Tangential Tuesdays #48

🧀Dinner parties, My best investment of the year, Sun Microsystems, Local services

Hi team, we skipped last week’s Tangential Tuesday. Realistically, consider this newsletter semi-regular from now on. I love writing it when I can - but I’m prioritizing other projects / life at the moment!


👨‍🍳Dinner Parties

The past few weeks my roommate and I have been hosting some small dinner parties. It’s been an absolute blast.

At least in my circles in SF - having groups of people over to your house for dinner seems to be a relatively uncommon occurrence. But that’s part of what makes them so special.

Dinner parties are the perfect venue to bring people together for so many reasons:

  • Less pressure to drink (everyone eats)

  • Quieter than a restaurant/bar

  • No time pressure (you can stay at my house as long as you want)

  • Cheap!

  • Cooking builds bonds

I could go on and on.

… I think I need to write the millenial/gen Z guide to hosting a dinner party.

Here’s what the summary would be:

  • It literally doesn’t matter if you have matching plates or enough chairs for everyone. No one cares, they are just happy to eat delicious food in someone else’s house.

  • Don’t make something you’ve never made before. I’ll admit that I’ve broken this rule before but do so at your own peril. Keep it simple. You don’t want to be stressed when your guests come over.

  • Ask your guests to help. Either with making drinks or grating your cheese and really anything. Cooking brings people together 😃

  • Just do it! If you’re like me you’ll probably never feel like you’re prepared enough or your house is clean/nice enough. After hosting 1 dinner party I suspect you’ll be addicted.


My Best Investment of 2019

On a related note, the best “purchase” I’ve made this year has been moving to a nicer apartment with my roommate Yash. Prior to moving, I was skeptical that spending more money on housing would actually make my day to day measurably more delightful.

About 1.5 months into it - I can definitely say that it has. It’s crazy how much my change in housing has permeated every aspect of my life. I sleep better (less street noise), I have more time (shorter commute), I am more social (I can host dinner parties now!), I am calmer (my roommate and I keep our place fairly clean).

Probably the biggest change is having a tight-knit relationship with my roommate Yash. I was friends with my previous roommates, but we led very different lifestyles. Although it wasn’t obvious to me, it might sound obvious to you: Living with someone that shares the same values as you makes a HUGE difference.

The point of all this is not necessarily that you should go splurge on housing because it will improve your quality of life. It might, but it might not (although I do think housing is very important).

The point is that if you’re fairly cheap (like me) - don’t be afraid to experiment with purchases you can reasonably afford that you think might move the needle for you. The hedonic treadmill is real, but some things in life are worth splurging on 🤷‍♂️.


☀️ Sun Microsystems: A Look Back at a Tech Company Ahead of its Time

“And then I said, the other thing is we did all of this crazy innovation. We were light years ahead of our time. Sun was always way too early, whether it was doing cloud computing or open source or whatever. We were way ahead of our time, too far ahead of our time, because of the brilliant people we had that could look over the horizon…”

InfoWorld reported that before the formal event, Bill Joy said mobile data networks had now transformed society, which got him remembering specific times when Sun had made early attempts at technologies that others later perfected. The site credited Sun with “a range of open source software technologies still popular today,” including the Java programming language and the Jenkins CI/CD platform. Sun had tried both natural language processing and, with Java ME, even programmable smartphones. “But the hardware was just really nascent at the time,” Joy said.

And McNealy remembered how Sun had shared the Network File System (NFS) protocol for storing and retrieving files over a network, back in 1984. InfoWorld quotes him as saying “We didn’t invent open source but we [made it] happen. We were the leader of that parade.”

I know almost nothing about Sun Microsystems other than that they were crushing it until they weren’t. This was a fun look back on the companies culture and legacy.

I can’t help but be a little skeptical that maybe some of these memories paint the company in an overly rosy light, but I don’t doubt that they were well ahead of their time in many ways…


👷‍♂️ Local Services In 2019

I published this long article summarizing my thoughts and what I see as the problems and opportunities left to be solved in the space.

