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Froggie Moore Analysis Essay

^zhurnaly 0.9921


Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in volume 0.9921 of the ^zhurnal (that's Russian for "journal") — see ZhurnalyWiki for a Wiki edition of individual items; see Zhurnal and Zhurnaly for quick clues as to what this is all about; see Random for a random page. Briefly, this is the diary of ^z = Mark Zimmermann ... previous volume = 0.9920 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z (at) his (dot) com" ... click on a title link to go to that item in the ZhurnalyWiki where you can edit or comment on it ... RSS




2016-05-15 - MCRRC Run Aware 5k XC

~3.3 miles @ ~9.1 min/mi

"Great fall! Great recovery!" A lady just behind me stumbles and goes down as we descend a steep root-and-rock-strewn slope in the MCRRC "Run Aware" 5k cross-country race. But she lands on hands and is ok, pops back onto her feet in a few moments, sprints onward. Fallen tree trunks are hurdles to leap over or stoop under. Brisk breezes make bibs flap and hiss. At mile 2 a small traffic jam: apparently a hiker removes route-marking ribbons just before the event begins. Fast runners go off-course and come back to meet the slower masses. Mud puddles punctuate the trails.



(photo by Karin Zeitvogel)

And it's all good! Hundreds of little kids do their first race today. Parents and coaches cheer. Comrade Christina Caravoulias kindly gives me a lucky bib number: "888" = triple good fortune in Chinese numerology. Better than prior year assignments 666 and 999!



(photo by Karin Zeitvogel)

(trackfile)

- Wednesday, June 01, 2016 at 04:20:39 (EDT)


Thinking and Sinking

From Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Chapter 7 ("What to Do with Your Mind"):

Somewhere in this process, you will come face-to-face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy. Your mind is a shrieking, gibbering madhouse on wheels barreling pell-mell down the hill, utterly out of control and hopeless. No problem. You are not crazier than you were yesterday. It has always been this way, and you just never noticed. You are also no crazier than everybody else around you. The only real difference is that you have confronted the situation; they have not. So they still feel relatively comfortable. That does not mean that they are better off. Ignorance may be bliss, but it does not lead to liberation. So don't let this realization unsettle you. It is a milestone actually, a sign of real progress. The very fact that you have looked at the problem straight in the eye means that you are on your way up and out of it.

In the wordless observation of the breath, there are two states to be avoided: thinking and sinking. The thinking mind manifests most clearly as the monkey-mind phenomenon we have just been discussing. The sinking mind is almost the reverse. As a general term, sinking mind denotes any dimming of awareness. At its best, it is sort of a mental vacuum in which there is no thought, no observation of the breath, no awareness of anything. It is a gap, a formless mental gray area rather like a dreamless sleep. Sinking mind is a void. Avoid it.

(cf. Karma (2009-07-15), Bind the Monkey (2009-11-21), ...)

- Tuesday, May 31, 2016 at 05:43:18 (EDT)


2016-05-14 - Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Trail with Kerry

~5.4 miles @ ~10.6 min/mi

"One rabbit, one rider, one runner!" Kerry and I have the WB&A Trail almost to ourselves from milepost 0 to 2.5 this afternoon. The wide and well-surfaced path runs northeast through woods along what was once (1908-1935) the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Electric Railway in Prince George's County of Maryland. We push the pace between mileposts 1 and 2 and make it in 8:31. Then: "Did you just feel a raindrop?" Oops ...

Temps drop 20 degrees in 20 minutes as a cold front rolls through, bringing sudden showers and gusty winds. At the parking lot on Electric Avenue near Glenn Dale Road restroom facilities seem rather primitive. Kerry treats me to coffee and gets back to her daughter's basketball tournament almost on time.

(trackfile)

- Monday, May 30, 2016 at 05:36:54 (EDT)


2016-05-14 - Bethesda Morning Circuits

~13.9 miles @ ~13.0 min/mi

"If we loop around another block, we can draw a GPS four-leaf clover!" Gayatri, Jerry, and Ken meander through downtown Bethesda while awaiting Barry, then somehow miss seeing him on the Capital Crescent Trail. But 2.5 hours later he spies Gayatri and me as we return along Jones Mill Road from bonus miles in Chevy Chase. Then a young man tells us that he's going to be a pacer tonight at the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 miler. Small world!

On the CCT Ken describes yesterday's baseball game, the Anacostia Waterfront Trail, and the rules for bocce. Gayatri tells of her elder son's visit and her recent training regime. A small dead fox lies by the roadside near Gladwyne Dr (a perfect anagram for my home street, Gwyndale). The grounds crew is tidying bushes at the Columbia Country Club. Big clumps of hosta are strewn across the sidewalk.

(trackfile)

- Monday, May 30, 2016 at 05:30:35 (EDT)


Big Ambitions

A thought reputedly from Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) — perhaps an apocryphal anecdote, but nevertheless uplifting:

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

The source according to "Quote Investigator" appears to be the autobiography Morally We Roll Along by Gay Penola MacLaren (1938), in which the author-lecturer wrote of meeting Clemens:

He opened the door for me himself. As we said good-bye, he put his fingers lightly under my chin and lifted my head up so that my eyes met his.

"Little girl," he said earnestly, "keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

(cf. Optimist Creed (1999-04-16), Really Great (2003-11-22), Yes, and... (2012-11-14), ...)

- Sunday, May 29, 2016 at 07:20:22 (EDT)


2016-05-13 - Flamingo Pink

~6.6 miles @ ~13.5 min/mi

"They did NOT go halfway!" Kerry comments on the carnation-colored house with matching garage on Meadowbrook Avenue in West McLean. Socks are damp after exploring grassy cut-throughs at Westgate Child Center and Franklin Sherman Elementary School. "You've been FLAMINGOED!" reads a sign in front of the McLean Baptist Church, where Kristin points out a flock of lawn-ornament birds guarding the sidewalk. At a ballet-exercise studio a pair of flamingo statuettes pose en pointe, dressed in Hawaiian-style grass skirts. Nearby caption: "Barre Burn!".

(trackfile)

- Saturday, May 28, 2016 at 06:45:33 (EDT)


Mantra - It Doesn't Always Get Worse

It Doesn't
  Always
Get Worse

... a proverb from the ultrarunning world, where sometimes after a few (tens of) miles the going gets tough and the will tends to waver — and it's worth reminding oneself not to get (prematurely) discouraged. "Things might be bad now, but they will improve. This is a chance to solve my problem."

(cf. Mantra - Relentless Forward Progress (2016-02-10), ...)

- Friday, May 27, 2016 at 04:36:08 (EDT)


2016-05-11 - In George We Trust

~11.7 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

"Maybe 'The Washington'?" Kristin suggests. We're discussing what to name the Fundamental Unit of Trust. "Or how about 'The George'?" A scene from Heinlein's sf/fantasy novel Glory Road comes to mind, when the narrator gives a Washington quarter to a young child on an alien planet and explains the obverse: "This is the father of my House, a greater hero than I will ever be. He stood tall and proud, spoke the truth, and fought for the right as he saw it, against fearful odds. Try to be like him."

