Tangential Tuesday #68

Posture progress, anti-fragility, the hut master

Hi team. It’s cliche to say at this point, but the past week has felt like a month.

We are officially in a global pandemic. I’m writing this on Sunday night, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there are major developments between now and when you receive this email.

It feels like we are just waiting for a hurricane to hit that we know is coming. Except that the hurricane is hitting the entire world.

A few thoughts:

  • Avoid the news when possible. We already know this is going to be bad. Knowing exactly how bad is not going to help anything. Hunker down, avoid people, control what you can control and don’t worry about the rest. News is not what anyone needs at this point and it is just going to make it harder to think clearly.

  • Take care of yourself. self-quarantine is not an excuse to eat poorly and not exercise. These things are important for your health and immunity.

  • Journal. We are in fairly uncharted waters. You will probably have thoughts and feelings and stories than you want to remember in 20 years.

  • Find the upside. It’s only just starting to sink in for me how rough these next few months are going to be. People I know will lose their jobs. There is a high chance someone you know will get sick. This is not a reason for panic, but it is a reason to find moments of joy every day. Video friends and family you love. Take up a new hobby (baking bread anyone?!?). Take this influx of change and uncertainty to reevaluate how you want to spend your time.


My version of quarantine is working from Tahoe. All the ski resorts in the area are closed due to Covid-19. Luckily, the backcountry was still open 😉.

On Saturday - my friend Sam and I lapped Rubicon peak. It is easily the best day I’ve had touring on my splitboard. It was snowing all day, blower powder, totaling approximately 12 inches by the time we were done. We ended up clocking 6k of vertical feet on the day. A much bigger tour than I had originally planned on…

We woke up today to over 3 feet of snow from Saturday —> Sunday morning.

Note: As I write this, it is still snowing. We will probably end up with 4-5 feet from the storm in total.

Avalanche conditions were high, roads were treacherous, but we still attempted to get outside on some low angle technique. What we didn’t quite appreciate was what it feels like to break trail in 4 feet of fresh snow. It took us about 2.5 hours to go less than 2 miles. The actual skiing done was minimal, but it was a fun day I’ll certainly remember (remember that time all the ski resorts shut down because of a deadly virus AND it snowed 4 feet?)


The Hut Master

The AMC huts in New Hampshire are quite possibly my favorite place on this planet. This video does a good job of capturing how special it is to have the privilege of working in the white mountains.


Posture progress

Over the past 4 months, I calculated that I have invested roughly 106 hours of my life doing corrective exercises to better my posture. That’s almost an hour every. single. day.

Beyond that, I have spent 1000s of $$ on physical therapy, and way too many hours researching pillows and weird pieces of foam that resemble a giant block of cheese.

I’m not done, but I just got my progress x-rays back and I have made real progress (!!!)

Unfortunately, I don’t have the new x-rays to share (yet) but I reduced my forward head tilt by about 5 degrees (about half-way to healthy). Undoing a substantial amount of years of bad posture in 4 months is a huge win for me.

I am committing to 3 more months of working extremely hard on fixing my back issues. Hopefully, I will have another good update then and can finally go back to a more normal life. As always, massive shoutout to the team at Postureworks. Lucky to have them by my side as a navigated by far the gnarliest issue of my life.


Antifragility

You are in the post office about to send a gift, a package full of champagne glasses, to a cousin in Central Siberia. As the package can be damaged during transportation, you would stamp “fragile”, “breakable”, or “handle with care” on it (in red). Now what is the exact opposite of such situation, the exact opposite of “fragile”?


Almost all people answer that the opposite of “fragile” is “robust,” “resilient,” “solid,” or something of the sort. But the resilient, robust (and company) are items that neither break nor improve, so you would not need to write anything on them – have you ever seen a package with “robust” in thick green letters stamped on it?


Logically, the exact opposite of a fragile parcel would be a package on which one has written “please mishandle” or “please handle carelessly.” Its contents would not just be unbreakable, but would benefit from shocks and a wide array of trauma.

Another gem from Alex Danco. Think hard about how you can remain anti-fragile in this time of disorder. Luckily, humans are naturally anti-fragile.

Read the article here.


Stay safe out there. Wash your hands. Call me or send an email if you get bored :)

- Tay

Tangential Tuesdays #67

So You Want To Be a Chef, NH Skiing, Inequality

Hey Team, happy Tuesday. We are living in some wild times right now. I suspect this time period will be written about for years to come (for a number of reasons).

I am not one to panic at all (due to the current state of the markets OR corona), and I don’t think you should either. That said - we should take coronavirus very seriously.

