Been meaning to talk about Elon and Twitter for a while since it's been
in the news. Right after the news was announced I thought it was unlikely
to actually happen. I was pretty skeptical because I thought he'd have
trouble coming up with the money and I figured it was just one of his trolling
side quests that he gets into from time to time. Today it's being reported
that it's official and that he's laid off a few top executives. Hopefully
he changes things for the better. I don't think much of him as a person...that
is, I wouldn't want him as my dad or best friend or lover because he's
probably not so good at those things. That said, I think he's pretty good
at getting some pretty epic stuff done and I do value people who are able
to do things in a time when it feels like everyone talks and no on does
Relatedly, I recently listened to a podcast debate about whether or not
we should separate the art from the artist. Most of my life I've thought
we shouldn't. However, I think I've come around to thinking differently
on the topic. Some of this is out of desperation considering our current
state of things and some of it is the practicality that comes with age.
Basically, I've decided that if we required all our great cultural contributors
to also be saints, we wouldn't have much worth writing home about anymore.
So, I always think we should be honest and beholden to the truth (by keeping
it real by exposing the bad sides of those we otherwise admire), but we
shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water either. I don't think
we should we discard the contributions of Thomas Jefferson or Dostoyevsky
or Galileo or whomever because we don't like the person they were. Further,
the goalline on personal behavior is constantly evolving and we should
keep in mind the culture/time in which they grew before casting aspersions.
Is it Burma or Myanmar? I think it's Myanmar, but media outlets almost
always say "Myanmar, formerly Burma." At what point will it stop being
"formerly Burma?" I looked it up...Myanmar has been Myanmar since 1989.
So, 33 years of the media calling it "formerly Burma." This has to stop.
It's ridiculous. It's kinda like the way the media will report on Joe Schmoe
being chosen as only the 3rd black secretary of the Treasury. At what point
can we stop counting? I understand reporting on the first woman such and
such or whatever, but can we agree that we won't report on the second and
third and fourth?
Whose beauty standards are so difficult for women to comply with? I've
heard about these standards and it has always seemed to me that men are
at fault for having impossible beauty standards. But it really seems like
it's women who create and uphold these standards of beauty. For example,
I've heard that women describing the ideal body type tend to consider the
ideal to be skinnier than men consider the ideal. Another example, is the
data we have now thanks to Tinder and the like, which is finding that men
are swiping right (accepting) something like 3 times more than women. In
other words, I've also done informal questioning on my own where I ask
women who they are dressing for the most: men, themselves, or other women.
In every instance where I asked this question "men" came in last place.
I would posit that men aren't all that picky when it actually comes right
down to it. Men are pretty simple.
I heard a saying the other day that boys will hit and spit, but what you
see is what you git. As the father of two girls I think I agree with this.
The problems with girls run deeper. They had a study once where they observed
kids on the playground and tallied fights and arguments. When the researchers
tallied the fights they found that boys fought more than the girls. Then
asked the kids to self report how many fights they thought there were and
the girls had just as many as the boys. The fights between girls were much
more subtle than those between the boys. They also found that boys would
fight or argue and then play again later that day. For girls, the fights
and resentment would reverberate throughout the social group and would
last longer. Of course, as always, these are just generalizations, but
we're talking about the meaty part of the bell curve here and all this
comports with my experience.
On the topic, Richard Reeves has been doing the rounds on a few podcasts
has a book out about modern boys and their troubles. As we enter a
more feminized age I think some of this stuff that's going on with young
men is becoming more known and recognized. The good news is that women
will probably be better at hearing about the issues than men have been
about hearing issues women have historically had. All that said, there
are a variety of issues with young men these days and I think I've written
about a few of them in the past. I think it's a big reason for the rise
of Jordan Peterson, for example. JBP is pretty maligned and misunderstood
in my opinion. I won't go into that much for now, but suffice it to say
that, just because those who have been in charge have been men (notice
how I put that differently that normal), doesn't mean that that can't change
or that it's a total state. First - I think it's different to say that
"men have historically been in charge" vs. "those who have been in charge
have been men." I've never heard anyone make this point, but I think it's
an important distinction. I had a teacher in high school (very bright lady
and she was even on Jeopardy) who was fond of saying that men started all
the wars so it made sense that 99% of combat deaths would be men. Even
as a dumb teenager I knew this was horseshit. Can you imagine being in
a trench in WW1 as the Paris gun is firing 2,000lb shells all around you
and thinking "hey, I may die, but at least the people who sent me here
have a penis."? Doesn't make much sense to me.
