I didn’t get a lot of writing done this year. We moved, bought a house, changed jobs, traveled the world, traveled the west, got a dog, and celebrated family. A few photos just for the photo, a few photos just for the moment and the people. I’m just a damn lucky dude.
I’ve finally started to make recreational reading part of my life again. Pleased to have chewed through these titles this year:
Born to Run, Chris McDougal*****
Flash Boys, Michael Lewis*****
MoneyBall, Michael Lewis
Fire and Brimstone, Michael Punke
Getting Green Done, Auden Schendler (re-read)
Rock Warriors Way, Arno Ilgner
Farsighted, Steven Johnson
Maid, Stephanie Land
The Impossible Climb, Mark Synnott
Breaking & Entering, Jeremy Smith
Refuge, Mark F. Twight
How To, Randall Munroe
(because I haven’t done one of these before, I included some favorites from 2018 also)
How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg
Barbarian Days, William Finnegan*****
The Push, Tommy Caldwell
Alone on the Wall, Alex Honnold
We watched the 14th Reel Rock film tonight. It was an awesome film, and totally inspiring. A woman that loves to highball, disparate communities conjoined by climbing, and two of the best in the world chasing an arbitrary mark because it was fun.
Tommy and Alex climbed the Nose on El Cap every single day for weeks. They did it every day. Before noon. Sometimes before 9am. Unreal. What stood out across the films was the steady and absolute dedication to craft.
Looking at my recreation, it’s easy to be spread thin:
Climbing is fun
Running is fun
Skiing is fun
Ice climbing is fun
Bouldering is fun
Playing cello is fun
Cooking is fun
Writing is fun
Even work, sometimes, is fun- but when I just dabble none of it is actually satisfying. With less time I’ve kept the same palate of activity but rounded the fine edge into a comfortable flavor of mediocre. I want to explore the depths again. I need a project. An arbitrary standard that I can really hew towards.
To feel sharp at something. It’s been a while since I’ve been honed up.
(a picture of my life 2019.07.30)
we are complex beings
formed of chance interactions and lucky circumstances
we grow and mature on a diet of curiosity and risk
failures stretch us just as much as success tempers us
we apply our talents, share with others, and grow wealthy in spirit.
when it becomes our time, we pass into the next state of being.
perhaps alike our origins, or free beyond our wildest comprehension.
the progression begins again.
I hate posts about not writing. Plenty of adventures being had, but I haven’t written about them. I miss that and hope to get back to it soon. One adventure though is just starting: we got a dog and named him Jasper:
I’ve never had a dog before- it’s awesome. The responsibility is terrifying and frustrating, and confusing. I was skeptical on getting a “designer” dog from a breeder, but even in these first few weeks his calm temperament and natural joyfulness have won me over.
I’ve never enjoyed dog slobber, or picking up poop, even my neighbors dog barking typically draws my ire. My now regular interactions with these things have opened my eyes to how petty I’ve been. To how much I can love something despite the complexity it adds to my life.
I’ve always tended to frame challenges in metrics: the length of a run or the difficulty of a climb. One great piece of marriage advice I got around our wedding last year: “the point of marriage isn’t about the title or the experience of love- it’s a growth opportunity, for you, to grow in ways that literally no other thing can teach you.” There are no metrics for that. Abigail and I might feed and walk Jasper, but it sure seems like he will end up providing much more for us than we can measure.
Thanks Yellowstone Springers for a truly amazing addition to our family.
A few weeks ago, a friend on facebook posted a link. He feels differently than I do about some aspects of climate change, and his post welcomed a debate. I would generally avoid this type of “opportunity”, but he made a good point in the ensuing comments: all of us have to get better at having conversations with people who think differently than we do. The post featured a link to this piece by Stephen Moore, who is currently being considered for a seat on the Board of the Federal Reserve. It’s easy to oppose Mr. Moore’s appointment because of his backers, his associations, and other published vile commentary. A handful of previous commenters voiced their disdain & disrespect for my friend, the link, and it’s author, but vitriol without logic simply rings hollow. It’s easy to settle into the shouting match, it’s more useful to oppose the ideas he represents, and to know specifically why. I wasn’t open to embracing the conclusions of the piece, but responding was a chance to explore the finer points of my disagreement. My reply was as follows:
“hey man, I read the article- and since you encouraged the discussion, my thoughts are too complicated to fit in a sound bite.
To me, it seems like the point you (not the article) are making is that if we can’t talk to people who think differently that we do, then we’ve lost the game completely. I couldn’t agree more. As one of the leftists that might otherwise might “shout you down”- I hope to avoid that here.