This tweet said it best:

Okay - enough of that, let’s get on with the newsletter.



Ambition

I was talking to a stranger over the weekend about ambition. We both agreed that we’d gotten less ambitious since finishing college and moving to the bay area.

The first question is why?

(Disclaimer: I talk generally below, but I am really just talking about my own experiences from a short time living/working in the bay area)

Why

The roots of post-grad lack of ambition start with naivete and a lack of options. Most highly ambitious college seniors I know don’t join a big tech company like Facebook or Google.

But they don’t feel ready to start their own company and don’t have the network or skillset to join a high-quality early-stage start-up.

So they join a midstage, pre-IPO company.

It’s worth noting that these types of jobs are also the ones that are rewarded with the most social capital (at least in the short-term).

But, at least in my (extremely limited) experience, these jobs are less crazy than I imagined. I put in very “regular” hours and am rarely put in high-pressure situations to perform. I continue to learn things, but not in the same, all-consuming way I seemed to in college and not with the same passion.

I go to work each day, do a decent job, and then leave. And I am rewarded well for it! I am making more money at age 24 than I thought I ever would in my life.

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.”

- Nassim Taleb

I can’t help but wonder if there lies part of the problem. Once we get a taste of making money in tech and make friends across all of the tech companies, it’s hard not to fell the pull of climbing the closest mountain. It’s easy to forget that the reason I moved to SF was to take risks when I meet someone my age at Stripe making 300k.

And the worst part is, a certain degree of focus on money is actually rational. Many recent graduates have significant student debt.

There will, of course, be people argue that all of these things are good.

  • Focus more on being well-rounded, social, friendships

  • Money = freedom

  • Happiness > ambition

On a certain level, I agree. I also think comfort has a way of tricking you into forgetting the things you deeply care about. If you want to live a nice life and retire early, banking 300+k/year at Airbnb or Stripe is probably the way to go. But just because people around you want that doesn’t mean you also want that.


At this point, you might also be thinking: THIS IS THE ULTIMATE FIRST WORLD PROBLEM.

Maybe - but I think it’s bigger than that. We need ambitious people to take risks for progress to happen. That feels important.


The followup, what can we do about it?

  • Just do it. I own my decisions. There is nothing stopping me from making less money in favor of more risk and ambition.

  • Encourage friends around you with similar goals to do the same.

  • Communities like On Deck are helping

That’s it. Thanks for reading this *rant*


So You Wanna Be a Chef— by Bourdain (h/t Trevor Mckendrick)

If you enjoy cooking at all, or are just obsessed with Anthony Bourdain in general (me) you will love this article.

I feel like every industry that gets glorified needs a letter like this.

Even though I have no plans to quit working in tech (ever really) - I feel like there’s a lot of lessons here.

If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel—as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them—wherever you go. Use every possible resource you have to work in the very best kitchens that will have you—however little (if anything) they pay—and relentlessly harangue every possible connection, every great chef whose kitchen offers a glimmer of hope of acceptance. Keep at it. A three-star chef friend in Europe reports receiving month after month of faxes from one aspiring apprentice cook—and responding with “no” each time. But finally he broke down, impressed by the kid’s unrelenting, never wavering determination.

It very much depends on what you’re optimizing for, but it seems like a key to being great at anything is willing to make extreme sacrifices in the short term in exchange for long-term learning.

The ideal progression for a nascent culinary career would be to, first, take a jump straight into the deep end of the pool. Long before student loans and culinary school, take the trouble to find out who you are.

Are you the type of person who likes the searing heat, the mad pace, the never-ending stress and melodrama, the low pay, probable lack of benefits, inequity and futility, the cuts and burns and damage to body and brain—the lack of anything resembling normal hours or a normal personal life?

Or are you like everybody else? A normal person?

Find out sooner rather than later. Work—for free, if necessary—in a busy kitchen.

^I’m sure I would never have listened to any of this advice at 18 - but I can’t help but think this also applies to other industries.

If I understood what the day to day of a chemical engineer looked like before spending 4 years of my life studying it, it probably would have saved me a lot of pain and suffering.

Read it here.


My favorite skier, skiing in my favorite mountain range. It doesn’t get better than this 🙂


Inequality is one of the biggest problems we face today.

agree or disagree?

Here’s Paul Graham’s controversial take:

Let's be clear about that. Eliminating great variations in wealth would mean eliminating startups. And that doesn't seem a wise move. Especially since it would only mean you eliminated startups in your own country. Ambitious people already move halfway around the world to further their careers, and startups can operate from anywhere nowadays. So if you made it impossible to get rich by creating wealth in your country, people who wanted to do that would just leave and do it somewhere else. Which would certainly get you a lower Gini coefficient, along with a lesson in being careful what you ask for.

