DMITRIBLOG

Jul 19

Thoughts after a very bad week in the world

In times of great tragedy (people dying, nature destroyed) there’s only hope that this would be enough for us as a species to wake up and reconsider everything we’re doing.  

We *will* learn eventually. There’s a 100% chance that when the Earth can no longer support human life, and almost everyone has died fighting for remaining resources - the remaining 10 people will get along and will begin caring for nature and recycling.  It will probably be too late.  

So what if we learn to stop killing everything and everyone around us by the time there are still 100 of us?  100 million?  

7 billion?  Unlikely. Maybe 1 billion if we’re lucky. But what if after killing 300 innocent people from all over the world in one push of a button, the idiots in Ukraine (Gaza, Sudan, Syria etc.)  realized that it’s just not worth it any more?

Jun 29

How to export your LinkedIn contacts and their emails

1. Click on Connections, then Keep in Touch: http://sb.d.pr/wLjd

2. Click the cogwheel: http://sb.d.pr/7QgR

3. Click Export LinkedIn Connections: http://sb.d.pr/AXOK 

And you get a CSV file with everyone’s details, including their email

Jun 13

3 Ways to Be Present on Your Family Vacation

With summer well on its way and graduations upon us, families everywhere are finalizing their vacation plans. The beach, amusement parks, road trips, even cruises all have their perks… as long as you’re ready for them. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of it all. There are a few ways to be fully present, and enjoy our vacation.

1) Put the Camera Down

The main reason people go on vacation is to get outside of their element -relaxing, exploring new cities, scaling new heights. Though it’s fun to take pictures of these times, it can also take us away from the actual moment.

We’ve all seen it in everyday life before. Someone filming a concert on their phone is a perfect example. More importantly, when you taste the different cheeses in France (instead of taking the 100th photo of the plate), your children will notice the difference.

2) Get Your Confirmation in Writing

When traveling with kids, you want to be sure the room can accommodate everyone safely and with the least amount of stress. By calling or emailing the hotel directly, you can ensure that the room fits your family’s needs – and confirm it via email. This also cuts down on misspellings, which can be a headache to clear up the day of. After dealing with flights, taxis, etc., you will appreciate an easy check-in process.

3) Set Up a “Vacation” Inbox

You can use an email service, such as SaneBox, to forward itineraries to the day you actually need them. You can also “snooze” your less urgent emails until the day or day after you come back. With only important emails coming through, you cut down on data overages when abroad. Plus, which should you pay attention to: local grocery coupons or watching your kids enjoy the ocean for the first time?

Imagine this - walking into your hotel room (with no surprises), setting down your camera, and logging out of your inbox. Now you can truly appreciate your family vacation.

May 06

I finally have an opinion on the Ukraine crisis

I spent the last week in Moscow.  During that time, as more people died in Ukraine, I read the western news, watched the Russian news, but, most importantly, talked to real people who have friends and relatives in Ukraine (granted, in the eastern parts of the country).  I don’t claim to understand everything about the situation, but I tried my best to develop as neutral a point of view as I could. Feel free to disagree or shine a light on facts that I missed.

Before last week I believed 3 things:

a) the Russian media is controlled by the government

b) Putin is a borderline dictator who manipulates public perception to push his agenda

c) Russians helped stir up unrest in eastern Ukraine

When peopled asked me what I thought of the crisis, I didn’t have an opinion.  I didn’t understand whether Putin is in the driver’s seat, having calculated possible outcomes and working towards his goals. Or whether he’s an irrational maniac who’s sort of coasting along. 

I still believe those 3 things, but I also learned something else:

a) The western media is as guilty of manipulating public perception to push its agenda

b) The US stirred up the Maidan revolution and the west is now supporting Ukrainian government’s use of force against its own people

c) Each side is guilty of something. 

Don’t believe the media

During the revolution in Russia in 1917 taking control of the post office and telegraph was the first priority. Information is power. It’s even more so in a 24 hour news cycle. What’s most interesting about the power of the media is not its use of blatant misinformation (i.e. lies) but omission of certain pieces of information and subtle use of language to appeal to our subconscious. 

Here are just a few examples:

1)   The western media calls people fighting in eastern Ukraine “terrorists”. Russian media calls them “supporters of federalization”.

2)   The western media calls Ukraine military operation “a rescue mission” The Russians call it “a punishment mission” (karatel’naya missia - language used to describe Nazi missions in WWII).

3)   I heard a Russian newscaster actually say “Ukrainian forces launched their attack at 4am, just like Hitler in June of 1941”.  Wow.

4)   The west completely ignores the ultra-nationalists elements in Kiev

5)   The west also completely ignores the role the US played in stirring up unrest in Maidan

6)   The west calls the conflict “Russian-Ukrainian” and Russia calls it “American-Ukrainian” (as in “they started it”)

7)   Remember the leaflet that was circulated a couple of weeks ago saying all Jews in Donetzk must report to the new pro-Russian headquarters and pay a $50 registration fee, or be stripped of their possessions and deported out of the country? It got a lot of press in the west, and none in Russia. But when it turned out to be fake, it got no attention anywhere. I don’t know whether it was just some idiot’s sick joke, or a deliberate effort to make the pro-Russians look like fascists (they aren’t).

I hear the Ukrainian media is even more one-sided, and their truth is even further from THE truth.  

THE truth

Even if you try to stay objective and understand that you’re being hypnotized, it’s exceptionally difficult for your brain to not be influenced by what you’re repeatedly told.  If you lie to yourself long enough, you start to believe your own lies. 

