“I have a theory, you can make any sentence seem profound by adding the name of a dead philosopher at the end of it – Plato”


Just discovered Banksy. Dark but beautifully disturbing.


No es el infierno, es el desierto


Death Valley, CA

May, 2011

The title reads “it is not hell, it is the desert”. This thought was inspired on Biblical stories: the 40-day retreat of Jesus in the desert and the 40 years that Moses and the people of Israel wondered in the desert in penitence for breaking the 10 commandments that infamous night in the Mount Sinai.

It took me a long time, almost two years, to understand that this time of “purge” (rather than punishment) is necessary for growth. The desert is a tough place that makes people tenacious and resilient and humble and patient.

I find this concept of wondering in the desert before reaching a high end similar to that of graduate school or recovery from near-death experiences.

In my humble opinion, I don’t think I’m being dramatic. That’s how I have experienced these intense stages in my life: these have been times where I felt the loneliest, the most vulnerable, the angriest at God and the Universe and life, the most desperate for finding a sense of purpose, the most sad and the most afraid.

This thought helped me appreciate those times of hardships. Today, I cherish the worst as sacred, as a part of my past that belongs to me, to which I belong and that makes me the soul that I am.

Dare to be sure

Life is risky. The future is uncertain. The future is also risky if you happen to be alive. Life is uncertain if you are not sure you are alive. Dare to be sure.

This bison being a bison through the snow storm is an image of ultimate strength, and confidence that life goes on even in the middle of a storm. I love it.


MT Bison in a storm, May 2011

“The best model of a cat is a cat”-Norbert Wiener

A cat is a cat is a cat.

This picture of the black cat looking a a painting of a black cats has been fascinating me since I took it in the city of Valparaiso, Chile in April 2013.

I was never sure what about it I found most intriguing. Some times it reminded me of points in my life where I had come to a halt to ponder about the state of my own exploration in search for essence and self. Sometimes it reminded me of Den Xiaoping and his very pragmatic theory of social order with Chinese characteristics. Before the Cultural Revolution, Deng pronounced “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.” Deng didn’t care too much whether a person is a revolutionary or not, as long as he is efficient and able to work under the command of socialism.

Just recently, I am beginning to think that what really captures my attention is that it represents the more general struggle of a model-builder.

Norbert Wiener wrote the title of this post. As a pioneer in the study of stochastic processes and noise, he found a rather innocent and harmless way to explain his understanding of the universe. I’ve come to appreciate that “unsophistication” of concepts.

When it comes to presenting the philosophy behind model design, the classic summary is what statistician George Box said in 1976 “All models are wrong, but some are useful”. More recently , statistician Nate Silver, and author of the book “the Signal and the Noise”, wrote: “A good model can be useful even when it fails. ‘It should be a given that whatever forecast we make on average will be wrong…So usually it’s about understanding how it’s wrong, and what to do when it’s wrong and minimizing the cost to us when it’s wrong.’ The key is remembering that a model is a tool to help us understand the complexities of the universe, and never a substitute for the universe itself.”

Today, I am thankful for the power of thinkers to pinpoint deep questions in the sea pragmatism. These thinkers offered me a new way to ponder and appreciate this colorful picture full of fond memories of family and travel and adventure, that I happen to cherish deeply.

un gato negro
un gato negro y la pintura de un gato negro

Can You Dig?

“You fear to go into those mines. The Dwarves delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dum… shadow and flame.”

This is what Saruman tells Gandalf (using wizard telepathic powers) as the Fellowship faces hardship through the pass of Caradhras and contemplates an alternative route to reach Mordor.

The Dwarfs are known for their greed, and apparently, some people think they are like dwarfs in this sense. That one is “digging too deep” can be seen as some sort of prophecy that ambition will consume us, that our obsession with our own ego will destroy us. As you read this post, keep that in mind that there’s more than gold and rare earths underneath. While there definitely are people digging for gold; others (like my sister who is a geologist) just dig because they enjoy it; others dig to hide; and others, like me, dig because we are obsessed with the finding of roots and answers… or questions. In the process, we run into a lot of dirt and shit and sometimes surprises like the one I want to share with you in what remains of this post.

For my first post, I want try reactions to this picture. This is a picture taken at the former salt mine of Nemocón, in Cundinamarca, Colombia. When the mine was retired form salt production, it was turned into a Cathedral- a rather appropriate purpose, given the dominantly catholic local culture.

Mines are dangerous places: they are dark and narrow, there’s hardly any ventilation, and miners handle explosives to open new chambers. Salt mines are not an exception. This place is sublime. It is dark and cold and humid. The air is heavy. It is intimidating, and during its years of operation, miners would built small worship sites in every corner to pray to the Virgin Mary for the mountain not to collapse. There has been a tremendous effort to preserve that spirit of devotion and to displace the fear that darkness and uncertainty inspire. This is truly a beautiful, humbling place where asphyxia is turned into enlightenment.

This is a place that invites you to dig deeper: in this salt mine, the darker it gets, the more colors you can find and the more playful the cave becomes. Don’t confuse ambition with curiosity, dedication, devotion or simply with the joy of digging. I normally like reaching high places, like mountain tops. I also enjoyed this low, dark, cold sanctuary.

Laura en la Mina de Sal de Nemocon