Honestly, I don’t expect any of you to read all of it. It’s pretty boring. I wrote it to document my thoughts more than anything else.

BUT there are a few interesting parts I’d like to share with Ya’ll:

“platforms are powerful because they facilitate a relationship between 3rd-party suppliers and end users; Aggregators, on the other hand, intermediate and control it.” - Ben Thompson

^ The quote above captures the crux of the problem better than anything else I’ve seen. All of the major players in local services are trying to be aggregators.

But none of these marketplaces have been able to successfully control the relationship between the customer and the service provider. There is still so much offline, real-world messiness for the customer and service provider.

This leaves them in an awkward in-between state of a platform that’s trying to be an aggregator, in many cases the worst of both worlds.

Most existing companies have focused their energy attacking the center of the grid (open/managed marketplaces). I suspect in the coming years we’ll see a ton of companies popping up the will attack the edges (True platforms, Income Sharing/Royalty, and Full-stack).

If you don’t understand what I mean by any of these terms, I’m sorry. I wanted to keep the summary short. Read the article here.


🦄 WeWork, SoftBank, and why venture firms may have to slow down their pacing in 2020

One comment on that, Connie, because I think it’s a really good one: When I started, in the ’90s, it used to be a five-year fund cycle, which is why most LP docs have a five-year commitment period for VC funds. You literally have five years to commit the capital. In the internet bubble, it shortened to about three years, and in some cases it shortened to 12 months. At Mobius, we raised a fund in 1999 and a fund in 2000, so we had the experience of that compression.

Cult of personality a lot of times masquerades as thought leadership . . . [but it tends] to be self-reinforcing around the awesomeness that is that person or the importance that is that person, or the correctness of the vision that person has. And what happens with cult of personality is that you very often, not always, but very often, lose the signal that allows you to iterate and change and evolve and modify so that you build something that’s stronger over time.

This is a thoughtful commentary on what’s happening with WeWork and Soft Bank. Although it’s tempting to think so at times, the partners at Soft Bank are not idiots. The founder of WeWork is obviously very intelligent and talented. But human nature is complicated.

Read the article here.


Personal

  • Going to be traveling a lot starting early in 2020! Looking forward to spending a few months (mostly) just hanging in the city 😃

  • Mushroom foraging szn is starting 🍄

  • I can no longer say “I just graduated” 😮. 13 months in SF went by fast.

Piano progress:


Thanks for reading. Until next week 😘

- Taylor

Tangential Tuesday #47

Creativity is not sexy, Not rich on 200k/yr, What is a tech company?

Hey 👋 - sorry for all the typos in last week’s newsletter. No excuses 🙃. It’s been an exciting week, let’s get into it.


I just came from a David Perell in-person writing workshop. It was outstanding. Feeling super lucky that it worked out for me to go 😃.

There were a few things that stuck out to me from ~2.5-hour session:

  1. There’s nothing sexy about creativity. You can make creating original content as structured as an assembly line. First, you gather (take notes in Evernote/Notion), outline, then write.

  2. Getting feedback early and often is key. <10% of your ideas will actually be interesting. The earlier you get feedback, the more you can focus your writing on the small part that is actually important.

  3. First scan, then read. Scanning information on the internet is a key skill, but once you find something good… you actually need to read it, take notes on it, and digest it.

Highly recommend hanging out with David if you ever get the chance. Now I just need to find some time to write…


A song I’m starting on the piano 😍


What is a tech company?

At first glance, WeWork and Peloton, which both released their S-1s in recent weeks, don’t have much in common: one company rents empty buildings and converts them into office space, and the other sells home fitness equipment and streaming classes. Both, though, have prompted the same question: is this a tech company?

This article is so important for understanding what’s happening with all of these “new” tech companies. The days of near-zero marginal cost to scale tech companies are mostly gone. Especially at >$1 billion dollars in revenue.

The new “tech” companies being built today are messy, real-world companies. And with them come unique challenges, different unique economics, and different mental models.

Read the article here.


Hoodslam

I went to an event called hoodslam on Friday. It is probably one of the most absurd events of pure debauchery that I have ever been to.

