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