 136 finishers, plus 44 participants who begin but drop along the way and 17 who register but for whatever reason don't start. See the Runkeeper trackfile for GPS details of the first 66+ miles with Stephanie, from Whitetop to Abingdon and back.

It truly is All Good. Thank you, Stephanie, for the best birthday present ever!

- Tuesday, October 31, 2017 at 08:24:54 (EDT)

Passage to India - Love and Marriage

From Part II Chapter XV of E M Forster's Passage to India, enigmatic musings on intimacy, attraction, and partnership:

... The discovery had come so suddenly that she felt like a mountaineer whose rope had broken. Not to love the man one's going to marry! Not to find it out till this moment! Not even to have asked oneself the question until now! Something else to think out. Vexed rather than appalled, she stood still, her eyes on the sparkling rock. There was esteem and animal contact at dusk, but the emotion that links them was absent. Ought she to break her engagement off? She was inclined to think not—it would cause so much trouble to others; besides, she wasn't convinced that love is necessary to a successful union. If love is everything, few marriages would survive the honeymoon. ...

- Monday, October 30, 2017 at 16:46:44 (EDT)

William Stafford

Beautiful thoughts from poet William Stafford (1914-1993), as quoted by Garrison Keillor in "The Writer's Almanac" of 2008-01-17:

At the moment of writing ... the poet does sometimes feel that he is accomplishing an exhilarating, a wonderful, a stupendous job; he glimpses at such times how it might be to overwhelm the universe by rightness, to do something peculiarly difficult to such a perfection that something like a revelation comes. For that instant, conceiving is knowing; the secret life in language reveals the very self of things.


I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.

Stafford is the author of "What's in My Journal", a perfect description of the ZhurnalyWiki:

Odd things, like a button drawer. Mean
Thing, fishhooks, barbs in your hand.
But marbles too. A genius for being agreeable.
Junkyard crucifixes, voluptuous
discards. Space for knickknacks, and for
Alaska. Evidence to hang me, or to beatify.
Clues that lead nowhere, that never connected
anyway. Deliberate obfuscation, the kind
that takes genius. Chasms in character.
Loud omissions. Mornings that yawn above
a new grave. Pages you know exist
but you can't find them. Someone's terribly
inevitable life story, maybe mine.

(cf. In My Journal (2005-01-29), ...)

- Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 10:55:32 (EDT)


Thoughts from an article by Lisa Baird published a year ago, "Want To Be More Productive And Creative? Collaborate Less":

... "I know it is ugly to say 'unicorn,' but yeah, you kinda do have to be the unicorn," [says Chris Noessel] ... the type of person whose professional expertise is both deep and wide in multiple subject areas ... somebody with vast experience in business, technology, and design ... "comprehensivists" ...

[But] the notion of a well-rounded comprehensivist working solo flies in the face of a work ethos that's been resolute about the need for collaboration for a generation or more ... comprehensivists' tendency toward whole-brain thinking, straddling art and science, introversion and extroversion, the tactical and the strategic ... a direct reaction to the ever-increasing burden and diminishing returns of collaborating ...

[Studies] found that a collaborative design process—where a bunch of specialists put their heads together to try to come up with innovation solutions—generally "reduced creativity due to the tendency to incrementally modify known successful designs rather than explore radically different and potentially superior ones." ...

[Though] you can't just employ only multidisciplinary "unicorns" and fire the rest of your staff. The answer more likely lies somewhere in the middle—and it starts not only with knowing when not to collaborate but also when to resist the urge to go solo ... at some point, projects become too large to manage without the use of teams ...

...instead of actually doing everything ... assist with anything. There's a subtle shift there for the comprehensivist. Varied and valuable skills are present in either case, but their application changes completely. "Being able to jam with one team for a short, intense period of time is really great, because it fills whatever gap the team has at the moment ..."

(cf. My Speciality (2002-07-28), ...)

- Saturday, October 28, 2017 at 05:53:38 (EDT)

Smartest Person

An aphorism on intellectual humility, shared by my boss (David) yesterday:

Nobody is the smartest person in every room!

(cf. Ditch Day (2003-11-21), Listen to Him (2007-01-08), ...)

