The Inspired Perspirer

1% Inspiration, 99% Perspiration

Quantum Field Theory – even snails can get there!

Once (and it was not yesterday), there lived a very young mole and a very young crow who, having heard of the fabulous land called Quefithe, decided to visit it. Before starting out, they went to the wise owl and asked what Quefithe was like.

Owl’s description of Quefithe was quite confusing. He said that in Quefithe everything was both up and down. If you knew where you were, there was no way of knowing where you were going and conversely, if you knew where you were going, there was no way of knowing where you were…

Clearly, if they were ever going to learn anything about Quefithe, they had to see it for themselves. And that is what they did.

After a few years had passed, the mole came back. He said that Quefithe consisted of lots of tunnels. One entered a hole and wandered through a maze, tunnels splitting and rejoining, until one found the next hole and got out. Quefithe sounded like a place only a mole would like, and nobody wanted to hear more about it.

Not much later the crow landed, flapping its wings and crowing excitedly. Quefithe was amazing, it said. The most beautiful landscape with high mountains, perilous passes and deep valleys. The valley floors were teeming with little moles who were scurrying down rutted paths. The crow sounded like he had taken too many bubble baths, and many who heard him shook their heads. The frogs kept on croaking “It is not rigorous, it is not rigorous!”… But there was something about crow’s enthusiasm that was infectious.

The most puzzling thing about it all was that the mole’s description of Quefithe sounded nothing like the crow’s description. Some even doubted that the mole and the crow had ever gotten to the mythical land. Only the fox, who was by nature very curious, kept running back and forth between the mole and the crow and asking questions, until he was sure that he understood them both. Nowadays, anybody can get to Quefithe – even snails.

~an anonymous student of Field Theory (as recounted in “Genius – The Life and Science of Richard Feynman” by James Gleick)

“Quote of the Day”

“As I’m talking, I see vague pictures of Bessel functions from Jahnke and Emde’s book, with light tan i’s, slightly violet-bluish n’s, and dark brown x’s flying around. And I wonder what the hell it must look like to the students.” ~Richard Feynman

Just roll with the punches… then counter-attack with a vengeance!

“The best laid plains of mice and men often go awry…”

As you might can already tell, this weekend did NOT go as planned. I AM a planner, and I tend to keep “the plan” on my person at all times, regardless of what “the plan” pertains to. The Evernote app on my smartphone allows this. Whether it is a vacation (what to pack, what to see, what to do, what to buy), a grocery list, or a running schedule, “the plan” is with me always. Usually, a plan is what is needed to ensure what needs done, gets done. However, spontaneity is the spice of life (as is variety), so I do like to leave flexibility within my plans. Too much rigidity suffocates me. And yet, still, I do sometimes find myself getting perturbed when “the plan” goes awry. Thankfully, when it went awry this weekend, I was able to just go with it.

It started with Saturday morning… when the alarm went off for my run, I was NOT feeling it. Despite the prior day’s preparations (hydrating, carb-loading) for this last big push before my first half marathon, when I woke up, I was exhausted. So, I hit the snooze a few times. The alarm was VERY early, and I could afford a few snoozes. When I finally got up and ready, I was feeling good. The morning was cool, which was a refreshing treat. THIS was going to be a good run!

But, then the dogs started following me… they did NOT need to follow me on this run as I would be crossing a major highway. And putting them on a leash is not even an option… we are VERY rural, and these dogs are working dogs, not pets. So, I headed back and tried putting them in the house. Time was ticking… the sun was up and the thermometer was rising. It gets hot QUICK in Texas! I managed to get one inside, then I started working on the other. Just a few minutes later, my husband let the one out of the house… along with both house dogs. So, then we tried catching them all up again. It just wasn’t working. I was very annoyed by this time, especially when I looked at the time. I had a choice to make… either he could drive me away from the ranch and I could start my run (and battle the rising heat), OR I could wait till the next morning and we could go run in the park. I chose the latter. AND I chose to be happy about it.

