Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Manaslu Part 1


Approximately ten kilometers south of the mountain chain that forms the Nepal/Tibet border, in the Gorkha Himal, stands the world’s eighth highest mountain: Manaslu. Weighing in at 8163 meters, Manaslu is one of fourteen mountains that rise more than eight thousand meters above sea level. To mountaineers the number eight thousand is important in the same way that twenty six point two has special significance among runners.

I went to Manaslu in the spring of 2002 with five American and three Nepali climbers. The Nepalese climbers were on the clock, in other words we paid them to help us reach the summit; these three men were invaluable to our success and I will have much more to say about them in the pages to come. Among the American climbers was my very good friend Brian Sato. Brian and I have climbed together for over twenty years and the friendship that we shared – one in which two men completely trust one another – is a theme woven into the fabric of this story.

All writing, even non-fiction, is conjecture. I am not a journalist and have no particular affinity towards books that simply tell how, when and where such and such an event occurred. I personally have always been more interested in the why. This is a story based entirely on recall, which is not to say that I’m making things up, but memory is fickle, and what I remember as a seminal event may have passed by my companions unnoticed and vice versa.

As our society becomes increasingly immunized the adventurer becomes more of an anomaly. What one hundred years ago was the danger of everyday life has, today, morphed into an unacceptable risk. The price of an unexplored life is mediocrity; you don’t know your capabilities until you’re forced to find them.

So that’s the upshot, this is a story about friendship, challenge and discovery: the three ingredients of a wonderful life.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Subprime Intelligence

I’m reading this book The Monster by Michael Hudson, it’s all about the subprime mortgage debacle and it got me wondering: why don’t they teach personal finance in high school? It seems that a class on basic household finance – what is APR, what’s wrong with credit card debt – should be required in order to graduate high school.

The purpose of public education is to create a responsible citizenry, but when you have so many people who are so gullible you actually begin to create a failing state. The financial meltdown spawned by subprime lending is a case in point. I mean how can you explain to the public the problems of deficit spending or global warming when so many members of that public will willingly sign an adjustable rate mortgage that begins at fourteen percent and climbs to twenty two percent.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Keep It To Yourself

One of my favorite editorial writers is New York Times columnist David Brooks. Unlike most blow with the wind conservative columnists who are adamantly for something until they become adamantly against it, Mr. Brooks remains true to a very well-defined ideology, and even though I usually don’t agree with him, I do respect him for his intelligence and his consistency. In today’s editorial - The Joys of Social Science - Mr. Brooks accumulates the findings of several social scientists, my favorite of which was a study performed by David Gal and Derek Rucker.
Here's the abstract of the study:

A seminal case study by Festinger found, paradoxically, that evidence that disconfirmed religious beliefs increased individuals' tendency to proselytize to others. Although this finding is renowned, surprisingly, it has never been subjected to experimental scrutiny and is open to multiple interpretations. We examined a general form of the question first posed by Festinger, namely, how does shaken confidence influence advocacy? Across three experiments, people whose confidence in closely held beliefs was undermined engaged in more advocacy of their beliefs (as measured by both advocacy effort and intention to advocate) than did people whose confidence was not undermined. The effect was attenuated when individuals affirmed their beliefs, and was moderated by both importance of the belief and open-mindedness of a message recipient. These findings not only have implications for the results of Festinger's seminal study, but also offer new insights into people's motives for advocating their beliefs.

Funny the timing of this bit of info as I yesterday I was emailing a couple of buddies my hypothesis that the more someone doubts their religious beliefs the more likely they are to go around trying to convert others. I think David Puddy from the good old Seinfeld days had the right approach.

Monday, December 6, 2010

First Turns

Finally it's the time for ice cream for breakfast. Nothing fuels that big ski day at Alpental like a big Belgian waffle topped with ice cream and berries. I was up at five thirty beating egg whites to soft peaks so that we could be in line at opening bell.
The coverage was spotty but the snow was cold and soft, so all in all it was a good day. Here in the Northwest any skiing before Christmas is gravy so I can't complain. As a general rule you can't ski Alpental if you're a complainer: I am continually amazed by just how challenging Alpental really is. There just aren't that many people willing to put up with that place.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Balancing Act

I like to balance my rants with something positive. Not everything manufactured in the twenty first century is complete crap, all you have to do to prove this point is look to the small town of Red Wing Minnesota. There is a factory in that town, a factory known as "The Shoe" where craftspeople still make a product that is built with pride and built to last.

My Red Wing Iron Rangers are the most comfortable and most well-made shoes that I've ever owned. They are my go-to winter shoe and I predict that ten years from now I'll still be wearing these same shoes.