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^zhurnaly v.9935

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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in 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 = 0.9934 ... 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 ... thank you!

2019-01-13 - Disney Dopey Challenge Marathon

~26.2 min @ ~13.5 min/mi

Disney Dopey Marathon magic castle Dawn Patrol jump"Meet me at the Tourette's Syndrome tent!" texts Crabby. How appropriate! "Share Your Feelings" advises today's random Unicorn, and we do plenty of that: "I'm tired!" - "My ITB is starting to twinge!" - "Let's stop at this restroom!" - "It's too hot!" - "Well, I feel GREAT!" - "Sure glad somebody does!" Sharing among dear friends is All Good.

"Let's do Mount Everest!" Two days ago K2 created a Frankenstein's Monster when she snookered Roadkill into Space Mountain. Alas, when we pass the ride at mile 13 it's only 8:25am, more than half an hour too early for it to open. (No worries: tonight at Universal Studios with her son we take on three roller coasters and a few gentler rides.) Friendly families standing course-side give us Swedish fish, pretzels, chocolates, fruit, and other delicacies. We pause for pics with Buzz Lightyear ("Toy Story"), Joy & Sadness ("Inside Out"), fish-costumed cast members (from the musical "Finding Dory"), and somber gravediggers ("Haunted Mansion") . Real live creatures await us in Animal Kingdom, each with their own official race bibs. K2 and Roadkill stop to pat the bunny, stroke the sheep, cuddle the snake.
"Mark Zimmermann?" asks friend Molly's daughter as she passes us about mile 16, running her first marathon. Her mom spotted us in the Magic Kingdom earlier. "If I could have any superpower right now, it would be the ability to crawl through this camera and give you a big hug!" Roadkill poses by the mile 19 marker that features characters from the loving-kind film "Big Hero 6". A few miles later: "Speedwork!" when in the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex a track beckons Roadkill, who kicks out a 58-second 200-meter half-lap. K2 feels deja vu We play leapfrog with a gentleman wearing a t-shirt "100 Marathon Club Deutschland", who helps Roadkill practice his German. The green army man (Sergeant, from "Toy Story") is shouting at mile 23: "Here we go! That's right - go, go go! Move it up that hill! That's what I want to see - nicely done, soldier! Keep moving now - hut, two, three, four! Keep that pace, soldier - that what I like! Get those batteries back in!" as Crabby and K2 dash past.

"Are you going to drink that beer?" asks Roadkill, as we pass a fellow Marathon Maniac at mile 25.9 who appears ready to throw away a nearly-full flagon of magical amber elixir. "Becks pilsner - enjoy it!" the stranger offers, and Dawn Patrol begins the crucial process of rehydration before the marathon even ends. After the finish line we encounter our new comrade again, with a buddy who with this race has completed a marathon in all 50 states - bravo! They offer us icy-cold margaritas, a drink Roadkill has never tried before. He confesses that he's a cheap date: his annual alcohol quota is now fulfilled.
Disney Dopey Marathon Dawn Patrol finishes together
Disney Dopey MarathonBling-bedecked with many medals, we pose for photos and honor K2's dear sister, whom we've been thinking of during the four events of the Dopey Challenge.

"No more signing up for races!" swears Crabby, massaging her knee. The next day: "Oh, look, a race!" Before week's end we've thrown our hats into the New York City Marathon lottery, and have entered the Richmond Marathon. Hmmmmm ...

(trackfile - cf. 2019-01-10 - Disney Dopey Challenge 5k, 2019-01-11 - Disney Dopey Challenge 10k, 2019-01-12 - Disney Dopey Challenge Half Marathon, ...)

- Sunday, February 10, 2019 at 05:31:04 (EST)

2019-01-12 - Disney Dopey Challenge Half Marathon

~13.1 mi @ ~14.5 min/mi

Dawn Patrol jumps at the Magic Castle in Disney World"On three: 1, 2, JUMP!" K2 orchestrates a leap in front of Cinderalla's Castle in the Magic Kingdom; Crabby and Roadkill take flight with her.
"Never look back, darling. It distracts from the Now." Today's Dopey Challenge half-marathon includes pauses for pics with characters Jack Sparrow and Angelica ("Pirates of the Caribbean"), Sulley & Mike ("Monsters Inc."), the White Rabbit ("Alice in Wonderland") aka Roadkill's power animal, and Mr Incredible, Elastigirl, and Edna Mode ("The Incredibles").Dawn Patrol with the (other!) Incredibles and Edna Mode
Dawn Patrol meets the Pirates of the Carribbean"Drop and give me five!" orders Sarge, leader of the Green Army Men ("Toy Story"). Roadkill obeys, though his fifth push-up is rather ragged. (here's the video) "I salute you, soldier. On your way!" The Unicorn Oracle this morning tells us to "Try Something New", and we do. And it's all good.
"Take three steps closer, look at the background, and don't let our faces be in shadow!" instructs lens-OCD-Roadkill for the post-finish group picture that includes Danger Man, who zipped past the Dawn Patrol en route and meets us afterwards. "Uh, you know that she's a professional photographer?" Oops!after the finish line for the Dopey Half Marathon


- Saturday, February 09, 2019 at 05:20:18 (EST)

2019-01-11 - Disney Dopey Challenge 10k

~6.2 mi @ ~16.5 min/mi

"Blow me to Bermuda!" says Merlin in the 1963 Disney animation The Sword in the Stone. Inspired, Crabby suggests it as a theme for Roadkill at the Dopey Challenge. Danger Man kindly provides Hawaiian shirt, baggy Bermuda shorts, and wizard's cap; Roadkill already has the long gray beard and the time-reversed attitude. So, windbreaker over costume on a chilly Friday morning, the Disney 10k race begins.Disney Dopey 10k Merlin-z pre-start
Wreck-It-Ralph an"There's Wreck-It Ralph!" Crabby spies the character at mile 1, and with K2, Danger Man, and Roadkill we stand in a 10-minute line for pictures. Numerous further photo ops ensue as the course enters Epcot and meanders.
"Space Mountain!" Later that same day as an experiment K2 lures Roadkill onto his first roller coaster in decades. It's a total delight! He insists on riding Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain as well, with long-time comrade Jester who now lives in Florida.

"Best Friends!" say the Unicorns again today. For sure!
Disney Dopey 10k post-finish wi

(trackfile - cf 2019-01-10 - Disney Dopey Challenge 5k, ...)

- Friday, February 08, 2019 at 04:42:35 (EST)

2019-01-10 - Disney Dopey Challenge 5k

~3.1 mi @ ~23 min/mi

Disney Dopey Challenge Roadkill"Dopey!" And yes, some might use that word to describe getting up at 0300 to cover three miles at a slower-than-walking pace. Thursday 2019-01-10 is the first day of the Walt Disney "Dopey Challenge", aptly named for the youngest of the Seven Dwarfs. Today's 5k is followed by tomorrow's 10k, a half-marathon, and finally a marathon on Sunday.
"Best Friends!" proclaims today's Magic Unicorn Oracle card, and admonishes, "True friends stick together, no matter what." We definitely are, and do! Dawn Patrol members Crabby, K2, and Roadkill join Danger Man before the start. We greet Santa Steve and Pengi in an adjacent corral and shuffle forward in a wave-start that takes more than half an hour to reach the line. We're off.Dawn Patrol and Barry with Pinocchio
Epcot Spaceship Earth"Vikings!" and we stop at Mile 1 for photos with a band of scruffy warriors. Half a mile down the road, "Pinocchio!" Lines seems short, so we pause again. And again, at a view of the lagoon, and again to take pictures of the Epcot "Spaceship Earth" geodesic dome. Finally, more than 71 minutes after our start, we cross the finish line together.
"There's Dopey!" We stand in another line to get group pictures with the dwarf himself. Then, rather than sensibly going to bed, it's a day for Animal Kingdom tourism.