If you live in the bay area (or ever come to visit me) - you have to check it out. Definitely a night I will remember for a while 😅.


How To Make Six Figures A Year And Still Not Feel Rich – $200,000 Income Edition

I read some study that in order for you to feel rich, you have to make 3X as much as you currently make, no matter what you make. So if you’re making $50,000 a year, $150,000 a year in income will make you feel like making it rain at the clubs. But if you’re making $150,000 a year in income, you won’t feel rich until you make $450,000 a year. In other words, human beings don’t ever seem to be satisfied with what they have.
What we like to do is project our emotions onto other people. So for all those people making less than $52,000 a year, it’s easy to say any household making $200,000 a year should feel rich and should shut the hell up about paying a progressive tax rate.

Some of you will undoubtedly find this narrative hard to relate to. But, unfortunately, living in the bay area and spending time among some very wealthy people I can weirdly relate to this.

The lessons here:


Tea Time @ Social Haus

I was initially *very* skeptical, but I went to a “tea with strangers” event in San Francisco with a friend this weekend.

Generally, I tend to believe that these type of events can’t and won’t work. The hard truth is that the best people will find away too meet people and make friends. And so they don’t show up to these type of events. In my personal (and very bias) experience, I’ve mostly seen these types of events turn into a common ground for a group of people that are not all that interesting.

Maybe it’s because people in San Francisco are very open to new experiences and experiments - but I had a lot of fun and met some interesting strangers over tea at the event.

I would absolutely never bet on a startup like social haus.. but what they’re doing is pretty interesting. It reminds me of a lot of all of the co-living startups but unbundled from the housing component. I’m excited to see if they can pull it off 🤷‍♂️


Thanks for reading! It’s bedtime for me 🛌.

- 😘 Tay

Tangential Tuesday #26

Couch surfing, Seattle, Making a desk, Cooking, Metaphors we live by

Hey, it’s been a minute. I’ve missed writing this newsletter over the past few weeks 💛.

A lot has happened - both in the world and in my life. I have a lot of ideas and things to talk about so this week will be light on links and heavy on random thoughts, ideas, and as always… tangents.


Couch Surfing

When my roommate Yash presented the idea of hosting travelers via Couchsurfing I didn’t know what to think. Obviously, I am always down since weird experiments like this so I told to go for it.

We made our profiles, put them out into the wild, and suddenly we were getting flooded with requests. We would come home after work and review all the different requests. We felt like a couple managing a shared dating profile.

And eventually… we accepted our first traveler. And then another, and another.

Since then we’ve shared food (learned a new pasta cooking technique from an Italian), wine, house parties, games of exploding kittens, and late-night conversations with travelers from New Zealand, Russia, Italy, and Mexico.

^Me, Yash, Kamilia, and Frida (two russian girls we were lucky enough to host). Not my best picture… but at least I’m in it twice 🙃


There’s nothing that makes me feel more alive than meeting strangers, mostly through random chance. The world opens up.

And something about the short term nature of these relationships makes you cut through the bullshit as fast as possible and straight to the heart, to the things you truly care about.

I only spent ~5 hours with these Russian girls before going to bed for a very early flight to Seattle. Yet when I hugged them goodbye I felt almost sure that I will see them again.

Now, I know this idea of hosting strangers for free in your house/apartment is a bit crazy, BUT if you’re looking for a way to break out of your routine and turn every day into an adventure I can’t recommend it enough. As a bonus, after a few months, you’ll have places to stay and people to visit all over the world.

Related: David Perrell’s Talking To Strangers.


“Making” a Desk

I can’t really call what I did making a desk BUT I had a blast doing a bit of woodwork in my room and I’m pretty happy with the end result. Basically I bought this table top off of IKEA which is basically a big hunk of unfinished wood.

From there I sanded it, stained it, and then applied a bunch of coats of polyurethane to the top and bottom. The whole project took a little less than a week in total and left me with a super nice looking desk for a pretty reasonable price. You also get the benefit of bragging to your friends that you “made” your beautiful desk.