The planets align to create an eerie absence of morning meetings, so Kerry leads us on an extended ramble around Tysons, Falls Church, and McLean. Even commuter-cyclists are polite as they zoom along the W&OD Trail. A bird disappears into a hole in the side of a tall metal pole where a streetlight once was mounted. We divert onto quiet side streets and enjoy front-yard gardens abloom with spring flowers. A big black Scottie sprawls in a bay window and turns his head to watch us pass. During the cooldown walk a light drizzle begins.

(trackfile)

- Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 05:19:07 (EDT)


2016-05-09 - Bones and Raw Food

~4.3 miles @ ~11.9 min/mi

"If you slaughtered the animals in your front yard and left evidence lying around, maybe it would keep away burglars!" Dawn Patrol discussion continues re Australian Shepherd puppy adoption and collateral benefits of raising dogs on what some call a BARF ("Bones and Raw Food") diet. Early meetings today mandate a short trek. Kerry and Kristin report on their Mother's Day activities; I share the sad story of dropping a cheesecake while taking it out of the oven. We cut through Evans Farm and meander back via Lewinsville Park. No red foxes this time, though an awesome scarlet sunrise is a worthy substitute. Afterwards we brainstorm potential long run routes along the Potomac River.

(trackfile)

- Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 05:16:48 (EDT)


Feel Good about What You Are Doing

Personal productivity guru David Allen advice:

... Keep lists, folks. The key lists are Projects, Calendar, Next Actions, and Waiting For. Look at them as often as you need to. Not so that you have to do everything. On the contrary, so you don't have to do everything. You can only do one thing at a time. You can either feel good about what you're doing, or awful about all the things you're not doing. Your choice. ...

(from "Feeling Good About What You're Not Doing", in the Huffington Post, 2008; cf. Earning Red Checks (2011-11-28), Mind Like Water (2011-12-24), Getting Things Done - Summarized (2012-05-14), David Allen Summarized (2014-04-29), Mantra - Mind Like Water (2015-05-04), ...)

- Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 05:28:44 (EDT)


2016-05-08 - KenGar with Rebecca

~7.3 miles @ ~10.7 min/mi

"At Hurricane Point I was almost blown into the ocean!" Rebecca describes the Big Sur Marathon she ran two weeks ago, in rougher weather than any of her prior six times there. Conditions for today's trek along Rock Creek are far gentler, except for the ordeal of parking at KenGar given all the training groups that meet here early Sunday morning. I run up and down the steep path by the railroad tracks to Plyers Mill Road a couple of times until Rebecca finds a space for her car and arrives on foot.

Then downstream we trot, discussing injuries and a half-marathon opportunity next weekend. Big puddles force a detour on a muddy forest track near milepost 6, but the paved trail under the Connecticut Avenue bridge is surprisingly not flooded despite recent rains. In our final mile we meet Peter, a fit 71-year-old who mentions an upcoming 10k race he hopes to compete in. "Why don't you try a Decathlon?" I suggest. "Thank goodness we're in different age groups!".

(trackfile)

- Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at 21:03:30 (EDT)


2016-05-07 - Rock Creek Meandering

~13.6 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

"So my luggage included a Mother's Day gift: a big chunk of wood with rusty nails sticking out of it!" Barry and Gayatri are amused by the description of a TSA inspection a few days ago, which approved for carry-on a cedar brace from my great-grandfather's ~120 year old barn in central Texas. The old square nails are authentic, and DW asked me to bring the historical artifact back for her.

Saturday's run begins with a chilly loop through the Rolllingwood neighborhood near Rock Creek, where stately mansions decorate the hills. Then Ken and Rebecca join us and we proceed down Beach Drive into DC, detouring to visit a 1792 Boundary Stone (NW9). Rebecca reports on a windy but beautiful Big Sur Marathon last month. She and Ken turn back at the old stone bridge; Barry wants a few more miles, so we continue downstream. He's suffering from pain in his right leg; Gayatri recommends against a spicy dinner before a long run; I feel a blister develop on a right foot toe. Big puddles remain from recent rain.

(trackfile)

- Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at 21:01:48 (EDT)


Sheryl Sandberg on the Hard Days

A thoughtful-wise commencement talk by Sheryl Sandberg for the UC Berkeley class of 2016, appeared recently in edited form as an essay in the Boston Globe. It's titled "Sheryl Sandberg graduation speech: It's the hard days that determine who you are". Sandberg's husband died, suddenly, last year. She reflects on three characteristics of grief:

  • personalization — "... the belief that we are at fault. This is different from taking responsibility, which you should always do. This is the lesson that not everything that happens to us happens because of us. ... [G]etting past personalization can actually make you stronger. Not taking failures personally allows us to recover — and even to thrive. ..."
  • pervasiveness — "... the belief that an event will affect all areas of your life. There's no place to run or hide from the all-consuming sadness. ... [T]here were other things in my life that were not awful. My children and I were healthy. My friends and family were so loving, and they carried us — quite literally, at times. ..."
  • permanence — "... the belief that the sorrow will last forever. For months, no matter what I did, it felt like the crushing grief would always be there. We often project our current feelings out indefinitely — and experience what I think of as the second derivative of those feelings. We feel anxious — and then we feel anxious that we're anxious. We feel sad — and then we feel sad that we're sad. Instead, we should accept our feelings — but recognize that they will not last forever. ..."

Those principles are based on psychologist Martin Seligman's work on "Learned Optimism". Many of the thoughts resonate strongly with Buddhist/mindfulness principles. Sandberg's big conclusion is uplifting:

Finding gratitude and appreciation is key to resilience. People who take the time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier. It turns out that counting your blessings can actually increase your blessings. My New Year's resolution this year is to write down three moments of joy before I go to bed each night. This simple practice has changed my life. Because no matter what happens each day, I go to sleep thinking of something cheerful.

(a transcript of Sandberg's address is at [1]; cf. Optimist Creed (1999-04-16), Thank Goodness (2002-12-25), Move On (2007-01-16), Solve the Problem (2007-05-24), How to Win Friends and Influence People (2008-05-17), Personal, Permanent, Pervasive (2009-04-27), Tough-Minded Optimists (2009-12-22), How to Be an Optimist (2011-08-24), Smile at Everyone (2013-02-15), Mantra - It's All Good (2015-01-09), Mental Toughness (2015-12-06), Power of Optimism (2016-02-23), ...)

- Sunday, May 22, 2016 at 19:04:31 (EDT)


2016-05-06 - McLean Fox Sighting

~5.7 miles @ ~12.5 min/mi

"Red Fox!" Kristin spies a huge furry Vulpes vulpes dashing into the woods by Lewinsville Park. "Maybe that explains why we only saw two rabbits this morning?" Thus far the McLean unicorn count is zero, but we remain hopeful that if we keep looking we will catch one soon. Light drizzle keeps Kerry and Kristin and me cool as we meander through Southridge neighborhood streets, catching up on gossip and discussing Mother's Day plans. Perhaps a new puppy is in somebody's future - but it's being raised "raw" and there are tests to pass before the adoption will be approved. Fingers crossed!