"Those fake animals look so real!" Roadkill is impressed by modern robotic technology, and cannot believe that the giraffes, hippos, lions, etc. are alive.
With Dopey after the finish


- Thursday, February 07, 2019 at 05:16:25 (EST)

Wisdom and Joy

A cheery thought from Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592):

The surest sign of Wisdom
  is constant cheerfulness

... or more literally, "The most manifest sign of wisdom is a continual cheerfulness; her state is like that in the regions above the moon, always clear and serene." (La plus expresse marque de la sagesse, c'est un ejouïssance constante; son estat est comme des choses au dessus de la Lune: toujours serein.)

(Book I Chapter 26; cf. Not Marvelous Enough (2013-12-31), No Expectation (2015-01-02), Johnson on Virtue (2016-07-01), New Superpower (2018-10-27), ...)

- Wednesday, February 06, 2019 at 05:36:39 (EST)

Aikido Zen

From the January 2019 Greater Than Code podcast interview "114: Theory of Mind with Jean-François Cloutier", wise comments on balance and selflessness:

JF: Aikido is one of my passions. I spend way too many hours at the dojo and I'm constrained by my wife who says she will not become an Aikido widow. I would spend much more time than I do right now and I spend a lot of time. I appreciate her forbearance. But Aikido informs everything I do. It's the Zen cone of martial arts. It's a martial art that evacuates conflict. It's a martial art where you don't have antagonism or you eliminate antagonism. There's no competition.

When someone attacks, your goal is to become one with the attacker, so that you move as one for a while, at least, and in a highly empathetic connection with your assailant and then, you protect yourself and you resolve the attack in a way that also protects the attacker from harm. It's a martial art where if you want things to happen, if you're greedy about the outcome, then the outcome is not what you want. It's self-defeating. So it's a martial art that really goes against ego. Your ego gets polished to nothing if you practice long enough.

Also, to go back to predictive processing, a lot of Aikido is information warfare. You're essentially trying to hack the predictive processing mechanisms of the person attacking you. You don't want to push or pull where you grab, you don't want to manipulate the person who's grabbing, you want to create no prediction errors basically when you're doing the technique, which leads to interesting situations where you commit to a full strike, you're attacking a master, you're committing to a full strength, big strike over the head and moving at full speed and then before you know it, you're flying in the air and asking yourself, "How did I get here? I did not feel anything."

I love it to bits, and it also changes the way you deal with people, you deal with problems. You don't think of it as a conflict. You think of it as, "How can I join this person's worldview and how can we move together in a way that's beneficial to both?" It's a very different world and I think it colors everything I do now. It's also where I can do some acrobatics at my age and be where it falls and have my feet over my head and go over the mat and just get my ya-ya's out. It looks like it's too philosophical about it either.

(cf Aikido Spirit (2003-12-09), Unselfing (2009-01-14), Control Theory of Taiji (2014-07-23), Mantra - No Others (2016-06-27), Four Letter Words (2017-01-11), Thinking in Systems (2017-11-03), Superpowers - Systems Thinking, Asking, and Listening (2019-01-29), ...)

- Tuesday, February 05, 2019 at 05:56:37 (EST)

2019-01-07 - Deep Fat

~3.2 mi @ ~12.5 min/mi

"Apparently it's a set of theme parks in the middle of Florida?" Roadkill reports on his research this morning (he glanced at a Wikipedia article) about Walt Disney World. K2 and he have signed up for 4 races there later this week. They both prefer improv to planning ahead. K-Rex laughs.

"Deep fat frying!" Dawn Patrol assesses the greatest inventions of the past 2,000 years (besides Category Theory). Temps hover at the freezing point during a short survey of Langley. We finish in time for early morning meetings.


- Monday, February 04, 2019 at 04:12:39 (EST)

Macro vs Micro

Comments on Category Theory by Coraline Ada Ehmke of "Greater than Code":


... traditionally, in science, we try to break things down into atomic parts and solve small problems and compose small problems into a grander solution. Category theory seems to take the opposite approach of taking a very high-level view of things, looking for ways that they are the same, and taking a macro as opposed to a micro approach. ...


... historically — especially in science — we focused on, as a basic problem-solving tool, breaking problems down into small pieces and trying to solve small problems and composing the solution out of solutions to small problems. One of the things that category theory brings to the table is looking at how things are similar more than how they're different, and solving big problems from a more top-down perspective. ... [W]e need both of those tools in our toolbox. Expertise comes from identifying when one tool is more useful than the other. ...

(cf Category Theory Concepts (2016-04-25), Bird's-Eye View (2016-07-20), Category Theory for Programmers (2017-05-12), Ultimate Abstraction (2017-08-24), Put the Vast Storehouse in Order (2017-10-04), Category Theory is like a Lighthouse (2018-12-24), ...)

- Sunday, February 03, 2019 at 05:55:13 (EST)

2019-01-06 - Puppy Butt

~8.3 mi @ ~12.3 min/mi

lawn statue puppy"Great blue heron!" Danger Man & Roadkill stop to watch the magnificent bird launch itself into flight at our approach, wingtips almost touching the water's surface. A flock of ducks occupy the far shore of the pond. We meander north, taking cut-throughs at every opportunity, pausing for slow-motion leaps on playground equipment at an elementary school. Slower-mo running continues when a toy poodle passes us along Sligo Creek Trail. Grrrrrr!

"Puppy butt!" A new lawn sculpture poses by a driveway, head apparently buried in the earth. The line at the bagel bakery stretches almost out the door, too long to permit a stop for bialys. Another day!


- Saturday, February 02, 2019 at 07:34:21 (EST)

You Must Change Your Life

A turning point — a volta at the end of a poem — a sudden plot twist — a shift of perception from one vision abruptly to another. Rainer Maria Rilke's poem "Archaic Torso of Apollo" (Archaischer Torso Apollos) concludes with the ultimate such:

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

(translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,
darin die Augenäpfelreiften. Aber
sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,
in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,

sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug
der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen
der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen
zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.

Sonst stünde dieser Stein enstellt und kurz
unter der Schultern durchsichtigem Sturz
und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle;

und bräche nicht aus allen seinen Rändern
aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,
die dich nicht sieht. Du mußt dein Leben ändern.

(original German by Rainer Maria Rilke)
We cannot know his incredible head,
where the eyes ripened like apples,
yet his torso still glows like a candelabrum,
from which his gaze, however dimmed,

still persists and gleams. If this were not so,
the bow of his breast could not blind you,
nor could a smile, steered by the gentle curve
of his loins, glide to the centre of procreation.

And this stone would seem disfigured and stunted,
the shoulders descending into nothing,
unable to glisten like a predator's pelt,

or burst out from its confines and radiate
like a star: for there is no angle from which
it cannot see you. You have to change your life.

(literal translation by Sarah Stutt)
We didn't understand that outrageous head, the eyes
whose irises actually flowered. But his torso
still stares like a chandelier turned low,
dimmed to illuminate just its own steady

flame. Why else would the crease
of the chest muscles blind you? And the slight
tensing of the loin — it's nothing if not a smile
traveling to his center on a journey to procreation.

