Category: Things I Like

Oct 23 2020

Zoom Secret Magic Trick – Hide Self View

Here’s a simple one to make your 10 hours a day on Zoom more enjoyable.

Hide Self View

Click on the three little dots next to Mute in your video window. Choose “Hide Self View.”

The following view …

is much better to look at that the one with my own picture in it.

Staring at yourself for 10 hours a day is exhausting. If you are having trouble relating to this, put a mirror on your desk in front of you and look at it all day. That’s basically what you are doing when you don’t hide self view.

For some crazy reason, Zoom hasn’t made this a default feature yet (Dear Zoom, make it a default to Hide Self View).

I started doing this about a month ago. It has blown my mind how less tiring the day of endless Zoom is and how easier it is to concentrate when I’m not constantly looking at my face on the screen.

Comments
Jan 28 2020

The Anthropocene Reviewed Podcast

Amy and I driving to dinner with Ben Einstein and Grace Livingston a few months ago. Amy generally dislikes podcasts so she was annoyed with me as I fiddled with my iPhone and Carplay which kept opening my podcast app.

Ben said, “Have you listened to The Anthropocene Reviewed?”

I responded, “The what what?”

Amy said, “Put some music on.”

Ben tried again. “Put on The Anthropocene Reviewed Scratch ‘n’ Sniff Stickers and the Indianapolis 500.”

15 minutes later Amy said, “Not bad” and I was hooked.

Several of my favorites have been Notes App and Sports Rivalries, Hot Dog Eating Contest and Chemotherapy, Gray Aliens and Rock Paper Scissors, and Teddy Bears and Penalty Shootouts.

If you are looking for a new podcast, give The Anthropocene Reviewed a try.

Comments
Jan 2 2020

Starmazon or Amabucks

Why doesn’t Amazon acquire Starbucks?

Starbucks has one thing Amazon doesn’t have – over 30,000 physical locations. Sure, Amazon owns Whole Foods, which has about 350 physical locations, but they are large food distribution facilities (e.g. grocery stores) rather than community meeting spaces (e.g. coffee shops).

Amazon’s market cap is $930b. Starbucks’ market cap is $104b. That’s roughly a 90% / 10% merger assuming no premium for Starbucks. Even with a huge premium, it’s still less than an 85% / 15% split.

Oh, and they are both headquartered in Seattle.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if the primary retail point of presence in the US suddenly became Amabucks?

I’m sure there’s a massive analysis of this somewhere in a corp dev department at Amazon or at investment banks pitching Amazon on the deal.

I’m trying to decide if I like the name Starmazon better.

Comments
Dec 28 2019

Two Hours and Fourteen Minutes of Intense Anxiety

Amy and I went to see Uncut Gems last night. It was a gem of a movie.

Adam Sandler was magnificent. My inner 14 year old loves his puerile movies and when I read the New York Times Magazine article Adam Sandler’s Everlasting Shtick around Thanksgiving I knew I had to see this movie.

Amy and I had a calm sushi dinner at our favorite place in Longmont, went to Staples and bought some office supplies, and then settled into the theater for 30 minutes of previews. We sort of knew what we were getting into, so we thought we were ready.

About an hour into the movie I realized I was holding my breath. I looked over at Amy and she was gripping the chair. I looked around the theater and saw what appeared to be a bunch of people in various stages of rictus.

About fifteen minutes later I realized I was touching my fingernails and glasses over and over again in one of my old OCD rhythms.

If you’ve ever been out of control going downhill on skis or a bike, that’s what the movie felt like. For over two hours.

The ending was completely and totally unexpected.

And then we were out in the parking lot, in the cold Colorado December pre-snow night, walking to our car. Stunned silent.

I know some people who say they are never anxious. I know others who are anxious all the time. And many others who don’t acknowledge their anxiety.

Anxiety is a thing I’ve struggled with my entire life. I’ve learned how to manage it, and how to take care of myself so it doesn’t rise up on a regular basis. But soaking in it for over two hours was intense and it’s still echoing for me this morning.

