^zhurnaly   -   Random   -   Recent   -   Running   -   Mantra   -   Tarot   -   Help

^zhurnaly v.9938

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 = 0.9937 ... 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!

2019-07-26 - Give More Praise

~5.6 mi @ ~11.8 min/mi

"If you had your life over again, is there any way in which you could have done better?" Roadkill shares the response of Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington: "Yes, I should have given more praise."

"Thank you!" replies K2. Dawn Patrol practices a category-theoretic principle and inverts its usual route to Starbucks for iced coffee. Sunrise pinks the horizon and soon we'll need headlamps at 0545. Roadkill shares one more Wellington quote, from a letter to his brother Henry: "P.S. I believe I forgot to tell you I was made a Duke." Such modesty!

"Training for anything?" we ask a fast runner when she overtakes us on Earnestine Street, after having shot by a few minutes earlier in McLean Central Park.

"Getting old!" she replies.

- Tuesday, August 13, 2019 at 05:35:59 (EDT)

Four Squares

"Any positive integer can be written as the sum of four square numbers", says Lagrange's four-square theorem. After years of intermittently trying to figure out why, a recent peek reveals why the why was so non-obvious. The simplest classical proof involves:

Q.E.D. — and how non-obvious, in retrospect!

(cf [1], [2], [3], [4], ...)

- Monday, August 12, 2019 at 04:56:08 (EDT)

2019-07-24 - Comfort Foods

~4.5 mi @ ~13.2 min/mi

"Cream soda and yogurt peanut clusters!" K2 reminisces about the perfect comfort food combo as Dawn Patrol waits for the traffic light to change and low clouds in the east glower peachy. We zig through housing developments ("Take the Long Way!") to Starbucks, clearing cobwebs from cut-through paths.

"Samson - he sheds twice a year so birds can build their nests!" Keymaster explains his dog's name. Analysis includes basketball records that may never be broken ("Nobody plays four years in college any more!"). Everyone got the Red Shirt memo this morning, though the rest of our wardrobes are diverse. Coney count = 1, a fast rabbit that greets us during the first 100 feet of today's trek.

- Sunday, August 11, 2019 at 06:16:11 (EDT)

2019-07-22 - Coffee. Deploy. Win.

~4.4 mi @ ~13.2 min/mi

"Seek to understand?" K2 suggests. Keymaster and Roadkill debate, and tease, each other about the value of learning technical details in machine learning theory. "No practitioner needs that!" vs "In 10 years, when TensorFlow and PyTorch are long forgotten, VC Dimension and the Kernel Trick will still be important!" Philosophical banter passes through Utilitarianism to meta and beyond. Unclear whether either participant is serious!

"Kessel run? Isn't that in the original Star Wars film?" In this case, however, it's a US Air Force initiative for rapid software development, with the motto "Code. Deploy. Win." Dawn Patrol makes rapid coffee deployment its priority, with early meetings in mind. We share news from recent travels and races. Coney Count = 2.

- Saturday, August 10, 2019 at 05:33:40 (EDT)

Halfway

 Halfway ...   between everything and nothing   between beginning and ending   between galaxies and atoms   between order and chaos   between life and deathWe sit on the edge andCare for each other.

(cf My Religion (2000-11-06), Essential Knowledge (2005-06-20), Between (2009-12-10), Cling to Nothing (2011-01-29), This (2013-03-09), Meditation Mantras (2019-01-21), Be the Gateless Gate (2019-03-06), ...)

- Friday, August 09, 2019 at 05:04:56 (EDT)

2019-07-21 - Northwood Track

~5.5 mi @ ~14.0 min/mi

"Never Mind!" Roadkill salutes the Wellness Center spirit-body-mind trio, or at least 2/3rds of it. He and Danger Man take a wrong turn on University Blvd and find themselves at a cushy track behind Northwood High School. Speedwork, anyone? The first 400 meters in 1:48 is followed by the second circuit at a more sedate pace. "And now we can honestly say we ran LAPS, plural, eh?!"

"Love America!" A rainbow-striped love-is-love mailbox stands in a front of a welcoming home. Another yard features a cat-butterfly banner. The morning is already hot and humid; quads are sore from running the downhills of yesterday's 5k race. Butterflies grace a garden behind a little free library that offers Eugenia Cheng's excellent book Beyond Infinity. Coney count = 2, goose count = 13-ish.

- Thursday, August 08, 2019 at 05:26:44 (EDT)

2019-07-20 - Matthew Henson 5k and More

~3.1 mi @ ~8.8 min/mi + ~5.2 mi @ ~17.2 min/mi

 "1041!" Roadkill shouts out his bib number as he passes the timing official - who laughs, since this is the START of the race, not the FINISH. Today's Matthew Henson 5k goes well, albeit at a pace ~1 min/mi slower than in 2014. With 20 lbs extra weight and 5 years extra age, that's not a surprise!"очень горячо!" Igor Lvovskiy tries to teach Roadkill how to say "Very Hot!" in Russian. High temperature and humidity today is a factor; the 2014-10-11 - MCRRC Matthew Henson 5k Race was held on a far colder day. Official results: 61st of 147, time 27:03, 2nd of 14 in the 65-69 year old male cohort.

