Quotes - Surviving Extremes

Thoughts contain electricity. Strong thoughts contain more electricity.

Quotes - Antifragile

we have developed a fondness for neomanic complication over archaic simplicity

“The regimen of the Salerno School of Medicine: joyful mood, rest, and scant nourishment. Si tibi deficiant medici, medici tibi fiant haec tria: mens laeta, requies, moderata diaeta.”

We chek people for weapons before boarding the airplane. Do we think they are terrorists? False. But we check them nevertheless because we are fragile to terrorism. There is an asymmetry. We are interested in the payoff, and the consequence, or payoff, of the True (that they turn out to be terrorists) is too large and the costs of checking are too low. Do you think the nuclear reactor is likely to explode in the next year? False. Yet you want to behave as if it were True and spend millions on additional safety, because we are fragile to nuclear events. A third example: Do you think that this random medicine will harm you? False. Do you ingest these pills? No, no, no.”

Trial and error is freedom

Assume that the worst possible thing has already happened and that the rest of the day is a bonus.

If you dislike someone, leave him alone or eliminate him; dont attack him verbally.

The more studies, the less obvious elementary but fundamental things become; activity, on the other hand, strips things to their simplest possible model.

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice there is.
Yogi berra


Quotes - Walden

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.

Humility like darkness reveals the heavenly lights.

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass and invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish temselves around and within him... And he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. As he simplifies his life, the laws of te universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.

If you are restricted in your range by poverty... you are but confined to the most significant and vital experiences; you are compelled to deal with the material which yields the most sugar and the most starch. It is life near the bone where it is sweetest. You are defended from being a trifler.

...There are continents and seas in the moral world to which every man is an isthmus or an inlet, yet unexplored by him, but it is easier to sail many thousand miles through cold and storm and cannibals... Than it is to explore the private sea, the atlantic and pacific of one's being alone.

Looking up, i abserved a very slight and graceful hawk... It was the most ethereal flight i had ever witnessed... It appeared to have no companion in the universe - sporting there alone - and to need none but the morning and the ether with which it played. It was not lonely, but made all the earth lonely beneath it.

At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild... We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the aight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features... We need to witness our own limita transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.

Read your fate, see what is before you, and walk on into futurity.

Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.

While civilisation has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them.

Yet men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not for want of necassaries, but for want of luxuries.