Funny story about her going on Jeopardy...she was doing fairly badly early
on in the game and even got into the negative at some point. Then, in double
Jeopardy, she went on a tear and went into first place. In final Jeopardy
she got the correct question and bid enough to win....but she forgot to
phrase it as a question and so she lost. She showed us the video and it
was pretty epic. This was before they changed the rules later on to allow
people to forget this formality without being penalized.
At any rate, young men are falling behind in plenty of ways and it's not
going to turn out well for anyone to have a bunch of disaffected young
men with spare time on their hands. I'm a big believer in the "idle hands
make the devil's workshop" saying. Most men won't go out stealing catalytic
converters and shooting up schools, but some will and we don't need to
increase our chances there because society falls apart pretty quickly if
we do. There's an African saying that "the child who is not embraced by
the village will burn it down to feel its warmth." So, if you want to see
real toxic masculinity then keep expecting young boys to fit into a feminized
school structure and figure things out on their own while blaming them
for the ills of the world because people who were once in charge shared
the same genitalia. Good strategy.
Prof G was talking with Richard Reeves about his book and brought up a
test of positive masculinity that went something like "a good man is invaluable
in a shipwreck and acceptable at a dance." It's a real tragedy to me that
we're failing so many in our society. In the past it has meant the missed
Einsteins who happened to be black or female. Today it might be the missed
Einsteins who didn't have a father and ended up addicted to meth. We should
be doing a lot more to squeeze the potential out of our human capital.
We've really failed on that the last 40 years or so.
Anecdotally I'm noticing a lot of people leaving CA and the country. A
have a couple friends who are looking to leave, my aunt is looking to leave...and
then there are the celebrity cases like Joe Rogan or Elon Musk. People
who can leave are increasingly choosing to do so. It's like Atlas Shrugged
or something. Never read it or been a fan of Ayn Rand, but one can't help
but think of it in these times. Depressing.
There's been more and more talk the last few years about the utility and
value of college. I've written about the increasing costs, specifically
at UCB, and how these top heavy institutions are raising costs because
G will subsidize them. If a family is willing to pay $20k for college and
G will contribute $10k then the cost of college moves towards $30k over
time. Pretty simple. At any rate, the justification for all this has always
been those studies that show that college grads earn $1m (or whatever the
number is these days) more over their lifetime. This makes people jump
to the conclusion that becoming a college graduate magically makes you
earn more. That's not exactly how it works, imo. I think it's more like
certain people are going to earn a lot of money and those people go to
college to get advanced degrees and maximize their social network, earning
potential, and signal that they are elite. Frankly, you're not taking C
students, getting them a degree, and magically having them become six figure
earners. The kid in class who always turned things in late or fucked around
in class doesn't go to college and get transformed. The road to success
isn't about going to college. The road to success is about not making dumb
ass decisions like having kids before you get married. Get a job (any job),
pick a great partner, don't have kids until you can afford it. Do those
things and you'll be middle class. It's only 3 things. They're not easy,
but that's the prescription - not college and $100k in debt.
It's pretty likely that the most important decision in your life will be
who you decide to marry. There are lots of books and movies that are sort
of about this, but they almost never look at it from the practical standpoint.
I don't think I ever had an adult (teacher, parent, etc.) talk to me about
the importance of this decision. I had several talk to me about the importance
of college. I had some talk to me about the importance of safe sex. I don't
think anyone ever sat me down to talk about the types of things to look
for in a life partner. It was more like "fall in love and you'll know"
and then spend the rest of your life with that person. Of all the extra
curricular shit we're teaching in schools these days about gender choices
and colonialism and social justice, you'd think they would want to maybe
spend a couple hours talking about importance of mate selection. Mate selection,
after all, may be as important an evolutionary driver as random DNA mutation.