- Friday, October 27, 2017 at 04:13:02 (EDT)

Pearl Harbor - Collecting and Evaluating

From the end of Chapter 1 ("Signals for Honolulu") of Roberta Wohlstetter's Pearl Harbor:

... the job of collecting data is intimately bound up with the job of evaluating it. A sensitive collector knows what sounds to select out of a background of noise, and his presentation of the significant sounds is in itself a major first step in evaluation. For perception is an activity. Data are not given; they are taken. Moreover, the job of lifting signals out of a confusion of noise is an activity that is very much aided by hypotheses and by a background of knowledge much wider than the technical information we have considered so far. ...

- Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 05:08:11 (EDT)

2017-09-25 - Slippery Slope

~3.3 miles @ ~12.5 min/mi

"You're on a slippery slope!" the Dawn Patrol warns Molly. She's recovered from her last week's ~2.8 mile trek and does ~3.3 today at a brisk ~12.5 min/mi pace. Kristin reminisces about her first double-digit adventure run. Caitlin recounts when she was lured into the 15+ mile zone. Will Molly slip further beyond the 5k distance, to marathons and then beyond? Caveat cursor! For old time's sake the gang follows the hallowed "Ed's Loop" route around the neighborhood. As we finish a tangerine sunrise portends a Code Orange air quality day.


- Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 04:25:31 (EDT)

The Elements

Earth beneath
            supporting, cradling
    in all the worlds of all the World

Air around
            containing, filling
    in all the spaces throughout all Space

Water inside
            flowing, pulsing
    in all the lives of all that Live

Fire throughout
            flaring, fading
    in all the thoughts of all that Think

- Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 05:38:13 (EDT)

2017-09-24 - Great Falls with Courtney Jenkins

~6.0 miles @ ~23.4 min/mi

"We'll come back on the Bootlegger Trail - I just love that name!" Courtney declares. The route she maps out goes upstream from Great Falls National Park along the teal-blazed Potomac Heritage Trail and returns farther inland via a path with red markings. Photo opportunities abound. Brightly colored kayaks bob in the rapids of Mather Gorge. At Riverbend Park we pause at the visitor center. A friendly dog greets us; a giant spiderweb spans the gap between tree limbs. It's a lovely morning for a hike in the woods!


- Monday, October 23, 2017 at 05:32:49 (EDT)

Passage to India - People Are Important

From Part II Chapter XIII of E M Forster's Passage to India, on relationships:

Mrs. Moore pushed up the shutters and looked out. She had brought Ronny and Adela together by their mutual wish, but really she could not advise them further. She felt increasingly (vision or nightmare?) that, though people are important, the relations between them are not, and that in particular too much fuss has been made over marriage; centuries of carnal embracement, yet man is no nearer to understanding man. And to-day she felt this with such force that it seemed itself a relationship, itself a person who was trying to take hold of her hand.

- Sunday, October 22, 2017 at 04:30:25 (EDT)

2017-09-22 - Lemon Road Spider Surprise

"I run like a dinosaur!" Caitlin declares, holding her hands like a T Rex, high and folded close in front of her. Photos of the Dawn Patrol have come in from the Navy-AF Half Marathon on Sunday. Kristin dismisses the stylistic criticism. Three big deer amble past as we cruise the McLean 'hood after a warm-up loop around the office building complex. "Is it a 'compound' or a 'campus'?" Hmmmmm ... each has its implications.

"Big spider!" warns Cait, halting suddenly as a huge brown hairy arachnid climbs its web across the sidewalk. "Thank you for taking the lead!" we tell her. Her cap brim gives her a few extra inches of safety.


- Saturday, October 21, 2017 at 03:35:43 (EDT)

Pearl Harbor

The book Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision (1962) by Roberta Wohlstetter is a fast-paced, scholarly, thoughtful analysis of signals and noise, of historical lessons, and of human cognitive issues — all told in the context of the surprise Japanese attack of 1941-12-07 that brought the United States into World War II. Wohlstetter's thesis is summarized in her "Introduction":

The popular view endows the activity of obtaining secret information with great risks and considerable drama. The hazards of interpretation, of selecting the relevant signs from the wealth of public and secret data, are scarcely understood. The leap of inference, however, if less dramatic, has great perils of its own.