"Remember Flav-R-Straws? And candy cigarettes? I used to 'smoke' them down to the butt!" reminisce Danger Man, Roadkill, and the Man with No Trail Name (aka MwNTN), who stretch old legs after the Matthew Henson 5k race. We ramble along the path, then take shady sidewalks to McDonald's where iced lattes and breakfast burritos aid recovery. A Dutch Girl lawn ornament looks weathered from one side, but turns out to be a potemkin façade.

"So if you're The Good, then which of us is The Bad and which The Ugly?" We quote from the film "Airplane" and sing bits of classic rock. At one point to settle a debate Roadkill calls his DW to learn the identity of the flying kaiju turtle - which turns out not to be Rodan, but Gamera aka "Friend of All Children" and "Guardian of the Universe". Ah, the wonders of modern technology. "Hey, Siri, settle a bet ..."

(trackfile & trackfile)

- Wednesday, August 07, 2019 at 06:38:03 (EDT)

Painfully Difficult Beautiful Ideas

From a discussion of mathematics and computer programming, the "Think in Math, Write in Code" thread of July 2019:

by dkarl:

Math has more aspects than just logical deduction via mechanical rules. Math also has an aesthetic aspect that guides people to find elegant, powerful solutions within the space defined by the mechanical rules. There may be many paths of deduction from point A to point B, which are all mechanically equally valid. But from the human point of view, they have different value. Some will be simple and easy to understand; others will rely on ideas from one or another realm of math, making them friendly to people who understand those ideas. Some will suggest, to the human brain, analogies to other problems. The mathematical validity of the argument is judged according to whether it correctly follows the mechanical rules, but all other aspects are judged by aesthetics and intuition and ultimately by how the solution is received and utilized by other mathematicians.

If the only aspect of mathematics that you bring into programming is logical deduction by mechanical rules, then I doubt it will help, except for rare cases where you prove or disprove the correctness of code. If, on the other hand, you bring over the aesthetic concern, the drive to make painfully difficult ideas more beautiful (ergonomic) for human brains, then it will help you make your code simpler, clearer, and easier for others to work with. ...

and

That's true to a certain extent, but math and programming share the property of being built up from logical building blocks that are combined in strict logical ways. Law and philosophy are built on language and culture; physics is closer but is empirical. Math and programs are built from logic, and this gives them more of a common aesthetic sense.

For example, in law or philosophy, repeating the same argument multiple times, adapted for different circumstances, can give it weight. In math and programming, the weight of repetition is dead weight that people strive to eliminate. In law and philosophy, arguments are built out of words and shared assumptions that change over time; in math, new definitions can be added, and terms can be confusingly overloaded, but old definitions remain accessible in a way that old cultural assumptions are not accessible to someone writing a legal argument.

In physics, the real world is a given, and we approximate it as best we can. In math and software, reality is chosen from the systems we are able to construct. ...

... and by furyofantares:

I see math as the language of thinking. Math doesn't really have a domain beyond: how do we think, how do we know, and how do we communicate our knowledge. The progression of mathematics has been the systematic removal of domain. Numbers are widely applicable because they are very abstract and devoid of domain, and they are one of the least abstract things in mathematics.
I agree with your gist, there are lots of things where studying that thing is virtuous beyond its direct application. But also, I'd contend that thought is the subject of mathematics and not just a virtuous side-effect.

... and by optimuspaul:

I've always thought of those two groups using different labels. The Code Artists and the Engineers. The Artists have a strong need to be creating to understand something, whereas the engineer has a strong need to understand before they can create. And those that believe the programming is not an art fall into the latter group.

... which leads filoleg to point to the essay "Hackers and Painters" by Paul Graham (2003), and CaioAlonso to note:

Harold Abelson creates the distinction [1] between Mathematics being the study of truth and Computing being the study of process. It seems to me that these really are different things and Mathematics isn't the "natural language" to discuss computations, but rather truth and patterns. But of course process (computing) can only happen within the boundaries of mathematical truths and patterns.

(cf [2] and Key to the Treasure (2004-04-23), Higher Level Language (2007-08-17), LISP Lover (2009-10-26), Lisp Curse (2012-11-17), Better than It Has to Be (2019-07-23), ...)

- Tuesday, August 06, 2019 at 06:05:10 (EDT)

2019-07-18 - Don't Ever Change

~4.2 mi @ ~12.9 min/mi

"Doing a bid," explains K-Rex, "means serving time in prison!" Roadkill learns a new idiom as Dawn Patrol tours Pimmit Hills on a cloyingly humid morning. Hibiscus flowers bloom lovely by the sidewalk. A woman dashes past not once but twice. We cut through a neighborhood park and tread carefully on half-repaved half-milled-down streets.

"Don't Ever Change!" says a t-shirt on an older gentleman. Does it mean never take off that shirt? Coney count = 6 big bunnies.