Pick someone you can disagree with in a productive manner. Pick someone
you respect and who respects you. Pick someone with whom you have aligned
It used to be that families were involved in this process. Maybe not so
bad, especially considering people got married younger. Maybe having an
adult in the room was an advantage in selection. It also used to be that
marriage meant something. There's something to be said for getting married
in front of everyone you value. You're saying to the other person, and
to all those in attendance, that we're choosing each other. Help us out
if we step out of line. We're committing to this thing through thick and
thin. Scientists these days talk about "commitment devices," as if they
just came up with the idea. "Make a deal with your friend that you'll donate
$100 to the KKK if you don't work out 4 times a week so you'll ensure that
you stick to your goals!" Marrying your spouse in front of everyone is
a commitment device that has been around a few thousand years...nothing
new under the sun.
Since I wrote about Madonna last time, I guess it's only fair to write
about Kanye this time. Another mentally unwell person who is losing it
in front of the world. I listen to the Lex Friedman podcast and Kanye was
on there recently. Interesting interview, interesting guy. Mostly feel
bad for him at this point. I've long known he was a few cards short of
a full deck. I remember him being on punk'd and the prank was that they
"stole" the film for a video he was filming. He went kinda crazy and went
after the thief to recover his "stolen" footage by wresting it away from
him. As I remember it, Kutcher had to step in and cut it short because
Kanye was taking it too seriously. I saw the crazy in his eyes back then.
We do a lot of clean up after people move out of their apartments. People
leave things behind all the time. Some people do a good job and leave it
clean, but a lot of them will leave a total mess along with personal belongings.
Cleaning supplies, clothes, empty bins/plastic containers are the usual
Reading a book about Columbine. I didn't remember how badly the media covered
the whole thing. Lots of fake stories and bad coverage. I also didn't remember
how bad a job the cops did....reminiscent of Uvalde (or the other way around,
I guess). They didn't respond quickly enough, left the crime scene a mess
for a long time, etc. Just a lot of errors. At least with Columbine they
were pretty much the first. You'd think by now we'd have figured out how
to respond to this shit.
Admiral Cloudberg is
a guy who breaks down airplane crashes and analyzes where they went wrong.
He does an excellent job with the narration and showing where each crash
went south. Usually it's bad communication and pilot errors, but you should
check it out. The cool thing about reading him for a while is that you
see the FAA is one of the few G institutions that is anti-fragile. With
each new crash a tweak is made to improve their process for the next time.
This seems like the best we could expect from a federally run program.
It's not without its problems (like how they handled the Sully crash),
but they seem to mostly get it right and make adjustments as needed. Hopefully
that continues to be true.
Mar-A-Lago was raided by the feds a while back and I never commented on
it. I don't know all the details...I know some of the arguments on both
sides, but facts are tough to come by these days (oddly). Broadly speaking,
though, I'll say that if you go after a former president you had better
have the goods on him. If you don't then it looks an awful lot like political
retribution and that's one of those things that can kill a political system
real fast. You'll notice that Trump didn't go after Hillary, for example,
when he clearly could have and it would have made his base plenty happy.
Political retribution like that is the kind of thing you see in failed
while back Lindsey Graham proposed a 15 week ban on abortion. Instead
of trying to work with the guy on it, everyone just shit on him. It occurs
to me that this could have been an opportunity to reach across the aisle
and say, let's do the 15 week ban with a few exceptions and no shenanigans
inside the 15 weeks. At what point are pro choice people going to be happy
with a compromise? If Graham proposes a 15 week ban and that allows 90%+
of abortions, is that good enough or are they only happy if they get 100%
of what they want? It seems like getting 90% of what you want is pretty
good. His proposal, at the very least, seems like an opportunity to discuss
I like David Brower, but I recently found out that the former executive
director of the Sierra Club lobbied against nuclear power in Ohio and coal
stayed the dominant form of power production as a result. Perfect example
of the perfect being the enemy of the good. Nuclear is far better than
possibly anything else we have, but most definitely better than coal across
every possible dimension. Safer for the community, safer for the workers,
safer for the environment, better from a global warming perspective. What
makes this worse is that he was paid by Arco to continue his advocacy against
nuclear power. So, if you're of the mind that only outcomes matter (and
not intentions), then maybe have another look at Brower and take his name
off the David Brower Center building in Berkeley.
