Category Archives: me

Purpose of Life

Cartoon showing that there is no purpose to life

“What is the purpose of life” is obviously not a stupid question. It’s a very good question.

The purpose of life is more life.

All life is purely trying to create more copies of itself. The purpose of every living organism on this planet (yourself included) is to create as many copies of it’s genes as possible.

That is all.

That’s not what you meant right? What is the deeper purpose of life? What is the meaning of life?

That question is actually a lot like “What is the square root of a tomato?”

It doesn’t make sense.

There is no deeper purpose of life. Life just is. It is a bleak realization, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

I was recently reading the preface to Richard Dawkins’s Unweaving the Rainbow which contains this excellent quote:

Gone is all purpose; all that is left is direction. This is the bleakness we have to accept as we peer deeply and dispassionately into the heart of the Universe.

Himalayan Tahrs on Table Mountain again

Himalayan Tahr on Table Mountain
During the 1930s some Himalayan Tahrs escaped from the Groote Schuur zoo near UCT. They bolted onto the mountain and lived happily up there for the next 70 years.

In 2004 SANParks controversially decided to cull them because they are an alien species and were causing damage to the indigenous species. I agreed with that decision.

But, I can tell you for a fact that they didn’t get all of them.

Yesterday afternoon I saw three tahrs grazing right next to the path on Platteklip Gorge. They were right above the site where I saw someone jump to his death exactly 2 weeks ago.

I was able to walk really close to them and they just looked at me. They’ve obviously forgotten about the culling almost 6 years ago!
Himalayan Tahr on Table Mountain

I witnessed a suicide on Table Mountain

Yesterday evening I was near the top of Platteklip Gorge on Table Mountain when I saw someone fall to his death.

It was an insane moment. I almost literally didn’t believe what I had seen.

It was a little after 5PM and I was about 10 minutes from the top when I heard what sounded like rocks falling above me. I looked up and saw a person tumbling through the air and landing with a very load crack about 100m up the slope from me.

A few more rocks fell, some birds went nuts, and then there was just silence.

Where he jumped on Platteklip Gorge

There was another hiker just down the slope from me and we looked at each other for a second.

He said: “Did you see that?”

I said “What the fuck! Holy shit!” and then we both started walking upwards.

The body landed about 3m from the path but I missed it the first time (luckily it wasn’t easily visible). The result was that the other guy (Michael, a British tourist) and I arrived at the body simultaneously.

It was a surreal moment.

I knew what I was seeing. It did sink in. I’d just seen someone fall to his death and the injuries were truly horrific.

But we were both very calm. No freaking out, no puking or feeling sick. No shakes, or stuttering. Just calm.

I pulled out my phone to call mountain rescue but had no signal so another hiker who had just arrived called from his phone.

Then we just sat down to wait.

I became worried that he was still alive and we weren’t helping, so I went back to check his pulse. I didn’t need to check. His injuries were very extensive and he was very obviously already dead.

A while later two people leaned over the top of the cliff and started shouting down to us. They said that they had found a backpack and a suicide note. That actually made me feel a lot better.

A little later the mountain rescue chopper flew up into the gorge and winched down a medic. I went to help him with his kit and showed him where the body was.

“Victim is blue. Repeat, victim is blue.”

Without going into details, the mountain rescue guy (also named Mike) was extremely professional and took over the scene. He radioed in for more assistance and offered us trauma counselling before sending us all down the mountain.

All of the emergency services guys were very professional and seemed very organised. It’s great having pro’s like that around.

The only exception was that nobody could find a body bag. It was already quite dark and the evening wind had started pumping down Platteklip so the chopper couldn’t go back in there. Consequently they weren’t able to bring him down until morning.

I’ve chatted to the cops this morning and it seems that this was a desperately unhappy old man who was determined to end his life.

First run with my Garmin Forerunner

I tried out my new Garmin Forerunner heart rate monitor last night. I went for a quick run around the neighborhood and then uploaded the run onto my laptop. Pretty impressive.

I purposefully ran along the same road twice but on different sides of the road. The results easily show that my route used different sides of the road.

I started my run at one end of our ‘driveway’ and ended it at the other end (about 15m apart). Not only did the results show a clear difference between the two points, but also that there is an altitude difference of a couple meters!