If not, this would only be a fragment
of mutilated stone under the shoulders' transparent
slump. Wouldn't glisten, anymore than a predator's

fur, or leap like radiating star fire.
Because there isn't any single part of it that isn't
watching you. You have to live another life.

(translation by Art Beck)

And as James Pollock explains and explores:

... Thus, by the time the light of the sun god "bursts like a star" from the statue in the penultimate line of the poem—that is to say, by the time the god has fully re-entered the statue, the way Athena, as the ancient Athenians believed, continually re-entered the statue of the goddess in the Parthenon in response to the sacrifices of her devotees—a careful reader of the poem has already seen it coming.

It's worth recalling that for the ancient Greeks the word "theos," or god, meant primarily an event. And what this event precipitates here is a sudden awareness on the part, not of us (the "we" of the first line), but of "you": an awareness of being seen by the god. Earlier, his gaze was "turned down low," so that, notwithstanding that it "gleam[ed] in all its power," still one was not entirely conscious of being seen. Now, however, the direction of the gaze in the poem is reversed; one's privileged status as a visitor to an art museum, gazing at the blind statues with aesthetic detachment, has been obliterated by this sudden awareness, which is nothing if not a religious experience. The religious experience in turn produces the electrifying volta of the last sentence, the ethical imperative "You must change your life"—which here means, "you must be transformed, turned into something else, just like the statue."

Mark Doty has called this ending "the sharpest last-minute turn in sonnet history," and it's true; up to this moment the poem has been a description of the statue, and now suddenly it's a revelation inside "you." As the climax of the poem's plot, it deploys simultaneously both of the elements Aristotle insisted were indispensable to a good climax: reversal and recognition. (In the best plots, Aristotle added, these elements occur at the same time.) But for all its power to surprise, its greatest surprise for us today may be that it is not in fact disjunctive; there is no surreal or language-y non sequitur. Indeed, the imperative "You must change your life" follows logically from the statement that precedes it: "for here there is no place / that does not see you." It is a religious logic, to be sure, but then, this is essentially a religious poem.

Apollo is the god of poetry. And it is important to understand the role of this poem in Rilke's development as a poet. He had been working as Rodin's secretary in Paris, and visiting the art museums and the zoo nearly every day at Rodin's instigation. Rodin's advice ("one must work, always work") and the example he set of a disciplined artist who worked tirelessly to transform the perishable bodies of his human models into durable bronze statues with great spiritual power—all this had a profound effect on Rilke. It turned him from a poet who waited for inspiration to one who felt the responsibility of his art in a new and profound way. It made him change himself into a poet whose calling was to transmute the impermanent things of this world—a corpse, a black cat, the statue of Apollo—into a higher order of reality within himself. No wonder he placed "Archaic Torso of Apollo" first in the second volume of his New Poems, to mark this crucial turning-point in his career. ...

... yes! — and just now, here, so must we startle and awaken and flower ...

(cf. [1], Not Easy (2001-03-31), Live the Questions Now (2015-04-02), Rilke on Being Human (2015-04-22), ...)

- Friday, February 01, 2019 at 06:05:22 (EST)

2019-01-04 - Dinner Disorders

~7.6 mi @ ~13.3 min/mi

"Cut the crust off the white bread!" - "And then roll it up into a spiral disc like a cinnamon bun!" - "Peel and slice the apple!" - "Don't let any of the foods touch each other on the plate!" - "Mix it all together into a mushy science experiment!" - "Eat the least favorite thing first!" - "Save one bite of every food until the end!" - Dawn Patrol shares youthful dining customs as it returns from a new Starbucks, found near mile 4. The barista describes a local running club that sounds like fun.

"He's at a technical college; he can trivially make us fake IDs!" We plan how to get an in-state discount at upcoming races. Venus glows dimly through thick clouds. Discussion turns at the end to how a company might close its books, sell off its real estate holdings, give every employee a few million dollars, and then keep only the ones who truly love their work and are happy to carry on for no pay at all. That would be a new business model!


- Thursday, January 31, 2019 at 05:42:19 (EST)

2019-01-02 - The Signet

~4.5 mi @ ~14.1 min/mi

"That stove!" - "Kitchen island!" - "Wine cooler!" - "Walk-in closets!" Dawn Patrol circumnavigates The Signet, a newly-built condo community in downtown McLean ("... from the $800s ..." for a one bedroom unit). We critique outdoor exercise machines ("Not nearly enough resistance!") and assess a still-under-construction restaurant and gym. Christmas lights twinkle in trees for a few more days.

"Snuggle-bugs!" K-Rex smiles, remembering the cuddly kittens that greet her when she arrives early. Roadkill rolls an already-sore right ankle as, replying to a text message, he steps off the edge of the asphalt. Ouch!


- Wednesday, January 30, 2019 at 06:15:35 (EST)

Superpowers - Systems Thinking, Asking, and Listening

From the January 2019 Greater Than Code podcast interview "114: Theory of Mind with Jean-François Cloutier", when asked to identify his 'superpowers':

JF: ... I turned to my wife and I asked, "Liz, what are my superpowers?" and she immediately said, "You see the forest before the trees." I said, "Huh, that's interesting." I guess I do have a pretty good sense of systems. I'm a systems thinker.

I approach everything as a system embedded into other systems embedded into systems and I always try to intuit the emergent properties of any system I approach or any system I write or any software. Software is always a system, even though the simplest of software is embedded into a larger system, including the environment in which it's used. I'll go with what my wife says, always a good thing to do in a marriage, and say, "Yes, I believe that would be my superpower" — systems thinking.

SAM: I would just like to take a moment and point out that you have, in fact two additional superpowers that I would draw attention to. The first is asking your wife things and the second is listening for the answer.

JESSICA: Rare and powerful skills. ...

(cf Fifth Disciplinarians (2000-09-10), Ingressive vs Congressive (2017-07-08), Eugenia Cheng on Thinking (2017-12-30), Mantra - Not Yet (2018-01-09), The World We Truly Want (2018-10-13), New Superpower (2018-10-27), ...)

- Tuesday, January 29, 2019 at 05:30:23 (EST)

2019-01-01 - Happy New Year

~28 mi @ ~15.5 min/mi

"From now on, thou shalt be called 'Shar Pei'!" Today a new title is awarded to J-Bird aka Court Jester aka Counselor Troi — to be pronounced "Sharp Eye" in honor of his uncanny ability to spot tiny, infrequent, often concealed signs along the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Whoever marked that urban path was thrifty indeed! A small home on Gallatin St NW features a dense display of holiday lawn ornaments, including Darth Vader taking a selfie; Roadkill takes a meta-selfie in front of it.

"That will be funny at mile 10, and after mile 20 it will be hilarious!" As usual Trail Talk flows in comic directions, often too naughty to repeat. We teach one another how to pronounce words in various languages and dialects. Four deer pause in the bushes near Catholic University to watch us pass by. Running friends Paul Sherlock and Sakurako Narita shout out greetings in fortuitous encounters. Near the US Capitol the local Cobra Club meets — displaying sports cars, not snakes.

"I'm hoping to at least make the podium!" Today's attempt to start the new year with a record-setting Fonda 50k falls a few miles short, as the trio of Slow-twitch, Roadkill, and Shar Pei suffer various reversals of fortune and wisely declare victory in downtown Silver Spring. "No Goals!" clearly should be our goal in 2019. The morning begins warm and humid, but temperatures fall and winds gust as the day progresses.

"Are you OK, Ma'am?" We check on the driver of a car stuck in the mud askew between the Capital Crescent Trail and the C&O Canal. It's far out of place, thankfully with no injuries.