The NYT podcast the other day said that Procter and Gamble and Nestle were
both going to raise their prices 10% in the 3rd quarter of the year and
that was going to extend inflation. Uh, what? They're raising their prices
because of inflation. Them raising their prices doesn't cause inflation.
NYT has the causal arrow flipped around on this one. Nutty people.
While on the topic, the NYT podcast host Michael Barbaro has one of the
most annoying voices in podcast and radio history. I listen to it at 200%
speed because he speaks so slowly.
People would rather be fucked in the ass by a nice guy than get something
nice from someone they don't like. Makes no sense.
I was probably a teenager when I learned that most of matter is actually
empty space. Most of life is empty space and the mundane. Most of painting
a room isn't actually painting, it's prep. Most of a lot of things isn't
the actual fun part of the thing. Most of baseball isn't throwing or hitting,
it's standing around. Most of football isn't throwing or running, it's
getting ready for the next play. If you can embrace the mundane and the
grunt work then you'll be a happy person.
White male nerds created the internet so the internet is their aboriginal
space. I posit that this space should not be colonized by people who are
not White Male Nerds (WMN - pronounced Womyn). If you're online and you're
not a WMN, then you're a colonizer and engaging in cultural appropriation.
Also, since the internet was created in the US and there are more people
on the internet who are from China, I no longer feel like I belong. It's
horrible to not feel welcomed in my native land of the internet.
Cultural appropriation is probably the worst of all the woke buzzwords
and forbidden topics. Even worse than toxic masculinity or the double speak
on gender, etc. Cultural appropriation should literally be the goal of
any diverse, functioning society. The best vision I have of a multi-cultural
society includes Koreans taking Mexican tacos and putting in kimchi and
spam to make it a uniquely American (Los Angeles) invention. It's a black
artist sampling a white artist inspired by another black artist. It's Spanglish.
It's people stealing ideas from each other and paying homage to each other
and all the rest. Non-Egyptians can't wear dreads? Non-Arabic people can't
use Algebra? Where are we stopping with this shit? Get the fuck out of
here with that cultural appropriation shit. Dumbest shit I've ever heard.
The first few verses of Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos are possibly my
favorite in hip-hop history.
It's amazing how evil America is. So evil that we still keep the names
of those generals we've conquered like General Pico and Santa Ana or French
names like Louisiana (named after Louis XIV). Actually, maybe they thought
about renaming Louisiana "Georgiana", but they knew the media would just
continue to call it "formerly Louisiana" for 300 years so they didn't bother.
I remember reading some of Orwell's non-fiction stuff and getting the impression
that he thinks you need to make money to be useful in society. Actually,
I think it's about pulling your weight. It's a fairness issue. Money measures
how much you are pulling your weight, but very imperfectly.
are more likely to live in suburbs than inner city.
Horse needs the jockey and vise versa.
Meryl has gotten push back on a couple staging jobs for having "problematic"
art work (photos of white people or Robinson Crusoe). It's always some
annoying person with more good intentions than common sense. If these people
could redirect their energies towards something that matters maybe we'd
have a better world.
When choosing between two options, do the harder thing. It's probably better
for you in the long run.
There's a game that the chattering class plays sometimes...they'll say
that there's no evidence for a thing and then try to shoe horn in an idea
based upon a lack of evidence. Every scientist knows that absence of proof
isn't proof of absence and yet they try to juijitsu their way into proving
things with semantic games.
How far back are we expected to go back in order to understand a thing?