(trackfile)

- Saturday, May 21, 2016 at 14:08:42 (EDT)


2016-05-03 - Austin Texas Hillwork

~7.0 miles @ ~11.8 min/mi

Hill Country provides partial penance for a Krispy Kreme donut breakfast! Edwards Plateau limestone in northwest Austin is well-dissected into valleys that offer good climbs and steep descents. Local stream paths lead through Great Hills Park along Laurel Oaks Creek, then dead-end at the Floral Park trailhead. A local dog-walker doesn't know of any secret continuations downstream, so it's sidewalks for the rest of the loop, past big churches, gated apartment complexes, office buildings, and shopping centers. A streetside Little Free Library on Welcome Glen features children's books. Mist rises from the water hazard on the golf course.

(trackfile)

- Saturday, May 21, 2016 at 14:06:58 (EDT)


Mother's Day Enlightenment

An aphorism for infinitely patient mothers everywhere, invented independently during one early morning commute a fortnight ago:

You can't spell
      "Mom"
    without
      "Om"!

- Friday, May 20, 2016 at 04:42:15 (EDT)


2016-05-02 - Austin Texas Bull Creek Trek

~10.1 miles @ ~11.7 min/mi

"WARNING: 8% Grade Next 1/2 Mile" The road sign features a picture of a truck careening downhill. Don't think about what that portends for the return trip! Nine deer munch a front lawn near the corner of Oak Knoll and Fireoak Drive. A few blocks later a herd of eleven look up from trimming the grass at another home. A jackrabbit scurries off the sidewalk. Then it's time to hike along the scary shoulder of Spicewood Springs Rd, where pelotons of bleary-eyed Monday morning commuters slalom along a narrow two-lane road with decaying bridges over Bull Creek. Poison ivy is the least worry!

(trackfile)

- Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 05:49:14 (EDT)


2016-05-01 - Austin Texas Hill Country Blitz

~7.0 miles @ ~9.3 min/mi

Daunting padlocks and chains secure all gates to the track at Canyon Vista Middle School, so circle campus and meander amidst mansions in the nearby neighborhood. There's a reason for the school's name: hillwork! A waning crescent moon peeks between clouds. Northeast breezes make temps in the 60s and humidity of 80%+ relatively comfy. Inspired by friends (some completing the C&O Canal 100 miler this morning — go, John and Stephanie!) and pushing hard, mile splits = 10:06 + 8:37 + 10:45 + 9:35 + 9:17 + 8:40 + 7:51 with the final blitz aided by downhill Q-Ranch Rd.

(trackfile)

- Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 05:45:28 (EDT)


Global Refugee Mural

On the back wall of the Tefa Cafe in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, USA:

... and the caption, attached to the telephone pole on the left side:

The Global Refugee Mural
by Joel Bergner (c) 2009
creative director Tom Block

This mural tells the stories of 3 refugees who live here in Maryland, who were interviewed for this project.

Georges, a former mayor of his city in eastern Congo (DRC), fled with his family when the war came to his region. Mai, from Myanmar (aka Burma), was unable to return to her country due to religious persecution by the government. Taameem, from southern Iraq, fled after her brother was murdered by local militia members and she was targeted as well.

Funded by the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County. Partnership with the International Rescue Committee's refugee resettlement center in Silver Spring. Special thanks to Kefa Café.

Artist & project info: (415)845-2699
email: joeljoel88@yahoo.com
http://www.joelsmurals.com//

(photographs taken in May 2016; cf. Joel Bergner in Wikipedia, "In bold brushstrokes, refugees tell their tales" in the Montgomery County Gazette, gallery of Joel Bergner murals, ...)

- Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 05:55:31 (EDT)


2016-04-30 - Brenham Texas Whistle Stop

~4.1 miles @ ~10.8 min/mi

Visiting Aunt Froggie and Cousin James, with Mom and DS Merle: the Blinn College Buccaneers play a spring baseball game. The track around the football field is open, but one lap in the east central Texas sun is enough today. A two-car freight train pauses for a crewman to climb down, flip a switch, and watch while the engines reverse to drop off boxcars on a siding. Lizards scurry across the sidewalk and hide under rocks.

Important observation: jalapeño poppers are suboptimal for dinner and breakfast before a brisk run!

(trackfile)

- Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at 06:20:52 (EDT)


2016-04-27 - Decathlon Fantasy

~5.7 miles @ ~12.6 min/mi

"Javelin, discus, shot put, long jump, high jump, pole vault, 110m hurdles, 100m, 400m, 1500m — doesn't sound impossible!" Dr Kristin patiently listens to havering about the decathlon, triggered by the recent discovery that the local Potomac Valley Track Club is holding one 11-12 June 2016. When Jim Thorpe won the first decathlon at the 1912 Olympic games, legend says that King Gustav V of Sweden told him, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world!" Thorpe's reply: "Thanks, King."

We meander through Pimmit Hills as intermittent light drizzle falls. Vertical stripe lights flicker blue-green/grue-bleen on the 7777 Route 7 office building. A gang of young men run around the library parking lot, then drop to the ground for sit-ups. Two tiny dogs yip and tug on their leashes; a cat crouches in the long grass and monitors our passage. Dr Kerry texts from the airport where she's awaiting a dawn flight. We transmit back our GPS coordinates.

(trackfile)

- Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at 06:16:31 (EDT)


Inner Art of Airmanship

Dave English's collection of thoughts about imperfection and mind and poetry and life is called "The Inner Art of Airmanship". It's a labor of love, a curated set of quotes in memory of a friend named Sam Hamilton. As English introduces the enterprise:

We learn from every pilot we fly with, every pilot we talk to. Sometimes we learn a lot. My life changed thanks to a quiet little flyer, an instructor who danced with clouds in the perpetual pursuit of piloting perfection. I'm Dave English; 17,000 hour airline pilot, writer and sometime aviation psychology researcher. The instructor was Sam Hamilton. He seems to have disappeared, but I'm compiling an exploration of two summers with the safety warrior who blended leading-edge neuropsychology with ancient wisdoms—to become one with the wing.

The quotes include Zen-like musings such as:

... "Remember the inner world is vast and filled with many games. We have one head, only six inches between the ears, but there is room for many processes. We must learn to still the monkey mind, let the conscious step aside so our hands and eyes and ears and hearts can fly. Build strong habit patterns, accept whatever may happen and take the right action. By standing aside, the conscious mind is now free to review the big picture, free to build situational awareness. Here too, for us to see things as they are, we must take off our judgmental glasses. Look with the eyes of a child, for pure awareness allows us to just observe and just report and just act. Mushin no-mind is remaining calm and at ease in any situation, while Zanzshin situational awareness is knowing your environment and what actions are possible."

And there's English's description of how his anthology of Sam's suggestions came to be:

He forced onto me his collection of quote cards. It was a huge cardboard box held together with safety wire and aluminum tape. Inside on 3 by 5 inch cards were hundreds of quotations, each with several little holes near the top where he would pin them onto the bulletin board over the sectional chart. Sam changed the worn cards on a seemingly random basis. On some of the backs were notes, references or lists of things to research. He said he had boxes of hand-written flash cards with limitations and memory items for all the airplanes he had ever flown, but the quotes and the Cessna 150 box were the only ones he kept at the airport. Sam knew I'd been copying the ones he pinned up onto my laptop computer, and now wanted me to have them all. I said I could not take these, he said had many more at home. Henry David Thoreau copied quotations by hand, ending up with five or six thousand pages of notes, so Sam said the box was of no great import, just a small peek into living a higher life.