- Monday, January 28, 2019 at 04:12:57 (EST)

2018-12-31 - Nothing Special

~7.2 mi @ ~12.5 min/mi

"Nothing Special" — the title of Charlotte Joko Beck's book of Zen commentary, and Dawn Patrol's motto. "Nothing has ever existed except this moment. That's all there is. That's all we are." Hot coffee and quiet conversation on a chill, damp morning. New Year's Eve, a time to look ahead and behind.

"In 2019 maybe we should take up vaping?" If only one could enjoy the aromas without the nicotine or the lung damage! Langley High School's track blows dust out of Roadkill's old pipes via a brisk 1:43 quarter-mile lap in lane 2. McLean mansion owners haven't yet discovered the concept of curtains. Interiors are naked-exposed.

"And where does that lead?" K2 spies a narrow gravel pathway between a weathered brick wall and a fenced back yard. We follow it around a multi-million-dollar condo complex and find ourselves ... back where we began. "Wonderful! We've learned something!"


- Sunday, January 27, 2019 at 05:01:46 (EST)

Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Decades after the events of Beneath a Scarlet Sky, protagonist Pino Lella has a final encounter with author Mark Sullivan:

... he tossed his head back and laughed at the absurdity and unjustness of it all.

After several moments of quiet, Pino said, "You know, my young friend, I will be ninety years old next year, and life is still a constant surprise to me. We never know what will happen next, what we will see, and what important person will come into our life, or what important person we will lose. Life is change, constant change, and unless we are lucky enough to find comedy in it, change is nearly always a drama, if not a tragedy. But after everything, and even when the skies turn scarlet and threatening, I still believe that if we are lucky enough to be alive, we must give thanks for the miracle of every moment of every day, no matter how flawed. And we must have faith in God, in the Universe, and in a better tomorrow, even if that faith is not always deserved."

That's the beautiful coda to a powerful, if flawed, symphony: the story of a young man in northern Italy during the final years of World War II, a teen-age boy who saves lives, finds love, makes mistakes, and wrestles with ambiguity in search of justice and meaning as he begins to grow up. Much of Beneath a Scarlet Sky is wildly improbable; much is undoubtedly true. The prose could be better. The story is important. The conclusion is wise.

(cf My Religion (2000-11-06), ...)

- Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 06:13:43 (EST)

2018-12-30 - Tea for Three

~11.3 mi @ ~13.5 min/mi

"Pinkies up!" Barry orders. At mile 6 DD/Robin pours hot tea for three travelers. We sip and give thanks. Deer retreat into the woods along Sligo Creek Trail, and passing runners wish each other a Happy New Year.

"HOPE LOVE JOY PEACE" say the lights of a front-yard holiday display. At sunrise K2 and Roadkill explore on the way to Barry's 'hood. Do little free libraries reflect the owner's tastes, or are they more indicative of books that people really do NOT want to keep? We analyze the process of buying a new car, how salesmen's assumptions about customers can be humorously wrong, and the relative karmic benefits of negotiation vs improvisation.

"I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that." It's the 50th anniversary of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. At Evans Parkway Neighborhood Park we espy mysterious monoliths; they turn out not to be left by aliens, but rather are dedicated to local flora and fauna. "Not judging, just observing!" Roadkill prefixes a critique of sculptures alongside the path home. "Perhaps too anime-like?" gently suggests K2, who recently saw the "Sense of Humor" exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. (Does Roadkill's beard resemble R. Crumb's "Mr Natural"?)


- Friday, January 25, 2019 at 04:34:23 (EST)

2018-12-29 - Space Dust

~14.7 mi @ ~14.4 min/mi

"Willie Nelson!" a passing runner tells Barry, upon witnessing scruffy sweatband-bedecked Roadkill. A space-dust beer poster offers a selfie opportunity on the way to meet R2, Ken, and Emaad in Bethesda. For the return trip Danger Man and Roadkill "walk the line" between DC and Maryland, pausing to inspect three boundary stones placed there in 1792. The huge fountain at Chevy Chase Circle is dry; Roadkill cuts straight across it and discovers how slimy-slippery the residue in the bottom is. Happy horses at Meadowbrook Stables poke their heads out in hope of treats.


- Thursday, January 24, 2019 at 05:29:04 (EST)

2018-12-26 - Rottie Love

~6.0 mi @ ~12.9 min/mi

"I need some Rottie Love!" says K-Rex, wishing that the pair of big black dogs on Earnestine St could come out to play today. Dawn Patrol pauses to take photos of the house across the lane from the Rottweiler home, where a Christmas creche joins forces with a Santa scene plus lots of lights. With temps in the mid-20s puddles are frozen and we tread with care along park paths. Memories return from an icy meander through the same area fully five years ago (2013-12-20 - McLean Morning Ramble with Kristin). How time flies!


- Wednesday, January 23, 2019 at 04:34:55 (EST)

2018-12-23 - Merry Xmas

~9.2 mi @ ~13.1 min/mi

"You just made my day!" says the kind young lady scraping frost off her car, when she looks up and smiles as Santa-Roadkill runs past and wishes her a happy holiday. Sharing joy with one another = Best. Christmas. Gifts. Ever. Thank you!

"Well, THAT didn't work!" Playground toys tempt Santa-Roadkill into propped-up-camera self-timer photo experiments — most of which result in oddly cropped body fragments or empty pictures of the sky. Barry joins in a dash to the middle-school track. Three 200m intervals kick the old ticker into overdrive, pounding like a bunny's. More speedwork definitely needed! Geese gather to feed on the fairway of Sligo Golf Course.


- Tuesday, January 22, 2019 at 05:44:14 (EST)

Meditation Mantras

Breathe: sit quietly. Let mind be still. Let mind be. Let be. Be ...

Sense: the floor, the ground, the earth pushing upward. Feel the air surrounding, clothes touching, heart beating. Feel ...

Hear: the sigh of the world, the hum of life, the silence that separates every sound. Remember the atoms, the stars, the vast emptiness. Notice ...

Attend: to the present moment. Here. The past behind, the future ahead. Between them, now. Only now. Now ...

Accept: what is. Soft and gentle. Open. May, or may not. This just is. This is. This ...

Affirm: say "Yes!" to everything. Love. No others, no self. All one. One ...

(cf Core Buddhism (2011-10-17), O (2012-10-24), 01 (2013-11-05), Mantra - Mindfulness, Nonattachment, Oneness (2017-01-25), Mindfulness in Three Words (2018-06-13), Mantra - Be Meta, Be Open, Be Love (2018-11-11), Meditation Map (2019-01-19), ...)

- Monday, January 21, 2019 at 07:48:59 (EST)

2018-12-22 - Terrible Idea

~15.1 mi @ ~15.2 min/mi

"That sounds like a terrible idea! What time?" Certain friends are also enablers - no one we know, of course! Danger Man and Roadkill ramble west, with pauses in Kensington to admire glittery porch decorations and sunrise on the train tracks. We meet Rebecca, greet her happy pup Oreo, and head south past the Strathmore Hall totem poles.

"Black has a slimming effect and I need to lose weight, so I'm wearing black today!" Roadkill explains his outfit to Crabby who joins the gang on Rock Creek Trail. We brainstorm make-up, and beard dyes for the upcoming "Dopey Challenge". Faux-topiary animals are bedecked for the season. "America: Home of the Free, Because of the Brave" reads a grocery bag rescued from the road. Cait takes a group photo for us in her front yard.