- Monday, August 05, 2019 at 04:36:57 (EDT)

2019-07-14 - French River Trail Run

~6.4 mi @ ~20.1 min/mi

 "I haven't swallowed any yet!" - "One flew into my mouth, but I got it out quick!" Two young ladies comment on bugs in the woods today at the XTERRA French River trail run in Oxford Massachusetts, as they pass Drs Mary and Roadkill.
 The course meanders up and down steep rocky hills in the US Army Corps of Engineers property at Hodges Village Dam. Recent dry weather leaves the French River crossing only ankle deep; muddy bogs are hardly noticeable.
 "Hello Kitty!" A small shrine to Roadkill's power animal decorates an ancient tree stump. Other discoveries along the course include a graffiti-rich skateboard park and a Boy-Scout-built floating boardwalk.
 Volunteers, race officials, and fellow competitors are ultra-friendly. We take an impromptu 10k option rather than the half marathon originally planned.The goals of today's run? Visit dear Dr Mary, spend time together, work on our fitness (physical, mental, spiritual), atone for past sins, and prepare for more good times together. Mission Accomplished!

(French River crossing photos by Mike Luchini Photography - trackfile)

- Sunday, August 04, 2019 at 06:03:44 (EDT)

Stairway to Nowhere

... as seen during a hike with dear ultra-friend Dr Mary, stone ruins in "Madame Sherri's Forest", in southwestern New Hampshire — left after the main structures were destroyed by fire in 1962.

(cf. [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], ...)

- Saturday, August 03, 2019 at 04:58:38 (EDT)

2019-07-10 - Favorite Cake

~4.5 mi @ ~12.5 min/mi

"Brown Butter Cake!" K2 describes the most diet-deadly dessert of all time. Roadkill fails to start the GPS until after we leave Starbucks, so the sub-4-minute miles of Dawn Patrol's dash for caffeine don't count. A McLean business features a lucky red fish, and a favorite garden on Pine Hill Road has birds amongst the blossoms. "Townshend Vermont - any relation to Pete Townshend of The Who?" A chipmunk retreats without answering.

- Friday, August 02, 2019 at 04:38:06 (EDT)

2019-07-08 - Gene Pool

~4.9 mi @ ~13.5 min/mi

"Greater societal good by taking a high dive into the Risk Pool!" How can young people get tested for cancer-related genes - and thus receive early monitoring and treatment, to save lives - if results of genetic testing may disqualify them from buying life insurance? K2 poses tough social-ethical-moral-bayesian questions for which there are no easy answers. Rain pauses long enough for Dawn Patrol to sip coffee, then comes down harder.

"Chomsky Normal Form!" Keymaster's precise linguistic vocabulary intrigues Roadkill, whose love of technical terminology grows exponentially every year. Conversation random-walks through mathy humor and famous algorithms before returning to the ever-popular theme of dog toys. Why are squishy-squeaky animals so much fun?

- Thursday, August 01, 2019 at 05:40:29 (EDT)

Most Interesting Man in the World

Among the most interesting jokes from the Dos Equis beer commercial for "The Most Interesting Man in the World" are those with paraprosdokian twists:

• "His mother has a tattoo that says son."
• "If opportunity knocks and he's not at home, opportunity waits."
• "He has inside jokes with people he's never met."
• "Bigfoot tries to get pictures of him."
• "He lives vicariously through himself."
• "Bear hugs are what he gives bears."
• "He is the life of parties that he has never attended."
• "Presidents take his birthday off."
• "His business card simply says 'I'll call you'."
• "He has won the lifetime achievement award, twice."

(cf Don't Do That (2012-12-07), ...)

- Wednesday, July 31, 2019 at 04:51:18 (EDT)

2019-07-07 - Inuksuk

~4.5 mi @ ~13.8 min/mi

"Inuksuk!" says Keymaster, an Inuit word for the cairn of stones that he spies on a stump.

"Three Toad Stack!" responds K2, and describes how to calm amphibians and arrange them into a column, purportedly an Australian pastime.

"The Royal Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things!" suggests Roadkill, in a flashback to 1970-era Monty Python category-theoretic abstract nonsense. Sunday's Dawn Patrol starts at the Difficult Run parking lot and climbs a connector path into Great Falls National Park. Recent rains leave puddles to dodge, but the Swamp Trail is passable. A faux-tree cellphone tower by the Ridge Trail (cf 2016-10-15 - Great Falls Walkabout with Dr Mary) seems shorter, as do historic flood markers at the Potomac River overlook. We loop back via the Old Carriage Road and then take Difficult Run Trail to where, years ago, someone witnessed a child's super-scary fall on slippery rocks. "Her life and mine both flashed before my eyes!" Thank goodness no major injury that day!

- Tuesday, July 30, 2019 at 05:31:21 (EDT)

2019-07-06 - MCRRC CCT 5k

~3.1 mi @ ~8.9 min/mi

 "All the cool kids are wearing shades!" Roadkill notes, and looks up to see Dan Reichmann on the bridge, taking a photo of brightly-clad racers awaiting the start of the MCRRC Capital Crescent 5k. Then we're off! K2 sets a fast pace; the first two miles flow at ~8.5 min/mi. Humidity is high on a warm summer morning. We weave around slower runners, find space, and settle into a steady downhill dash. Don't think about the return trip!"Happy Birthday, Santa!" Joyce and Santa Steve are running along the trail, and soon thereafter Rebecca and Barry appear. All of us are atoning in advance for a celebratory pancake breakfast that Joyce has organized for Steve. At the Dalecarlia Tunnel we circle the turnaround cone and head back."We'll pull you now, Alice, and then you can pull us!" Roadkill and K2 encourage speedy Alice Franks, recovering from injury, as we catch her near mile 2. She returns the favor and leads us through the last section of the course. Barry and Rebecca cheer at the finish line. Official results show us at 27:51, just under 9 min/mi. A solid new 5k PB for K2!