Read the article here.


Thumbtack is essentially mandatory work from home starting this Thursday due to COVID19. Probably for an absolute minimum of 2 weeks…it’s going to be interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever worked more than two straight days remotely before.

I’ll be probably cooking and eating out a lot more than normal. Sooo if you have any recipe recommendations or restaurant recommendations, send them my way 😃.


That’s all for this week. Stay safe out there

- Taylor

Tangential Tuesdays #66

forty year career, plastic, bumble

Hi - welcome to March.

All anyone can talk about at the moment appears to be coronavirus, the economy, and politics. As a result - I’ll be ignoring all 3 of these topics this week. A good reminder to watch less news and read more books.


This weekend I was up in Tahoe (again!). We ended up getting lucky and got ~8 inches of fresh snow over Saturday night into Sunday.

We ended up clocking 3 laps of Silver Peak which amounted to ~4.8k of vertical. The biggest day I’ve done since Mt Shasta (6.9k vert - but split into 2 days). It’s safe to say I am still recovering a bit today.

I’ve absolutely loved being up at Tahoe for the last few weekends. I come back calmer, more focused, and rejuvenated. That said - there’s a lot of parts of my life that I neglect when I go skiing/hiking every weekend.

I’m happy to have some excuses to stay in SF the next few weekends… hopefully, Tahoe will still have snow when I return. If not… Lassen & Shasta will be there 😃

Other than skiing - no major life updates. I’ve been reading this extremely dry and moderately useful book on Building Microservices. I’m also making my way through Good Strategy/Bad Strategy. A recommendation I got from this list of the best business strategy books.

Might consider reading something that will be more interesting to those of you that are not nerds like me. No promises.

I’ve been slacking on the piano for the last few months - but I suspect it will pick back up after ski season. Trying to not be a donkey.

Here’s where I went in February. Both cool and creepy that google sent this to me. Tokyo, Gifu, Hokkaido, a quick stop in LA and a few trips to Truckee. I think it’s safe to say my carbon footprint will be a bit lower next month…


A forty year career

This is the best article I read this week. “Good” career advice is incredibly context-specific and subjective, but I found this advice particularly helpful and fairly generalizable even if you work outside of tech.

I suspect part of why it resonated so well is because the author went to a no-name school in Kentucky. He now works as the VP of eng @ Calm. Bucknell isn’t a no-name school in some circles, but in Silicon Valley tech circles it might as well be.

A few gems:

There is, however, a simple formula for checking if what you’re doing is sustainable: how long does it take on a vacation or weekend until you stop feeling anxious, and how anxious do you start feeling when you think about returning to work on Monday? If work anxiety is a constant companion, then change your situation even if it feels like a step back in the short-term: your success depends on sustained impact, not spikes.

This reminded me a lot of this Adam Smith quote (There are no new ideas…):

I believe, in every sort of trade, that the man who works so moderately, as to be able to work constantly, not only preserves his health the longest but, in the course of the year, executes the greatest quantity of work.

It’s easy to forget this in the day-to-day. It can feel like everyone is always trying to jump to the next rocket ship. And if you’re not? You’re doing it wrong.

Larson touches on this as well:

At Uber, another friend told me I was looking at a frustrating situation the wrong way, the way they viewed their work was, “Each day I walk into work, and this slot opens up above my head, and money falls out of it into my hands, then the slot closes. I go about my day, and the next day I come back, and the slot reopens; more money falls out.”

This is a surprisingly dark way to view your life’s work. So as I pondered my father’s retirement, the question that caught hold of me was: How would I approach my work differently if focused on growth and engagement, and if I measured eras not in equity and IPOs but instead in decades? I’d focus on a small handful of things that build together, with each making the others more impactful as they compound over time. I’d focus on pace, people, prestige, profit and learning.

Read the article here.


The Perverse Panic over Plastic

People do reuse tote bags, but not as often as they plan to. One survey found that consumers forget to bring the bags to the supermarket nearly half the time. To offset the initial carbon footprint of a cotton tote bag, you’d have to use it 173 times, but the typical tote is used just 15 times, so the net effect is about nine times more carbon emissions than a thin plastic bag.

I’ll be honest - it’s hard to know what to believe here. This article could definitely be trying to push an agenda. But a lot of it matches up closely with life cycle analysis that we did during my degree in chemical engineers, which, if anything was probably trying to push the opposite agenda.