If you ask someone why Palestine and Israel don't get along and the answer
begins with "well, you have to go back about 2,000 years when the Jews
were pushed out of their land..." then that's a good sign that the problem
is horseshit that people need to get over. I mean, at some point people
need to get a fucking clue and figure it out. I don't know what the number
is, but there has to be a statute of limitations on these generational
conflicts and historic impacts. At some point we need to forget certain
things from the past. That's a pretty Liberal idea (usually the Conservatives
are the ones trying to conserve history and customs) and yet in many of
these cases it seems like Liberals are the ones holding on to the history
because they see it as some great historic unfairness that needs to be
To what extent is being black a performance vs. a biological reality? Same
goes for gender, which seems to have officially become all about feels,
not reals. I think race is going that way to some extent as well. Biden
said that if you're thinking about voting for Trump "you ain't black."
Being black isn't about your birth, it's about your actions. If "acting
white" is a thing, then it would make sense the other way as well. Interesting
world we live in.
Seen a couple cars driving around with writing that says "I'm 21 today,
venmo me $ for drinks." Interesting world we live in.
We're living in a post-apocalyptic movie, but it's not as fun. We have
walking around looking for drugs
addicted to their
phones. We have rampant crime.
It's crazy what society has become.
I once thought that America was the best and could do no wrong - shining
city on a hill. Then I grew up and thought that America had a monopoly
on violence and was the worst empire ever. Then I grew up more and realized
that no people have a monopoly on violence. Everybody's hands are dirty.
I teach my kids that America has done a lot of great things and offered
a lot of great opportunities, but hasn't always been the most fair or lived
up to its ideals. So, by all means, let's talk about how America has treated
black people over the years, but let's not forget that Brazil had 10x the
slaves as us and that there were 9
black people (and 4 white people) lynched 1950-1968. So, that's 9 more
than should have happened, but you watch Mississippi Burning and you'd
think this was happening every day in the South. Racism is human nature.
It's the human experience to be subjected to discrimination and out group
behavior. It's an ugly reality. Let's expose it to hopefully avoid it to
the extent that's possible. But let's not pretend that one group is solely
responsible for it.
That brings up another point I've been thinking about with this racial
reckoning we're going through now. We run the risk of going too far with
it and alienating people. If we make this whole thing too simple and say
that whites are the problem then there will (broadly) be two types of reactions
- one group that will genuflect and atone. The other group won't really
like it and may get defensive or not take too kindly to the accusations.
These are the tiki torch crowd and I'm not sure how you deal with that.
49ers are looking shaky this year. Lance is out. Jimmy G is a mediocre
game manager and will never win an important game for you. They have no
ability to come from behind. Their league leading defense was exposed and
crushed against KC. Overall not looking great, despite a LOT of talent.
I think Shanahan is a talented coach, but maybe he should just be a coach
and not get everything he wants like a GM/coach might. Maybe he should
just be an OC. Not sure how much more leeway they'll give him. That said,
what else is out there? Sean Payton could be better if he wanted to work.
Who else is there? Try a new guy? I feel bad because the QB situation isn't
great, but I feel like he might be running out of runway.
4 hours of writing so I should go to sleep. Need to wake up in 7 hours
Apparently Madonna has completely lost her mind at this point. I'm not
sure why this news comes into my feed, but I guess google thinks I'm interested
in her. I'm not interested in celebrities, but they do offer some instruction
as cautionary tales. In the case of Madonna, she's mentally unstable and
has destroyed her face. This is what happens when you live a selfish, empty,
and vain life. When you're desperate for attention, and aging, and irrelevant,
and you have nothing of substance, then weird things happen. We'll see
where the Kardashians are in 20 years. So, I guess the lesson here is to
not be an attention whore or to have more going on in your life than your
own fame and fortune.