(trackfile for the race; Roadkill also ran a mile pre-event to warm up, from downtown Bethesda as per trackfile)

- Monday, July 29, 2019 at 04:39:17 (EDT)

Mantra - Give More Praise

 Give  More    Praise

Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), first Duke of Wellington, was asked in his later years, "If you had your life over again, is there any way in which you could have done better?" He replied: "Yes, I should have given more praise." Such a wonderful turnabout-inversion from a self-oriented question!

(another delightful example of modesty: the Postscript of a letter Arthur sent to his brother Henry in 1814: "I believe I forgot to tell you I was made a Duke."; and cf Improving My Mind (2003-06-22), Wee Bit More Complicated (2007-08-29), Franklin on Pride (2008-06-03), Kundun (2010-03-31), Great Understatement (2011-05-04), John Archibald Wheeler 1985 Letter (2011-09-05), Mantra - Love, Simplicity, Humility (2016-03-29), ...)

- Sunday, July 28, 2019 at 04:51:33 (EDT)

2019-07-05 - Recognizability

~5.2 mi @ ~14.6 min/mi

"Hey, I read your running blog!" says a random shirtless stranger running toward Dawn Patrol on Lisle Avenue.

"Uh, thank you," replies Roadkill. "It's totally fiction, you know!"

K2 laughs. Keymaster wonders, "How often does that happen?" Quants commence an impromptu probabilistic analysis of factors such as Roadkill's personal recognizability (high), verbosity (off the charts), online frequency of posts (excessive), modern search engine efficiency, etc. Take a cross product of all that with the density of runners and their lack of inhibition when they see a fellow pavement-pounder at sunrise ... hmmmmm, maybe it's not such a Small World Phenomenon after all?!

Caffeine withdrawal impels a beeline to the newest local Starbucks, where friendly staff spring into action. Signs at the new bridge over the Beltway read "Sidewalk Closed" and "No Pedestrians" but omit "This Means You!" and thus are ignored. Trail talk veers between the Lake Como mansion of George Clooney and the, uh, girlfriend proclivities of family dogs. (Pit Bulls? Sounds like a recipe for an exciting First Date!)

- Saturday, July 27, 2019 at 05:50:41 (EDT)

2019-07-04 - Attractive Nuisance

~14.9 mi @ ~14.3 min/mi

"Attractive Nuisance!" R2 explains the concept and its humorous appearance on law student t-shirts. A gigantic red crane poised in the wilderness tempts; Roadkill resists. The high trestle over Rock Creek is being rebuilt to carry Purple Line trains. We run along the trail, pausing at water fountains, taking walk breaks, greeting runners, stepping aside for cyclists, analyzing injuries, and enjoying each other's company. It's so good to be with friends! At the stables a pony spreads its front legs to get down and nibble through a fence. That grass is indeed greener ...

"We give them a cold IV — but nothing by mouth!" Sakurako discusses how rescue squads treat overheated victims. She tells of a recent bizarre case involving alcohol, morphine, falling asleep behind the wheel of a car, refusal of medical treatment, police officers with the wrong address, and other factors. Thank goodness no innocents are seriously injured!

"Ice pops?" Crabby kindly offers lifesaving refreshment when we pass by her home. R2 enjoys half a dozen miles; Sakurako and Roadkill add a few more. We inspect the newly-rebuilt Kensington Cabin. Beautiful flowers bloom in front-yard gardens.

- Friday, July 26, 2019 at 04:29:13 (EDT)

You Never Even Called Me by My Name

Country music is sometimes quite meta! Comrade physicist Dr Mary recently shared the song "You Never Even Called Me by My Name", written by Steve Goodman and John Prine, performed by David Allan Coe. It begins ordinarily enough, though apparently with a subtext of protest against the Nashville country music industry. Then, halfway through, in a spoken section Coe starts to describe the song itself:

Well, a friend of mine named Steve Goodman wrote that song
And he told me it was the perfect country & western song
I wrote him back a letter and I told him it was
Not the perfect country & western song because
Or trains, or trucks, or prison, or getting' drunk
Well he sat down and wrote another verse to the song
And he sent it to me, and after reading it,
I realized that my friend had written the perfect
Country & western song ...

... and then, as promised, it touches all those requisite bases!

(And in analyzing names it arguably ventures into Category Theory ...)

- Thursday, July 25, 2019 at 05:48:05 (EDT)

2019-07-03 - Doubt Only Your Limits

~5.7 mi @ ~13.6 min/mi

"Mad Crew!" reads the boat shed sign at James Madison High School. K2 finds a cut-through between sports fields and has a flashback to softball games and child-athlete meltdowns. "Everybody's better now!" Dawn Patrol investigates a mansioned cul-de-sac, where Keymaster sees a path invisible to human eyes down a steep hillside. We emerge into the next neighborhood. A gentleman stands at the end of his driveway, morning newspaper in hand, scanning the headlines. "Hi, Ken!" says K2. Long-ago acquaintances catch up on news of daughters now far away in college. Small world! "Doubt only your limits!" reads his shirt.