This morning I uploaded the route onto and was pretty pleased with the results. You can view an interactive version of the map on their site (no heart rate and speed information though).

The route of my first run using the Garmin Forerunner

Can’t wait to get into the mountains this weekend.

Americans shouldn’t worry much about the rise of China

Sad americaAccording to this article from The Economist Americans are apparently unhappy with the state of their country in general. According to the article 80% of Americans think the country is going the wrong way.

The article lists several reasons that the national mood is low – the war on terror and the economy are the major categories. The rising China also seems to be freaking the Americans out pretty badly – let’s see how they react when China wins more medals in the Olympics.

America has gotten into sullen moods before and recovered. But:
“Still, countries, like people, behave dangerously when their mood turns dark. If America fails to distinguish between what it needs to change and what it needs to accept, it risks hurting not just allies and trading partners, but also itself.”

There are things that do need to be changed. For instance: education, health, the war on terror and Guantánamo Bay. However, it is an attitude adjustment that is required when it comes to the rise of Asia and China.

There are two reasons not to worry about the rise of China:

  1. “Even at its present growth rate, China’s GDP will take a quarter of a century to catch up with America’s; and the internal tensions that China’s rapidly changing economy has caused may well lead it to stumble before then”
  2. “Even if Asia’s rise continues unabated, it is wrong-and profoundly un-American-to regard this as a problem. Economic growth, like trade, is not a zero-sum game. The faster China and India grow, the more American goods they buy”

I like the last paragraph:
“Everybody goes through bad times. Some learn from the problems they have caused themselves, and come back stronger. Some blame others, lash out and damage themselves further. America has had the wisdom to take the first course many times before. Let’s hope it does so again.”

Apologies about the gap

The guys at work blocked so I’ve been locked out for a while. Sorry…

I’m working on a way around the block but until things start happening again you can check out:

  • My FriendFeed. This is basically a single page that lists all of my online activity – Flickr, Facebook, blogging, and general interesting links that I share. Make sure to check that out.
  • Do Stuff in Cape Town. A wiki like site that I set up for sharing information on activities in Cape Town. There are now over 170 things to do in Cape Town loaded onto the site.

Birthday graphs

Today is my birthday – an event that is becoming increasingly scary! Quarter century down…

Anyway, graphs always cheer me up so here we go:

From today I am closer to 30 than 20!

From today I am closer to 30 than 20 years old

But I still have 1 year to publish a paper like Einstein’s relativity or 21 years to beat Obama to a presidential nomination!
My age relative to a few other things

Do Stuff in Cape Town – my new project

If things have been a little slow on this blog lately it’s because I have been working on something new. It’s a site called Do Stuff in Cape Town and I have described it as an encyclopedia of activities in and around Cape Town.

The cool thing about it is that it works like a Wiki so anyone can contribute to it. I have developed it so that anyone visiting the site can easily:

  • Create new activities – there is a simple form for adding new activities
  • Update existing activities – say there is some detail or tip that you would like to add to an existing activity
  • Rate activities – it’s as simple as clicking on the star rating you want
  • Browse/search activities – I have put quite a lot of thought into making this as simple as possible
  • Subscribe to new activities – Get updates when new activities are added to the site

I have tried to make everything as simple as possible, but please give it a try and let me know what you think. Add an activity, or browse through those that are already there. I think that the site is almost ready, but I would really appreciate feedback!

Some of the activities that have already been loaded:

Pipe track photos

Jules and I went for a quick walk on the Pipe Track last night to have a little wine and watch the sun go down on a fun weekend.

We got a couple of nice photos too. This is Table Mountain viewed from the side – the Pipe Track passes above the Camps Bay area so you get interesting angles on Table Mountain.

New project – Do Stuff in Cape Town

I have been working on a new little project which I would like you all to take a look at. A couple of weeks ago I had the idea to set up a Wikipedia-like site for things to do in Cape Town. A site where anyone can easily add and edit information about activities in Cape Town.

I have set up a framework that I am pretty happy with – the geek in me has really been enjoying this. I also populated it with some sample activities.

It’s still very early days (Jules can’t stand the logo) and things are still changing and improving, but take a look and let me know what you think. If you feel up to it you can add/edit activities pretty easily and even anonymously.

Here is the link.