I respect you, and am only chiming in to learn how to have this conversation more constructively. I remain fervently committed to finding a way to mitigate (if not reverse) the impacts of climate change- and I’m not even sure you disagree with me on that. The point I think you and Mr. Moore are both trying to make is “we are spending a lot of money trying to solve a problem, and it seems like we aren’t getting anywhere. This seems fishy and we should pay attention to that.” I’m willing to consider this view, because I desperately want effective climate action. I do fervently disagree with his conclusion though: “we’ve spent a lot of money on this, I’ll take the risks of global warming over the crappy ROI.” I’m pretty sure that leads to more human suffering than Mr. Moore is willing to even consider.
Maybe we can agree on some common facts?
-I think you know a lot more than me about how money works.
-I’m pretty familiar with the energy engineering.
-I think we both care a lot about the beautiful birds you photograph, which are also impacted by climate change.
-We need realistic, market backed solutions that incentivize mitigating climate change impacts. Anything less will die on the vine.
So what do I think we are getting for the thing that Mr. Moore says has zero ROI?
1) I think humans are better off in a low carbon economy- fossil fuels are an inelegant solution to a bunch of engineering problems. Entirely aside from a “warmer climate” – dramatic reductions in fossil fuel use result in reduced impacts on human health, improved environmental health (also benefitting humanity), and are often more equitable (it’s cheaper and easier to put solar panels and a battery on a hut in Africa instead of building a power plant and stringing up thousands of miles of wire). Energy efficient buildings last longer and present better value to owners. Electric cars are safer, more efficient, and more fun to drive. The list goes on. To me, transitioning away from fossil fuels is still a really good idea even absent a positive impact on the climate.
2) Are we really sure we haven’t wasted this much money on other things? There is so much waste in our economy. Yeah, capitalism is way more efficient than communism or real deal socialism (not the watered down stuff that American democrats get accused of), but it’s still morbidly wasteful. Depending on who you read, we still provide deep subsides to the fossil fuel industry, and have been doing so for pretty much the last 100 years. Let’s try subsidizing something else for 100 years and see what happens? It sure seems like fossil fuels are a problem, so let’s at least see where trying to do something about it might land us.
3) If you (and Mr. Moore) aren’t necessarily saying the world isn’t warming, then perhaps you’ll allow this: I think global climate change is a probably a much bigger, much more complicated problem than we humans have ever tried to solve before. In many ways, it is the worst case problem for humans to solve- nebulous long term consequences, with painful short-term options that no one is sure will work. The planet itself and some animals will be just fine. Humanity, will certainly take quite the blow if not the knock-out punch. I won’t be surprised if it takes tens of trillions of dollars and many decades to solve. Looking at the energy science, solving climate change makes putting a man on the moon look like a pleasant Sunday drive.
4) You’re right to mention the other major structural issues that are preventing a more sane look at this issue. The national debt. Income inequality/stagnated wages. Money in politics. Maybe we should try to figure out some of these smaller issues before we try to tackle a bear like climate change.
As this is a conversation, I’d love to better understand a couple of the other good points you’ve made in the ensuing comments:
1) help me understand how, specifically in this instance, big money tends to encourage rent seeking? Which rents? Are these actually worse than current rents being soughtafter?
2) Why isn’t this America’s problem to solve? We’ve exercised great global leadership and technology development for a long time (re: the post WWII world order, developing everything from the internet to the microwave oven). Doing all of these other things is what made us the richest country in the world. We’ve been spending piles of money on long shot initiatives for a long time. Why not solve this?
Last fun fact- we’ve been getting better at *not* subsidizing (all sectors) of the energy markets as much:
Hopefully it doesn’t seem like I’m shouting- this is just how I think about it.”
Challenge yourself to think about the issues, don’t settle for a simple left/right divide. Don’t take the bait to the shouting match. Learn to have the conversation.
Occasionally, I am lucky enough to have readers say “wow, that was a great post/cool adventure/link/whatever, how can I support your blog?” I’ve never really wanted to raise money from this little writing project, but the adventures don’t happen for free. One thing that has made most of these stories possible are generous friends in far away places. Margaret has hosted me, fed me, and driven me around Alaska countless days and nights. Now, she’s looking for a loan for her business supporting the local food movement in Alaska. Join me in supporting her campaign thru Kiva.org, and consider making a donation to Kiva while you are there.
You can read about some of my time with Margaret here, here, and here. If you haven’t heard of kiva.org, they provide a platform for micro-finance loans all over the world. I’ve been a supporter since 2015 and generally have made a point of supporting small construction entrepreneurs in South America. I’ve also loved supporting a couple more local friends over the years. If voting with your dollars matters, this is the best way I’ve found to do it.