... which is, perhaps, a description of what this ZhurnalyWiki attempts as well.

(cf. Great Peace of Mind (2011-02-20), ...)

- Monday, May 16, 2016 at 06:00:02 (EDT)


2016-04-24 - Neighborhood Tour with Barry

~11.0 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

"Smith grabs a bat and hits a home run! Then he steals the basketball and it's a slam dunk!" We're on a Sunday ramble around Barry's extended 'hood. In Wheaton Regional Park we pass ballfields where a game is about to begin. Near the ponds at Dennis Avenue kids shoot hoops. "Walter Mitty!" says Barry. I ask a man in black at the baseball game what team he's on. "I'm the umpire!" he replies.

We analyze "Game of Thrones" dragons and Marathon Maniac qualifying events. Quadzilla, anyone? Sligo Creek side paths lead us to Blueridge Avenue, temptingly near a Taco Bell and a 7-11. "How many miles does a slice of pizza cancel out?" DS Merle answers my knock on the door of House Henderson but reports no ice cream in the freezer. Barry leads us past two little free libraries near his home, one of which has a miniature music box attached. I turn the crank and it plays, "If I Only Had a Brain". If only!

(trackfile)

- Sunday, May 15, 2016 at 05:56:26 (EDT)


Mantra - Inhale, Exhale

... good advice whenever things are tense and thoughtful action is needed — words from Masao Yoshida, chief manager at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, as told in the New York Times article "Videos Shed Light on Chaos at Fukushima as a Nuclear Crisis Unfolded". Shortly after the earthquake, tsunami, and explosion, Yoshida told his men, "I fear we are in acute danger. But let's calm down a little. Let's all take a deep breath. Inhale, exhale."

(cf. Try It for a Few Years (2009-05-19), Being with Your Breath (2010-02-10), Coming Back to Your Breath (2011-09-25), Inhale, Exhale (2012-08-12), ...)

- Saturday, May 14, 2016 at 20:55:14 (EDT)


2016-04-23 - Tempo Run with Gerald

~11.0 miles @ ~9.9 min/mi

"They don't believe in Christian miracles; we don't believe in Jewish miracles!" Jerry Epstein quotes somebody's distinction between Unitarianism and Reconstructionism. It brings to mind the Zen joke, "Are you not thinking what I'm not thinking?" — or maybe the Existentialist jest about asking for coffee without cream and, when the cafe is out of cream, settling for coffee without milk.

We're causing along Beach Dr, each faux-blaming the other for the happy-brisk pace. Humidity turns to drizzle, then rain. Mud from the 2016-04-09 - Bull Run Run 50 Miler washes off shoes. Gayatri and friends meet us just after we turn back near Peirce Mill, and Barry greets us at both start and finish at Candy Cane City. Jerry's knee does well; my left hip complains quietly. Mile splits by the GPS: 10:43 + 9:46 + 9:46 + 9:24 + 9:10 + 11:35 + 9:51 + 9:45 + 9:27 + 9:39 + 9:10 — yay!

(trackfile)

- Friday, May 13, 2016 at 04:43:34 (EDT)


2016-04-22 - West Langley Loop

~5.0 miles @ ~13.1 min/mi

"It was only 20!" Drs K&K comment on how they felt after last Friday's trek. "Perfect!" is the payoff verdict from good pacing on the day, and gradual ramp-up of training mileage over the past year. Bravi!

This humid morning Kristin and I ramble around the West Langley 'hood, exploring dead-end streets, admiring new homes under construction and searching for potential cut-throughs to the Scotts Run trail. We add a lap on the mini-track behind the elementary school. Kerry joins us midway and leads us on a lovely new path through Churchill Road Park. Everyone has a long day of meetings ahead and a busy weekend, so we alternately commiserate and give thanks for the chance to run together. The full moon peeks through clouds as it sets, and rosy-fingered dawn greets us from the east.

(trackfile)

- Friday, May 13, 2016 at 04:38:08 (EDT)


Dickerson-Zimmermann Family Photos

Historic images from the late 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s resurfaced recently, including unique Polaroid shots and prints from film cameras, of the Dickerson Zimmermann clan. An initial sampling:

DW Paulette, in "classic" clothing from the 1970's ...
DW, solo and with me and my Mother (Minnie Merle Zimmermann) ...
DS Merle, with early Rubik's Cubes and phonograph records, and a family group including Robin, Merle, Paulette, and Gray

- Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 05:18:52 (EDT)


2016-04-20 - Slow Dawn Intervals

~8.3 miles @ ~11.2 min/mi

"I can smell that fresh coffee brewing in my Mind's Nose!" We're stretching after laps at McLean HS track, where Beth joins Kristin and me as the rising sun casts long shadows. Passing the Safeway outbound we get the aroma of donuts cooking; returning it's more like pizza. Spring birds chirp loudly and a rabbit takes refuge under a parked car. Two young women run up and down the aluminum bleachers. Ten 400m speedwork intervals average ~1:50 each. A bald guy in a Navy shirt says "Hi Mark!" as he zips by.

(trackfile)

- Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 04:22:55 (EDT)


2016-04-18 - Quiet McLean Morn

~5.6 miles @ ~12.5 min/mi

"Rabbit!" Kristin spies the first coney of the day. A dog strains at its leash and tries to give chase, but to no avail. After a symbolic Dawn Patrol lap on the McLean HS track our feet take us along small streets to random-walk through sleepy neighborhoods. Gray houses in fifty different shades, all with white-trim windows, are a local fad. Cherry blossoms rain down when a hand brushes a low-hanging branch. After witnessing hundreds of awesome sunrises, one might think they would become boring. Never!

(trackfile)

- Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 04:20:15 (EDT)


Mantra - Be on Good Form

A delightful British idiom that aptly names a mindful non-goal goal:

    Be on
Good Form

... as in the Optimist Creed, "... to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind ... to think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best ... to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble."

... and as Guy Claxton describes one approach to it in The Heart of Buddhism:

... Buddhism helps people be at their best more of the time. All of us have periods when we are "on good form", in which these qualities are available to us. But we are also only too aware of the other times, when we are ratty and muddled, mean-spirited and intolerant. Buddhism expands and consolidates our better natures. ...

... and how? Well, that's a longer story — maybe it involves waking up, and letting go, and saying "Yes, and..." to oneself ...

(cf. Core Buddhism (2011-10-17), Mindfulness for Beginners (2013-07-18), 0-1 (2014-08-29), ...)

- Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 05:31:22 (EDT)


2016-04-16 - CCT Ramble

~10.1 miles @ ~13.2 min/mi

"Just say, 'Set the stress-energy tensor equal to the spacetime curvature, and you'll get the Einstein field equations'," I advise Amy and Liz, friends of Emaad training for the Frederick half-marathon coming soon. "You only need to learn two minutes of physics jargon — after that, people lose interest and stop listening." We're on the Little Falls Trail, diverting from the Capital Crescent to add a bit of mileage.