"Merlin's Bermuda Vacation!" Crabby suggests a theme for Roadkill's costume at Disney World, based on a segment in the classic animation The Sword in the Stone. Danger Man has the garish Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts. A pointy wizard's cap could be procured. Roadkill sports a long gray beard. Hmm!

"Why are they smiling and wishing us 'Merry Christmas'?" Danger Man wonders. He's wearing a technical shirt printed to look like a knit reindeer-snowflake sweater; Roadkill has his red Santa cap on. Cars honk. Passers-by wave.

"Adventure. And Variety. And a weird trackfile Map. And Safety. And Hills. And ...". Roadkill lists criteria for a great run. Not to mention the most vital: therapeutic trail talk with good friends!


- Sunday, January 20, 2019 at 06:07:26 (EST)

Meditation Map

attention acceptance affirmation
    meta    open    love
  here   soft   kind

and Be ...

(cf Core Buddhism (2011-10-17), O (2012-10-24), 01 (2013-11-05), Mantra - Mindfulness, Nonattachment, Oneness (2017-01-25), Mindfulness in Three Words (2018-06-13), Mantra - Be Meta, Be Open, Be Love (2018-11-11), ...)

- Saturday, January 19, 2019 at 07:18:09 (EST)

2018-12-18 - Pimmit Xmas Walkabout

~3.4 mi @ ~18.8 min/mi

"Looks like a battlefield!" A yard is strewn with corpses, slumping structures, crumpled vehicles - or rather, dark deflated Christmas decorations. Dr B and Roadkill take an early evening random-walk through Pimmit Hills, expecting streets bright with lights. Not so much this year, though there are exceptions. A few small houses go overboard; some mini-mansions take the plug-in-a-single-string opposite approach.

"Very like a whale!" as Polonius and Hamlet described a cloud. At one angle a set of white lights seem to depict a huge spouting sea creature. Upon closer inspection they turn into strands draped about a tree. And when underneath, "We're in the belly of Leviathan!" We catch up on news of family and friends, and resolve to get together more often.


- Friday, January 18, 2019 at 05:34:40 (EST)

2018-12-17 - Pokey

~8.2 mi @ ~13.7 min/mi

"Now I know how MEN feel!" says someone who recently was the target of a non-stop monologue by a hyper-chatty young lady. Monday morning Dawn Patrol concurs on the value of mindful listening as well as awareness of one's own tendencies to occasionally over-communicate. We admire Xmas lights on brightly trimmed trees along Route 7 in downtown Falls Church.

"That lump growing on your foot is probably an Alien. You should name it before it pops out. How about 'Pokey'!?" K-Rex and K2 offer helpful advice to Roadkill and his self-diagnosed ganglion cyst, both of whom accept their suggestions.

"Don't see that too often!" A pair of blue jeans lies abandoned at a bus stop shelter. A chill west wind cuts through our layers. Hot coffee from Starbucks helps.


- Thursday, January 17, 2019 at 06:32:56 (EST)

2018-12-16 - Dinosaur Skeleton

~6.5 mi @ ~13.8 min/mi

"This toy has gotten smaller in the past six months!" Roadkill complains, astride the Colt Terrace playground rocking-duck. (Can't possibly be that something else is now much larger!) Barry leads a Sunday afternoon jog past puddles and Christmas decorations. A skeletal tyrannosaur guards one front yard.

"I did make a mistake once — when I said, incorrectly, that I was wrong!" We meander with confidence, backtrack from dead-ends, and discover a new cut-through at Evans Parkway Park. Barry's proposal to square his training distance provokes a lecture on dimensional analysis.


- Wednesday, January 16, 2019 at 05:09:45 (EST)


Management wisdom from Doris Derrington — friend, colleague, leader — at her retirement ceremony last week: "Delegate what you know best. You can check the work quickly, and you'll gain time to learn something new!". Good advice, like Andy Grove's "Because it is easier to monitor something with which you are familiar, if you have a choice you should delegate those activities you know best." and Henry Ward's "How do I decide what to delegate? Delegate the work you want to do."

(cf On Delegation (2000-10-17), Minor Imp (2003-05-14), [[Ementor Emantras] (2011-05-02), ...)

- Tuesday, January 15, 2019 at 06:07:43 (EST)

2018-12-16 - Ganglion Cyst

~3.7 mi @ ~13.3 min/mi

"We don't smoke! We don't drink! Norfolk! Norfolk!" somebody quotes a rumored cheer-leading chant from a coastal Virginia school. Rain pauses for Slow-Twitch and Court Jester to escort Roadkill on a Sunday Morning tour of the neighborhood. A pack of runners chase us along the Bethesda Trolley Trail, as we catch up on family news and give thanks for friendship, kindness, health, and safe spaces. Sculptures and totem poles at the Strathmore Arts Center are eye-catching.

"Your Mother could run an ultra without complaining on a foot like that!" Sympathy abounds when Roadkill exhibits the strange lump (ganglion cyst?) atop his right foot. Likeliest diagnosis: extreme laziness. Prescription: "Up your mileage!"


- Wednesday, January 09, 2019 at 03:22:40 (EST)

This Moment

Nothing has ever existed
    Except this moment
That's all there is
        That's all we are

... from Nothing Special by Charlotte Joko Beck. In more context, as it appears in Part VII "Wonder" (chapter titled "The Fall"):

Most of the time we don't think there's any crisis. ("So far, so good!") Or we think the crisis is the fact that we don't feel happy. That's not a crisis; that's an illusion. So we spend most of our life attempting to fix this nonexistent entity that we think we are. In fact, we are this second. What else could we be? And this second has no time or space. I can't be the second that was five minutes ago; how can I be that? I'm here. I'm now. I can't be the second that's going to arrive in ten minutes either. The only thing I can be is wiggling around on my cushion, feeling the pain in my left knee, experiencing whatever is happening now. That's who I am. I can't be anything else. I can imagine that in ten minutes I won't have a pain in my left knee, but that's sheer fantasy.

I can also remember a time when I was young and pretty. That's sheer fantasy also. Most of our difficulties, our hopes, and our worries are simply fantasies. Nothing has ever existed except this moment. That's all there is. That's all we are. Yet most human beings spend fifty to ninety percent or more of their time in their imagination, living in fantasy. We think about what has happened to us, what might have happened, how we feel about it, how we should be different, how others should be different, how it's all a shame, and on and on; it's all fantasy, all imagination. Memory is imagination. Every memory that we stick to devastates our life.

Practical thinking—when we're not clinging to some fantasy but just getting something done—is another matter. If my knee hurts, perhaps I should investigate treatment for it. The thoughts that destroy us are the ones in which we're trying to stop the fall and not hit bottom. "I'm going to fix him." "I'm going to fix myself." Or "I'm going to understand myself. When I finally understand myself, I'll be at peace and then life will be all right." No, it's won't be all right. It will be whatever it is, just this second. Just the wonder.

As we sit, can we sense the wonder? Can we feel the wonder in the fact that we're here that as human beings we can appreciate this life? ...

(cf Giving Up Hope (2014-09-01), No-Self and the Space of Wonder (2014-10-20), Listen to the Traffic (2014-11-12), Aspiration, not Expectation (2014-12-12), No Drama (2015-01-06), Moving from Experiences to Experiencing (2015-08-06), ...)

- Tuesday, January 08, 2019 at 05:45:38 (EST)

2018-12-15 - Book Drop

~5.1 mi @ ~11.5 min/mi

"Northeast Passage - found!" Roadkill runs on Saturday afternoon through heavy rains to pick up a book on reserve at the Silver Spring library. Return ramble (book safely bagged against the elements) rediscovers the long-lost Alton Parkway path that he and Barry failed to find 4 weeks ago.