Since finishing my desk, I’ve also been reminded of how valuable it can be to have a place dedicated to doing work at your home. The places we work matter. And creating a place I love to work has been a game-changer for me 😃.


Seattle

I’m writing this from Seattle. I actually wasn’t supposed to be here right now but a backpacking trip to Olympic National park got derailed and having already booked my flight I decided to go explore Seattle by myself (and visit a few friends along the way).

I head back tomorrow (Tuesday) but a few highlights so far:

  • The museum of flight. With Boeing being located in Seattle, there is a ton of history in this city when it comes to flight and this museum did not disappoint. So many crazy stories both from an engineering perspective and pilots risking their lives in war. Probably my favorite thing I’ve done here.

  • MoPOP.

  • Ellenos Greek Yogurt @ Pike Place Market. Lucious greek yogurt served in a gelato case

  • Bainbridge Island 😍


Cooking

I’ve been getting back to cooking a bit more lately. And I’ve realized how much I’ve been missing it. While it was raining in Seattle I also spent way too much time (read: the correct amount of time) reading cookbooks and bookstores/cafes.

In particular, I fell in love with Bottom of the Pot and Shaya.

Beautiful cookbooks aside, it’s made me realize that cooking is officially a luxury in my life. I already have the option of eating 3 amazing meals a day cooked by the Tackitchen and it’s pretty easy to cobble together a few meals and go out once or twice on the weekend without doing any real cooking.

And I suspect that this is the way the world is going. Many things we used to do out of necessity have slowly phased out to become hobbies of the upper class. Gardening, camping, and fishing come to mind.

On one hand - it hurts to see the role of something that I love changing in my life. On the other hand, it’s freeing to see cooking through the lens of cooking as a luxury rather than a means of putting food on the table for a reasonable price 🤷‍♂️.


In other cooking news, a trendy new home cookware line launched this week. It’s called Equal Parts. It combines nicely branded cookware with a subscription to a text-only human cooking coach.

My friend Zack shared it with me and wrote some interesting thoughts here.

“Maybe we’ll look back on today as the end of homecooking as we knew it. Or maybe it’s just another beautiful product launch that we’ll forget about in a week.”


Metaphors we live by

I’ve slowly been making my way through this book. Haven’t fully made up my mind on this one yet - but it absolutely presents some interesting ideas that have changed the way I observe everyday life.

The basic idea of the book is that metaphors are an essential component for how we see and interact with the world each day. They are so pervasive in our speech that most of us forget that we are speaking in metaphors.

One example of this is the underlying metaphor that argument is war. We say things like:
He fended off the opposing argument

She won the argument

I attacked the weak point in their argument

Your claims are indefensible.

This metaphor is pervasive. And it shapes the way we think about arguments. In many ways arguments are collaborative. You are listening to the other person presumably because you want to better understand their point of view.

But because we fundamentally see arguments as war, we often forget about these aspects. Once you realize that metaphors are everywhere, it’s hard to go a few minutes without hearing new metaphors in your own speech or from the language of those around you.


Links


That’s all for this week.

- Tay 💛

Tangential Tuesday #45

Adulting, Bravery Debates, Family vs. Calling, The Amazon, trash talk, 1 YEAR!

Hi everyone. I’ve been slacking on the newsletter recently. No excuses.

On the positive side, I started this newsletter just about a year ago! Only missing 7/52 weeks is not too bad.

Let’s get into it 😃


⚔️ Against Bravery Debates

There’s a tradition on Reddit that when somebody repeats some cliche in a tone that makes it sound like she believes she is bringing some brilliant and heretical insight – like “I know I’m going to get downvoted for this, but believe we should have less government waste!” – people respond “SO BRAVE” in the comments.

The persistence of bravery debates is actually kind of weird. Shouldn’t it be really really easy to figure out who’s being oppressed by whom? The Spanish Inquisition had many faults, but whining about being unfairly persecuted by heretics was, as far as I know, not one of them. Can two opposing positions really be absolutely certain they are under siege?

This articulates why I’ve intuitively felt like certain debates are going nowhere without actually knowing why.