The morning begins as Rebecca, Gerald, and I give chase to Santa Steve, who took a head start. A big deer crosses the path near him. "Was that a reindeer? What color was its nose?"

Ken rejoins us and leads the gang ahead while Barry, whose hip is still twonky, jogs with me and reviews the current baseball season, Marathon Maniac regulations, and the movie "Everest". We catch up with Gayatri, Amy, and Liz who have reached their distance goal of the day and are walking. Everybody reunites in downtown Bethesda where we began.

(trackfile)

- Monday, May 09, 2016 at 04:23:34 (EDT)


2016-04-15 - Unicorn Run

~19.8 miles @ ~14.3 min/mi

"No!" Kristin corrects me, and gestures toward the river, the land, the sky, "It's all special!" We're in the middle miles of a joyful run along the Potomac River and around the National Mall. She and Kerry humor my requests for photo pauses. After a coffee break in Union Station we divert past a lovely home where Kristin once lived. Hydrangeas and crab apple tree that she planted more than a decade ago are thriving.

"Did I forget to lock my car?" I ask at 0540, a few blocks into the journey. As the sun rises over the Potomac a rat scurries away at the Jefferson Memorial. The boardwalk near Teddy Roosevelt Island sways and squeaks underfoot. Yesterday during planning I ask everybody to keep expectations low and warn, "We may not see any unicorns this time."

Kerry replies, "Well, I'll be disappointed if we don't see at least two!"

Running past the Library of Congress we concur, this isn't good — it's perfect. And yes, the car is unlocked when we return. All's well. "Best Day Ever!"

- Monday, May 09, 2016 at 04:20:12 (EDT)


Osho Zen Tarot Equivalents

Tarot cards can be fun and artistic — and as a character in Samuel Delany's classic sf novel Nova says, they can also provide an out-of-the-box input to better thinking about a situation. "Osho", aka "Rajneesh" (1931-1990), was an Indian guru/philosopher, and a nontraditional tarot deck called the "Osho Zen Tarot" is associated with him.

The Osho cards are, however, rather different from the "classic" system. Various conversions and translations exist. From kathryn.mnsi.net, with links to descriptions and images:

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

- Saturday, May 07, 2016 at 19:49:15 (EDT)


2016-04-13 - Palace Tour

~7.1 miles @ ~11.4 min/mi

"Chateau-ian? Chateau-ic?" Today's trek is a Dawn Patrol architectural tour; I'm groping for the right adjectival form to describe a sprawling mansion we've just admired. Kerry pauses to check the handouts under a for-sale sign, and I inadvertently dis the 'hood by guessing $2.5 million, low by ~20%. "Maybe it's on a big lot?" Across the street from Hickory Hill, the Kennedy estate, a fresh hole in the ground portends construction.

Kristin texts us as the sun rises and we share the lovely dawn virtually with her. Conversation ranges widely and includes the distinction between sandbagging and true modesty. I quote one of my (many) favorite scenes in Vernor Vinge's ur-cyberpunk novel True Names, when the Turing Police pull open a drawer in Mr Slippery's living room "... to reveal at least five hundred cubic centimeters of optical memory, neatly racked and threaded through to the next drawer which held correspondingly powerful CPUs. Even so, it was nothing compared to the gear he had buried under the house." Sometimes it's wise to keep a low profile!

(trackfile)

- Friday, May 06, 2016 at 04:19:41 (EDT)


2016-04-11 - Schedule Management

~4.3 miles @ ~12.7 min/mi

"So I canceled my 8am meeting today, which was to discuss my overloaded calendar of meetings!" Kerry reports, metacognitively. Kristin and I concur that schedule management is a Turing-complete challenge worthy of Strong AI. The Dawn Patrol ramble this morning explores two new cut-throughs between Route 7 buildings and the Pimmit Hills 'hood. We find 54 cents in dropped change on sidewalks, parking lots, and dead-end streets.

Drs K&K brainstorm work issues after suggesting ways to sanitize my Bull Run Run report for family audiences, possibly via Seinfeld allusions or L33t Speak. Two days post-BRR I'm largely recovered. But as we descend a stairway to Burnside Court, "Yesterday here, you would have heard my quads crying!".

(trackfile)

- Friday, May 06, 2016 at 04:14:30 (EDT)


Fraying at the Edges

A thoughtful, tragic, beautiful article by N. R. Kleinfield, New York Times senior Metro reporter, appeared last week: "Fraying at the Edges", an extended profile of Alzheimer's victim Geri Taylor. Amidst the frustrations and fears as her mind goes, meta-paradoxically shrinking cognition brings expanding freedom, transcending of self — a Zen Buddhist-like escape from the "I" delusion:

... "Years ago, I definitely had more of an ego. Now I don't have an idea of myself. And so I have less of an ego. Frankly, I don't care what people think of me. I'm more in a survival mode, one foot in front of the other. Don't spill the coffee."

This idea that Alzheimer's swallowed up the ego was her own unproven postulate. "I don't know why this is," she said. "But I've tested it with a few other people with Alzheimer's, and they say the same thing. It's our dirty little secret."

So Ms. Taylor didn't care what people thought of her?

"I don't know if I totally don't care," she said. "But I'm as close to it as I ever thought I could be." ...

And in an accompanying piece ("Learn You Have Alzheimer's, Then Invite a Reporter to Tail You? Really?") Kleinfield told how the project began:

I needed someone introspective who could distill what was happening inside the brain. Ms. Taylor was ideal, both bright and reflective. She was not reluctant to talk generously about what the disease was doing to her. In fact, she enjoyed doing so. Her insights enabled me to comprehend the movement of Alzheimer's through her mind.

Alzheimer's is far from a cheerful illness. It eats at one's soul. When I began with Ms. Taylor some two years ago, I did not know what the journey would be like, only her prediction.

At the conclusion of that first meeting, when we agreed that we wanted to proceed, she wrapped up the conversation by looking at me with her gentle eyes, flashing her smile and saying, "Well, you better be prepared to have fun!"

Did we ever.

(cf. Coming to Our Senses (2009-01-01), Unselfing (2009-01-14), Contemplative Zombie (2009-08-04), Unselfing Again (2009-11-01), Anatman Living (2013-07-13), Clinging Is Optional (2013-08-21), It is Thou (2014-09-24), Fear of Failing (2015-07-08), Mantra - For Us (2015-11-28), I Want Happiness (2015-12-04), No Me (2016-01-18), ...)

- Wednesday, May 04, 2016 at 20:21:39 (EDT)


2016-04-09 - Bull Run Run 50 Miler

~48 miles @ ~16 min/mi

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!

      King Lear, Act III, Scene ii

Sleet, hail, snow, thunder, mud, and wild winds: it's an ultra-beautiful day for a ramble in the woods!

And bottom line: for the ninth time, I finish the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club's Bull Run Run — 12 hours 55 minutes — slowest ever, ahead of the ultimate cutoff by only 5 minutes. Whew!

Along the way there are slips and falls but thankfully no game-enders. Early in the event, walking in reverse to chat with new trail friend Donald Halke II, my foot drops into a mud pit. Gayatri Datta scolds, "Mark, please look forward, not back!"