"That's an ugly bump!" The top of the old right foot suddenly starts to hurt badly at mile ~3.5, then recovers after a short walk. Ganglion cyst? Stress fracture? Or more likely, overactive imagination plus hypochondria? Today's soggy solo trek is overdue atonement for past and future dietary sins. More mileage (and fewer desserts), STAT!


- Monday, January 07, 2019 at 04:09:10 (EST)

2018-12-14 - Naughty Foods

~3.9 mi @ ~14.2 min/mi

"They're visible from space! My neighbors can't get any sleep!" Christmas lights shine bright at K2's place, thanks to her Better Half's creative energy in decoration. Dawn Patrol rambles in search of holiday ornaments through the Balls Hill neighborhood. Conversation likewise rambles through a discussion of naughty-sounding foods ("Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls", "Spotted Dick", "Sex on the Beach", "Slutty Brownies"), cryptocurrency wallets, family vacation plans, etc.

"Fun Bun passed away this week. There were tears — and there will be no more indoor pets!" The much-loved rabbit in residence at K-Rex's home is now buried in the front yard; a memorial marker is on order. As Richard Adams wrote in Watership Down, "My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today." And we who remain shall keep taking care of each other.


- Sunday, January 06, 2019 at 07:08:24 (EST)

2018-12-12 - Hugs and Kisses

~6.6 mi @ ~13.7 min/mi

"It's like being a parent, but without the hugs and kisses!" K-Rex captures the essence of the manager's job in a busy high-performance organization. Dawn Patrol random-walks based on where Xmas lights catch our eyes. Suddenly we realize that we're touring a neighborhood via the reverse of a course we took one week ago. Everything looks so different when inverted! "That's a Category Theory principle," notes Roadkill, predictably. Trail talk includes the importance of safe places to live, shop, work, learn, and just be — especially valuable as catalysts of open, soft, joyful peace of mind.


- Saturday, January 05, 2019 at 07:12:13 (EST)

Distilled to Pure Love

He dispenses love
    from a bottomless well.

In the collection, "Your Hopes for 2019", brief aspirations for the New Year sent in by readers of the New York Times:

I have been married to a man for almost 40 years. He's a good man, but he's not my soul mate. I have wanted to leave him several times. I never did, for the usual reasons: kids, economics, laziness, fear of the unknown. We went on, the kids grew up, and we just settled in. About six years ago, he was diagnosed with dementia. In October 2018, he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. I thought I knew everything about this man but he has surprised me and, moreover, given me a lesson in love. He used to be full of anxieties and anger. Now he has distilled himself down to pure love. It's who he is and how his days go. He tells us how much he loves us, he tells people he's supposed to know but has forgotten how much he loves them. It's not just words, it's action; in his eyes, his face, his gestures. He lights up at your presence; he kisses your hand; he tells you how wonderful you look. He dispenses love from a bottomless well. There is no filter, no bargaining for affection. And I stand here, in awe. — Mary Carroll, Copake, N.Y.

(cf How Great Thou Art (2005-03-16), This Is Water (2009-05-21), Core Buddhism (2011-10-17), Ground of Being (2013-10-03), Buddhism and Love (2017-01-09), Mantra - Be Meta, Be Open, Be Love (2018-11-11), ...)

- Friday, January 04, 2019 at 04:53:27 (EST)

2018-12-10 - Xmas Inflation

~5 miles @ ~15 min/mi

"We should put some money in their mailbox to help pay their electrical bill!" K2 & K-Rex admire a hyper-Christmas-spirited home at the corner of Storm and Pimmit Drive. The cozy front yard is dense with decorations: Santas, elves, dogs, candy canes, sleighs, trucks, hot air balloons, and at least one unicorn. The hum of air compressors blankets the neighborhood. Impressive display!

"We are not alone!" Mindful trail talk reviews the needs that all share for respect, affirmation, esteem, understanding, and a measure of control over circumstances. It definitely helps to have a sympathetic ear. Major GPS glitching while inside Starbucks adds a bonus of ~1.6 miles to the trackfile. Dawn Patrol doesn't actually run 6.66 miles!


- Thursday, January 03, 2019 at 05:27:26 (EST)

2018-12-09 - Western Ridge

~10.2 mi @ ~14.3 min/mi

"What was the Quote of The Day? Something about forgetfulness?" Professor Rebecca and Barry crunch through mounds of brown leaves on the Western Ridge Trail, joking and meta-joking, as Roadkill leads the way back. Two horses climb the hill and turn south. Humidity is high; temperature hovers at freezing, portending snow.

"Oops!" Steppingstones in Pinehurst Branch, a tributary of Rock Creek, are small and tippy and too far apart for 2/3rds of us to cross with dry feet. No matter, on a quiet day in the woods with good friends!


- Wednesday, January 02, 2019 at 04:36:59 (EST)

Gentleman in Moscow

A rich guy in post-revolutionary Russia is confined to a fancy hotel for decades. Not much happens.

That's A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. The protagonist lives in a nutshell, dines well, drinks a lot, has sophisticated-sounding conversations, makes friends, finds a discreet if implausible lover, and ... not much happens. Language is lovely at intervals, workmanlike throughout. Scenery is ornate. Characterization is thin. Plot is glacial. After some coincidences, it ends. Okay.

- Tuesday, January 01, 2019 at 05:12:10 (EST)

2018-12-08 - Tea for Three

~14.0 mi @ ~16.2 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Henderson_tea_Caitlin_Barry_z_2018-12-08_t.jpg"And but for the sky there are no fences facing!" Roadkill sings at mile 10. Mr Tambourine Man (aka Barry) notes the absence of barriers, bushwhacks up a slope in Kensington, then pauses for pics by a giant stone head. Today's temps begin in the mid-20s as Crabby (aka Cait) trots to Barry's 'hood. Roadkill leads the way via a cemetery where American Founding Father Daniel Carroll is buried. We run hill repeats; Cait spies a family of lawn dinosaurs.

"Does the Second Amendment guarantee the right to bare not just arms but also, uh, ...?" someone wonders, as we trot along Sligo Creek and discuss top-free sunbathing, subject of a current lawsuit in Ocean City. Bawdy banter pauses at the Colt Terrace playground for feats of strength and toy-duck-riding. Roadkill rolls an already-twingy right ankle during an off-trail cut-through. We meet Robin near Wheaton Regional Park and pause to sip green gunpowder tea that she has kindly prepared to warm us. Thank you, Ma'am!
"Cross Traffic Does Not Stop" warns the sign at the intersection of Grandview and Arcola Avenues, where two cars have just collided. A few blocks later at mile 8 Cait's knee suddenly goes bad, possibly an ITB issue. We await her husband Bill's arrival; she reminisces about drawing chalk outlines around childhood playmates in the street, faux crime scenes to startle passers-by.

"You, Sir, are The Bad Influence today!" Roadkill salutes Barry, who takes us on a scramble through a brushy ravine to Einstein High School. Plans for speedwork on the track are thwarted by ongoing construction to upgrade the football field. Trail talk today includes superhero films, plans to see holiday lights, upcoming race logistics, and family news.


- Monday, December 31, 2018 at 05:03:07 (EST)

Leaders Eat Last

Another book (or "book") with a great truth — let's all take care of each other — and not much more. Movingly-told anecdotes, yes. Testable, statistically-based evidence? Not so much, if any. Pop neurochemistry = endorphins + dopamine + serotonin + oxytocin — plenty of it. Bottom-line-up-front? Still looking for it. Simon Sinek's Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't — an excellent 2009 TED Talk, in 300 pages.