That said, I also feel sorry for these people who are drawn to the allure
of celebrity. For the right (wrong) kind of person it can be very appealing
to be the center of things. But fame is a fickle mistress and it will turn
on you in a second, so one should never go down that path. You have to
be either almost super human or a sociopath to completely disregard the
feedback from thousands of detractors or fans. One minute everyone loves
you and the next everyone (or at least many thousands/millions) may hate
you. Humans just aren't wired for that kind of feedback. I believe we are
wired for a Dunbar
number level of feedback. In other words, we are evolutionarily able
to conceive of maybe 250 people...beyond that it becomes either an abstraction
or too much to handle in some real sense. To have a million people telling
you that you're great or awful (or both) just doesn't compute and probably
fucks with our natural human pyschology. The only way to reliably avoid
this is to avoid celebrity of any kind. The other part of this is that
not only is it toxic for the celebrity, but it's toxic for the admirer/fan/hater
of the celebrity. A fan can't really know a celebrity, and they they feel
they do. As a Madonna hater I can't really know Madonna, and yet I feel
I know enough to judge her as crazy. I suspect I'm correct, but it probably
is wise to consider how little we actually know of anyone and to tame our
outrage...or at least keep it modulated to the level of knowledge we can
reasonably have about such a person. That is, the less you know about a
person the less you should feel justified in being outraged by, or infatuated
with, them....lest we become part of an ignorant mob.
Getting back to work sucks after a good 3 day weekend.
Not sure if I've written about Chloe Valdary and her Theory of Enchantment
before, but I've meant to. She's exactly the type of thinker we need today.
Empathetic and oriented towards solutions. She's the kind of leader who
could change things for the better if only people stopped to listen. Here
are her 3 rules: 1. Treat people like human beings, not political abstractions.
2. Criticize to uplift and empower, never to tear down or destroy. 3. Root
everything you do in love and compassion.
Heard a stat the other day - there are more female fighter pilots in the
country than there are male kindergarten teachers.
Listened to a bit of Science Friday the other day and found out that the
safest sex partner you can have is someone who is HIV positive while they
are on antiretrovirals. I think we're just living in 1984 at this point
with some of this stuff. Here's the exact quote and entire
transcript in case you're interested. "I think it’s as essential– you
equals you, which you mentioned– that someone who is HIV-positive, and
undetectable because they’re controlling HIV replication with antiretrovirals,
it is impossible for that person to transmit HIV. It does not and cannot
happen. Which means, actually, that someone who’s HIV-positive is the safest
sex partner you can have for HIV transmission.
And that broke my brain open in the best way. That biomedical intervention,
that really incredible science that took many years to show that incontrovertibly,
made me love myself differently. Because I could love myself as someone
who is HIV-negative and HIV-positive. And it made me think about sex with
people with HIV in a completely different way."
John McWhorter has been talking about the importance of teaching kids to
read with phonics for a long time. Seems like some
people in education are finally waking up to this. McWhorter has been
contending for at least 15 years that doing this would help young black
kids more than any of the other mumbo jumbo out there related to race education.
I don't think the KQED types are listening to McWhorter much, though, because
of some of his thoughts on race. BTW, he's black.
I was rear ended on the freeway the other day. The traffic slowed pretty
quickly and the guy behind me wasn't paying attention or whatever and crashed
into the back of the truck. I pull over onto the shoulder and he zoomed
by me and went onto the on ramp to SF. So, that was a hit and run and I
was only mildly surprised by this because that's just the world I live
in now. His car was really fucked up. When I got home I assessed the damage
and, luckily, it really was the trailer hitch/receiver that took the brunt
of the impact. I ordered a new receiver and installed it a few days later
so it wasn't a huge deal. The bumper is a bit bent and so is the hitch,
but it all works fine so I was only without the trailer for a few days.
I'm guessing he'll need a new bumper and radiator at the very least.
Remember how they closed the parks during the pandemic? How was that ever
a thing? No school, no parks...our leaders truly failed us. Astonishing
Here's the result of the harm reduction thinking....we pass out needles
already, I guess we may as well normalize the whole thing.
10/4 at 10:04. spooky.