So the net effect of banning plastic grocery bags is more global warming. Exactly how much more depends on which researchers’ life-cycle analysis you choose, but there’s definitely more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as Julian Morris and Brian Seasholes of the Reason Foundation concluded. Using the range of available analyses, they calculated that San Francisco’s plastic-bag ban had caused the greenhouse emissions related to grocery bags to rise by at least 9 percent, and possibly to more than double.

Regardless of your views - this is a thought-provoking article worth reading.

Read it here.


Worse Than a Crime, a Bumble

Continuing on the trend of one of my favorite topics - dating apps. Although this article is more directed at women, I think it captures the ickiness of dating apps well.

I think when many people first join dating apps, they feel a wave of excitement. But this slowly degrades into a dampened jadedness.

There are also men and women who receive no matches at all. They’re rendered invisible by the larger conversation about hook-up culture, as if hook-up culture is the problem. They become martyrs, and write themselves off as unlovable, when really, it’s just that they didn’t have the right selfie, or didn’t adequately proclaim their love for The Office or traveling. Or maybe they’re five pounds too heavy or two inches too short or four years too old.

“This is my life,” they lament, truly believing they’re deserving casualties. The market is just becoming more effective, and they’re martyrs. This isn’t true for most of this population, but one can imagine how it feels. Why don’t you have a partner? Poor marketing. Or worse, poor market fit.

If you’ve never touched a dating app (which I suspect is a large portion of newsletter readers), I’m curious how you feel. Jealous? Pity? Indifference?


That’s all for this week. Hoping to do a bit of writing this week 🖋️. Or maybe I’ll just relax (or both?).

Stayed tuned for no political updates and no coronavirus updates, and a lot of tangents.

- Taylor

Tangential Tuesdays #65

Mountains, the political addiction, the tri cultural premium...

Hi. Thanks for reading.

I hope you all have a wonderful leap day this weekend 😃


Tahoe is having a scary terrible snow year right now. After getting over 900 inches last year (!), they are currently hovering at around 200 inches for the season.

Even stranger, a substantial amount of this snow came in November and December. February (usually the biggest snow month) has seen just 3 inches of snow…

For fun, I compared this to Wildcat mountain in New Hampshire (where I grew up skiing) 106” on the season… I guess I’m just spoiled now 🤷‍♂️.

The lack of snow didn’t stop us from touring Rubicon Peak on Sunday. The snow was fairly mediocre, but the views were unreal 😍.

Luckily I’m still in the honeymoon phase of splitboarding, so basically any tour I get out on I couldn’t be happier.

The last ~100 feet of vert of the peak are a class 3 rock scramble. It’s hard to tell from the picture but climbing up there definitely gave me a few butterflies - especially doing it in snowboard boots.

After a few minutes on the peak, we hiked down to our skis/snowboards, transitioned, and skied down the first ~1k of vertical. The snow was actually pretty decent all things considered! They say the key to happiness is setting your expectations low…

From there, we stopped and ate some food before starting the climb back up for another lap. The 2nd ride down was much better, the sun had softened the snow a bit more and we knew to the south.

This time we skied down to the car, the last 500 feet providing a bit of excitement in the way of log and rock avoidance. We logged ~3.4k of vertical feet in total. Overall super fun day.

🙏 for some ❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️.

^ proof that we were actually able to ski and not just hike 🙈.

The Largest, Most Addictive Multi-Player Game in the World

If you know me - you might know that I am a bit allergic to politics. To a fault. But even I got a bit sucked into watching a few highlights from the spicy democratic debate last week. I absolutely regretted it…

I think this is part of why Eugene Wei’s commentary on this resonated so well with me.

Furthermore, identity politics is, like Facebook Connect, a platform that integrates into anything. When Donald Trump trolled everyone by complaining about Parasite winning the Oscar for best picture, he was bringing identity politics to film. But even if he hadn’t, it was already there. Identity politics is a human web service that has been integrated into every adjacent field more seamlessly than at any point in human history.
Like kale? Sip lattes? Or perhaps you’re a voracious red meat eater? All of that maps to some identity. Do you listen to Kendrick Lamar or Kanye West? Did you prefer Moonlight or La La Land? Do you drink wine or beer? If you drink beer, are you drinking Budweiser or some microbrew? There is a legend that maps all of those to some identity.

Another political fun fact I learned over the weekend: 50+1 (a campaign strategy consulting firm) has an 87% win rate! This absolutely blew my mind when I heard it. When it comes to politics (and a lot of things) we are probably not thinking for ourselves nearly as much as we think we are.