- Sunday, December 30, 2018 at 05:56:38 (EST)

2018-12-07 - Dreams and Code Words

~7.4 mi @ ~14.6 min/mi

"Slippery slope!" K2 warns, as K-Rex tells of a Pony Play-Date offered by the local stables for young people. Likewise, a half-mile walk-run on which K2 took a colleague who said, "I can't run" — first steps on a slippery-slope toward ultramarathoning! Dawn Patrol lopes along, talking about calendar issues (don't ask!) and codewords for Recent Events That Must Not Be Spoken Of.

"I had a very interesting dream last night!" — the most frightening sentence in the English Language, according to Oscar Wilde, disproved by K2 as she describes a kindly-portentous dream. A hawk takes off from the ground near us as we approach. Such a wonderful morning!


- Saturday, December 29, 2018 at 06:03:00 (EST)

2018-12-05 - Dawn Patrol with Cait

~5.4 mi @ ~13.7 min/mi

"Are you going to wait until I die before you propose to her?" asks somebody's Grandma, impatient about the engagement process's slow pace. (Deservedly so: she donated a diamond to get things going!) Dawn Patrol is rejoined by Caitlin, who tells of cutthroat competition for over-the-top holiday lawn decorations in her parents' neighborhood. Christmas lights on a tree glitter in reflection off a glass-fronted home; adjacent three-garage mini-mansions feature giant inflatable ornaments. Laser-projected spots converge into snowflake shapes and dissolve into speckles. Spiky pastel-glowing spheres cling to tree limbs. K-Rex navigates through McLean cut-through paths on a frosty morning.


- Friday, December 28, 2018 at 06:02:49 (EST)

2018-12-03 - 10x Ironman

~5.6 mi @ ~12.7 min/mi

"Let's stay lost!" says K-Rex. Dawn Patrol takes a new cut-through, from McLean High School down slippery stairs and a ramp, then wanders into a dead-end decorated with traffic cones. Retrace our path to terra cognita? Never! Onward we ramble, in search of adventure and holiday decorations.

"That house has the whole neighborhood covered!" Even though the Xmas season has barely begun one front yard features glowing candy canes, polychromatic hedge lights, dancing laser spots on the facade, and an inflated boat ("Jolly Roger") manned by a pirate Santa and friends. Overkill, thy name is Lewinsville!

"Please, Sir, may I touch your medal?" Roadkill asks, with great respect. Al Manning greets Dawn Patrol as we begin our cooldown. At DecaMan last month Al did a 24 mile swim followed by a 1,120 mile bike ride and then a 262 mile run. Ten times the Ironman event distances in 13 days. Alexander Pushkin said of Leo Tolstoy: "Even if you are aware that you have never accomplished anything, you don't feel so bad, because Tolstoy accomplishes enough for everyone." And after what Al did, there's no need for any of us to feel bad about our cute little marathons and sweet ultras. Thank you, Al!


- Thursday, December 27, 2018 at 05:59:37 (EST)

2018-12-02 - Takoma Park Murals

~5.1 mi @ ~16.1 min/mi

"Oh, heavens!" exclaims Molly, as we discover that once again we're heading in precisely the wrong direction. No matter! Morning meanders lead to new perspectives, unexpected connections, surprise gifts. Lawn art lures: a Virgin Mary behind a wire grid; swans and geese on leashes; a bed of oyster shells with dog and bird statuettes; a wall-mounted witch above a miniature Madonna.http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Takoma_Park_mural_Molly-Graham-Hickman_2018-12-02_t.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Takoma_Park_Northwest_Branch_bridge_out_sign_2018-12-02_t.jpg"Hands like you're holding a ball!" Molly and Roadkill pose in front of "Turning Point", a huge mural now 10 years old at the corner of Piney Branch Road and New Hampshire Avenue. We seek adventure, and are amply rewarded. A slippery slope takes us onto Northwest Branch Trail, where recent floods have left muddy detritus in dark underpasses.
"DANGER! Bridge Out - Keep Off" Roadkill recalls running here but somehow forgets to warn of water crossings. Oops! As we wade across Molly tells of hiking a New York trail that vanished on one side of a river and reappeared on the other. We take the Quebec Street bridge and return home with soggy socks. Coffee and conversation with her husband Giulio ensue: category theory, Haskell programming, Terry Pratchett, and more!http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Takoma_Park_mural_z_2018-12-02_t.jpg


- Wednesday, December 26, 2018 at 04:51:49 (EST)

2018-12-01 - Rock Creek Ramble with Gayatri and Barry

~12.2 mi @ ~15.5 min/mi

http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/Rock_Creek_caution__Gayatri_Barry_z_2018-12-01_t.jpg"They have to catch us first!" say the women who run ahead as Gayatri, Barry, and Roadkill venture past construction signs warning "DANGER - Keep Out!" Adventure continues for a dozen miles, not to be stopped by mere "CAUTION" ribbon in Rock Creek Park.

"Is he strong? Listen, bud. He's got radioactive blood!" Roadkill renders a fragment of the Spiderman TV show theme song, as we take turns leading the way up hills, past leaf-blowers, over tree roots, across streets, around parked cars. The friendly-familiar McDonald's on River Road at the Capital Crescent Trail is an aid station. A whiskery gardener on Leland Street gets a salute.
"No, it's Fake Food!" Waiting for a light to change in Bethesda, we joke about the nearby "True Food Kitchen", much to the amusement of a lady nearby. "We've been bantering furiously for the past 9 miles!" we tell her. She says she wishes she could run with us. Maybe some day!http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/River-Road_Love-Makes_Everything_Disappear_sticker_t.jpg
http://zhurnaly.com/images/running/River-Road_Thank-You-for-Not-Thinking_sticker_2018-12-01_t.jpg"Love makes everything disappear" and "Thank you for not thinking" read stickers on a bridge railing. Little girls sit atop huge horses that walk in sedate circles at Meadowbrook Stables. Rain politely waits until after we finish running and get coffee.


- Tuesday, December 25, 2018 at 09:05:08 (EST)

Category Theory is like a Lighthouse

From replies to the question "What is category theory useful for?" on Mathematics Stack Exchange, some metaphors are enlightening.

Asaf Karagila:

Generalization is the bread and butter of mathematics. The idea is that often there are many similarities between two seemingly unrelated objects, but their difference itself is very cluttering. It makes the analogy hide under the surface and not jump right at you.

When you abstract something by cleaning up the clutter you find yourself with highly concentrated theorems about tons of objects. Sometimes it would have been very hard to prove each case, let alone to come up with the idea to prove these cases. The generalizations can make things easier to see, easier to prove and easier to handle.

That been said, the de-generalization of going back from a very abstract theory to a more "down to earth" one (even if it is a very abstract theory on its own) can be a very hard process as well. Sometimes the abstraction process kills a lot of interesting information that you would like to know. Things like actual calculations or methods to calculate certain values. Restoring the details can be quite the hard work, but the abstraction helps us see what is true to begin with, and that's an incredibly important thing in mathematics, which is often similar to wading down a bog of peat, blindfolded with your shoelaces tied from one shoe to the other. Generalization and abstract theorems are lighthouses.