In particular, the public image of warnings for the impending Pearl Harbor disaster appears to be highly simplified, with outlines clearly marked and with few shadings. The record is full of references to supposedly unambiguous indications of the Japanese plan. The MAGIC message "East Wind Rain" is one of the most famous. But, in fact, the signal picture in the limited locale of Honolulu is amazingly complex, and the mass of signals grows increasingly dense and freighted with ambiguities as we move to the larger assemblage of agencies in Washington. In both places signals announcing the Pearl Harbor attack were always accompanied by competing or contradictory signals, by all sorts of information useless for anticipating this particular disaster. We refer to these competing signals as "noise." To understand the fact of surprise it is necessary to examine the characteristics of the noise as well as the signals that after the event are clearly seen to herald the attack.

If it does nothing else, an understanding of the noise present in any signal system will teach us humility and respect for the job of the information analyst. ...

... further insightful quotes to follow.

(cf. Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision in Wikipedia, and Science and Pseudoscience (2001-10-06), Expert Political Judgment (2010-05-13), Signal and Noise (2012-12-25), ...)

- Friday, October 20, 2017 at 05:25:21 (EDT)

2017-09-20 - Welcome Molly

~9.7 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

"Cold water makes me happy!" says Kristin when we pause to sip from the fountain at the end of our run. Molly Hickman dips a toe into the Dawn Patrol ocean and joins us at 0545 for a 2.8+ mile loop around Pimmit Hills. Hawk-eyed Kristin spies a rabbit in her flashlight's beam; I saw a fox as I drove in. After Molly is safely back to our starting point from her initial experiment, the Patrol continues into downtown McLean to revisit Waggaman Circle. A couple out for a walk gives us directions (and advises, "It's hilly!") as we enter and greets us again as we emerge.

"Look — two candles and a plate of food on a table outside the front door!" Rosh Hashanah Eve begins at sunset today. Perhaps it's an early celebration tradition? "Shanah Tovah Umetukah" to us all!


- Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 05:36:05 (EDT)

Flora and Ulysses

Kate DiCamillo's young-person's novel Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures is a fun frolic, illustrated by K. G. Campbell. Great poetry? Maybe not, though bits of the language echo. Great humor? Maybe not, though there are chuckles and snorts enough. Great surrealism? Maybe not, though a pseudo-superhero squirrel named "Ulysses" comes close. Most noteworthy? Maybe a fragment of Rainer Maria Rilke as quoted in Chapter 25:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

That's from a translation by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy of Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. And in Chapter 41, a lovely way to say farewell and a representative sample of DiCamillo's style:

"When I was a girl in Blundermeecen," Dr. Meescham had said to Flora when they were all leaving apartment 267, "we wondered always if we would see each other again. Each day was uncertain. So, to say good-bye to someone was uncertain, too. Would you see them again? Who could say? Blundermeecen was a place of dark secrets, unmarked graves, terrible curses. Trolls were everywhere! So we said good-bye to each other the best way we could. We said: I promise to always turn back toward you.

"I say those words to you now, Flora Belle. I promise to always turn back toward you. And now you must say them to me."

"I promise to always turn back toward you," Flora had said.

She whispered the words again, now, to the squirrel. "I promise to always turn back toward you."

She put a finger on Ulysses's chest. His tiny heart was beating out a message that felt like I promise, I promise, I promise.

Hearts were the strangest things.

"Pop?" said Flora.

"Yes," said her father.

"Can I feel your heart?"


Somehow, though it's not too similar, Flora & Ulysses brings to mind Randall Jarrell's The Bat-Poet. Perhaps it's time to re-read that lovely little book!

- Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at 04:30:50 (EDT)

2017-09-18 - McLean Moon

~4.6 miles @ ~13.6 min/mi

"You saved my life — again!" This morning even though the Walk Signal is in our favor a car blasts straight through the red light at Chain Bridge Rd and Great Falls St. Thank goodness Kristin saw it coming and held me back! The moon is only 4% illuminated, skinny yellow crescent hugging the eastern horizon. An airplane takes off from National Airport and crosses in front of Venus. Rabbit count = 1, when sharp-eyed Dr K glimpses a cottontail on Opalacka Dr. We concur that in spite of the fun factor, overhead in time and money is high for "short" races like yesterday's half marathon.


- Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 06:50:38 (EDT)

Ten Resolutions by Clyde Kilby

From Desiring God, an online Christian ministry, "Ten Resolutions for Mental Health" by American author and English professor Clyde Kilby (1902-1986):

1. At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.

2. Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligence which, as Aristotle said of Greek drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think this will save me from the cynicism expressed by Bertrand Russell before his death when he said: "There is darkness without, and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing."