"You just used the word 'paradigm' - that makes this a work-related conversation!" We head toward the rising sun and find our way onto the W&OD Trail. At the Vienna Elementary School matrices of letters and numbers decorate the asphalt. Next-generation blockchain encryption protocols, or hopscotch game grids? Iced coffee at McDonalds defaults to New Yorker "regular" aka double-cream double-sugar.

- Wednesday, July 24, 2019 at 04:38:06 (EDT)

Better than It Has to Be

Thoughts about meticulous attention to detail and the quest for excellence, by Paul Graham in his 2003 essay "Hackers and Painters":

This sounds like a paradox, but a great painting has to be better than it has to be. For example, when Leonardo painted the portrait of Ginevra de Benci in the National Gallery, he put a juniper bush behind her head. In it he carefully painted each individual leaf. Many painters might have thought, this is just something to put in the background to frame her head. No one will look that closely at it.

Not Leonardo. How hard he worked on part of a painting didn't depend at all on how closely he expected anyone to look at it. He was like Michael Jordan. Relentless.

Relentlessness wins because, in the aggregate, unseen details become visible. When people walk by the portrait of Ginevra de Benci, their attention is often immediately arrested by it, even before they look at the label and notice that it says Leonardo da Vinci. All those unseen details combine to produce something that's just stunning, like a thousand barely audible voices all singing in tune.

Great software, likewise, requires a fanatical devotion to beauty. If you look inside good software, you find that parts no one is ever supposed to see are beautiful too. I'm not claiming I write great software, but I know that when it comes to code I behave in a way that would make me eligible for prescription drugs if I approached everyday life the same way. It drives me crazy to see code that's badly indented, or that uses ugly variable names.

(Graham notes: "This essay is derived from a guest lecture at Harvard, which incorporated an earlier talk at Northeastern." — cf Iambic Honesty 3 (2001-05-06), Universal Flourishing (2001-12-25), Pursuit of Excellence (2002-02-22), Heart of the Order (2002-07-03), Small Ideas (2005-12-12), Virtuosic (2009-11-10), Great Peace of Mind (2011-02-20), Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Unity (2018-11-30), Inimitable Sir Isaiah Berlin (2019-04-11), ...)

- Tuesday, July 23, 2019 at 06:33:58 (EDT)

2019-07-01 - Vocal Fry

~4.1 mi @ ~13.5 min/mi

"Vocal Fry is a sexist dog-whistle!" Dawn Patrol linguistic analytics continues with discussion of geographic sound and vocabulary variations. "Wicked good!" as a Bostonian might say. We share the joy of discovering long lost writing samples, pre-teen diary entries, and marvel at how they prove people scarcely change over the years. At Starbucks K2 and Roadkill opt for iced coffee, and Keymaster goes for hot blonde roast. As usual!

"I always wanted to be a veterinarian!" - "I always wanted to be an astronomer!" - "I never wanted to be anything in particular!" Youthful aspirations don't determine a life-journey's road. The downtown nursery features "Confetti" flower assortments. A rusty sundial beckons from a back yard.

"Never shake hands across a threshold!" - "Never give someone an even number of flowers!" - "Never go back home for a forgotten item; if you must, be sure to look into a mirror before you leave!" - "Never sit directly on the cold ground, or you will be infertile!" - "Never break bread with your hands; use a knife!" We review Russian superstitions. A big fox dashes across the street. Or is it a feline in disguise?

- Monday, July 22, 2019 at 04:18:36 (EDT)

2019-06-30 - Canal Towpath

~10.2 mi @ ~13.4 min/mi

"Like the double-T in 'kitten' versus 'butter' — a glottal stop, not an alveolar flap!" Keymaster attempts to teach consonantal articulation to Roadkill, whose head spins as he strives to sense subtle sounds. Butterflies and dragonflies flit through sunbeams as Dawn Patrol makes a morning metalinguistic meander along the C&O Canal towpath. Geese gather to dabble in the stagnant waters, then splash away. Packs of fleet-footed young runners zoom past. At Bear Island we divert to inspect the Great Falls of the Potomac; further upstream we cross the canal and climb through the woods along the Gold Mine Trail. Cobwebs span the path.

"Surprise!" Tassie and her friend Shannon greet us unexpectedly on Berma Road, where they're out for a Sunday hike. K2 pushes Roadkill along as his batteries run down during the final miles. Dehydration on a humid-warm summer morning?

- Saturday, July 20, 2019 at 05:41:31 (EDT)

Mundane Manifesto

From a long-abandoned blog, via a Wikipedia article "Mundane science fiction", rational commentary about the irrationality of much (most?) SF. "Warp drives, wormholes and other forms of faster-than-light magic are wish fulfillment fantasies ...", says The Manifesto. The conclusion — "... that the most likely future is one in which we only have ourselves and this planet ..." — seems highly likely.

And within the constraints of the real laws of Nature, as currently understood, there's such great goodness to explore! — including, as the Manifesto recommends:

• A new focus on human beings: their science, technology, culture, politics, religions, individual characters, needs, dreams, hopes and failings.
• The awakening bedazzlement and wonder that awaits us as we contemplate the beauties of this Earth and its people and what will happen to them in time.
• The relief of focusing on what science tells us is likely rather than what is almost impossible such as warp drives. The relief will come from a sense of being honest.
• An awakening sense of the awesome power of human beings: to protect or even increase their local patrimony... or destroy it.
• The number of themes and flavors open to Mundane fiction include robotics, virtual realities, enhanced genomes, nanotechnology, quantum mechanics...