The most classic example of bravery debates I’ve seen is politics. I hear stories right wing people complaining about how the are discriminated against on college campuses.

Yet some liberals also complain about the world being run by capitalists and their opinions not being heard.

Your argument does not get “extra points” for being brave. Stand behind facts and logic. I’m sure there are a few exceptions to this rule, but they are just that - exceptions.

Read the article here.


👨‍👨‍👧‍👦 Do You Want a Family or a Calling?

I believe the unvarnished reality about work-life-balance is this: the only people who successfully follow an all-consuming, high-impact professional calling are: a) either single or married to a someone who has a "career" (or less) and not a "calling" and, b) do not have kids.

If you are skeptical of this quote (I was, and you should be too), see The Power Of Hyperbole.

Read the article here.


🌳 Why Everything They Say About The Amazon, Including That It's The 'Lungs Of The World,' Is Wrong

Singers and actors including Madonna and Jaden Smith shared photos on social media that were seen by tens of millions of people. “The lungs of the Earth are in flames,” said actor Leonardo DiCaprio. “The Amazon Rainforest produces more than 20% of the world’s oxygen,” tweeted soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo.

This article demonstrates two things:

  1. Mainstream media and “influencers” have a ton of power in spreading ideas and shaping the conversation

  2. Ideas spread through these channels are not optimized for truth.

Now, I realize this article might sound a bit woo woo conspiracy theory esque. And the truth is I have no idea what’s actually happening in the Amazon. But this seemed like a pretty grounded take to me. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Read the article here.


🧠Understanding

Virtually all investors have been told when they were younger — or implicitly believe, or have been tacitly encouraged to do so by the cookie-cutter curriculums of the business schools they all attend — that the more they understand the world, the better their investment results. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The more information we acquire and evaluate, the “better informed” we become, the better our decisions. Accumulating information, becoming “better informed,” is certainly an advantage in numerous, if not most, fields.

I try to remind myself of this whenever I find myself wanting to consume vast amounts of information for no clear purpose.

Like all hard truths, even though I believe that this is true deep down, I find that I need constant reminders to actually put this truth into practice.

Read the article here.


🧑 Adulting

I recently moved into a new apartment (address at the bottom of the newsletter has been updated)! I’m still living in San Francisco, but now in the Mission District.

It’s been a ton of fun, but it’s also made me realize that this is my first time basically furnishing an apartment from scratch.

There’s so many decisions to be made. What vacuum should we buy? What about a trash can? How do you make a room look good without spending absurd amounts of $$? The list goes on.

There’s also the fun of figuring out all your new surroundings. What restaurants/bars are nearby, grocery stores, how you get to work, etc. Sometimes I forget how much your living situation permeates every aspect of you life.

If you have any tips on how to adult better (especially things you wish you knew when you were my age) let me know.


🗑️Trash Talking

Go to 2:45 on this video. My friend Zack shared this video with me this week. It’s hilarious, but also super insightful.

If you watch about 2 minutes of the video, you’ll get to see George Hotz being totally absurd, and trash talking all other self driving car companies. It’s unheard of. It’s super disrespectful and unheard of. But it’s hilarious, especially because there’s an element of truth in what he’s saying.

I think Americans tend to forget that work can and should be fun and grandiose. Give yourself permission to be a little more outrageous and passionate and excited this week.


A special treat, just for the newsletter 😊


Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for pics of the new apartment.

See you next week,

Taylor

Tangential Tuesday #44

Being Basic as a Virtue, Free speech, Bean babies, 24,

Hey 👋. Did you miss me? 😊. I missed 2 weeks of the newsletter in a row for what I think might be the 1st time since I started this newsletter almost a year ago.

Life has been crazy recently. I just turned 24 🎂. Let’s get into it.


🌶 The real problem at Yale is not free speech

This is a spicy article. It’s pretty long but I think you’ll find at least reading the first few paragraphs pretty insightful.

“You know I’m rich, right?”

“What?”

“You know I have a trust fund, right? I can buy my own sandwich if I wanted it.”