To make things more confusing, in the US we are used to conservative and liberal media pushing their respective agendas.  We are used to that.  But when both “sides of the isle” agree, we (at least I) think they must be telling THE truth.

The reality is there’s no such thing as THE truth.  There are facts, but unless you saw them yourself, you’re relying on someone retelling them – and intentionally or even unintentionally twisting them to fit their model of THE truth.  THE truth is usually somewhere in the middle. In order to get to it, we need to understand other’s agendas through the lens of how closely they align with OUR agenda. Yes, your personal agenda - which side you’re on.

 

A very very brief history of Ukraine

The western media wants us to believe that the current Ukrainan government is supported by everyone in the country, and if it weren’t for Russian soldiers making a mess in the east, the country would be at peace. This couldn’t be further from the truth.  The western Ukraine is ethnically and culturally very different from eastern Ukraine. The west is Ukrainian-speaking, fairly nationalistic and historically didn’t like Russians that much (and in fact many in western Ukraine welcomed Nazis as their liberators in 1941).

The east is Russian-speaking and Russian-leaning.  The rebels fighting in the east are normal Ukrainians who are unhappy with the current regime, which is explicitly anti-Russian. 

 

Geo-politics and my take on what actually happened

Now let’s look at the situation geo-politically (I realize this is a simplification: we’re talking about “the west” as an actor, each state as an actor, and regions of a country as actors.  Reality is obviously more complex.)

After the break down of the Soviet Union, the world which had 2 super powers ended up with 1 (we can debate whether that’s good or bad: Americans certainly think it’s good but if you ask people in the Middle East, they would disagree.)  The American machine that was in charge of pushing the cold war agenda had to stay busy with something.  One of those things was to continue expanding NATO further east (despite a promise that it wouldn’t happen). One by one the countries of the former eastern block joined NATO.

Yanukovich, the currently-ousted president was actually legitimately elected, unlike Kaddafi, Mubarak, etc.  It’s a long story: Yanukovich was elected during the original Orange revolution in 2004, but that election was rigged, so Yushchenko became president, then lost in the next election to Yanukovich in 2010 – legitimately this time, even though the guy is literally a criminal and an exceptionally corrupt individual.

But Yanukovich was decidedly pro-Russian (and is a former governor of the Donetzk region) which is bad for the US in this game of geo-politics.  So the US wanted to install a friendly regime - and played a key role in Maidan.  If you look at the timeline of visits of senior US officials to Ukraine, including the head of CIA you’ll see how aligned they are with the beginning of the riots in Kiev.  This is a key piece of information currently missing from the dialogue in the west. If you look at the world through this lens, a very different picture emerges – one that’s consistent with America’s imperialist/policeman-of-the-world policy of the last 100+ years.

Russia took this as an opportunity to take over Crimea – with Putin’s approval rating soaring above 80%. While I agree this was illegal – state borders are to be respected – it’s not that simple.  Majority of the Crimean population is very pro-Russian, and in fact never assimilated in Ukraine.  Putin did not take over a hostile territory by force - again, this doesn’t make it right, but it’s important to note.

 

What could happen next

What the US didn’t anticipate was how nationalistic the current government is.  Last week’s massacre in Odessa, which is downplayed by the western media (“a fire started”) is a clear proof of this - a fire didn’t start on its own, it was started by a mob attacking pro-Russians (who were then shot and beaten as they tried to escape the building).  The country is now on a brink of a civil war and as much as the west tries to blame Russia for “not lifting a finger” to de-escalate the situation, it’s actually making it much much worse.

It didn’t expect the people of eastern Ukraine to be unhappy with the new government enough to fight against it.  Hence the IMF financing is now tied to the Ukrainian government taking control of the eastern regions (i.e. starting a war against its own people – with tanks and artillery).  It’s important to note that one of the key demands by the western leaders during Maidan was that Yanukovich was not to use weapons against his own people.  As always, a double standard applies now.

The US also probably didn’t anticipate that the European countries, Germany in particular, rely on trade with Russia too much to risk it by imposing sanctions.   

It is my belief that at this point we are at a very risky junction: the US started something it didn’t entirely think through. Putin escalated it by taking Crimea and pissing off the rest of the world. Now eastern Ukraine is revolting (not without Putin’s help), and the US/the west are supporting a regime that’s waging a civil war.

Where you stand on this issue will depend on which team you’re on: American, European, Ukrainian, Russian.  Every side is telling some truth, some lies, omitting some truth and using language to convince you in its sole righteousness. Hopefully you can take a look at the facts and motivations from all sides, especially the sides you haven’t examined before, to come up with your own truth. The side that really matters is the side of “people not dying” and perhaps that should inform where the truth really is.

Apr 11

7 Reasons Why You’re an Idiot

1. You clicked on this link

That is all

Sep 16

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.

Aug 28

[video]

Jul 23

Thoughts of a founder: How to not kill your retention -

lasseclausen:

I just installed Pocket on my iPad. It’s well designed product that takes you elegantly through a complicated setup process.

But one fundamental step was flawed. Enough so that I’m writing this post so that hopefully in the future more product designers will save more people from this…

Jun 24

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 “monday.9am@sanebox.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.

Jun 17

[video]

Jun 06

A Mind-Bending Look at the Hubble Ultra Deep Field Photo of the Universe - PetaPixel

Jan 15

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.

Oct 05

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.

Oct 01

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?

Sep 18

Please register to vote

bijan:

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.

Thanks!