Went to Yosemite Sunday for Meryl's birthday. It actually started as a
hike that her brother wanted to do with his wife and a couple friends,
but I guess it evolved into a trip with one friend, no wives, Meryl, me,
her aunt and uncle, and dad. He wanted to do the half dome hike and I ended
up getting invited like 6 days beforehand because someone else dropped
out and he had enough permits for me to come. Half dome is said to be the
most difficult one day hike in the NPS. Officially it's anywhere from 15-16.5
miles. There are two routes you can take up or down. Basically the Mist
trail is shorter and steeper and the John Muir trail is longer, but not
as steep. So you can take the same one up and down or one up and the other
down. We took Mist up and JMT down. My best guess about distance (from
the trackers people in the group used and official numbers along the trail)
is that we totalled about 19 miles. We left the parking lot at about 4:40am
and all had our headlamps on for light. I don't know if I've ever done
any part of this trail before, though it's possible I did with my dad or
with Melanie on our 2001 trip around the country. At night none of it looked
familiar because you can only see the ground in front of you. Pretty much
as soon as you hit the trailhead the climb begins.
We had done Lassen (my second time) the week prior and that's a 2.5 mile
trek up to the summit with an elevation gain of 2500'. 5 miles round trip
since it's an out and back trail. I figured the 2500' over 2.5 miles was
a good proxy for the Half Dome trail since that's 8.2 miles up from the
trailhead and 4800' elevation gain. So, in theory, Lassen is a more difficult
climb on a per mile basis. That said, Half Dome was definitely more difficult
of a climb. Lassen is just steady climbing and I didn't have much trouble
with it. Half Dome has a lot of steps (rather than a steady grade) and
it can take its toll pretty quick. But we all just powered through. Meryl's
brother (Adam) is in really good shape and he led the way. I tried to stay
with him most of the way and mostly succeeded. We'd stop and wait for others
occasionally along the way.
I don't work out other than hiking so I usually try to push myself a bit
so I can make it count. I never liked hiking until last year, but now I
can say that I do. Historically I've been a slow hiker and not very interested
in going on long hikes, but now there's something I just like about it.
I find a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from it. It's not rote
like lifting weights or running through the neighborhood. For whatever
reason, it feels more productive than most kinds of workouts. Other than
doing actual work (like digging holes or moving bags of concrete), it's
the most enjoyable workout I do these days.
There were two moments of awe during the hike. One was the first time I
saw Half Dome. I think it was near the meadow in Little Yosemite where
there's a bit of a clearing and you finally see it (there was daylight
by this time). We had already hiked about 4 miles and you look up and you
see this solid slab of granite jutting up from the surroundings and you
realize what you're up against. I've done a couple summits and it's kind
of amazing to be at the bottom of Mammoth or Lassen, look up and see something
so big and realize that you'll end up at the top eventually. It doesn't
happen suddenly, but if you put in the work you'll get to the top.
The other moment of awe came after about 9 miles of hiking when we got
to the "sub dome," which is the area just before the final push to the
top of Half Dome. Pictures don't really do it justice. It's a very steep
section of rock that is pretty imposing in person. They have cables setup
to aid you in getting to the top. If you google half dome cables, then
you'll see a lot of pictures...some that make it look vertical and others,
like mine below, that don't do it justice. It's just one of those things
that doesn't translate well to a picture. Part of it is that the sub dome
is a bit raised, then there's a belly and then the cables portions juts
out above that, so you get this up and down effect that makes the steep
portion even more intimidating.
Meryl's dad has a fear of heights so he stopped just a bit before the sub
dome. Meryl got to the sub dome and started to freak out a bit after seeing
the cables portion to the top. We talked it through a bit and her aunt
gave her a pep talk and Meryl decided to do it. I think she was also inspired
by this 10-11 year old kid who came up to the cables and didn't even stop
to think about it and just started up the mountain. The kid is going places.
We talked with his parents briefly and they said he came up with the idea
and they went along with it so there they are. About 2/3 of the people
go without a harness (including me), but some opt for the harness.
By far the worst thing about the hike is the number of people on the trail.
Yosemite is a bit overrated in my opinion because of how crowded it is.
Once you get on the trails you can avoid the crowds a bit, but Half Dome
is probably their most popular difficult hike and even though they limit
the summit portion to 300 people a day, you still get crowds forming like
step. It's got great natural beauty and all that, but the people make
the experience less than ideal. That said, the last portion up the cables
is so strenuous after hiking 9 miles, that I was a bit happy there was
a traffic jam because it gave me an excuse to rest. As long as I was keeping
up with Meryl in front of me (and she was keeping up with the person in
front of her), we weren't holding anyone up. Physically, this was the toughest
part of the hike.