What i learned from 10 years away

Something i discovered returning to the Kenya after 10 years is that wether we are aware of it or not, we choose which memories we keep. Every observation is subject to our personal bias and our unique perspective. As time passes certain aspects of our memories are selectively redesigned. Visiting an old home can be both nastalgic and startlingly unfamiliar. With enough honesty maybe its possible to hold onto the reality of the things i experienced returning to my birthplace. It is dirty. Plumes of hot black exhaust bombard pedestrians as they navigate the rough single-track trail twisting its way along every roadside. At places it is little more then a ditch which becomes a river when it rains. The trees next to the road are stained by layers of red dust. Between the sounds of buses and car horns are birds chirping, the swishing of stick brooms, and the boistrous swahili chatter of locals. The smell of smoke from roasting sweet maize or a trash fire nearby permeate the cool dry air. While unfinished buildings stand empty and slowly rotting like dead old-growth trees, shiny modern new ones spring up in every direction competing for air, blocking out the sun. The sky is a primordial luminescent blue. It is larger than the earth beneath your feet. And yet it feels as though you can reach out and grab the stars clustered like cotton above your head as they envelop you from horizon to horizon. The trees, bushes and grasses are deep green with blossoms so vivid they are difficult to look at. The iron rich soil is a deep blood red. The sun rises and sets quickly. The passing gesture of a hand means yes, means no, means stop, means go, means sometimes, thankyou, sorry, later, always -- means this one, that one, mint choc, gluten free, danger, masala, hakuna matata, maybe, sawa, enough. It is a constant battle of cultures, educations, and backgrounds. All scampering in a furious stew of desperation and survival. It is a labored movement. Stubbornly casual in the proximity of certain danger. An inch to the left and a matatu smashes your head into a concrete wall. No rush. An hour late and we'll still be the first ones there. No need to sweat. After this problem is solved three more are waiting. Dont spend all your energy yet. The relentless pressure allows for every manner of short-term solution. Outlandishly overloaded vehicles careen at breakneck speeds side by side down roads dotted with monolithic pavement gaps threatening to tip over at the slightest sudden swerve while sharing the narrow road with mopeds, cyclists, and pedestrians barely moving at what might be called a glorified crawl. Shower curtains that dont reach the floor and poorly engineered drains flood even the most elegant bathrooms with luke warm water as if this is the purpose of their existence. Broken machines are rebuilt with rubber and plastic bags without ever being fixed. Lines are faded to nonexistent, boundaries debatable, definitions subjective; 'whatever it takes' written somewhere in the captions. In such a high, low-stakes environment accidents are an inevitable part of daily existence. One's mistake is another's opportunity. No one trusts anyone. Not even themselves. Market developments such as mpesa(mobile banking) stand as world class innovations in a country where the police at the airport will ask for a bribe because the commissioner kept half the budget he recieved to pay for their gas. The new six lane highway has speedbumps every couple of miles where pedestrians attempt to time their precarious crossings. Trucks spewing black clouds of desiel fumes have 'fresh cut flowers' written on the side revealing their hidden cargo. Flushing toilets in nature camps have no toilet seats. Land cruisers and pajeros supply tourists to opulent luxury lodges that stand awkwardly next to villages where people get water by loading large plastic containers onto carts pulled by donkeys. With a backdrop where the suns golden rays meet giant exotic geological formations, unimaginable swarms of mosquitos test the patience of any onlooker reveling in the splendor. The beautiful thing about a country of such contrasts where almost nothing goes according to plan and you can be absolutely sure something will go wrong, is the magic it allows you to witness when every success is by no small feat a complete miracle. If by chance you find the unmarked road on your journey and somehow make it to your desired destination, when you unexpectedly come upon an exotic species which completely takes your breath away, and you feel that perfect breeze on a warm sunny afternoon which makes your skin tingle... you smile as if god himself had delivered your mail. Its this inability to take even the minutest bits of life for granted that is so valuable and so difficult to maintain for a well provisioned demographic. Having traveled for two weeks in this country which i was born and raised in, im narrowly optimistic but exhausted and overwhelmed by its slow progress. Im ready for easy. Im ready for boring and clean. To return to the trivial persuit of perfection and mindless self improvement. I want to struggle to be exceptional rather then by default. To eat clean, to expect honesty, and to foster purity through repitition. I want clarity and order and accountability. I want 1230 to be 1230. And hello to be good ol' down to earth hello. I want to be intolerant of the illogical inefficient, and mediocre. Most of all i want to go freely and safely about my duties.


