2nd observation of a surfing rookie
When I started surfing a few weeks ago, and my first observation was this: much like everything else in life, surfing is 50% paddling, 45% waiting and 5% riding the wave.
One of the benefits of not being very good is you spend a lot of time sitting in the water, watching the waves
form manifest themselves. And it’s fascinating, especially considering that everything - including ourselves - is a wave half the time. So the parallels between waves and everything else in life are at the very least thought provoking.
The thing that always puzzled me about tsunamis is why the water retreats before, not after the wave arrives. I always understood the ebb/flow concept, but doesn’t something (huge wall of water) first need to arrive before getting pulled out?
After seeing and being dragged by a few waves, I finally get why that question is wrong. The water never really moves, so in order for an extra amount to arrive it first need to come from somewhere. And since waves are just impulses, that means for a body of water to land on the shore, it needs to first be removed from the same shore.
Not to sound cheesy, but the same seems to apply to most of life.
The inaugural song of the week
It’s amazing how much you can accomplish by relentless follow up
My first gig out of college was working for a boutique investment bank. Since I sucked at (financial) modeling, I spent a lot of my time pitching our companies to VCs and pitching our services to prospective clients. That’s when I learned that if people don’t reply to you, they are either a) not interested, or b) too busy to think about what you’re asking.
I excelled at getting people to get back to me because I simply didn’t stop until they said either yes or no. Either answer is fine, but if you don’t get to one of these answers, and just assume that silence means option (a) above, you’re deeply mistaken. Everyone is busy. This is more true now than back in 2002.
Back in the day I used to keep track of everyone I needed to follow up with in a spreadsheet. Nowadays I just use SaneBox’s RemindMe feature. I just BCC “email@example.com” and if I don’t hear back by that time, I get a reminder in my Inbox with the original email (pro-tip: sometimes I put that in the CC field to put some extra pressure on people). This way there’s literally no tracking needed.
When people don’t get back to you they are hoping you will stop bugging them. Those who give up are quickly forgotten. Those who don’t either get a “no” or a “yes”. Even is “yes” is 5% of the time, it’s a huge ROI considering the effort it takes to follow up.
Another depressing post
Today I went to a shelter to adopt a cat. I had never actually been to the pound before and now I know why. You can literally feel the pain of dozens of animals, as they sit in their prison cells, waiting to be adopted (unlikely) or die (much more likely). Some squeal, some bark. All look at you with sad and hopeful eyes. A lot of them are pitbulls, bred for fighting and thrown out, but some are “owner surrenders” (I cannot understand how someone could give up a 10 year old cat/dog, but if they absolutely have to - why the fuck would you give it to a pound? Find a rescue!)
As the lucky kitten we adopted lays on my lap, warm and fed, I feel horrible for every other animal I couldn’t adopt, lying alone in the cold. And suddenly a depressing thought pops in my head: there is so much pain in the world, that we are sheltered from.
Power of beliefs
In these last couple of weeks, as the election campaigns heat up, I’m reminded of the incredible power of beliefs. I suppose all of us (myself included) are guilty of this, but I certainly hope I do an above-average job of dissecting the situation objectively.
When it comes to politics in particular, I have found a lot of people I know leave aside any logic or facts and think entirely based on what they’ve believed in for years. On multiple occasions friends of mine were convinced they sided with a certain political party. But when faced with looking at the actual issues, they realized they had no idea what they’re talking about.
A friend of mine started a really awesome site called www.iSideWith.com. It’s a short quiz, asking you to rate where you stand on key issues in this election. I was surprised to find where on the political spectrum I actually am. So were several of my friends. I strongly recommend you invest 30 seconds of your time to potentially open your eyes.
Military spending needs to go
Today I caught myself thinking that I don’t really know where the federal money is going. Luckily a 5 second search on Wikipedia was able to shed some light.
3 line items immediately catch attention: Health and Human Services (which includes Medicare and Medicade), Social Security and Defense. Together they make up 71% of the budget.
While most people agree that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security need to be reformed, I find it extremely difficult to understand why the defense budget shouldn’t just be cut (especially considering it’s part of discretionary spending). Medicare and Medicaid help sick people. Social Security keeps old people out of poverty.
Defense… well, defense from who? Keep in mind, Dept of Homeland Security is a separate agency with a $54 billion budget. Another 5 seconds on Wikipedia showed than US spends more than the next 14 countries combined, out of which only Russia, China and Saudi Arabia could ever realistically go to war with the US. It’s also interesting that as % of GDP, the only country that spends more on defense is Saudi Arabia (other countries average at less than half of what US spends).