3. I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood.

4. I shall not turn my life into a thin, straight line which prefers abstractions to reality. I shall know what I am doing when I abstract, which of course I shall often have to do.

5. I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.

6. I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their "divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic" existence.

7. I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the "child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder."

8. I shall follow Darwin's advice and turn frequently to imaginative things such as good literature and good music, preferably, as Lewis suggests, an old book and timeless music.

9. I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, "fulfill the moment as the moment." I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is now.

10. Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

Abridged forms of the "Ten Resolutions" are posted in many places; the above are far more poetic, and include Kilby's citations of the original authors ...

(cf. Optimist Creed (1999-04-16), Personal, Permanent, Pervasive (2009-04-27), Thirty Things (2013-10-01), Mindfulness Skills (2014-06-24), Cognitive Distortions (2015-09-28), Mental Toughness (2015-12-06), Sheryl Sandberg on the Hard Days (2016-05-22), Positive Thinking Techniques (2017-09-21), ...)

- Monday, October 16, 2017 at 06:19:38 (EDT)

2017-09-17 - Navy-Air Force Half Marathon Plus

~33.3 miles @ ~12.6 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/pre_Navy_Air_Force_Half_Kristin_Kerry_z_Caitlin_2017-09-17a.jpg"Ooh, he doesn't look good!" Kristin says, as a runner just in front of us starts to weave, then staggers. A few steps later he folds over and collapses to the road at mile ~11.5 of the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon. The Dawn Patrol and others gather around him, hold up his head, give him sips of Gatorade. Somebody calls 911. A physician in the race stops and takes charge. He checks the man's head, tells another person to elevate his feet, requests the rest of us to pour cool water on him.

"Sir, how do you feel?" the doctor asks. "Do you have heart disease? Diabetes? High blood pressure?" We summon a nearby policeman. After a few minutes when it's clear things are being handled and there's nothing more to do, onward we go. Hope the gentleman is OK — perhaps he's dehydrated and overheated?

At 5am the old Moon hangs low in the east, ashy earthshine faint on the dark side, silver crescent curved like a bow aimed at glittering Venus a few degrees below. Humidity is near 100% with temps in the upper 60's. On autopilot I cross 16th Street and run straight onward before realizing my mistake a few blocks later. Re-route, no harm! Two bunny rabbits nibble lawns, then dash away. Three big deer pause to stare from inside the high fence surrounding the former Walter Reed Medical Center. At Meridian Hill Park text messages begin to arrive from Kerry and Kristin, waiting to enter the parking garage.

"They're inspecting EVERY CAR!" - "Did they find your stash?" - "Yes!" - "Well, hope they enjoy it!" The National Museum of African American History and Culture aligns nicely with the Washington Monument where the race will soon begin. Fog begins to hide the top of the obelisk. Selfie time! Cait appears with husband Bill and mom Maureen. We pin on bibs and prepare to race.

The half marathon is thankfully uneventful (except for the aforementioned scary collapse of the man ahead of us with less than 2 miles to go). As we cross the starting line I unpause the GPS at 2 hours with 9.1 miles, a pace of ~13.2 min/mi. We finish together with a time of ~2:35, averaging ~11.8 min/mi. Stop the GPS again, exchange fist-bumps, take photos, then split up for respective journeys home.

Lines for post-race food are ridiculously long, so snag small bags of pretzels and cookies, refill bottles from a water fountain near the White House, and head north. New route: Connecticut Avenue. Fresh sights + long hills = walk breaks! At the DC boundary swerve onto Brookville Rd and then Rock Creek Trail to "take the long way home" for ~11.1 miles at ~13.5 min/mi.


- Sunday, October 15, 2017 at 06:20:44 (EDT)

2017-09-16 - Chevy Chase with Kerry

~8.1 miles @ ~13.7 min/mi

"If you let others help you, then they will be able to ask you for help when they need it most!" Dr Kerry and I argue over who gets the honor of paying for coffee and a pseudo-"French Toast" mini-pastry at the bagel bakery. Preparation is glacial, which explains "23+" minutes for mile #7.