... and so much more!

(for a copy of the Mundane Manifesto see Comments on Mundane Manifesto; cf Seriously Now (2001-03-21), Cross-time Travel (2004-04-09), Fictional Hurdles (2004-12-13), Science vs. Fantasy (2010-04-28), ...)

- Friday, July 19, 2019 at 06:13:53 (EDT)

2019-06-29 - MCRRC Little Bennett 10k XC

~6.4 mi @ ~10.1 min/mi

"Maybe you should hope they switched babies at the hospital?" Roadkill jokes with Sam Young, son of former-rival Tom Young. We visit pre-race, then exchange fist-bump greetings during out-and-back segments; the Youngs finish far ahead. Today's MCRRC "Little Bennett 10k" cross-country scamper goes well: not too many people fall down, the trails are lovely, and aid station ice water counters heat and high humidity. "Where's the Black and Tan?" - "Did you forget to bring the bottle opener again?" Course marshals and runners exchange banter.

"We Got the Beat!" by the Go-Go's plays on the oldies radio station en route to the race and in Roadkill's head throughout, with the mantra "Happiness Is". Post-race Don Libes introduces his NIST colleague, physicist Heather Chen-Mayer.

Result: 80th of 128 finishers, behind 64 men and 15 women, 3rd of 4 in the age/gender group, total time ~1:04 - faster than in 2017, but this year's course is easier, with more gravel road no stream crossings. Second-place in the 65-69 year male cohort is 8 seconds ahead. More hillwork needed, and more weght loss - STAT!

- Thursday, July 18, 2019 at 04:43:10 (EDT)

2019-06-28 - Paraprosdokian

~5.5 mi @ ~12.6 min/mi

"I was born ready — but that was a long time ago!" K2 quotes Roadkill, who disavows the saying. Dawn Patrol discusses paraprosdokians, surprising sentence-twists like those of Henny Youngman ("Take my wife — please!"), Aristotle ("On his feet, he wore — blisters."), and Will Rogers ("I don't belong to an organized political party — I'm a Democrat."). Keymaster recommends one-liners in the style of Mitch Hedberg ("I haven't slept for ten days — because that would be too long."). We speculate that Category Theory underpins all humor. Then again, Category Theory underpins everything, so why not?

"Pride Month!" celebrates the rock in front of McLean High School, where baseball fields bring back memories for K2 of her daughter's softball practices there — and the web of connections among the girls on the team, who now have gone their disparate ways to college and still keep in touch. Sweet!

- Wednesday, July 17, 2019 at 06:01:20 (EDT)

Ham Slang

Morse — officially, the "International Radiotelegraph Code" — is a language of sounds. Once fluent in it people don't hear individual dots ("dit", or "di-" within a symbol) and dashes ("DAH") or separate letters — they hear syllables, whole words, even short phrases. On the way to mastery are some wonderfully apt aural tokens:

• di-di-di-dit di-dit = laughter (hahaha!)
• DAH-di-di-di-DAH = "uh", a double-dash punctuation to catch a breath between thoughts

... and common abbreviations used by hams (aka radio amateurs):

• DAH-di-DAH-dit DAH-DAH-di-DAH = "CQ" aka "calling anyone"
• DAH-DAH-DAH DAH-DAH = "OM", "Old Man", the universal reference to a male operator
• DAH-di-DAH-DAH di-DAH-di-dit = "YL", "Young Lady", what all female operators are called (an "XYL" is The Mrs)
• DAH-DAH-di-di-dit di-di-di-DAH-DAH = "73", meaning "best regards" or "bye-bye!"

Sonic symmetry is a big part of the Morse tongue!

(cf MolybdeNumbed (10 Jan 2001), Wouff Hong and Rettysnitch (19 Jul 2001), Hamming It Up (2003-01-10), ...)

- Tuesday, July 16, 2019 at 07:07:49 (EDT)

2019-06-26 - Nottoway Park

~6.7 mi @ ~11.2 min/mi

"I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too!" Keymaster quotes stand-up comic Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005), in the context of linguistic nuance, implication, and surprise.

"I used to run!" replies Roadkill, past-imperfect-tensely. Today's Dawn Patrol duo finds new cut-throughs and begins a survey of paths in and around Nottoway Park in Vienna VA, with meanders past shadows ("Is that an entrance to Plato's Cave?"), down dead-end streets, and beside community gardens. Hanging rings encourage feats of strength; we refrain from trying the climbing wall, since the sign says "ADULTS ONLY".

Neighborhood streets lead to wall art on the backside of Taco Bamba and eventually the W&OD Trail, where Keymaster dodges an oncoming train (mural). We detour to inspect the Caboose Brewing Company facility and close our loop via American Legion Post 180 where the rising sun glints off a decorative (or is it live?) surface-to-air missile. (cf prior Dawn Patrol visit 2018-06-01 - Steamy Week) Two big deer nibble as we pass by.

- Monday, July 15, 2019 at 17:08:43 (EDT)

2019-06-24 - Bayesian vs Frequentist

~5.3 mi @ ~12.8 min/mi

"No Free Lunch theorem" - "Pigeonhole principle" - "Shattered sets" - "Curry's paradoxical combinator" - The jargon is strong this morning, as Keymaster attempts to explain theoretical foundations of machine learning to Roadkill, who tries to map mind-altering new concepts to old. K2 simply smiles, an appropriate Zen commentary on the entire enterprise!