As it turns out, they were GOOD choices. We had a wonderful, restful day together, went to see “Hubble” at the IMAX, scouted restrooms and parking spaces at the park, picked up some more gels, had a wonderful pasta dinner together, and just generally enjoyed a very relaxing day together. After a good night’s rest, we woke up before dawn, gathered our gear and headed to town. He biked while I ran. It was the farthest I’ve ever ran before – 11 miles! I was absolutely determined to suck all the life and mileage I possibly could out of this run, and I was happy the whole way through – smiling through the pain of the final miles, light-heartedly greeting every soul I passed along the way. With a bit of a limp, I finished my run, then stretched and played in the water park along with the kids.

How do I manage to keep going when my muscles want to stop? I remind myself of how good I will feel once I have the pain behind me. I remind myself that life is short and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. I remind myself that pain is fleeting, and victory is eternal. I tell my body that IT works for ME, and then I attack my day with all the energy and force I can possibly muster! And then, victory IS mine!!

A ride inside “The Magic Machine”…

"Orion Nebula"

We just got back from watching “Hubble” at the IMAX. Yes, it was like being a kid again, with my telescope and notepad, surveying the heavens for all of the unkown. Only, I never did see much with my el-cheapo telescope, and consequently soon lost interest. In contrast, it seems we are allowed the sight of EVERYTHING with Hubble – the most powerful telescope in the world. Now, there were many wondrous things to behold within this film, but today’s source of fascination was the Orion Nebula…

From http://hubblesite.org

The Orion Nebula is a perfect laboratory to study how stars are born because it is 1,500 light-years away, a relatively short distance within our 100,000 light-year wide galaxy. Astronomers have a clear view into this crowded stellar maternity ward because massive stars in the center of the nebula have blown out most of the dust and gas in which they formed, carving a cavity in the dark cloud.

“In this bowl of stars we see the entire star formation history of Orion printed into the features of the nebula: arcs, blobs, pillars, and rings of dust that resemble cigar smoke,” Robberto said. “Each one tells a story of stellar winds from young stars that impact the stellar environment and the material ejected from other stars. This is a typical star-forming environment. Our Sun was probably born 4.5 billion years ago in a cloud like this one.”

I am currently rendered speechless by God’s awesome splendor, and the most I can do is leave you with the words of another… “For most people, we often marvel at the beauty of a sunrise or the magnificence of a full moon, but it is impossible to fathom the magnitude of the universe that surrounds us.”
~Richard H. Baker

The Heavens Declare His Handiwork

image

Last night, at church, we watched a video of Louie Giglio – “Indescribable”. This video included images taken by Hubble, and the last image that was shown is the one you see above, which can be downloaded from hubble.org. The Whirlpool Galaxy is approximately 31 million light years away from Earth, and this picture is of “the X Structure”, which is at the center of the Whirlpool Galaxy. I don’t know about you, but to me, THIS is INDESCRIBABLE. I was absolutely floored by jaw-dropping wonder when I first saw this image. Only God can make a person feel so small and yet so loved at the same time.

So, being a runner who is re-learning math (with the help of a very old series of self-study books, starting with “Arithmetic For The Practical Man”) , with this image burned into my mind along with, perhaps, the old adages “run to the cross” and “run to Jesus”, I asked myself a question. You might think it a silly one, but it just popped into my head and I had to know…. “how many years would it take to run, non-stop, to the Whirlpool Galaxy from Earth at a rate of 10 minutes per mile?” So….. I did the math.