Ittay Weiss

Category theory serves several purposes. On the most superficial level it provides a common language to almost all of mathematics and in that respect its importance as a language can be likened to the importance of basic set theory as a language to speak about mathematics. In more detail, category theory identifies many similar aspects in very different areas of mathematics and thus provides a common unifying language. The fact that almost any structure either is a category, or the collection of all such structures with their obvious structure preserving mappings forms a category, means that we can't expect too many general theorems in category theory to be really interesting (since anything you can prove about a general category will have to be true of almost everything in maths). However, some general truths can be found to be quite useful and labour saving. ...

Continuing the analogy between set theory and category theory as common languages for maths, the situation is like saying "a set is just a bunch of points. No structure. Nothing. How interesting and relevant can it possibly be to study set theory?". As it turns out it is both interesting and very important to the rest of mathematics. ....

Less superficially, category theory encourages a shift in attention to what structure is. In category theory the particular inner workings of an object do not matter at all. All that matters is how that object is related (via the morphisms) to the other objects in the category. ...

A Ellett

At a certain level, mathematicians study structures. In a very small nutshell, category theory allows you to talk about structures recurring throughout other disciplines of mathematics; it's a kind of unifying theory. Much like Algebra studies various arithmetic structures and distills their properties without having to worry about whether you're talking about integers, matrices, families of functions, etc. which in the specifics are quite different, so category theory distills properties across various disciplines of mathematics. ...

(cf Cakes, Custard, and Category Theory (2016-02-14), Bird's-Eye View (2016-07-20), Category Theory for Programmers (2017-05-12), Ultimate Abstraction (2017-08-24), Put the Vast Storehouse in Order (2017-10-04), Yoneda Perspective (2018-10-03), If You Need a Theorem (2018-11-08), ...)

- Monday, December 24, 2018 at 05:36:53 (EST)

2018-11-30 - Persimmon Ornaments

~5.8 mi @ ~15.4 min/mi

"They're not decorations - they're persimmons!" K-Rex identifies festive orange globes hanging from a front yard tree; K2 picks up a fallen one to inspect. Dawn Patrol meanders through Pimmit Hills questing for early Xmas lights. Alas, all we spy are a few inflated snowmen. Perhaps next week! A black cat on a front porch watches warily. The last quarter Moon swings high above brilliant Venus, location confirmed by a phone's planet-finder app. Discussion centers on how to prepare for a child's first horse ride. "Oooh, this could get expensive!"


- Sunday, December 23, 2018 at 05:58:14 (EST)

2018-11-26 - Gratitude and Thanksgiving

~4.6 mi @ ~14.5 min/mi

"We can't afford a Unicorn, so we'll have to strap a Narwhal onto a Horse!" Roadkill quotes a colleague bemoaning the challenge of recruiting a rare skill mix. Rain holds off just long enough for Dawn Patrol to make it to Starbucks and return on a warm post-Thanksgiving morn. K2's kids had a great time at home for the holiday and returned safely to school. The results of Mom's arm-wrestling matches with them were positive. At least three ITBs twinge, tolerably. We thank each other every mile.

"She just talked and talked and talked, nonstop stream-of-consciousness — I didn't have to say a thing!" K-Rex describes a young girl who seems to channel the same inner Tigger as Roadkill's. We divert through a pine-scented Xmas tree mini-forest that now occupies much of a downtown McLean nursery. Wreaths are lovely but pricey, and adding a bow costs an extra $20. "I could get one for a dollar at the craft store!"


- Saturday, December 22, 2018 at 05:04:57 (EST)

2018-11-25 - I Have a Dream

~13.5 mi @ ~18 min/mi

"I HAVE A DREAM" says the marker on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Joyce & Roadkill pause where Martin Luther King Jr gave his speech 55 years ago. Tourists stroll by, posing for selfies with the Reflecting Pool behind them.I Have a Dream
Macarthur Avenue tunnel shrine Capital Crescent Trail"Believe it or not, most managers are human beings too!" We share career experiences and jog down the Capital Crescent Trail. Front yard art features big marbles overgrown by foliage. Rebecca and Win greet us, run ahead, then turn back. A fox crosses the path and vanishes into the woods. In the tunnel under MacArthur Blvd a tiny shrine commemorates "all those no longer with us". On the Georgetown waterfront we admire ducks paddling on the Potomac and peer at strange sculptures.
"Get to bed early!" Joyce offers sage advice for the Disney Dopey Challenge that Roadkill and friends plan to attempt next year. She is Perfectly Dopey, one of the rare few to have finished the 5k, 10k, half-marathon, and marathon every year since the 4-day event began in 2013. Near the White House we pat the Zero Milestone, then take Metro back to our start. A lovely day for mindful conversation and friendship!I Have a Dream


- Friday, December 21, 2018 at 05:55:32 (EST)

2018-11-24 - MCRRC Turkey Burnoff 10 Miler

~10 miles @ ~9.6 min/mi

photo by Dan Reichmann near mile 5 MCRRC Turkey Burnoff 2018"We took turns pulling each other along!' — "And pushing each other along!" Friendly rivals Richard Jefferson and Roadkill play leapfrog during today's MCRRC 10 mile "Turkey Burnoff" race on a chilly morning. Barry, Gayatri, and Ken shout greetings as paths intersect on the out-and-back course.

Ocher leaves swirl in the breeze, and a frosty fog hangs low over Clopper Lake in Seneca Creek State Park, where one week ago K2 and Roadkill dropped at mile 44 of the Stone Mill 50 miler. Today the hills feel steeper than in years past, when Roadkill ran this same course far faster. But, as his wiser friends gently remind him, "It is what it is!" and "Let go and let be!" Alas, nonattachment doesn't come (or go) easy for him! (Perhaps he needs to stop clinging so hard to the meta-goal of "no goals"?)

Preliminary official stats: 128th place of 215 finishers, behind 82 men and 45 women, #1 of 3 in the 65-69 male age/gender group, with chip time 1:35:09 and gun time 1:35:39. The result is good enough to guarantee a win in the MCRRC 2018 Championship Series for his cohort — yay!

Past results:


- Thursday, December 20, 2018 at 05:14:52 (EST)

No Goals, No Opponents, No Times

From an October 2018 New York Times profile of elite marathon runner Allie Kieffer, thoughts about letting-go and self-affirmation:

... After a few years, she missed running and started again — but this time was different. There were no goals, no opponents to compare herself with and no times to record. Everything was on her own terms. She made friends jogging in Central Park. She joined CrossFit, unheard-of in elite running, a sport whose athletes are not exactly known for their bulging musculature. She began running more miles than ever, she was healthier than ever, and she was happier, too. And then something unexpected happened: She got faster. Much faster.


Suddenly, Kieffer wasn't just trying to be one of the hundreds of elite runners in the country. She had become one of the best runners in the world.

In doing so, Kieffer has given us a powerful example of what can happen when we stop trying to force ourselves to meet preconceived notions of how to achieve success — especially unhealthy, untrue ideas — and go after our goals on our own terms. When we focus less on fixing what we consider to be inadequacies and more on reinforcing our strengths, we can realize potential we didn't even know we had. ...

Yes, and with a small correction: not so much "... go after our goals on our own terms ..." — rather, let go of goals and let be!

("Who Says Allie Kieffer Isn't Thin Enough to Run Marathons?" by Lindsay Crouse; cf Relax Into It (2011-01-09), That Feeling of Weightlessness (2012-06-23), Radical Acceptance (2015-05-13), Inhabiting the Body (2015-09-10), Mantra - Let Go and Let Be (2015-12-02), ...)

- Wednesday, December 19, 2018 at 05:57:24 (EST)

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