Other than the initial awe in seeing the cable portion, I really wasn't
afraid of the summit. I'm not a fan of heights. I don't like going on roofs
(though occasionally I'll have to for work) and I'm not one of those people
who goes to the edge of a cliff just for the thrill of it (Meryl's uncle
is one of those guys), but the summit was never frightening for me so take
that for what you will.
We spend some time at the top and then made our way down. After the summit,
Adam, his friend, and Meryl's dad were having a tough time going down the
trail because their knees hurt a lot so the rest of us hiked ahead and
we ended up picking them up on the road so they didn't have to go to the
parking lot. The last two miles my lower legs started to ache, but it was
overall not bad and I could have done more if needed. My lungs were probably
the weakest link in the whole adventure. I was definitely out of breath
on the harder stair climbing portions throughout the hike. That night and
the next morning (today) I didn't have much soreness. For whatever reason,
my body doesn't seem to get too sore when we do these hikes. I think it's
a testament to the work I do more than anything else. Even though I don't
work in the field as much as I used to, I'm still running around every
day staying busy and I think it keeps me in better shape than I would be
if I were at my desk all day. Still not in remotely good shape, but better
than I would be if I were a desk worker.
I definitely feel like it's one of those things where you go up as one
person and come down as someone just a little bit different. Any time you
face a big challenge and you take it on, you come out a bit stronger. These
challenges show you what you're made of, yet keep you in your place at
the same time. On the one hand, we made it to the top despite the challenges.
On the other hand, when you're at the top looking at the valley below,
you're forced to recognize how puny you really are. Even though you may
feel like you conquered the mountain or you're a big deal because you had
hiked 4 miles before half your peers were even out of bed - you don't even
register on a geological scale.
From what I heard, there is the possibility that next year the NPS will
require a harness for anyone going on the cables. My initial reaction to
this was annoyance that the nanny state and safetyism had struck again.
Then I got to the cables and I understood the danger there and softened
on the idea of requiring everyone to wear a harness. Ultimately, though,
I'm firmly against the idea. A couple arguments...1. fewer than 20 people
have died on this section in the last 100+ years. If you figure about 200
a day over 100 years (conservative figures), that means about 7.3 million
summits and 20 people dead so that's like 3 deaths per million summits
(very conservative guess). This doesn't rise to the point of needing to
change anything about anything in my opinion. 2. There's something important
about the ability to wrestle with the possibility of death every once in
a while. Let's not forget who/what we are and what gift we've been given.
Let's allow people a few spaces to contend with their mortality and conquer
it in some small way. It's a very minor threat in the real world (see point
number 1), but it is a threat. Perhaps it's the very fact that death is
a real possibility that causes so few people to actually die. Nothing sharpens
the mind and focuses your attention like the real possibility of death.
In this attention starved world/existence, should we not preserve a space
where one can choose to force themselves into full attention? If you want
the safety (like the rest of the people in my group), then you can use
a harness and there's no judgment from me about that. If you want to rely
only on your own abilities to keep you from death, shouldn't you have that
option? Isn't Half Dome a great place to do that?
The National Parks have been called America's best idea. I may not agree
with that literally, but it's certainly on the right track. The national
parks are great in part because they preserve some small imitation
of nature. They're not actually real nature in totality, for a variety
of reasons (though some are more raw nature than others), but they at least
it - especially considering modern society. Part of that imitation of nature
is the real risk to life and limb. Bears aren't part of a computer program.
Neither is the sand covered granite that is so perfect for slipping on
your ass. Neither are the rounded granite stones along the Mist trail -
every one of them a potential broken ankle. All this needs to be preserved.
All this danger and risk is essential. We have so little of it these days
since we live in a Nerfed up simulation we call modern life. The signs
are there - "danger, steep incline, watch your step." And so is the
occasional guardrail. But the padded walls, mandatory helmets, and paved
trails (mostly) aren't. Let's hold the line and keep nature in at least
a few places.