First, let’s take a look at the numbers. The Whirlpool Galaxy is 31 million LIGHT YEARS away. There are approximately 6 TRILLION miles in ONE Light Year (the “exact” number is 5,878,625,373,184), which makes TWG roughly 182 quintillion miles away from earth (5,878,625,373,184 X 31,000,000 = 182,237,386,568,704 X 10 raised to the sixth power). For a little bit of perspective, the Sun is 93 million miles away from Earth, and at a 10 minute/mile pace, would take approximately 63,700 years to run to. At this same pace, it would take about 125,000,000,000,000,000 (125 QUADRILLION) years to run to “the cross”. Actually, that would just get you to the outer edges of the Whirlpool Galaxy, and you’d still have several million more miles to go. To offer even more perspective, the Universe itself is estimated to be about 14 billion years old. The Universe would have to outlive itself 900 times over to give you the time to make this ultimate marathon of a journey.

So, now I know. I can’t run to the cross. It is too far, too high. Completely and utterly unattainable. As Matthew West says in one of my favorite songs, I’m not strong enough. I give up.

Thank God that He never asked me to “run to the cross”. No, HE descended from Heaven and HE ran to US. And all that is left for us to do is simply open the door.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” ~Revelation 3:20

…I do still like the saying, though.  ;)

The Idea

“The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

You know that saying “no pain, no gain”? Well, it’s absolutely true. “Building muscle” hurts. As you workout, you’re not really “building” muscle at all – you’re ripping, shredding and DESTROYING muscle. The “building” part actually comes when you are resting and your body is repairing itself. This is why a good workout SHOULD be accompanied by some level of pain. The pain is how you know you are getting somewhere!

With this in mind, I know that my academic goal will require just as much training, struggle, commitment, and strength of will as my athletic goal of running a marathon. I am reminded of something Richard Feynman once said to a reporter… I don’t remember the exact quote, but it went along the lines of “you want to know about these big things, but you don’t even know about the small things! Go learn about the small things first!” Begin at the beginning, and start with small things… just as when I picked up running I started with “small things” – short distances.

You may be wondering why I am so inspired by a Physicist when that is not what I aim to be. The thing is, Richard Feynman never stopped learning. He saw EVERYTHING as a LEARNABLE SKILL… all you need is a teachable mind an a willingness to experiment! At one point in his studies, he took a hiatus to work in biology, ultimately making discoveries in that field. Later, with no formal training, he picked up music and art, and advanced himself in those fields as well. If, to this, all you have to say is, “of course HE did, HE was a certifiable GENIUS!” ….well, then, all I have to say to you is, “Pecans to you!! What do I care what others think?!”

I know the path ahead will be difficult. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If there’s one thing life has taught me it’s this: the harder the struggle, the sweeter the victory.

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you…. THE QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Running and science draw on similar traits – stamina, ambition, patience, and the ability to overcome limits.” ~Wolfgang Ketterle, Nobel laureate, MIT professor

I just came across this quote while flipping through my Runner’s World training log, and I find it to be highly encouraging, so I thought it should be shared! Now….back to studying math!

The Water

Late last year, I applied for a new job with my employer. The competition was high for this position, and out of 20+ candidates I was one of the top two. The circumstances within the selection process that prevented me from being chosen were infuriatingly “political”. Well, regardless, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to go through the process as it taught me something about myself. First of all, it drove home the point that I do, in fact, have unique talents and skills that my employer needs that are going to waste in my current position on the assembly line.  Now, a catalyst was required for this revelation to become the water on my previously-explained seeds of inspiration.

I was on track to pick my studies back up at a university in the fall with a major in Graphic Design. The plan was that when my employer shutters the facility I work at (scheduled for next year), I would quit my job rather than transfer. However, less than a month ago, a quick succession of events led to an enormous decision. We will leave home and family, and transfer to the city.  If my transfer, which has been put in, is accepted, we will be closer to our Fox Hunting territory and friends. Jeff will quit his job and complete his degree, and only then will I pick my own studies back up.