(pothole photo by Donald Halke, mile ~2 of the Bull Run Run course)

The day starts before 5am at Gayatri's house. Kind comrade Ken Swab picks us up to carpool to Hemlock Overlook Regional Park where the BRR begins, ends, and returns at mile ~16 en route. Cold rain patters, then pauses. We snag our starter's swag, which this year includes an awesome camp chair and cool commemorative socks. Then it's time to take our traditional position at the derrière of the pack. At 0630 we commence running as dawn brightens behind thick clouds.

Gayatri and I stick together, and Donald Halke introduces himself to us. As so often happens during ultramarathons soon we're fast friends. He tells of his work, family, health, plans, and past running experiences. The back of his shirt today reads:
        1 - heart attack
        2 - stents
        4 - by-passes
        1 - pacemaker
    so why are you behind me?

Gayatri and I pause for Donald to take pictures of us. We admire the bluebell flowers that carpet the valley, and average a comfortable 16-17 min/mi pace. At mile ~4 when the hills steepen I trot ahead to reconnoiter.

"Hail, Chief!" As icy pellets sprinkle the earth like white peppercorns I punnishly salute fast runners coming back from the northern turnaround of the BRR course. A rumble of thunder is followed by light snow. Then rain resumes.

Approaching the Mile ~7 (Centreville) Aid Station, I hold out my bottle. "Please, sir, I want some more!" After inhaling cookies and a couple of salt capsules it's time to dash away, dash away, dash away all.



(photo by Kevin Sayers; streaks falling in the foreground are sleet and snowflakes))

Extreme weather this year plus recent injuries makes many runners go slower than planned. Ultra hero Tom Green is picking his way gingerly over rocks and roots. This is his 24th Bull Run Run; wisely he withdraws and ends his streak, rather than risk a bad fall.

At mile ~12 I catch up with Dr Stephanie Fonda, still suffering from damage incurred two months ago when she raced a 100 miler in Texas (see 2016-02-07 - Rocky Raccoon 100 Sweeper). To cheer her and encourage her to continue I cajole, tease, joke, quote naughty bits from Shakespeare, and remind her of past runs of legend that we've completed together. When even bawdy bardish banter fails, I attempt a guilt-trip: "If you abandon me and I'm alone in the woods, when I fall down and the bears are chewing on my toes I'll whisper, 'If only Stephanie had stayed with me...' — and you'll feel so guilty!" She meta-ripostes, "But you will feel even more guilty about the guilt I will feel when I make you miss the cutoffs by being too slow!" OK, you win, Stephanie.

At mile ~15 we pause at the Cara Golias Graffiti Memorial under the railroad bridge for a dual-selfie. Then away I trek, climbing the steep slope back to Hemlock Overlook as briskly as possible.

"Wait — you mean there's another 32 miles to go??" I feign disbelief when Robert Fabia takes my picture at Hemlock Overlook.

Ken Swab arrives about 20 minutes ahead of me, half an hour behind his usual time at this point. He texts to check on my status; I reply hyper-optimistically (as always!). But, Ken writes in his BRR race report, maybe his heart just isn't in it today. Cold wet feet, slippery mud, and the prospect of even worse conditions in the mountainous southern 30+ miles of the trail conspire and persuade him to punch out.

I dash onward in hopes of making the next cutoff. It's now mile ~17, roughly 11am. In my haste to move out I forget to pick up the battery pack from my drop bag, needed to recharge my phone/GPS. Half a mile down trail I discover the error, and ponder going back. "No!" is the right answer.

Pushing the pace cautiously, keeping energy in reserve, running the downhills with care to avoid a stumble — everything feels incredibly good, in spite of a couple of slip-slides in the mud. "It will turn out OK", as a good friend taught me long ago. All will be well.

At the Wolf Run Shoals aid station I snag a strand of Mardi Gras beads to wear around my neck. The weather keeps improving, and trail conditions are better than expected.

Fountainhead is the first BRR cutoff, mile ~28, at 1:45pm. Zoom in on the watch in this picture: it reads 1:41:57 — more than 3 minutes to spare. Yay! Refuel, pop two more salt capsules, and get outta there!



(photo by Hai Nguyen)

Onward, around the White Loop horse trail, then south and east. No time to pause for selfies now. Always-cheerful Adeline Ntam, miles ahead of me when we meet, gets gifted my bead necklace. You go, girl!

Next cutoff at ~32 miles: ~4 minutes to spare. At the Do Loop aid station James Moore swears it's under 2.5 miles to Fountainhead. "Thank you, Sir!" I give him a big hug. "There's a chance!"

Winds gust to 30+ mi/hr. Leaves swirl and trees sway, creak, and groan as they threaten to fall and make new widows or widowers. None does.



(photo by Hai Nguyen)

At Fountainhead, mile ~38, the clock says I'm ~6 minutes to the good. Don't blow it now!

True Confession: at mile ~24 an impolite and overconfident thought surfaces: "This trail is my B17cH!" On the way back, after mile ~40, comes the realization: "I'm this trail's B17cH!" And there's no time to waste pondering that duality — the ultimate 13 hour cutoff still looms. Terrain in the final miles is rocky and steep. The GPS/phone battery dies.

And then, the finish line.

It turns out OK.



(photo by Hai Nguyen)

Result: 256th place of 258 finishers. Two women are behind me so I claim DFL male honors. Frank Probst, age 72, is just ahead and completes his 24th BRR — that's every single one.

Past times and race report links:

Next year? Who knows!

(trackfile)

- Monday, May 02, 2016 at 20:28:52 (EDT)


Mantra - It Will Be OK

  It Will
Turn Out
    Ok

... the faith that, ultimately and in the end, everything really will be all right — as it always has been, and as it always will be — and that, as a dear friend once pointed out, my stories always end with, "... and it turned out OK" — because it did!

(cf Karma (2009-07-15), Equanimity (2012-02-01), Mindfulness for Beginners (2013-07-18), Equanimity and Magnanimity (2015-02-19), This Is Equanimity (2015-03-15), Vastness, Equanimity, Selflessness (2015-06-04), Perfect Size for Letting Go (2015-09-14), ...)

- Sunday, May 01, 2016 at 00:08:01 (EDT)


2016-04-08 - Maze of Twisty Little Passages

~6.7 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

"And it just keeps getting better!" Kerry and I pause to admire the glorious dawn. Rich indigo clouds frame flamingo-pink gaps. Then the phone chirps. It's Amber, sharing even more awesome photos of sunrise over the Potomac. "Kerry says 'Wow!'" I text back.

Then sudden and total disorientation, as subtly curving Ridge Road utterly confuses my sense of direction. I react in disbelief when Kerry points out the walkway into the woods, opposite to where it "should" be. Conversation meanders from puissance (high jump competition for horses) through category theory (duality and isomorphism) to social justice, corporate architecture, and how tragic it is when people become chronically bitter and negative. "If only a gentle nudge could help them return to balance!"

We give thanks for sharing a planet with Shakespeare and J. S. Bach. At St Luke's School we walk the Stations of the Cross pathway. Finishing, I'm tempted to add mileage but Kerry wisely counsels, "Save some for tomorrow!" Thank you, Dr K!