Mt kenya - sirimon to peak circuit traverse

After climbing mt baldy 20 times in 3 months i felt as ready as I could be for the mt kenya challenge. The idea was to run from a lower camp up to pt lenana on our way to completing a circuit of the peaks and then return to camp in one day. This was in part to avoid hiking with large packs and boots (both of which I loath) and to see if it was possible to accomplish. We bought a sim card, rented a car, bought supplies (including a stove and food) and left town the morning after i arrived in nairobi. We stopped for gas on the way then drove into the national park and set up base camp at Old Moses hut (10,500') just before sunset. The relentless wind sweeping across the open slopes whipped our tents mildly all night. The next day we did a 9 hour recce hike to scout out the trail from Old Moses to Shiptons. We discovered that there are two different routes and the one that passes Liki North hut is a lot wetter and less used even though both travel through marshes and boglike areas. After a day of rest we set our alarm clocks for 430 on friday morning. The wind died down in the night keeping temps more comfortable. We were anxious to get started under the stars at 5am on a clear night with the surreal feeling that the adventure was underway. The lights of Nanyuki could be seen to the north below us. We made quick work traversing across two gullies and up over the corresponding ribs of the mountain to reach Mackinders valley where the sun was just beginning to hit the far rim high above us. The golden rays lifted our spirits even as we endured the blasts of bitter cold air retreating from the night. We dipped in and out of the shadows of giant rock precipices as they scurried off to hide. The always wet ground was frozen allowing us to keep our feet dry and make quick progress. We stopped to refill our packs in a river crossing before passing through Shiptons camp(13500') around 8am. The real climbing begins up a scree slope as we follow the ridge to magnificent views of the chigoria route and simba tarns to the west. Early summiters pass us on their way back down to camp. They eye us curiously as we are the only people without guides or porters on the mountain. The air gets ever colder as we climb but now fully exposed to the sun we are struggling to maintain a constant temperature. It becomes a rock scramble bouldering above the light blue transluscent harris tarn towards point Lenana (16,300') dusted in snow. We summit at 10am, a five hour ascent. Steve spots a red blip on the opposing rocks towering straight up from the glacier between us and the technical summit peaks representing a climber on the south face of batian. The sheer size of this rock tests the imagination, it is dauting. Without wasting too much time we leave point Lenana heading east to try and beat any afternoon weather that might move in. The sun is already inescapably intense. Like ants under a magnifying glass we scurry anxiously darting from rock to rock but finding no relief. After passing top hut and the row of local guides sitting outside watching us we descend scree slopes to mackinder valley on a gravel scree slope. Porters with packs the size of ovens rest next to the trail. As we pass they ask us about our endeavor. 'Oh thats great!' One says when he finds out we are doing the attempt in a single effort. It normally takes 3-7 days. We refill our tanks in the river at the bottom of the valley and cruise down to Mackinders hut where the trail splits and we turn back up a steep climb towards Two Tarn(4490m). Views of the peak now beginning to attract a flurry of clouds would be breath taking were we not expending all energy trying to climb up this sandy vertical boulder field. The clouds continue rolling in as we scramble between Hut Tarn and Nanyuki Tarn in microwave like heat. Not thick enough to block out the sun the clouds magnify it into a radiating convection oven. As we round the bend to traverse back over the north side of the peaks we finally enter the misty shade of those clouds. Clambering across rock ledges built for giants we speed through otherworldly bogs and tarns. The kinds of unnatural places where human beings dont belong. After passing over the steep Western Terminal and sliding down tan gravel scree we begin climbing Hausberg col'(15,062). What i suspected was the start of a headache turns out to be a sledgehammer pounding the top of my forehead making it hard to focus on anything. We come to switchbacks of pebble size gravel which rises up endlessly into the mist. Steep enough that every step you take starts an avalanche of rocks which slides your foot back to where it started. Squinting from the headache, panting miserably because of the lack of oxygen, murmuring to myself to try and ignore my brain telling me to stop, wait, rest I try to remember that its just pain and every stop eats away time, stalls progress. Then I hear Steve say something about finally making it over and without pause we're sliding down another gravel slope on the other side. We stop at the bottom to take rocks out of our shoes. I dump out a handful and put my shoes back on. It seems like theres still a rock so i take them off again and realize that theres no rock sores on my heels. The trail is hard to follow through marshes and tarns and otherworldly places. Perfectly still water reflects the alien world with precision. All the rocks look the same until finally we see Shiptons hut down through the clouds. We pass by tourists eating hot lunches which their guides had carried up and prepared, sitting on chairs and tables that were also brought up by porters. We keep a steady pace along the gradual valley descent through gardens of lobellas chasing the river down to lower elevation and more Os. We pass guides and hikers on their way up who knew about our plans. They congratulate us on the effort. We spot a scarlett tufted malachite sunbird with it's foot long split tail just before it begins to rain. we traverse back across the ribs and valleys including a vertical bog, grassy moorlands, and two wooden bridges till we reach the end of the fireroad on the ridge above camp. Finally the trail that shortcuts the AWD road near camp appears and a view of our tents is more than welcome as we drop below the clouds. old moses to pt. lenana + peak circuit 38k +9600' (<12:00:00)