Read more.


the tricultural premium

Bicultural people excelled tremendously in their newly adopted countries (professionally, socially, and so on), but at the same time had a massive premium when they went back to where they came from. Having brought back the much needed exposure of “how things are done” in the West, many doors open up back home.

Bicultural execs got higher salaries, faster promotions, a seat at the table on most important decision making fora, and so on. Not just Industry, this premium is seen across Government, Academia, and even the Arts.

Read it here.


What Alex Tabarrok Thinks About Basically Everything

This podcast is *really* good. It changed the way I think about immigration (ohhh shiit getting political).

Alex makes a compelling argument for open borders:

  • If you believe in free markets, it’s hard not to believe in free borders

  • Free borders basically just create a free market for governance

  • Borders (in some shape or form) will probably always need to exist, but more for protection and quick screenings than population control and forcing people to jump through hoops in hopes of scoring a visa

  • It is wild how many extremely smart, talented, skilled people the U.S will not let stay/work here. There is so much room in the U.S! We have room for a whole new major city to pop up (probably somewhere in the midwest).

Listen here.


Tweet of the week

Interesting Companies


Thanks for reading.

- Taylor

Tangential Tuesdays #64

Persian food, comedy for machines, cults, can twitter save science?

Hello, I hope you all had a lovely valentines day + presidents day. I neither have a girlfriend nor did I take Monday off from work, so I can’t say either of these events had a huge impact on me.

That said - I did have a good weekend. Happy to be back in SF for awhile :).


Persian Food

Maybe this is already trendy to say in the food world, but Persian food is amazing and super underrated and I suspect we’ll see a lot more Persian/Iranian restaurants popping up in major cities.

Over the weekend I made Kashki bademjan (a luscious eggplant dip with Kashk cheese), Adasi (warm lentil dip), and kookoo sabzi (a CRAZY frittata dish that tastes like nothing else I’ve ever eaten).

I didn’t follow this recipe, but it’s a fun video if you want to learn more about kookoo sabzi.

Just in 3 dishes this weekend I used:

  • rose petals

  • rose water

  • kashk

  • saffron

  • barberries

  • pistachios

These are some seriously wild ingredients (!). All recipes are from Bottom of the Pot.

Might attempt tachin sometime over the next week.

Possibly one of my favorite fringe benefits of living in a city is that I can get practically any ingredient I desire within a ~2 mile radius. (but if you don’t live in a city I promise there are lots of dishes with everyday ingredients).


Cults

I’ve been hearing a lot about two pieces of writing recently: Uncanny Valley and The high cost of a free coding Bootcamp.

Now - before I make my spicy hot take here, a few notes:

  • I haven’t even read uncanny valley, so my understanding of it is strictly hearsay and probably wrong.

  • I didn’t go through Lambda school myself… so I don’t really know what it’s like. But I did mentor a student (who got a sick job) and know a few people that work there. So I guess that just means I’m heavily biased.

ANYWAYS… the point is that I think we undervalue how beneficial to the world cults can be. Let me explain.

In a broad sense, I think both of these stories are about people on the inside of a cult not fitting in or fully believing in the cult, and then deciding to openly criticize and comment on their experience.

There is more nuance to each of these stories, but I think this is part of a larger pattern. Fraternities/Sororities, Religion, Startup culture…

In the most intense kind of organization, members abandon the outside world and hang out only with other members. We have a word for such organizations: cults. Cultures of total dedication look crazy from the outside.

- Peter Thiel in You should run your startup like a cult.

I believe all of these organizations have a lot of room to grow and approve. But I also believe all of these cults do a net good for the world.

Even Tyler Cowen approves of the Mormons

Some Lambda school and Silicon valley criticism is valuable! But let’s not *completely* forget that these cults are changing the world in a positive way. There’s enough pessimism.


Comedy Written for the Machines

no one seems to know why the charger video — which contains no jokes, no surprises, no stakes, no suspense, no changes in the characters or their circumstances and nothing that a normal person would call a story — is so popular.

First, we shape our tools… then our tools shape us.

Highly recommend at least watching the video it the article… I found it oddly chilling.

Read it.


Can Twitter Save Science?

This is why our postdoc has no choice but to surrender the sharpest years of her career to a lab that’s not hers, which has no loyalty to her, and barely pays her. The only way to build a brand in science is to pay a tax to those who already have it. This isn’t just a trivial hoop to jump through; it is the dominant concern of the people who are actually doing all of the science.

This is a legendary article from Alex Danco. It articulates all the reasons I had no desire to pursue higher education in a way I never had words for.

Read it.


Interesting Companies


Thanks for reading. enjoy the week.

- Taylor

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