Comments
Sep 2 2019

Bears Are Clever

We had our share of wildlife in Aspen. By mid-summer, this sign was on the road near our house. And, below is the mama bear that came and visited me almost every day in August.

It took all of my self-discipline to stay inside the house as every instinct I had was to go outside and play with it. Bears are my friend.

Rhinos, on the other hand, scare the shit out of me.

Comments
Aug 27 2019

Tom Cruise for President 2020

While an impossible mission, he would complete America.

Comments
Jun 28 2019

Did Abraham Lincoln Invent Pancakes?

I love weird Internet memes.

Recently, I plumbed the depths of this one with my friend Quinn. Go to your Google browser and type “did ab” and see what comes up for you.

If it’s “Did Abraham Lincoln Invent Pancakes” then the Internet is working as expected.

Of course, our next move was to go see if there was a website at https://didabrahamlincolninventpancakes.com/. A week ago there wasn’t, but there is one there now. Bwahahahahahahaha.

Did Abraham Lincoln Invent Pancakes? is now a permanent part of the web. I wonder what Google is going to do with it now?

Comments
Jun 27 2019

The Chernobyl Podcast

When I wrote the post Every Lie We Tell Incurs a Debt to the Truth I expected to get some feedback. I got more than I usually do (mostly by email vs. blog comments) and much of it was thoughtful.

One person pointed to the video I embedded, which I thought was great. It’s an extensive explanation of things in HBO’s Chernobyl that were either simply wrong or exaggerated. The video is entertaining as well as substantive, so it’s a good addition to the content from the show.

Separately, I listened to The Chernobyl Podcast on my drive up to Aspen about two weeks ago. If you watched the HBO Chernobyl docudrama, the accompanying podcast is a must listen. Peter Sagal (host of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!) interviews Craig Mazin (Chernobyl Series Creator and Executive Producer.) Peter is an awesome host and he pulls out a ton of interesting, useful, and curious information from Craig.

Next up for me is reading Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster which is near the top of my pile of infinite books to read (right after I finish Black Crouch’s Recursion.)

Comments
Feb 23 2019

The American Tailwind 

Every year, one of my favorite things to read is the Berkshire Hathaway annual letter. The 2018 version is out and, as always, is a beautiful thing to read if you have any interest in business and economics.

I particularly loved Warren Buffett’s reflections at the end of the letter in a section called The American Tailwind, which follows:

On March 11th, it will be 77 years since I first invested in an American business. The year was 1942, I was 11, and I went all in, investing $114.75 I had begun accumulating at age six. What I bought was three shares of Cities Service preferred stock. I had become a capitalist, and it felt good.

Let’s now travel back through the two 77-year periods that preceded my purchase. That leaves us starting in 1788, a year prior to George Washington’s installation as our first president. Could anyone then have imagined what their new country would accomplish in only three 77-year lifetimes?

During the two 77-year periods prior to 1942, the United States had grown from four million people – about 1⁄2 of 1% of the world’s population – into the most powerful country on earth. In that spring of 1942, though, it faced a crisis: The U.S. and its allies were suffering heavy losses in a war that we had entered only three months earlier. Bad news arrived daily.

Despite the alarming headlines, almost all Americans believed on that March 11th that the war would be won. Nor was their optimism limited to that victory. Leaving aside congenital pessimists, Americans believed that their children and generations beyond would live far better lives than they themselves had led.

The nation’s citizens understood, of course, that the road ahead would not be a smooth ride. It never had been. Early in its history our country was tested by a Civil War that killed 4% of all American males and led President Lincoln to openly ponder whether “a nation so conceived and so dedicated could long endure.” In the 1930s, America suffered through the Great Depression, a punishing period of massive unemployment.

Nevertheless, in 1942, when I made my purchase, the nation expected post-war growth, a belief that proved to be well-founded. In fact, the nation’s achievements can best be described as breathtaking.