"That looks just like my grandmother's home - but many times larger!" Dawn Patrol explores the lovely-quiet neighborhood cuddled between Scotts Run Nature Preserve, the Capital Beltway, and the Potomac River, where sprawling mansions take dominion over slovenly wilderness. A new eagle statue spreads its wings above a courtyard.

"Eat our Bubbles!" reads graffiti on the local swim club driveway, beginning trash talk to visiting teams before they even get out of their cars. A rabbit freezes, then dashes away; a deer strides through the brush.

"Bad luck is followed by good!" K2 reports that her kids observe Regression Toward the Mean in their travel misadventures and recoveries therefrom. Roadkill explains why a Bayesian in trouble would pick a random person to beg help of, rather than accept aid from a self-selected Samaritan. Keymaster spies a fox, or thinks he does. When multiple cats are then seen in a nearby yard he concedes that some probabilities need adjustment. "So with what confidence level are you a Frequentist?" Hmmmm ...

- Sunday, July 14, 2019 at 14:31:29 (EDT)

Keene Murals

A June 2019 Mural Festival resulted in amazing wall art around downtown Keene New Hampshire. Some samples:

 "Barry Faulkner, Keene's most acclaimed visual artist, created murals across the country, including several in Keene. His two most famous works, displayed in the National Archives in Washington DC, represent the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. During WWI, Faulkner trained artists as camouflage specialists, ..." - Keene Walldogs
 "Named 'the place between' by the Penacook, the Ashuelot river boasts the site of the oldest known evidence of humans in New Hampshire. Spanning 64 miles, the river provided energy for a thriving mill industry. The Ashuelot offers recreational activities year round and habitat for an abundance of wildlife. ..." - Keene Walldogs
 "Catherine Fiske inspired young women to question, to find answers, and to strive towards excellence. She interwove lessons in chemistry, taxonomy and linguistics into everyday work. Her legacy was her students, who went on to inspire others; and in the roots of high-quality education, firmly established in the heart of Keene. ..." - Keene Walldogs
 "Jennie B. Powers, was 'a maker of humane history.' A humane agent, she fearlessly investigated, arrested, and prosecuted thousands of cases of abuse of children, women, and animals. The work was dangerous and physical. Despite death threats, Jennie put herself in harm's way, intervening in brutal conditions on behalf of the vulnerable. ..." - Keene Walldogs

... and, for something completely similar yet completely different:

 A painted wall advertisement from a fake business seen in the 1995 Robin Williams' film Jumanji, whose exteriors were filmed mostly in Keene. - Roadside America

- Saturday, July 13, 2019 at 07:30:39 (EDT)

2019-06-23 - Time Travelers

~11.2 mi @ ~14.9 min/mi

 "The bartender says, 'We don't serve time travelers!'" Ken begins telling a joke. We converge in downtown Bethesda and head first to Union Hardware, where Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night" is recreated on a wall via 1,250 doorknobs and handles. Then the Trolley Trail takes us north by northwest past NIH. G-ji and K2 discuss the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. Danger Man tapers for next weekend's Missoula Marathon and the highly competitive Beer Run that precedes it. Ken tells of "La Soupe aux Choux", a comic French film (1981) that inspired costumes he and R2 witnessed at the 2013 Marathon du Medoc.
 "Peace, Love, and Happiness!" suggest the rocks that a garden gnome carries atop his head. Front yards feature cone flowers and other brilliant blossoms, a curvy avenue of pinwheels, statues of pigs and dinosaurs, a live woodchuck, and two speedy bunnies. Ken finishes the joke: "A time traveler walks into a bar."

- Friday, July 12, 2019 at 08:56:59 (EDT)

2019-06-22 - Hayaku

~14.0 mi @ ~15.0 min/mi

 "Hayaku!" says Sakurako. It means "Faster!" in Japanese. Cyclists politely warn as they zoom by along the Capital Crescent Trail. In the Dalecarlia Tunnel the mini-shrine continues to prosper. R-Squared leads today's trot, and tells K2 about the Marathon du Medoc in France (oysters, cheese, wine, etc. every km - tempting!) and the Polar Bear winter indoor marathon in Ohio (211 laps - maybe not!)."I'll be there in 45 minutes - if there aren't too many flowers along the way!" Roadkill promises. There are lots of blossoms, and 3 fast rabbits on Leland Street. He nevertheless arrives in time to snag iced coffee to share."May Peace Prevail on Earth" wishes a front-yard pole, in Amharic, English, Hebrew, and Spanish. Danger Man begins his taper for next weekend's marathon in Missoula Montana.

- Thursday, July 11, 2019 at 04:48:22 (EDT)

2019-06-21 - Maternal Search

~5.3 mi @ ~14.4 min/mi

"Are you my Mother?" asks the coltish young deer, all alone as she follows Dawn Patrol from a safe distance on the hillside.

"No! And watch out when you cross the street!" K-Rex tells her, maternally. We approve the recent repavement job in Langley Forest, explore a bit of the path at the end of Whann Avenue, turn back, and meet a US Geological Service woman hiking in to check flood gauges and other sensors along Dead Run.