(trackfile)

- Friday, April 29, 2016 at 05:53:26 (EDT)


2016-04-06 - Evans Farm Survey

~6.7 miles @ ~12.6 min/mi

"... a long list of the names of her pets, with 'DECEASED' after each one!" Kerry describes how her daughter is filling out forms to adopt a new dog. We concur that perhaps some editing, or at least contextual background, could be helpful in the application process.

Frost whitens the grass. We loop through the Evans Farm community (verdict: great architectural variety, but too few weather vanes) and then attack Pimmit Hills. Beth reports on Friday evening's 5k race in Crystal City. Kristin's new shoes and velcro band haven't yet cured a twingy knee. Contrails radiate from the rising sun.

(trackfile)

- Thursday, April 28, 2016 at 05:22:21 (EDT)


Traveller's Rest

More than 14 years ago in "Half-Remembered Worlds" (2002-02-18) I described two science-fiction stories stuck deep in my head that I couldn't properly identify. A few days ago, on the Stack Exchange sf Q&A board, I asked again — and one of the tales was immediately identified! In fact, somebody else had asked about it in 2011. The description:

... a surreal planet where, as one moves toward the poles, time flows faster, words get shorter, language becomes crisper — and at the northernmost zones a war rages forever, apparently in a mirror-reflection across a singularity ...

... and the answer: "Traveller's Rest", by David Masson, published in 1965 and anthologized the following year in a couple of collections. The full text of the story is online. It's still fascinating to read, though more amateurish than it seemed at the time. Rich Horton writes about the author in an online essay. Thank you!

- Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 04:18:31 (EDT)


2016-04-04 - Too Much Fun

~6.3 miles @ ~12.2 min/mi

"Let's run into the sunrise!" Kristin suggests, as the Dawn Patrol trots along Leesburg Pike toward a thin crescent moon low above the coral-peach horizon. So we abandon prior plans and continue eastward. And it just keeps getting better! We catch up on news (Kerry is back from visiting friends) and share the peaceful morning. In a back yard on Haycock Rd a black-and-white dog stands on hind legs and leaps to play with a dangling toy. Kids awaiting the school bus step aside for us to pass. A woman emerging from her apartment catches us laughing and smiles. "You're all having too much fun!" she says.

(trackfile)

- Tuesday, April 26, 2016 at 04:12:56 (EDT)


Category Theory Concepts

Learning a bit of mathematical Category Theory is by turns fun and frustrating — ideas transition from obvious to incomprehensible within a few pages. But a small clan of key principles, perhaps with wide application, already seems to be emerging from the fog. For now, with the acronym TRIBE:

  • Transcend - move up a level and look at things from a higher perspective, where distracting details fade and larger patterns emerge (cf One Transcend Suffices (2009-10-14))
  • Rename - recognize that labels don't matter, that "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet", like mappings between things that are "really" identical in various ways (cf Naming Names (1999-10-10))
  • Invert - turn things around, run processes backwards, and look for duality or complementary (cf Great Ideas (1999-05-03) and Mandatory Inversion (1999-09-02))
  • Bypass - take a roundabout path to get to the same destination, e.g., tunnel down, move across, and then tunnel back up (cf Applied Bypasses (1999-04-14) and Creative Devices (2001-01-01))
  • Embed - see something inside a larger, perhaps similar, thing and take advantage of that larger realm to understand features that were non-obvious (cf Expanding Contexts (1999-10-15))

(cf Greatest Inventions (2011-06-09), Simplicity via Abstraction (2016-01-07), Cakes, Custard, and Category Theory (2016-02-14), ...)

- Monday, April 25, 2016 at 04:20:07 (EDT)


2016-04-03 - Run for Gary

~10.0 miles @ ~10.2 min/mi

"Superman wears Gary Knipling pajamas!" That's just one of the comments and stories shared online in an outpouring of love from fans of Gary, local ultrarunner who suffered a major stroke a few days ago and who is already home, recovering speedily. Gary's boundless enthusiasm and legendary kindness echo and help all of us be better. Thank you, Gary Knipling!

Today's temps are in the 40s, and north winds gusting 30+ mi/hr have blown most of the cherry blossoms off the trees in Wheaton Regional Park. A huge goose hunkers down, then waddles away to avoid being photographed. Pace-pushing (and luck at major road crossings) produces splits of 8:19 + 8:56 + 8:50 for the final miles. An attempt to stop the GPS at 9.99 slightly misses the mark.

(trackfile)

- Sunday, April 24, 2016 at 09:11:30 (EDT)


2016-04-02 - Jefferson Memorial with Amber

~9.0 miles @ ~9.7 min/mi

"Was that Meb Keflezighi?" I ask Dr Amber as we run across the 14th St Bridge into DC. Heading the opposite way are three fast runners, one of whom looks rather like the elite American Olympian, in town for tomorrow's Cherry Blossom 10 mile race. When we see the trio again a few miles later, cooldown-stretching at Graveley Point, Amber urges me to work up my courage and ask. They deny it, but I cling to the fantasy. "Maybe he's traveling incognito!"

Raindrops wet our faces when we set out, zig along Four Mile Run, then zag to join the Mount Vernon Trail. We pause mid-course for selfies under the dome of the Jefferson Memorial. (Tom photo-bombs us). Amber goes slower than her usual pace, for which I thank her every mile. Tulips blossom at National Airport, so bright an alizarin-crimson that they look artificial. Post-trek the Alexandria farmers' market provides yoghurt, scones, and cookies.

(trackfile)

- Saturday, April 23, 2016 at 17:03:36 (EDT)


2016-04-01 - McLean Morning

~5.2 miles @ ~12.2 min/mi

"They can be the 'Dawn Patrol Irregulars'!" I suggest, alluding to junior affiliates of Sherlock Holmes, as Kristin and I ramble the roads of Southridge and encounter multiple other folks out on pre-sunrise spring jogs. Warm and humid weather is a gentle introduction to sultry summer conditions soon to come. We admire giant sunroom windows ("... and the neighbors must get quite a view too!"). Blossoms cascade down from the trees and speckle the streets.

(trackfile)

- Friday, April 22, 2016 at 04:15:08 (EDT)


Seeking Negative Space

Chris Messina writes beautifully (if at times incoherently) in the essay "Seeking Genius in Negative Space" about looking at and thinking about negative space — the complement-inverse-dual that defines and surrounds every object. It's a concept in art and Zen (and everywhere else!). As Messina meanders through both he quotes John Keats, via the Brain Pickings short piece "The Art of 'Negative Capability': Keats on Embracing Uncertainty and Celebrating the Mysterious"). From a letter dated 1817-12-22:

... what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakspeare possessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason ...