"NO SNACKS!" say signs at Meadowbrook Stables, where we pause to pet horses. Mr Chatty channels his inner tour guide and offers a running commentary on the history of Chevy Chase and various luminaries who live there. A deer lurks in the gloom by Rock Creek as we begin; a few miles downstream another pair stand close by the trail. Fog hangs low over meadows. A last-quarter moon gleams above Mormon Temple spires. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute beside Connecticut Avenue is protected by a high fence.

"Can Cait come out and play?" Alas, not this morning — she has homework to finish! We knock on her front door and greet her and her mom (hi, Maureen!) after we finish the loop.


- Saturday, October 14, 2017 at 07:00:38 (EDT)


A 2006 essay "Tribhanga: Strike A Pose" by Anil Menon discusses a lovely classical Indian stance that looks like a déhanchement posture. Menon's musings begin with an image from an old sculpture:

She rocks, this woman in the stone. It is difficult to believe that she is about a thousand years old. We don't know much about her. She may represent a dancer, devadasi, apsara, maid or courtesan. She adorns the Adinatha temple in the eastern group of temples in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh. During the tenth and eleventh centuries, when Europe was a God-haunted place turned by the bubonic plague into a vast graveyard, the Chandela Rajputs embarked on a joyous architectural project of unequalled moral courage and aesthetic ambition. The woman in the stone was one of their minor discoveries.

Unlike the other adornments in the temples, she is turned away from the viewer's eye; the characteristic "glancing away" look used in Indian art (and by teenagers) to signal a pretended unawareness has been turned into an actual unawareness; the viewer becomes a voyeur, if only for that moment of turning away. The centuries are now like a lens through which we happen to see a very beautiful woman caught turning in mid-dance. Dancing is what she must be doing, for it is too stylized to be anything else.


The pose in which her sculptor — some unknown genius — found her is called the tribhanga, which means, roughly, "equipoised stance bent in three places." In the western aesthetic tradition, the tribhanga is known as the "contrapposto." The tribhanga is one of the five bhangas (equipoised stances) in traditional Indian dance: the others are shown in the figure on the right. The abhanga and tribhanga poses were both very popular in ancient and medieval Indian art. ...

He goes on to discuss other aspects of tribhanga, and ends with:

Francis Bacon write in his essay On Beauty that "there is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in proportion." In our age we're once again slowly discovering that the converse is true as well: there is no proportion that is not in some way strangely beautiful. The unsettling ability to see beauty in the conventional as well as in the blasphemous is perhaps the true legacy of the people who carved into life that woman in stone.

- Friday, October 13, 2017 at 04:33:11 (EDT)

2017-09-15 - More Iced Coffee

~7.3 miles @ ~13.7 min/mi

"Let's head toward that lovely pink sunrise!" - "Let's buy coffee at the bottom of this hill!" The Dawn Patrol lets the Earth guide its footsteps today, turning east instead of west and bypassing a Peets to permit a gravity-assisted ramble before pausing at a Starbucks. We debate the value of formal (obsessive documentation bad, historical record good) vs informal ("Work hard - great job!") annual performance reviews. Plans for Sunday's Navy-AF Half Marathon take shape nicely. Families and friends in Florida all seem to have survived Hurricane Irma.


- Thursday, October 12, 2017 at 05:29:26 (EDT)

2017-09-13 - Iced Coffee Run

~9.5 miles @ ~13.6 min/mi

"Nearest Starbucks? Turn right at the next corner, then first left - 100 metres!" a runner with a Kiwi accent tells us. On a drizzly-warm morning the Dawn Patrol meanders through a new neighborhood and emerges to snag iced coffee. A front-yard brick pyramid, taller than Kerry, stands behind a reflecting pond on Riley Street - reminiscent of "the tip of God's arrow fallen to earth" emerging from the opposite side of the globe in the 1988 film Vibes. Or maybe just lawn art.

"A chimera?" The huge sheepdog watching us pass by has a snowy white head attached to a dark body. Kristin tells of weightlifting with her daughter - the daughter herself being the weight lifted, that is. We compare milks - almond, coconut, soy, and quinoa. On Lisle Avenue nobody falls as we dash downhill on a sidewalk strewn with fallen acorns.