It’s easy to say we had a great time in Patagonia mostly due to tremendous luck with both weather and accommodations. While I don’t like to promote too much, it’s important to give credit and leave some breadcrumbs for other travelers.
In Punta Arenas
- We started and ended our trip staying with Evelyn at Hostel BuenaVista Patagonia– and would definitely stay there again. Just outside downtown, her place is modern and quiet, and she was a great host.
- We ate at Mesita Grande 3 different times. Great thin crust pizza, reasonable prices, and a fun vibe. Not to be missed.
- We booked a tour to see Magellenic penguins in the wild at the Monumento Natural Los Penguinos. Lots of places to book and the tour is well managed for the safety of the wildlife.
- Sometimes you find a dud: Fusiones has a weird vibe, oversized portions of unremarkable food, and was surprisingly expensive. The service was attentive, but probably because the place was dead quiet.
In Puerto Natales
- We stayed at Hostel Lili Patagonicus. I doubt it’s different from any of the other dozen hostels that all offer the same things. Tiny room, low price, good amenities for prepping to do the O Circuit (baggage hold, full kitchen, gear rental, etc). Not a standout, but if you just need a place that works…
- The Doite Himalaya 2 tent that seems to be the most popular rental tent in town did not perform. Very small for two tall Americans, not nearly enough ventilation, and only 1 door- clearly designed as an alpinists bivy tent, not a comfy backpacking tent. Search around for one of the places that rents MSR tents, we were wishing hard for our Hubba Hubba.
- The original Mesita Grande is in Puerto Natales, and just as good as the one in PA.
- We stumbled on a gem at La Forastera. The sign is small, but food, service, and selection were totally awesome. I wish we had time to eat here again.
In Torres del Paine
See separate forthcoming post.
In el Calafate
- We stayed at the Calafate Hostel & Hosteria. It was okay, rooms were simple and we didn’t ask much of the service, but it served the purpose.
- Pura Vida was probably the best single meal of the trip. Arrive early and prepare to wait, but it was totally worth it. Truly awesome.
- La Zorra brewing definitely holds up as the regions best beer. Wish we had gone more than once.
- Olivia Coffee has amazing breakfast sandwiches and proper espresso drinks. We were very grateful it was 2 blocks from the hostel because it was a way better option for breakfast.
In El Chalten
- It was our honeymoon, so we splurged and stayed at Hosteria Senderos. Amazing views of the mountains from our room, a great restaurant, and a wonderful concierge made our stay truly lux. They were a little surprised at how much we hiked every day…
- Great meals at Maffia (reservation recommended), Ruca Mahuida, La Vineria, and La Cerveceria. I’d recommend and return to any of these places, and it’s worth knowing none of these are low cost options.
- La Chocolateria is home for some of the local climbing culture and history. Great hot chocolate and sweet treats, but seating is limited and there is no internet.
- We stayed at our only AirBnB of the trip, a guy named Toni with a spacious, modern condo overlooking the Beagle channel. Very responsive, friendly, and genuinely happy to have us.
- The only food that really stood out here was Ølmo, a brewery just past the main drag that we literally stumbled into. Doesn’t look like much from the outside and wasn’t in either of our guidebooks. The food and beer options were awesome and it was surprisingly devoid of tourists. They didn’t seem to speak much english, which was great.
- We had a truly memorable “last big day” of riding horses with Centro Hipico Fin del Mundo. Laura handles the bookings and was great about a last minute request and arranged all the transportation from door to door. Our guide Niel, was Irish, and a total joy. He was responsive to our level of experience and gave us a full tour of the area, including loping along the beaches. A total trip highlight.
The weather may be bad and it’s definitely been “discovered” by tourists, but we’ll remember this one for the rest of our lives. The area clearly survives on tourism and requires those dollars to preserve it. All of these places more than delivered- thanks.
Internet is a bit limited down here, which is great because we just spent 8 days completing the O circuit in the iconic Torres del Paine National Park and not staring at our phones. More narrative later, but mostly we are thankful for amazingly good weather and very accommodating park staff. Photos and video:
The wind grew stronger each successive day. Watch how it lifts the water straight off Lago Nordskogg.
There was a bit off a flood on our way out. The local rangers are *very* confident in their pickup trucks.
The very first thing we did in Patagonia had been on my bucket list for a long long time. Penguins in the wild.
Isla de Magadelena hosts the birthing grounds for a huge flock of Magallenic penguins, they burrow their nests into the hills to raise their chicks.
Cold, barren, windy- it’s relatively free from predators and allows the chicks to get strong enough to make a 2000mile migration up the Atlantic coast. Only downside, they are clearly quite accustomed to humans, but pretty dang cool regardless.