Messina's musings conclude with nine notions:

  1. Be deeply curious about the world around you.
  2. Become aware of your thoughts and learn to think about thinking. Practicing metacognition will help develop a sense for the tricks your mind plays, and how to overcome them.
  3. With this awareness, learn to overcome automatic processing. When confronted with something new or unfamiliar, withhold judgment; if you see something you don't understand in the negative space, go with it and see where it leads. Remember that impossible geometry exists, and your mind is constantly trying to force you to see things that you already know how to see. It's learning to see the unseen that makes this practice valuable!
  4. Be aware of the limitations of the labels that have been applied to the world. Keep in mind how small the grid of words is compared to the wordless plane. Opportunity exists where words don't exist, yet.
  5. Learn to sit with Keats in uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts without grasping for conventional explanations. Allow time to visit the fantastic and the unconventional, and become aware of the moments when you're avoiding staying in these contexts. Meditation can be essential here.
  6. Once you've discovered something in the negative space, use narrative to bridge the well-known with the unfamiliar. This is critical to helping others see the opportunities that you see.
  7. Be persistent, and be contrarian. Learning to see the unseen is a personal skill, and getting others to share your vision is a longer term project. You must be willing to hold on to your vision, even when others struggle or refuse to see it.
  8. That said, be polite and patient. Time is relative; if you can convince people to see the world as you do, then anything is possible. It just may not happen immediately.
  9. Don't let fear or insecurity drag you down. People avoid the negative space for a reason.

... nice thoughts on mindfulness and meta!

(cf GreatIdeas (1999-05-03), No Concepts At All (2001-02-22), DalaiLamaBirthdayGift (2004-08-24), Kenosis (2008-09-21), Poetry 180 (2009-09-30), Zen Soup (2012-02-09), O (2012-10-24), Notice and Return (2013-03-11), Space Between (2013-10-13), Countdown Breathing (2013-12-18), Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain (2014-01-18), Swiss Cheese (2014-07-04), Learning to Pause (2015-08-10), 0-1 (2014-08-29), ...)

- Thursday, April 21, 2016 at 05:46:09 (EDT)


2016-03-30 - Metaquotation

~3.6 miles @ ~12.1 min/mi

"Good luck finding something safe to quote from this morning's conversation!" Dr Beth says. We're in the final quarter-mile of a trek rich in "frank and open" dialogue, to use a term from diplomacy-speak.

"Hmmmmm ... maybe I'll quote that statement!" replies Mr Meta. Frost decorates windshields of parked cars. A scrawny rabbit scampers away as we prepare to set out, eastern sky beginning to glow orange. Ice cubes are strewn across the sidewalk as a food service truck cleans out yesterday's bins in preparation for a fresh start.

(trackfile)

- Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 04:10:27 (EDT)


Marathons and Ultramarathons

The "Marathon Maniacs" are a fun group of long run fanatics that Barry Smith told me about recently. In order to apply for membership one must gather data on completed races of 26.2 miles or more — an effort that took me quite a while and perhaps should be preserved as a cross-index to some of the logbook-reports here. The current version, subject to correction:

date race time comments
2016-04-09Bull Run Run 50M 12:55BRR #9: sleet, hail, snow, thunder, mud, wind!
2016-01-01VHTRC Red Eye 50k7:43

1920: Triple lynching in Duluth, Minnesota

June 15th, 2013Headsman

On this date in 1920, a white mob perhaps 10,000 strong swarmed into the Duluth, Minn. jail and extracted three young African-American circus workers accused of gang-raping a white woman. Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie stood an immediate drumhead trial, then were lynched in the heart of Duluth as they vainly protested their innocence.

The self-congratulatory posed photograph of mob members with the bodies was made into a horrifying postcard, a frequent practice in lynch law America.


“What this looks like is the kind of photo you would see at a hunting lodge, where the guys had been out shooting bear, and they came back and they said, ‘We got three.’ You can see people on tip-toe. They’ve crowded into this shot. These are not people who are ashamed to be seen here. This is, ‘I want to be in this picture.'”

-Michael Fedo, author of The Lynchings in Duluth

Nineteen-year-old Irene Tusker and her boyfriend James Sullivan had attended the one-day circus the evening before. What transpired that night remains unknown to this day: Irene eventually took the streetcar home without incident. Hours later, James Sullivan’s father claimed that the couple had been held at gunpoint by black carnies as Irene was gang-raped.

By the evening of the 15th, a vengeful mob had surrounded the police station/local lockup. Officers were ordered not to use deadly force against the townsfolk, so the battle to push into the premises was waged with brickbats against firehoses, and eventually with ineffectual pleas to let the law take its course.*

The incident drew nationwide reaction — usually condemnation (with a couple of exceptions). Occurring as it did in one of the continental states’ northernmost towns, it also underscored lynching as a nationwide problem rather than “merely” a southern one.

“Duluth has disgraced herself and has, by reason of her geographical position, disgraced the north,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer editorialized (June 17, 1920) — just one of innumerable newspaper editorials in the days following the Duluth outrage. “A city that has no more backbone than to submit to the rule of riot cannot be held blameless. But it will be surprising if Duluth and the state of Minnesota do not take steps to punish the murderers. The method of procedure was so deliberate and so brazenly open that identification and conviction of the ringleaders should be an easy matter.”

Brace for a surprise: according to the Minnesota Historical Society’s excellent site on the Duluth lynchings, only three whites served prison time (a shade over one year apiece) for rioting. Nobody was ever convicted for murdering Clayton, Jackson, or McGhie.

One black man, Max Mason, caught a long prison sentence for the supposed rape. He was paroled after five years on condition that he leave Minnesota for good.

“I was just short of nineteen the night that the bodies of McGhie, Jackson, and Clayton swung from a light pole in Duluth. I read the stories in the newspapers and put them down feeling sick, scared, and angry all at the same time. This was Minnesota, not Mississippi, but every Negro in the John Robinson Show had been suspect in the eyes of the police and guilty in the eyes of the mob … I found myself thinking of black people as a very vulnerable us — and white people as an unpredictable, violent them.”

-Minnesota-raised Roy Wilkins, the eventual director of the NAACP, in his autobiography (via)

The great-grandson of one of the lynch mob’s members wrote this book about the hangings’ legacy

The lynching was practically written out of the official state history most white children consumed at school in the middle part of the 20th century,** though the nine-year-old Lithuanian Jewish boy Abram Zimmerman who lived nearby the execution site later told his son all about it. Young Robert Allen Zimmerman tapped his father’s lynching stories under his subsequent nom de troubadour of Bob Dylan, and the Duluth atrocity is alluded to in Dylan’s “Desolation Row”.†

Latter-day Duluth has, to its credit, tried to manage something a little bit more overt.

In 2003, a monument commemorating Duluth’s moment of infamy was dedicated opposite the place where the young men were strung up and photographed. Minnesota Public Radio produced a series on the lynching during the construction of this monument which is still available online.

* The law in Minnesota had no death penalty on the books, and still has none today.

** To be fair to the state, its immediate response did include passing anti-lynching legislation in 1921.

† “They’re selling postcards of the hanging/They’re painting the passports brown/The beauty parlor is filled with sailors/The circus is in town.”

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Common Criminals,Crime,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Gibbeted,Hanged,History,Lynching,Minnesota,No Formal Charge,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Rape,Summary Executions,USA,Wrongful Executions

Tags: 1920, 1920s, bob dylan, duluth, elias clayton, elmer jackson, isaac mcghie, june 15, photography, racism

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