- Thursday, October 12, 2017 at 05:25:33 (EDT)

Four Letter Words

Some simple little terms to ponder:

Here Slow Soft
Hope Love Good
Calm Kind Free

(cf. Aikido Spirit (2003-12-09), This Is Water (2009-05-21), Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2010-08-04), Steadiness of Heart (2011-07-13), Softening into Experience (2012-11-12), Just One Thing (2012-12-02), Being Still (2013-05-20), What Love Does (2014-10-26), Wisdom, Love, Life (2015-04-08), Wings of Acceptance (2015-05-26), Veil of Separation (2015-10-14), Being Peace (2015-10-20), Mantra - Safety, Health, Insight, Peace (2015-10-30), Mantra - You Are Loved (2016-01-10), Mantra - Love, Simplicity, Humility (2016-03-29), Mantra - Worthy of Love (2016-07-24), God's Grandeur (2016-11-09), Mantra - Love Your Self (2016-12-30), Sublime States (2017-01-05), Mantra - Uncertainty, Kindness, Peace, Hope (2017-06-29), ...)

- Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 04:53:25 (EDT)

2017-09-11 - Great and Small Falls

~4.4 miles @ ~14.8 min/mi

"To save space shall we say 'Kerry did not fall down today' in the Dawn Patrol log when that happens - rather than note all the times she does?" Early this morning Dr K stumbles on the gloomy path beside Churchill Road, where tree roots make for a ripply-rough surface. Fortunately she vectors onto a grassy lawn and escapes unscathed. Whew! Venus glitters brilliant-cut in the east as a pastel sunrise glows, with crisp long-sleeve-worthy temps in the 50s.

"My bad!" Abject apologies to the missing member of this morning's ramble, Dr Kristin. Text messaging is an unreliable transmission protocol, and she didn't get word of today's starting point. Cait leads a loop around West Langley, after which we arc to Starbucks. During the return trip sororities and their culture (and cost) are analyzed. Apparently it's an urban legend that Brothel Laws ban them in Boston.


- Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 05:45:00 (EDT)

2017-09-10 - Kensington Cait

~12.9 miles @ ~11.8 min/mi

"Knock knock!!" We hammer on Stephanie's front door, pose for a quick selfie, then race away. She fools us and stays fast asleep, as does Louis ze Wonder Dog. So Caitlin and I continue our ramble around the neighborhood on a perfect-weather Sunday morning. A big bunny poses in the middle of Flanders Avenue, watching a dog with one eye and us with the other.

"Adeline!" Flashback to the Parks Half Marathon finish line, where we spot dear friend Adeline Ntam, serving as a medical volunteer. The gold and silver medal winners arrive blazing-fast with sub-1:10 times. Wow! First place finisher Desta Ber Morkama graciously accepts a fist-bump and "Congratulations!" after his cooldown walk.

"May I eat the last glazed sour cream donut?" The answer is "Yes!", and nibbling on it for the first quarter mile gets me to the Forest Glen grade crossing in time to beat a big CSX freight train, and powers the rest of the run. Runkeeper estimates 11.8 min/mi pace for 12.98 miles - close but not quite a lucky 13!


- Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 05:41:36 (EDT)

Passage to India - Spurious Unity

From Part I Chapter VIII of E M Forster's Passage to India, a sad quiet scene of emptiness, of brief love and eternal darkness:

... The car made a burring noise and rushed along a chaussée that ran upon an embankment above melancholy fields. Trees of a poor quality bordered the road, indeed the whole scene was inferior, and suggested that the countryside was too vast to admit of excellence. In vain did each item in it call out, "Come, come." There was not enough god to go round. The two young people conversed feebly and felt unimportant. When the darkness began, it seemed to well out of the meagre vegetation, entirely covering the fields each side of them before it brimmed over the road. Ronny's face grew dim—an event that always increased her esteem for his character. Her hand touched his, owing to a jolt, and one of the thrills so frequent in the animal kingdom passed between them, and announced that all their difficulties were only a lovers' quarrel. Each was too proud to increase the pressure, but neither withdrew it, and a spurious unity descended on them, as local and temporary as the gleam that inhabits a firefly. It would vanish in a moment, perhaps to reappear, but the darkness is alone durable. And the night that encircled them, absolute as it seemed, was itself only a spurious unity, being modified by the gleams of day that leaked up round the edges of the earth, and by the stars.

- Monday, October 09, 2017 at 04:40:16 (EDT)

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