"Bloom!" declares a pompadour-pink sign. Is it a Joycean allusion to the protagonist of Ulysses? Or a command to passers-by, demanding that they flourish? Earlier this morning a gray fox with white-tipped tail crosses the street. K2 recounts how it was seen once with a rabbit in its jaws, wide-eyed and wondering what to do next.

"People open up to you about their fears and feelings — is that your new(est) Superpower?" We discuss how to help an organization that has room for improvement in performance and morale. Everybody's kids are fine; ice cream is in our future; the world is all right. Now, to invent that Time Machine and go back to repair the past!

- Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at 04:26:44 (EDT)

Same, Difference

 The Sciences are about how things that seem different        are really alike.The Humanities are about how things that seem alike        are really different.... or maybe vice versa?

(cf In the Name (1999-08-19), Mathematics and Poetry (2008-11-09), No Repeats (2017-02-06), Macro vs Micro (2019-02-03), ...)

- Tuesday, July 09, 2019 at 05:37:56 (EDT)

2019-06-19 - Five Stacks

~8.6 mi @ ~12.8 min/mi

"We must Marie Kondo our minds!" KeyMaster suggests that decluttering isn't just for worldly possessions. Dawn Patrol inspects suburban sculpture, Metrorail track switches, and a bamboo-grove panda family along Great Falls Street. Grass is dewy, humidity high, running garb soon sweat-soaked. Dark-roast cold-brew iced coffee at Starbucks is a blessing. (A contrarian opts for hot blonde joe.) In a front-yard garden a grazing deer pauses to watch us pass by.

"Five stacks: For Others to Love + Seen Better Days + Lifelong Memories + First Bachelor Pad + Needed Next Week", lists K2, sketching her sorting system for stuff. Could that help organize a healthy brain too?

• Share
• Forget
• Cherish
• Eventually
• ASAP

Hmmm!

- Monday, July 08, 2019 at 04:28:20 (EDT)

2019-06-16 - Self-Discovery, Skills of Mind, Generosity of Heart

~12.2 mi @ ~12.6 min/mi

 "Self-Discovery, Skills of Mind, Generosity of Heart," reads the bumper sticker on a car at mile 9 — mission statement of the Field School in DC, and not a bad motto for Dawn Patrol either! K2 leads the way from Fletchers Cove Boathouse downstream. Alleys of Georgetown provide a cobblestone surveillance detection route to iced coffee at Starbucks."We saw a Great Blue Heron yesterday," says Roadkill, a quarter mile into today's run.
 "And there's one now!" replies K2, pointing at the big bird standing in the waters of the C&O Canal. And then, a quarter mile later, "There's another!" and a quarter mile after that, "Look, another!" Time to pause for photos and appreciation. A few steps later, "Deer ahead!""Nice rack!" Roadkill comments, then apologizes, as we admire velvet-covered antlers that the stags are growing. The pace of nature discovery slows after the first mile; we spy one doe and one more heron.
 "Grow their Circle of Concern?" We brainstorm ways to encourage better medical testing among young people. Maybe instead of peer-pressure or self-protection, remind them that they can help their friends and family be healthier? Likewise pattern inversion can suggest ideas for corporations to apply data-analytics to help employees, and vice versa. And maybe category theory can generate new jokes and meta-humor? "If a light sleeper sleeps with a light on ..."."Less first-person singular?" After all, in a note from oneself the words "I think" or "In my opinion" are often a bit redundant. First-person plural is better, and maybe even that can be minimized? Hard not to have a viewpoint, though! Monuments stand dense on the mall — Lincoln, Korean War, Washington, DC War Memorial, Jefferson. A happy horse nibbles hay in a Park Police van.
 "Fat & Greasy Citizens Brigade" reads the sign on a Georgetown churchyard fence. Roadkill is ready to sign up! Later research reveals that it's a DC theater company and a Shakespearean allusion. "Maybe after I lose another 19 pounds?" We wish Happy Fathers Day to dads running with baby carriages along the Mount Vernon Trail."Both elegant and genuine!" Qualities to strive for, and lovely feedback to receive. It's so hard to see ourselves as others see us, and to accept kind comments. We discuss the value of complementary skills in a group; Roadkill remembers an old science fiction story ("Pandora's Planet" by Christopher Anvil) where both an alien civilization and humanity discover that they each need the other. Young runners dash past.
 In the final cooldown mile: two of the first Great Blue Herons that we saw two hours ago, still fishing in the canal waters. And on the way home, by chance Roadkill drives past the Field School on Foxhall Road NW."Self-Discovery, Skills of Mind, Generosity of Heart"

- Sunday, July 07, 2019 at 14:01:21 (EDT)

Chengyu

Chengyu are four-word Chinese idioms, often based on ancient literature, frequently fascinating. Some examples:

• "Crouching tiger, hidden dragon" → a place or situation full of unnoticed masters, people with subtle talents
• "A frog in the bottom of a well" → a person with limited outlook
• "Grind an iron bar down to a fine needle" → persevere in a difficult task
• "Break the cauldrons and sink the boats" → commit oneself irrevocably

Yojijukugo are similar four-word idiomatic proverbs in Japanese. Some examples:

• "Ocean-thousand, mountain-thousand" → a sly old person who has had much experience