A better way to describe Defense would be “Offense”. But the failure of Iraq and Afganistan wars should signal that something is completely broken even in that world view. In the last few weeks there was a lot of noise about the proposed budget cut of $500 billion in the military budget over the next decade. It sounds like a large number, but it’s really only 7% of the current defense budget (i.e. peanuts).
Helping sick and old people is something any civilized country should be doing (albeit more efficiently). But how can we justify spending this much on fighting with a nonexistent enemy, while spending a fraction of that on education, science and literally everything else that doesn’t involve killing people?
Please register to vote
My friend Fred has written a great post about the importance of getting the next generation registered for this election and future ones as well.
Your vote does matter for this country and for this planet. Don’t believe the haters that claim your vote doesn’t count. It does.
So please register to vote (super easy and quick to do) and make your voice heard.
We are giant pussies.
I’ve been hanging out with my grandpa for a week. His stories from World War II days made me realize what a bunch of pussies we all are. He, along with pretty much all of Europe, had to deal with a great deal of discomfort (putting it very lightly) for several years. We complain about having to fly red-eye in economy.
As an 18-yr old he (and his entire school class) tried to join the army in the first week of the war. They declined, asking him to go work in a military plane factory instead. In a couple of months the factory had to be evacuated to Siberia. The cargo train (no heating or running water) took 1 month to get there. When they arrived, there was no factory, nowhere to live and -30 Celcius (-22 Farenheit). So they built everything, and spent a year living in horrible conditions, working 18 hour days.
In late 1942 he joined the army, and spent 3 years walking through Eastern Europe, with people shooting at him, bombing him from planes, and losing friends along the way. Some of the stories are mind-blowing, and would make for an awesome movie.
There’s a story about an old lady who *volunteered* to let the soldiers to dismantle her house to build a bridge across a river. People didn’t complain. They had a common goal. They celebrated small victories, like grandpa’s platoon finding a cow somewhere and making cereal with milk, instead of water for once.
Today we (non-homeless, employed people living in first world countries) cannot deal with the slightest bit of discomfort, like when a flight is delayed an hour. But comfort doesn’t equal happiness. I’m not suggesting a major cataclysm is needed to show us what’s important, but it would certainly help.
I hang out with a few of my old friends in Moscow this weekend, and realized that childhood friends are very different from other friends. As a child you start with no filters, and actually develop together with them.
My best friend and I shared a desk in school from day 1 of first grade. We have a ton in common. Some of the other guys and girls are tied together with me in a way that most people I met in the last few years can’t. This is regardless of whether I liked them as kids, or like them now (and I certainly like some of them even less now than I did as a kid). But the connection I have with someone I don’t like for over 20 years is very different from someone I don’t like for just 1 year.
Life Without Mass (or Why I Love Physics)
One of the reasons I love physics is the line between theory and mindblowing practice is pretty thin. The recently discovered Higgs Boson gives everything mass. It’s hard to imagine what life would be like without mass, but here’s a glimpse.
According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, massless particles (like electrons) are destined to forever travel at the speed of light. And for anything traveling at the speed of light the past, present and future are the same thing. So the Higgs actually makes time possible.
If you’re not familiar with the Higgs Boson, check out this video
Money in politics is the root of all evil. Part 2
It is sickening that in a country that claims to be the leader of the free world, the chances of winning an election are directly tied to the amount of money raised. It would be ok if fundraising success was just an indication of popularity, but unfortunately that’s not the case.
Money flows into politics for 2 reasons:
1) Politicians need money to campaign (i.e. twist the truth to convince those undecided that they are the best choice). Since each side is paying the same amount of money per ad, it’s akin to the old joke where 2 friends take turns giving each other $10 bucks to eat a piece of shit. In the end they each just ate shit for free. Except in this case, it’s the public that’s eating shit.
The prudent solution would have been to just “cancel out” the lowest common denominator. Let’s say Democrats raised $500 and Republicans $600. Then each side should give $500 back, and let Republicans spend $100 on campaigning.
2) “Interested parties” need to buy politicians’ loyalty (i.e. corruption). While political contributions are legal, they will remain the rational thing to do for any smart person/company. It’s just like tax loopholes - it’s dumb not to use them.
The only solution that would solve this is to make money in politics illegal. Not sure if this will ever happen, but until then I don’t see how the situation will fix itself naturally.