This is the moment when after three years of friendship, Marcus sat down and told me his life story. His cottages in Norway. Sneaking into the family study. Learning about the cost of hardwoods and hearing his boorish, critical father sulk in 5-star hotel rooms.

I’ve never heard anything remotely similar to this take to explain what’s happening in higher education, and more broadly as a generational shift.

Highly recommend.

Read the article here.


Being basic as a virtue

Lately I’ve been feeling sort of exhausted by the familiar dance of idea propagation that manifests over coffees, dinners, Twitter, and parties in my corner of the world. Asking a stranger what they’ve been reading or thinking about lately feels like the new equivalent of asking someone where they work. Our words are filled with whimsy – after all, isn’t learning so much fun?! Don’t you just love to think?! – but our faces are smeared with coal dust, our eyes somewhat dulled by the knowledge that we’ve done this many times before, and are about to do it many more times tomorrow.

Having lived in SF for almost a year now, this article hit home for me. I love San Francisco. So much. There’s pretty much no other city I’ve ever visited that checks as many boxes for me as this place.

But it’s exhausting at times.

When food was scare, being fat was a sign of virtue. Now that food is plentiful, it’s the opposite. We’re living in the information age. In my lifetime we have switched from a world where information was scare to one where we are constantly bombarded by information.

It would only seem natural if becoming “basic” (think anti-intellectual) will become a virtue.

Read the article here.


🚀84 Startups from YCombinator s19

I love YCombinator. It’s absolutely insane how many world changing companies they have funded in the last 10 years. And that’s what gets me excited to read lists like this 😃.

A few I found particularly interesting:

  • Matagora: Launch an affordable pop-up through showroom spaces, pop-in spaces or full spaces.

  • Rent the Backyard: Earn money renting out a studio apartment in your backyard

  • Well Principled: Killing MBA management consultants one step as a time

  • Revel: $15 per month membership that gives you access to the community-hosted groups. Starting with groups of women ages 50+

Special shout out to Compound, a tool to help you value equity compensation. Stories like this remind me how much we need something like compound:


The Tyranny of Convenience

I’ve always been skeptical of the idea that if you can trade money for time - you should always do it. It’s a tempting idea. That if you just outsource lots of time consuming tasks you’ll have so much more time to be happy.

But it’s never quite worked like this for me.

Today’s cult of convenience fails to acknowledge that difficulty is a constitutive feature of human experience. Convenience is all destination and no journey. But climbing a mountain is different from taking the tram to the top, even if you end up at the same place. We are becoming people who care mainly or only about outcomes. We are at risk of making most of our life experiences a series of trolley rides.

This articulated what I’ve felt intuitively but never been able to put into words.

Read the article here.


Personal

Since I last talked to you all I:

  • Visited New Hampshire! It reminded me how much I will always love home. It also made me realize how important it is for me to get out of the city more often, spend time in nature, away from technology.

  • Took a day trip to Napa 🍷. We drank wine @ Castello di Amorosa and ate fried chicken at Ad Hoc.

  • Signed a lease 🖋️😬. I’m pretty excited to explore a new area of the city… and having significantly less roommates and a closet won’t hurt either.

  • Biked to Tiburon on my 24th birthday. It still feels extremely surreal that I graduated from college over a year ago and just turned 24. Life definitely moves fast after college…. I still need to write about everything that’s happened this year (stay tuned).

  • Celebrated with friends in Dolores Park yesterday. I realized afterwards that this was probably my first time ever organizing my own birthday party. It was a bit scary (event planning is not my strong suit) but I’m glad I did it 😃

  • Stopped reading Atlas Shrugged. After about 600 pages, I felt like I got the point enough to stopped reading. Still some good insights, but I feel like Ayn Rand has a tendency to drone on..

  • Started reading The Great Beanie Baby Bubble. I probably wouldn’t read this book on my own if it wasn’t part of the Thumbtack book club I’m in. That said, it’s a light read and pretty hilarious to look back on the beanie baby crazy. I knew very little about the size the bubble grew to, but also totally remember playing with beanie babies as a kid.


That’s all for this week. Thanks for being here 🧠

- Taylor

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