Now, this change of plans really got me to thinking about some time frames. Originally, I had chosen the fields of Multimedia Publishing and Graphic Design because #1 it was fun and easy, and #2 I had no desire to transfer. When my employer leaves this area, I would be all set to squeeze the rest of my studies into one final year, then begin my new career. I would be leaving behind the possibility of retirement at 50, but I was more than willing to make that sacrifice to avoid transferring. BUT, when our attitude towards transferring changed and we actually decided to seek it out rather than avoid it… well, then, my attitude towards a lot of things changed!

As far as timeframes go, with the old plan, I would be walking away from 12 years of service. With the new plan, upon graduating with a bachelor’s degree, I will be within 11 – 12 years of RETIREMENT. In this situation, I feel the wiser thing to do will be to #1 stick with my employer, and #2 earn a degree that will allow me to advance within the company, thereby making my remaining working years not only more interesting, but also more valuable.

My first thought was that a degree in Software Engineering would do the trick. The selectors last year were impressed with my A.A.S in this field. However, after picking the brains of several engineers that I work with, I quickly realized opportunities for Software Engineers are few and far between within the walls of this company. What are needed most are Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. In the past this information would have been very discouraging and I might have given up hope. But seeds have been planted. And the catalyst of changed attitudes have caused some new revelations about myself to water those seeds of inspiration. An idea began germinating. And, as we all know, ideas can be dangerous! 

The Seeds

“Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous” ~Anonymous (ironic, huh?)

I don’t even know how I came into possession of the book “Genesis and the Big Bang,” but it created an excitement within me that I can’t recall having ever experienced before…. I could see God’s hand in the operations of math and functionings of science. Then, one summer day last year, I was wandering through the book store and just so happened to find myself in the science section. One book in particular practically leaped off the shelf at me – The Elegant Universe. This was my first introduction to Physics, written for the layperson in such a way as to increase my excitement and wonder at the world around me ten-fold.

Next up – Richard Feynman. While I waited for his book, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” to come in the mail, I delighted in youtube videos of him discussing his own curiosities with the world. You know that old question, if you could invite one person, living or dead, to dinner, who would it be? My dinner guest would be Richard Feynman. His passion and enthusiasm is infectious! 

So, amidst all the toiling of our most recent athletic pursuits (mixed martial arts, running, fox hunting, my husband’s cycling and triathloning), these little intellectual seeds were sown. With my “free” time being limited by long hours at a full-time job, I had decided to take an academic break, before moving on to a university, in order to achieve some athletic goals. However, this did not mean I would put aside learning, as you can see by my choice of reading material. All of life is a learning process, and I thoroughly enjoy it! One of the most important lessons I’ve learned, though, came not by reading, but by doing. I learned that the harder I push myself, the harder I can push myself. I’m steadily pushing past and redefining my limits. And I’ve embodied the spirit of Asics – sound body, sound mind. The strengthening of my body is steeling my mind for the future.

Sound Logic

While my focus of studies was on Multimedia Publishing (which basically means I gained proficiency with the full Adobe Creative Suite, learned a little coding, and honed my talent at making things “pretty”), my degree actually reads “Software Engineering”. So, as part of this program, I was required to take certain classes that I may never have taken otherwise (as per the usual, of course). Among these was Programming Logic And Design. I actually found this class to be quite stimulating and fun. I was introduced to logic puzzles which started out easy and grew progressively more challenging. I enjoyed the challenge and found the work to be on the side of meditative. It was a fitting counter-weight to the maniacal frustrations of my artistic endeavours. Libra ever seeks balance.

So, in my quest to increase and expand the analytical functioning qualities of my grey matter, I have returned to those puzzles. So far this week, I’ve done a handful of them in the evenings after supper, and though the first one was a bit of a bender, they seem to already be getting easier for me. I am making connections more quickly the more I relax and find that logic puzzles pair well with wine. Glass in one hand, the other on my trackpad, I relax as my mind whirl-whirl-whirl-whirls along with the steady white-noise thrumming rhythm of the fan, spinning out solutions even as my eyelids droop from want of sleep.

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