Let’s put numbers to that claim: If my $114.75 had been invested in a no-fee S&P 500 index fund, and all dividends had been reinvested, my stake would have grown to be worth (pre-taxes) $606,811 on January 31, 2019 (the latest data available before the printing of this letter). That is a gain of 5,288 for 1. Meanwhile, a $1 million investment by a tax-free institution of that time – say, a pension fund or college endowment – would have grown to about $5.3 billion.

Let me add one additional calculation that I believe will shock you: If that hypothetical institution had paid only 1% of assets annually to various “helpers,” such as investment managers and consultants, its gain would have been cut in half, to $2.65 billion. That’s what happens over 77 years when the 11.8% annual return actually achieved by the S&P 500 is recalculated at a 10.8% rate.

Those who regularly preach doom because of government budget deficits (as I regularly did myself for many years) might note that our country’s national debt has increased roughly 400-fold during the last of my 77-year periods. That’s 40,000%! Suppose you had foreseen this increase and panicked at the prospect of runaway deficits and a worthless currency. To “protect” yourself, you might have eschewed stocks and opted instead to buy 31⁄4 ounces of gold with your $114.75.

And what would that supposed protection have delivered? You would now have an asset worth about $4,200, less than 1% of what would have been realized from a simple unmanaged investment in American business. The magical metal was no match for the American mettle.

Our country’s almost unbelievable prosperity has been gained in a bipartisan manner. Since 1942, we have had seven Republican presidents and seven Democrats. In the years they served, the country contended at various times with a long period of viral inflation, a 21% prime rate, several controversial and costly wars, the resignation of a president, a pervasive collapse in home values, a paralyzing financial panic and a host of other problems. All engendered scary headlines; all are now history.

Christopher Wren, architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral, lies buried within that London church. Near his tomb are posted these words of description (translated from Latin): “If you would seek my monument, look around you.” Those skeptical of America’s economic playbook should heed his message.

In 1788 – to go back to our starting point – there really wasn’t much here except for a small band of ambitious people and an embryonic governing framework aimed at turning their dreams into reality. Today, the Federal Reserve estimates our household wealth at $108 trillion, an amount almost impossible to comprehend.

Remember, earlier in this letter, how I described retained earnings as having been the key to Berkshire’s prosperity? So it has been with America. In the nation’s accounting, the comparable item is labeled “savings.” And save we have. If our forefathers had instead consumed all they produced, there would have been no investment, no productivity gains and no leap in living standards.

Comments
Oct 23 2018

The Superhuman Change To My Current Email Tools

It’s 2018. I’m still an incredibly heavy email user. It’s the primary tool in my workflow and has been since the early 1990s. I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years, but always come back to email.

I’ve been a Gmail user for almost a decade. While I’ve tried client-side apps, Gmail in Chrome has been the only thing that has stuck for me. I’ve also tried many of the iOS email apps and always end up back at Gmail for iOS.

Until now.

An increasing number of people in my world have been using Superhuman so I decided to give it a try. I was skeptical that it would capture my attention beyond a day. Two weeks later it is, in fact, superhuman. I’m using the Chrome app and the iOS app as my primary email clients.

The other tools I have in my email workflow are SaneBoxTodoistNotebene (which recently replaced Captio), and FullContact. As a result of Superhuman, I eliminated TextExpander from the mix. The one limitation of Superhuman that causes me a little pain is lack of direct integration with FullContact, which would make managing my address book better.

I didn’t realize how sluggish Gmail on Chrome is, even on a 225Mbps connection (which is what my office is clocking in at this morning.) And, at home, where I often see 3Mbps at high peak usage times, it’s a dream. But, that’s a tiny part of the speed. The big change is that I keep my hands on the keyboard 100% of the time. While I’ve been a heavy Gmail keyboard user, it turns out that you need the mouse for a bunch of Gmail things. Superhuman has turned them all into either keyboard commands, a slightly different workflow, or a “snippet” that lets you create your own compound shortcuts.

I never thought I’d recommend a web-based email client that costs $30 / month, but Superhuman is worth every penny of it. I wish I was an investor, but I guess I’ll live with being a Superhuman user.

Comments